Basic Supply List
Will your rabbit have free run of your house 24/7 or will he have some sort of a safe place to be when you’re not home? If it’s the latter, you’ll need an ex-pen, a cage, a condo, a bunny gate, or some other sort of housing set up for him. Don’t forget a soft rug for him to lay on (but make sure he doesn’t chew on it!).
Food & Water Bowls
Buy two heavy crocks for food and water. You’ll also need something to hold his hay; you may want to put his hay into his litter box, or may want to try one of the many cool hay feeders on the market today.
You’ll want a hard-sided, top and front opening (non-collapsible) carrier to bring your rabbit to the veterinarian and any other place you may travel. Keep it someplace easily accessible in case of emergency. And don’t forget to put a nice soft blanket in it for comfort!
We recommend the House Rabbit Handbook, the first, and still the best, book on house rabbit care in the world. Written by Marinell Harriman, the founder of House Rabbit Society, it is based on 25 years of collected knowledge of Harriman and dozens of House Rabbit Society fosterers.
Depending on how large your home is, and how much space in your home your rabbit will have access to, you should plan to have at least two litterboxes; one for inside of your rabbit’s “home base,” and at least one for outside of it. Plan to clean them as often as they get dirty.
Avoid litters made of clay and litters made of soft woods.
You’ll want to buy good quality rabbit pellets, made of either alfalfa or timothy, with no added treats or snacks.
Your rabbit must have an unlimited supply of Timothy, Grass, Orchard, Meadow, Bermuda, Brome, or other fresh hays! Hay must make up a major part of your rabbit’s diet, and must be fresh and high quality. Want to find out a ton about hay? Visit here!
Your bunny should get fresh veggies every day.
Bored rabbits are naughty rabbits.
Rabbit Proofing Supplies
Rabbits chew and your house, or the parts of your house that your rabbit will have access to, will need to be bunny proofed. Split clear plastic tubing and insert telephone cords, wires, etc., or buy pre-slit “cord tamers” in storage sections of home improvement warehouses or the computer section of other stores.
Grooming and Cleaning Supplies
You’ll need a nail clipper, a brush and perhaps a comb, styptic powder, Program or Advantage (kitten strength) for fleas (if you live where fleas are a problem), and for cleaning, white vinegar (still the simplest and best way to clean up urine), and a broom or whisk broom and a dust pan for accidents.
For health emergencies, you might want to keep on hand the following: a digital thermometer with a flexible tip, a snuggle safe microwave heated warming disc, a 10cc feeding syringe, 1 cc syringes, baby aspirin (orange flavored), Critical Care, Q-tips and cotton balls, infant gas drops (simethicone), jars of baby food (carrot, banana, apple), ear cleaning solution, a curved tip syringe, ear wax remover, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, A&D, Neosporin, gauze bandages, Rescue Remedy, saline eye solution, Vaseline or KY Jelly, Betadine, Pedialyte, baby powder, and scissors.
By nature, rabbits choose one or a few places (usually corners) to deposit their urine and most of their pills. Urine-training involves little more than putting a litterbox where the rabbit chooses to go. Pill training requires only that you give them a place they know will not be invaded by others. Here are some suggestions to help you to train your rabbit to use the litterbox.
Does age make a difference?
Older rabbits are easier to train than younger rabbits, especially babies. A rabbit’s attention span and knack for learning increases as they grow up. If you have a baby, stick with it! And if you are deciding whether to adopt an older rabbit, or litter train your older rabbit, go for it!
Does spaying/neutering make a difference?
Yes! This is often the most important factor. When rabbits reach the age of 4-6 months, their hormones become active and they usually begin marking their territory. By spaying or neutering your rabbit, he will be more likely to use his litterbox (as well as be much healthier and happier).
What types of litter should I use?
It depends on what’s available in your area and what your rabbit’s habits are. Keep in mind the following as you choose your litter:
- most rabbits spend lots of time in their litter boxes
- rabbits will always nibble some of the litter
- rabbit urine has a very strong odor.
House Rabbit Society recommends organic litters, made from alfalfa, oat, citrus or paper. (Some brands to look for: Care Fresh (Natural only), Cat Country, Critter Country, Yesterday’s News, and Papurr).
Stay away from litters made from softwoods, like pine or cedar shavings or chips, as these products are thought to cause liver damage in rabbits who use them.
Another approach is to place a handful of hay in each box, or to simply use hay as litter. It is helpful to put several layers of newspaper under the hay, to absorb urine so that your rabbit is not standing in the urine. Most newspapers today are using soy-based ink, which is safe for your rabbit, but check with your local newspaper to make sure first. Obviously, you need to change the hay fairly frequently (daily), since your rabbit will be eating it. This method often helps to encourage good litter habits as well as to encourage hay consumption, since rabbits often eat at or near the same time as they use the litter box.
Cleaning and disposal
Clean litterboxes often, to encourage your rabbit to use them. Use white vinegar to rinse boxes out–for tough stains, let pans soak. Accidents outside of the cage can be cleaned up with white vinegar or club soda. If the urine has already dried, you can try products like “Nature’s Miracle” to remove the stain and odor. To dispose of organic litters, they can be used as mulch, or can be composted. Rabbit pills can be directly applied to plants as fertilizer.
Spaying and Neutering
Why spay and neuter rabbits?
- Altered rabbits are healthier and live longer than unaltered rabbits. The risk of reproductive cancers (ovarian, uterine, mammarian) for an unspayed female rabbit stands at is virtually eliminated by spaying your female rabbit. Your neutered male rabbit will live longer as well, given that he won’t be tempted to fight with other animals (rabbits, cats, etc.) due to his sexual aggression.
- Altered rabbits make better companions. They are calmer, more loving, and dependable once the undeniable urge to mate has been removed. In addition, rabbits are less prone to destructive (chewing, digging) and aggressive (biting, lunging, circling, growling) behavior after surgery.
- Avoidance of obnoxious behavior. Unneutered male rabbits spray, and both males and females are much easier to litter train, and much more reliably trained, after they have been altered.
- Altered rabbits won’t contribute to the problem of overpopulation of rabbits. Over 7 million adorable dogs, cats, and rabbits are killed in animal shelters in this country every year. In addition, unwanted rabbits are often abandoned in fields, parks, or on city streets to fend for themselves, where they suffer from starvation, sickness, and are easy prey to other animals or traffic accidents. Those rabbits who are sold to pet stores don’t necessarily fare any better, as pet stores sell pets to anyone with the money to buy, and don’t check on what kind of home they will go to. Many of these rabbits will be sold as snake food, or as a pet for a small child who will soon “outgrow” the rabbit.
- Altered rabbits can safely have a friend to play with. Rabbits are social animals and enjoy the company of other rabbits. But unless your rabbit is altered, he or she cannot have a friend, either of the opposite sex, or the same sex, due to sexual and aggressive behaviors triggered by hormones.
What are the basics of a good house rabbit diet?
A rabbit’s diet should be made up of good quality pellets, fresh hay (timothy or other grass hays), oat hay, water and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a “treat” and should be given in limited quantities.
What makes a good pellet?
Pellets should be fresh, and should be relatively high in fiber (18% minimum fiber). Do not purchase more than 6 weeks worth of feed at a time, as it will become spoiled. Pellets should make up less of a rabbit’s diet as he or she grows older, and hay should be available 24 hours a day. Alfalfa pellets are fine for younger rabbits but timothy pellets are preferred for older rabbits.
What kinds of veggies should I feed my rabbit?
When shopping for vegetables, look for a selection of different veggies–look for both dark leafy veggies and root vegetables, and try to get different colors. Stay away from beans and rhubarb. Introduce new veggies slowly.
Is feeding hay important?
Hay is essential to a rabbit’s good health, providing roughage which reduces the danger of hairballs and other blockages. Apple tree twigs also provide good roughage.
Does My Rabbit Need a Cage?
Your rabbit does not need a cage. However, an untrained rabbit probably should be kept in a home-base of some kind, like an ex-pen, a large cage, or some other protected housing, while you’re not home to supervise and at night when you sleep.
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means that generally they sleep during the day and during the night but are ready to play at dawn and at twilight. Be sure to let them out during the evening when you are home, and if possible, in the morning while you get ready for work.
However, once your rabbit is familiar with your home, once you know what your rabbit does, and once your house has been fully bunny proofed, there’s no reason that he or she can’t have run of your home even when you’re not there.
Is it OK to keep my rabbit in a cage with a wire floor?
Rabbits were not designed to live on wire floors–they’re hard on their feet (which have no pads like those of cats or dogs). If you must use a cage with a wire floor, you need to provide your rabbit with a resting board or rug for her to sit on, otherwise she will spend all of her time in her litterbox.
You can find cages with slatted plastic floors, which are more comfortable, or you can use a solid floor. As long as your rabbit has a litterbox in the corner that he chooses as his bathroom, there shouldn’t be much of a mess to clean up. But ex-pens or other types of situations are much easier to find, are roomier, and are friendlier for both your rabbit and yourself.
What size housing is best?
Bigger is better! A rabbit’s home should be at least 4-6 times the size of your bunny when he’s entirely stretched out–more if he is confined for a large amount of the day. Enclosure sizes also should be decided in conjunction with the amount of exercise time and space the rabbit has. One guideline to go by is at least 8 square feet of enclosure space combined with at least at least 24 square feet of exercise space, for 1-2 rabbits, in which the rabbit(s) can run and play at least 5 hours per day. You can build or buy your rabbit a two-story “condo” with the floors connected by a ramp–they love this!
What can I do to make the rabbit’s enclosure time more enjoyable?
A rabbit’s home base should be seen as the rabbit’s “nest.” A special place where he can feel safe and secure. Make the nest enjoyable and she will enjoy being there, even when the door is open! Keep it stocked with baby toys, a synthetic sheepskin rug, a piece of wood attached to the inside (like a baseboard), and when you put him to bed at night, a nice veggie or fruit snack. For rabbits in an ex-pen, there are a variety of fun wooden and cardboard play houses available today for your rabbit to climb and hide in, which will make his time in his “home” much more enjoyable.
When is it OK to let a rabbit run loose in the house?
When your rabbit is better trained, and when your house (or the part that your rabbit will have access to) has been sufficiently bunny-proofed, your rabbit can be allowed free run of the home (or part of it) even when you are not home. The more room your rabbit has to run around in, the more delightful you will find her as a companion.
Even when a rabbit has a lot of room to run around, he may still get bored. A bored rabbit is often a naughty rabbit. If you don’t make every attempt to provide your rabbit with lots of entertainment, in the form of boxes, baskets, brooms, sticks, magazines, phone books, grass mats, etc., then he will make his own entertainment in your carpet, behind your couch or under your recliner.
Can I let my rabbit run loose outside?
Always supervise your rabbit when she’s outside. It takes just a few seconds for the neighbor’s dog to jump the fence and attack or frighten your rabbit to death.
Make sure that the grass has not been sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers. Check the yard for holes in the fence and poisonous plants.
Under no circumstances should rabbits be left outside after dark. Predators are possums, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, dogs and occasionally cats. If you have an outside enclosure that you feel is very secure, a rabbit can still die of fright while a predator taunts the rabbit from outside.
What does rabbit proofing involve?
Rabbit Proofing one’s home involves three things: 1) Preventing destruction of your property; 2) Protecting your companion rabbit(s) from harm; and 3) Providing safe and fun chewing alternatives for your rabbit.
So how do I keep electrical cords out of reach?
Spiral cable wrap Radio Shack sells something called “spiral cable wrap”. It costs about $3 for 10 feet and works like a charm for most, but not every bunny. (Some still manage to chew through it.)
This stuff is very flexible so the cords are still manageable after wrapping. It works well with cords that you might have in the middle of the room or might move quite often.
Plastic tubing (similar to that used in fish tanks) from a hardware or aquarium store can be slit lengthwise with a blade and the wire can be tucked safely inside. A harder, black, pre-slit type of tubing is also available.
Decorative gold and wood-grained wire-concealers that stick to the base of walls come in strips, corners, etc., so they can follow the shape of the wall. This is a more costly and time consuming method than the clear plastic tubing above, but is more permanent, and rabbit proof, as well.
Of course, Wires can be run behind or above furniture and carpets, but do NOT run your wires under carpets, as this can create a serious fire risk.
How do I keep my rabbit from eating house plants?
Many house plants are toxic. Putting them on high furniture may not keep a rabbit away. Hang them from the ceiling if you have an active bunny, but watch for falling leaves! (For a list of some poisonous plants click here)
How do I protect baseboards and wooden furniture?
If a rabbit insists on chewing baseboards, edges of chairs, etc., a board can be put over the places of temptation, making them inaccessible while also providing an acceptable chewing surface. This method should be combined with training your rabbit not to chew on these items.
How do I protect upholstered furniture and beds?
Upholstered furniture and beds that are several inches off the ground are wonderful places for rabbits to hide underneath. However, some will burrow up into the soft underside and make a nest. A flat cardboard box or frame of 2x4s, smaller than the area of the future base, will keep the rabbit out, and won’t be seen from human level.
How do I protect walls?
Clear plastic panels from the hardware store can be affixed to the wall to protect against your rabbit chewing into the drywall. Placing furniture over that spot can also conceal the damage and protect against further chewing.
What kinds of outdoor hazards do I need to worry about?
The most immediate hazard to an outdoor rabbit is attack by predators. A backyard hutch does not protect a rabbit from predators. Incidents include attacks by dogs, feral cats, raccoons, and coyotes; and more rarely, owls, hawks, opossums, and weasels. Determined predators can bend or break wire; agile ones can open cage doors. The mere presence of predators may trigger an extreme reaction in a rabbit; a panic attack during which the rabbit runs wildly back and forth, twists, and thrashes. A rabbit in this state can break her own back, or die from a heart attack. A survivor may be permanently disabled, or develop infection from bite or claw wounds.
A rabbit, even one who is spayed or neutered, if allowed the freedom of a yard, will demonstrate the instinct of the European wild rabbit to dig burrows. Over a period of time these burrows may become elaborate enough to prevent the rabbit from being captured by his or her caretaker. This is a problem if the rabbit is frightened, injured, ill, pregnant, or otherwise in need of human help. In addition, backyard dirt may contain harmful bacteria. We recommend that the rabbit satisfy her urge to burrow in a pen or box filled with clean, replaceable straw. Burrowing in the earth may be discouraged by adding a wire bottom to the rabbit’s pen, or by filling in burrows as they are started.
Having removed the rabbit’s “natural”–but hazardous–burrow, protection must be provided from extreme weather. A rabbit whose flexible lifestyle allows her to join her human family indoors can share their comfortable environment. A rabbit who must temporarily endure heat may be cooled by hanging wet towels over the side of the enclosure, or by placing ice frozen in cardboard milk cartons inside.
Many people believe that a bunny browsing in the yard will instinctively avoid poisonous plants. This is not so! We advise making a list of all plants growing in the yard, and checking the list for poisonous plants. Until all poisonous plants are removed from the yard, the rabbit should be confined indoors, or to a pen within the yard. Another poision risk is that of potentially deadly fertilizers and pesticides used on the lawn or yard.
The outdoors presents another risk, especially for physically compromised rabbits. Any rabbit unable to completely clean her fur of urine or feces is vulnerable to fly strike, a life-threatening condition. Prevention entails once or twice a dayexamination of high risk rabbits, and regular cleaning and drying of wet or soiled fur.
Other insects threaten an outdoor rabbit. Fleas, if allowed to infest the backyard, may subject a rabbit to flea anemia. In some areas, myxomatosis, a deadly virus, may be transmitted to domestic rabbits by biting insects.
Finally, an insidious danger to an outdoor-only rabbit is inattention from his caretaker. Even though the rabbit is fed, watered, and sheltered, infrequent observation and handling may cause health problems to go unnoticed until too late.
In summary, hazards to an outdoor rabbit are minimized by a routine that allows the rabbit to come indoors when necessary (at night, during extreme weather, or when ill); and, by the socialization and close observation which accompany such a routine.
What kinds of indoor hazards do I need to worry about?
The more an indoor, litterbox-trained rabbit is allowed to mingle with his human family and other pets, the more he will express his personality and be enjoyed for it. We recommends that an indoor cage or pen be prepared for the rabbit before bringing him/her home. This is for the rabbit’s protection, while his/her caretaker assesses and reduces the hazards of their home.
Cardiogenic shock from chewing electric cords is the most immediate danger to a free-roaming rabbit. Rabbits have an instinct to quickly and casually sever any cord or string. Especially tempting are cords that run across the rabbit’s path, or through a burrow-like area, such as under the couch. “Bunny-proofing” means encasing electric cords in heavy-duty plastic, or blocking cords and outlets with furniture so the rabbit cannot reach them. It is the single most important step in preparing an indoor area for a rabbit.
While supervising a rabbit is not sufficient to prevent a quick bite through an electric cord, it is useful to observe and if necessary curtail the activities of a new rabbit. Rabbits under one year of age are daredevils, jumping up, over, under, and inside of furniture. “How high can a rabbit jump?” depends on the determination and athletic ability of the individual. A fall or entrapment, panic, thrashing and injury may result from the rabbit’s misjudgment.
Generally, mature rabbits are less adventurous and, after a period of observation, may be given unsupervised freedom in a bunny-proofed home.
A rabbit’s tendency to chew is often more inconvenient than hazardous, but house plants should be identified and poisonous ones removed. Synthetic materials, carpet in particular, if ingested in large quantities have the potential to block the rabbit’s digestive system. This can be prevented by providing natural alternatives for chewing (hay, wood, cardboard, untreated straw mats); confining the rabbit to an uncarpeted area; and spaying or neutering the rabbit to lessen the urge to modify territory.
Ironically, a rabbit so mischievous she must be caged for her protection, faces another danger. Confinement may lead to boredom, overeating, lack of exercise, and digestive problems. Possible countermeasures include: a double-decker cage which allows hopping or climbing; hay for chewing; a cage-mate; plenty of toys; and as much supervised time outside the cage as possible.
A rabbit often finds his cage a safe haven, returning there to eat or rest. However, a wire cage can also be a hazard if the rabbit catches his toenails, paws, or teeth in the wire. If a litterbox is offered within the cage, the cage may be constructed with a solid floor. Cardboard may also be used to cover a wire floor. In the case of a nervous rabbit, cardboard may be used to cover cage sides as well. For psychological security, a cardboard nestbox may be added to the cage.
Because companion rabbits behave boldly at times, caretakers may need to be reminded that rabbits are physically fragile. Fracture of the spine can occur if the rabbit struggles while inadequately supported or if abruptly released. Safe handling methods may not be intuitive, and practice is required. The adult caretaker must also protect the rabbit from handling by small children, and from roughhousing with other pets. If a house cat is a companion, kitty’s claws should be trimmed. A dog should be trained and supervised before interaction with the rabbit is allowed. Two strange rabbits must be introduced slowly and carefully in order to avoid fighting.
A house rabbit may enjoy walking on a harness and leash. However, even the most confident bunny may panic if suddenly aware of open space, the constraint of the harness, and the approach of an unknown animal. It is best to stay within familiar areas when walking a rabbit.
Watch them carefully, and to note the slight changes in their personality and behavior that might indicate that they are sick. Following are some medical issues that you should take note of when living with a house rabbit.
GI Stasis/Not Eating
GI Stasis is probably the most common rabbit ailment. You will almost certainly encounter it sometime in a rabbit’s life. GI Stasis refers to the condition where a rabbit suddenly stops eating. Such a rabbit won’t even eat his favorite treat. The danger when this happens is the rabbit’s body temperature begins to fall rapidly. You can lose a rabbit to hypothermia in a matter of HOURS. You need to determine NOW how you will restore or stop the drop in body temperature while you’re rushing your rabbit to the veterinarian. One of the best ways to do this is to place a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel in the bottom of a carrier and place the rabbit on top of it. Microwave bags that can be heated, or even a bottle or jar with a good seal could be used instead. Warning: It is imperative you do not allow your rabbit to get wet! Getting wet may cause the rabbit’s body temperature to drop faster!)
GI Stasis is can be treated, but it is deadly if the body temperature drops low enough or appropriate treatment is not given quickly enough. Typical treatment includes a motility drug, warm subcutaneous fluids, and Simethicone if there is bloating. If bloating is causing pain, it is very important for pain medications to be given.
The first indication of an infection may be a runny nose or eye, sometimes a high temperature, sometimes a rattling sound from the lungs or (rarely) a coughing sound. It is important to see your veterinarian as soon as the first symptoms of any infection appear, as they are more easily cured when caught in the early stages. The bacteria you may hear the most about is called Pasteurella. This used to be a major problem, but with the newer antibiotics, this bacteria can often be eliminated. And, if not totally eliminated, it can be controlled with the use of long term antibiotics. Most of the symptoms described are quite common for many types of bacteria, so it is important to have your veterinarian do a culture to determine exactly what is being treated.
Never let a veterinarian give your rabbit Amoxicillin. It is a pink liquid antibiotic that smells like bubble gum. Amoxicillin is very dangerous for rabbits, and has killed many more than it has helped. Any penicillin-based drug can be dangerous for your rabbit, so try to find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about rabbit-safe antibiotics, and who is familiar with the safer drugs such as enrofloxins such as Baytril or Cipro, Chloramphenicol, or sulfa-drugs based like Septra or TMS.
High or Low Temperature
A rabbit’s normal temperature ranges from 101.3-104F (38.3-39.4C). A temperature much below or above that means your rabbit is in danger. One of the first steps to take is to bring the temperature down if it’s too high, or up if it’s too low, regardless of the underlying symptoms, because the high or low temperature itself could seriously harm or kill your rabbit. Cooling your rabbit’s ears with ice cubes or cool water or warming your rabbit up with a heating pad is a good way to quickly equalize his or her temperature. If you do not know how to take yourrabbit’s rectal temperature, it’s a good idea to have your veterinarian show you how to doso before youhave an emergency. Always use a plastic thermometer, to eliminate thedanger of thethermometer breaking off inside if the bunny gives a strong kick.
Rabbits’ urine varies in color from clear to yellow to brown to bright red. This is usually not a cause for alarm unless there are additional signs such as sitting and straining to urinate, loss of appetite or temperature. When you see red urine, don’t panic. Just keep your eyes open for other signs that might indicate a problem. If in doubt, you can have your veterinarian test to see whether there is blood in the urine.
Cedar and Pine Shavings
Any litter made of softwood like cedar or pine is very bad for your rabbit and other pets. The aromatic hydrocarbons produced from softwood beddings can cause both respiratory and liver damage in rabbits and other small animals. Use organic litter in the litter box and put newspaper in the cage tray.
Rabbits’ teeth can be misaligned. This condition is known as malocclusion, which means that a rabbit’s constantly-growing teeth are not wearing down properly. If the misalignment is bad, the teeth will need to be clipped, dremeled or removed so that the rabbit can eat. Usually malocclusion just strikes the front teeth, but occasionally, the back teeth can also be misaligned. One indication of this is a wet chin that is caused by drooling. If this is the case, your rabbit will need his molars trimmed by a veterinarian on a regular basis.
Head Tilt is most often caused by an infection of the inner ear. Often within 3 to 12 hours from the first symptom, the rabbit will be tumbling uncontrollably. Do not try to protect the rabbit with towels. She will tangle in them and break her legs. Once this tumbling begins, it continues for as much as 12 weeks or even more. During this time the rabbit cannot eat, drink, or sleep on her own. You must do it all for her. When the rabbit finally recovers, a permanent head-tilt of as much as 90° may remain. However these head-tilt bunnies are quite capable of enjoying a quality life despite their unusual posture.
Diarrhea is not common in house rabbits, but it can occur. Diarrhea means liquid. It does not mean soft pills or cecal droppings. Rabbits with diarrhea dehydrate rapidly. Dehydration is a threat to a rabbit’s survival; you must get the rabbit to a veterinarian quickly.
If you find a lump under your rabbit’s skin, or under her jaw, or even scarier, making his eye protrude, you may have an abscess, which is caused by a bacterial infection. This is a treatable, but serious condition that warrants a trip to the veterinarian.
Why is it important to provide toys?
Toys are important because they provide:
- Mental stimulation. Without challenging activities to occupy your rabbit when you’re not home, your rabbit, especially a solitary rabbit, will get bored. This could lead to depression and/or excessive destruction. The creative use of toys can extend your rabbit’s life by keeping him interested in his surroundings, by giving him the freedom to interact with those surroundings, and by allowing him to constantly learn and grow.
- Physical exercise. Your rabbit needs safe activities to keep her body in shape as well as her mind. She needs things to climb on, crawl under, hop on and around, dig into, and chew on. Without outlets for these physical needs, your rabbit may become fat or depressed, or may create jumping, chewing, or crawling diversions with your furniture.
- Bunny proofing for your home. As is clear from the above descriptions, toys are not just for your rabbit, they also keep your house safe. By providing your rabbit with a selection of toys chosen to meet her age, sex, reproductive status and temperament, you have fulfilled most of the requirements of bunnyproofing your home.
What are good bunny toys?
If you find your rabbit ingesting plastic or cardboard toys, switch to a different type of toy that the rabbit is not interested in eating.
Some good toys to start with:
- Paper Bags and Cardboard boxes for crawling inside, scratching, and chewing. Bunnies like them much more when there are at least two entry points into the boxes. Chris Rosenzweig has some Great Tips on Building Bunny Box Toys
- Cardboard concrete forms for burrowing
- Cardboard roll from paper towels or toilet paper
- Untreated wicker baskets or boxes full of: shredded paper, junk mail, magazines, straw, or other organic materials for digging
- Yellow Pages for shredding
- Cat toys: Batta balls, and other cat toys that roll or can be tossed
- Parrot toys that can be tossed, or hung from the top of the cage and chewed or hit
- Baby toys: hard plastic (not teething) toys like rattles and keys, things that can be tossed
- Children’s or birds’ mobiles for hitting
- Cottontail Cottage to climb in and chew on. Also, kitty condos, tubes, tunnels, and trees
- Nudge and roll toys like large rubber balls, empty Quaker Oat boxes and small tins
- Busy Bunny toys
- Plastic Rainbow slinkies
- Toys with ramps and lookouts for climbing and viewing the world
- Dried out pine cones
- Jungle gym type toys from Toys R Us
- A (straw) whisk broom
- A hand towel for bunching and scooting
- Untreated wood, twigs and logs that have been aged for at least 3 months. Apple tree branches can be eaten fresh off the tree. Stay away from: cherry, peach, apricot, plum and redwood, which are all poisonous.
- Untreated sea grass or maize mats from Pier One or Cost Plus
- Things to jump up on (they like to be in high places)
Why does your rabbit chew things other than her meals? Chewing is a normal, natural, necessary (and highly enjoyable) activity for rabbits. Here is an outline of some considerations to help you understand the why of chewing, as well as the how of preventing destruction of your favorite wicker furniture.
What are the psychological factors of chewing?
Sex. Females often have a stronger urge to burrow than males, although this is not the only reason rabbits chew. The hormone/age factors below also apply to males. Both males and females can and should be spayed or neutered as soon as they are sexually mature (4 to 6 mos. old). Make sure they are chewing the right things–hay, non-treated grass mats, etc. Their teeth are always growing, so they need hard things to chew on to keep their teeth trimmed. Provide plenty of fresh hay, hard cardboard boxes, etc.
Hormone/age. Is she spayed?
- If young (under 2 yr..) & unspayed, spay her.
- If young & spayed, her chewing will lessen with time.
- If mature (over 2 yrs.) & unspayed, spay her but get a checkup first.
- If mature & spayed, her behavior isn’t governed by hormones.
Remember, a spayed rabbit will chew less and less as she matures. It may be just a matter of riding out a high energy stage of your bunny’s life.
Personality. Chewers are often intelligent, outgoing, affectionate individuals who like to be in charge and get lots of attention. Does she chew to get attention? Would a companion alleviate boredom? Anything that would entertain her/make her happier might lessen her chewing.
What are the environmental factors of chewing?
Diversions: keep trying to find something harmless she enjoys doing. What kind of “burrow” (such as a cardboard box stuffed with hay), can you provide for her?
Protecting the environment: A box or wire basket can go over a group of wires. Browse a large hardware store for products to use for bunnyproofing. Hardware stores make the black wire covers that go easily over your home wires.
Confinement (to a cage or room). This simply buys you time, while you bunny-proof, get her spayed, or wait for her to mature.
Should I give the rabbit items to chew?
Yes! You can give rabbits pieces of the thing they want to chew: their own small towel, for example, providing they aren’t ingesting it. Give your rabbit plenty of fresh hay–oat hay, timothy, orchard grass hay, and replace two times or more a day.
Here are some items that are OK for rabbits to chew on:
- apple, willow, aspen branches; hay!
- pine firewood;
- cotton towels
- untreated fresh pine lumber attached to cage so it doesn’t move–piece of molding, 1″x2″s, or 2″x4″s;
- basket with hay in it–let the bun chew the basket as well as the hay;
- compressed alfalfa cubes
Aren’t some woods toxic?
Fruit tree branches, such as, apricot and peach are toxic while attached to the tree but not after they’re cut and dried (a month or more). Lisa McSherry and Rusty Fayter, who package The Busy Bunny baskets, share this research. Another tip they offer for your bunny’s safety is to keep your purchases of imported baskets limited to willow, the only basket material not sprayed with pesticide.
Does chewing carpet hurt the rabbit?
Yes, if then ingest the fiber. Since swallowing indigestible such as carpet presents a health hazard to your bunny, follow up excessive chewing incidents with a petroleum laxative such as Petromalt or Laxatone (sold at pet- supply stores).
Should I give the rabbit items to dig?
Yes. For digging, build a “tunnel” (top isn’t needed, just bottom, high sides, and end. Cover the bottom with a bit of carpet or something similar. Bunnies LOVE to dig at the end of tunnels. (Same thing can be accomplished by putting a board with carpet tacked on between two pieces of heavy furniture against the wall…just be sure the board can’t move or the bun will be digging the carpet beneath where the board was meant to be.
Can I discipline my rabbit not to chew?
Discipline (clapping hands, saying “no”) has a small role in stopping chewing behavior. Most people report that it’s easy to make their bunnies understand them, but difficult to make them stop the behavior through the use of discipline only, especially if the bunnies are left alone for periods of time. Replace the bad things with good things–hay, grass mats.
Vacation and Travel
When traveling is in your plans, whether it be a vacation or a move, plans will need to be made for your rabbit. Rabbits have different personalities and each will react in varying degrees to stress, but you should keep in mind that most rabbits are stressed by changes–unfamiliar surroundings, changes in routine, changes in type of food/water, and changes in temperature. Rabbits show stress by getting diarrhea, becoming withdrawn or aggressive, or by refusing to eat. By planning carefully, you can minimize these stresses for your rabbit.
Leaving Your Rabbit Behind
If you are planning a weekend trip or an extended vacation, you have several options.
1. LEAVE RABBIT AT HOME
Find a reliable friend who knows your rabbit or a pet sitter who knows rabbits to come once or twice a day. Have the person meet with you and your rabbit to go over care and expectations. Leave a list of instructions covering feeding and cleaning routines, signs of illness, and phone numbers of your veterinarian and other people who can give advice on rabbits (in case a question arises when your veterinarian is unavailable). Daily portions of vegetables and fruits can be fixed ahead and stored in ziploc bags in refrigerator drawers for up to a week (parsley, carrot chunk, broccoli, & celery store well but your rabbit should be accustomed to these before your trip). How to fnd a pet sitter:
- Contact your local House Rabbit Society chapter or educator for references.
- Veterinarian technicians at experienced veterinary practices may do pet sitting.
- Look on bulletin boards at veterinary offices, pet supply stores, and humane societies, then check references.
- Visit TrustedHousesitters (Get a 6 month home/pet owner membership: use code ‘houserabbitsociety’ when signing up; always check to make sure that your new house sitter knows rabbits!)
- Your rabbit will be in familiar surroundings.
- Feeding routine will be closer to usual routine.
- If you use a veterinary technician or someone who is familiar with rabbits, you can be more confident that symptoms of illness will be noticed.
- Although pet sitters generally charge more than boarding fees, it can be more cost effective if you also have other pets.
- Your rabbit is not exposed to unfamiliar animals as in a boarding situation.
- Your rabbit may get lonely, especially if she is the only animal in the house.
- Your rabbit may not get out of her cage, if caged.
- Having a sitter or neighbor who comes only once a day, leaves a lot of time for symptoms of illness to go unnoticed and also makes it harder to maintain some rabbits’ routines.
- If you have other pets such as dogs or cats, provisions may need to be made to make sure they do not bother the rabbit.
2. BOARD YOUR RABBIT IN SOMEONE’S HOME
You may have a friend who will take your rabbit or you may Contact your local House rabbit Society chapter for names of some volunteers who board rabbits.
- If the person you choose is familiar with rabbits, symptoms of illness may be more quickly recognized.
- Your rabbit may get more attention than from a visiting sitter.
- A caged rabbit may get more exercise time than if left at home.
- Your rabbit will be in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Other rabbits and pets may stress your rabbit.
- You will need to move your rabbit’s cage and supplies.
3. BOARD AT A VETERINARIAN OR KENNEL
This is probably the least desirable option when leaving your rabbit behind. But if you choose this, there are several things you should consider:
- Ask to see where your rabbit will stay. Ideally, the rabbit should be in a room away from dogs and cats. If the rabbit will be in the “cat room”, her cage should not face the cats.
- Ask if you can bring your rabbit’s cage from home. This may minimize the change.
- The veterinarian or kennel should be familiar with rabbits.
- An experienced rabbit veterinarian can treat your rabbit should he fall ill or have a chronic health problem.
- Can be difficult to find a vet/kennel which has desirable space separate from dogs and cats.
- Kennel staff are not always familiar with rabbits, especially house rabbits.
- Unfamiliar surroundings and noise from upset animals may be stressful to your rabbit.
- Your rabbit most likely will not get out of his cage.
- Kennel staff probably won’t give much personal attention other than feeding and cleaning.
- Can be expensive, especially if boarding other pets also.
Prerequisites for a sucessful introduction
Before attempting an introduction, the rabbits should be spayed or neutered, and you should wait for a full two weeks after the surgery before proceeding with the introduction. This delay both ensures proper healing and gives the hormones a chance to dissipate. This delay is especially important with a newly neutered male, as a male bunny can still be fertile for two weeks after fixing.
Many of the calls we receive are from well-meaning rabbit caregivers who bring a new rabbit home, put him with their existing rabbit, and think all will be fine. Sadly, these hasty introductions often result in serious harm or injury from biting, chasing, or other forms of attack.
In addition, rabbits are not quick to forget, so a bad fight could hinder future bonding sucess. Taking the time, reading up, and waiting for two spayed or neutered rabbits to be introduced will ensure you the best possible chance at a loving, bonded relationship.
For more information click here.
Much of this information was gathered from the House Rabbit Society