Basic Rabbit Care

Here we offer only a brief summary of some rabbit care issues and suggestions.  Extensive and detailed care information is available at: House Rabbit Society.

Rabbit Food

Remember, never change a rabbits diet suddenly. If you add new foods do it slowly watching carefully for changes in the digestive system.

  • Hay – good quality grass hay such as timothy – as much as the bunny wants.
  • Pelleted feed – (no more than 14% protein) – alfalfa or timothy formulas – adults ( 8 months +) should get timothy pellets limited to 1/4 cup per day for medium sized rabbits. Always feed plain pellets. Avoid brands with seeds, nuts, corn, dried fruit etc.
  • Fresh vegetables – about 2 cups per day. We feed primarily leaf lettuce, carrot tops, cilantro, and parsley but many other vegetables are okay. veggie list
  • Fresh water – changed regularly. We prefer bowls to water bottles. They are easier to clean and a more natural way for the bunny to drink.
  • Treats (to be given sparingly) – Carrots, parsnips, apple, banana, pear, blueberries, grapes, raisins, craisins, dried fruits. Be careful with sugary treats that make rabbits fat and are bad for their teeth. Cereals, breads, crackers, grains, seeds or nuts should be fed only occasionally as a special treat. DO NOT feed corn, fresh or dried. It can cause blockage of the digestive tract. Read labels. Many treats available in pet stores are mostly sugar.

Health Tips

  • It’s an Emergency if your rabbit stops eating. Take immediate steps to correct the problem. Often this is due to stomach gas (rabbits cannot burp or vomit) which is often cured with simethecone. We use Ovol which is a gas relief medicine for human babies. Using a syringe, give 1cc to small rabbits and 2cc to medium or large rabbits. Try to gently massage the stomach area. Wait 1 hour and give another dose. Offer a favourite treat and if your rabbit still will not eat or appears in distress call a rabbit-savvy vet immediately. For important information on a rabbits digestive system see “The Mystery of Rabbit Poop”.
  • Make sure your bunny is passing well-formed, solid droppings and a good quantity every day.
  • Pay attention to your rabbits urine. If it is thick and white in colour this may be a sign of too much calcium in its diet.
  • Have your rabbit neutered or spayed – essential for long term health and improved behaviour.
  • Trim your rabbits nails every two months.

Litter: Pelleted wood products that are marketed in a variety of forms from wood stove pellets to horse stall bedding make excellent litter material in that they absorb well, control odour, and are inexpensive. It is available at most feed stores and some pet stores. Pelleted paper absorbs well. Wood shavings (spruce or aspen) absorb but get soggy and do not control odour well. Corn cob is not very absorbent or odour controlling and has the drawback of being tasty to some rabbits. Wheat products are also likely to be eaten by the rabbit. Watch your rabbit to make sure he does not eat any of the litters you may choose to use. Hay, straw, or shredded newspaper can always be used. We suggest hay be kept in the litter box to encourage use. NEVER use clumping cat litter. It is deadly if inhaled or swallowed. Clay cat litters are too dusty and might cause respiratory problems in rabbits. Do not use cedar or pine shavings because they release toxic oils that damage the liver over time.

Housing: Rabbits don’t really need a cage but a cage can be handy when you need to confine them for their own safety. If you use a cage; the bigger, the better. Large folding, wire, dog crates are good especially with a shelf or box in them so the bunny can jump up and down. If you get a regular rabbit cage choose one with a front opening door so the rabbit can come and go. If the wire door folds down like a ramp make sure you cover the wire with something solid so the bunny cannot get his feet caught. An excellent way to confine rabbits is to use an exercise pen (commonly used for puppies). These are very practical as they fold up and can be set up anywhere from bedroom to lawn to keep rabbits safe while you are away or not able to supervise them but always supervise if they are outside. Pens are available at almost any pet supply store.  Buy one at least 3 feet high as many rabbits, even dwarf rabbits, will jump over a 2 foot barrier. An excellent discussion of cages versus pens can be found in the article: “Beyond Cages: The Possibilities of Pen Living“.

Cleaning: Never use harsh chemical cleaners around your bunny. White vinegar is good. Make sure you rinse well as rabbits have very sensitive noses.

 

Training: Never hit or slap your rabbit. A loud “No”, clapping hands or stamping a foot will generally do to discourage unwanted behaviour. Always remember that your rabbit is a rabbit and will commonly exhibit normal rabbit behaviour such as chewing and digging. Provide places and items for this behaviour. Boxes of newspaper or hay/straw or grass mats are good for digging. Cardboard and some tree branches are good to chew. Some good tree branches for your bunny are, apple, willow, birch, and alder. See the list of poisonous plants and avoid those. Make sure any tree branches are natural and have not been sprayed with chemicals. Never give your bunny anything unidentified.

Toys: Rabbits do not need expensive toys but they should have a variety of interesting things in their environment to keep them busy. They will get lots of enjoyment out of a cardboard box with some holes cut in it. They will like it even better if you get a really big box and put other boxes inside it with holes in them. Terrific tunnels made from concrete forms, cardboard tubes that come in 6, 8 and 10 inch diameters, can be purchased at building supply stores.  They are about $1/ft. and the stores will usually cut these to size for you. Rabbits love to run through them, hide in them and chew them. Various toys are also available at the VRRA store on this site. Read the article “More Than Just a Chew Stick” for information about toys, house proofing and understanding what play is for a rabbit.

Greater Vancouver Area Rabbit Vets: If your rabbit needs to see a veterinarian it is important that you see one that is experienced with the health problems of rabbits. We have compiled the list below of vets that we are aware of who have this experience. The list is not meant to be comprehensive so any omissions should be excused. You may also call us for information.

Dr. Upjohn
Eagle Ridge Animal & Bird Hospital
2599 Runnel Rd
Coquitlam, BC
604 464-3343 (Open Sunday)
Dr. Wallton
Dewdney Animal Hospital,
11967 228th St., Maple Ridge, BC
604 467-1161
Dr. Prus
King George Veterinary Hospital
7380 King George Hwy.
Surrey, BC
604 597-7387
Drs. Potter, Kutney, Rurak
West Blvd. Veterinary Clinic
5383 West Blvd.
Vancouver, BC
604 266-7421
Dr. Martinez
Little Paws Animal Clinic
130 – 12011 2nd Ave.
Richmond, BC (Open Sunday)
604 241-7387
Dr. Maarhuis
#101B – 45793 Luckakuck Way
Chilliwack BC
604 824-5848
Dr. Hurdel
Guildford Animal Hospital
101 – 9547 152nd St.
Surrey, BC
604 588-2626
Dr. Rachel Borwein,
Hillside Veterinary Hospital
1700 Kings Road,
Victoria, B.C.
250 598-4477 (open Sunday)
Dr. Burstyn
Arbutus West Animal Clinic
2809 W. 16th Ave.
Vancouver, BC
604 736-6701
Dr. Ashburner
West King Edward Animal Clinic
510 W. 24th Ave.
Vancouver, BC
604 873-4433