Rabbit Care Packet and Application
Rabbit Care Packet
If there ever comes a time where you decide you do not want your rabbit or cannot care for it any longer, give us a call and we will gladly take it back. Rabbits adopted from NWICR will always have a home with us.
Temperature – Rabbits live in temperatures that are comfortable to humans. Ideally, your rabbit should be kept in temperatures between 68-78 degrees. If you keep your rabbit outside, please make sure your rabbit has a shady spot to retreat to, as they may get too hot in direct sunlight.
Bedding – Kiln dried pine or aspen bedding should be used in your rabbit’s cage. Carefresh-type bedding can also be used, but only if your rabbit does not eat this type of bedding. Never use cedar bedding, as this type of bedding is toxic and can eventually kill your rabbit. Many rabbits can be litter trained to use a litter box.
Water Bottle – For the most part, rabbits are fine with plastic water bottles and do not chew them. As for the size of the bottle, the bigger the better! Rabbits drink quite a bit of water for a small animal, so please be sure that your rabbit always has access to adequate amounts of water.
Food Bowl – The best type of food bowl for your rabbit is a heavy ceramic bowl, one that cannot be easily knocked over. Another alternative may be a metal bowl – specifically, a coop cup. Coop cups attach to the side of your cage so that they remain in place and cannot be moved around by your rabbit.
Cage – Rabbits need room to hop and jump around; they are not meant to be kept in an aquarium. The general rule of thumb is that your cage should be at least 4 times the size of your rabbit when your rabbit is fully stretched out. For big rabbits, this can mean quite a large cage! Bigger is always better when it comes to rabbit cages.
Pellets – Rabbits do well on commercially available rabbit foods. The rule of thumb is that the rabbit food you feed your rabbit should have least 18% fiber, as this is necessary in your rabbit’s diet. Pellets should not make up the entirety of a rabbit’s diet, but rather should be supplemented with hay and fresh foods such as leafy greens and fruits.
Hay – Rabbits should have access to hay at all times. Eating hay promotes healthy teeth and a healthy digestive tract. Typically, grass hays such as Timothy hay are fed to rabbits, though it is a great idea to vary the type of grass hay that you give your rabbit. Other grass hays include orchard grass, brome grass, and meadow hay. Avoid using alfalfa hay as the primary source of hay in your rabbit’s diet. Alfalfa hay is very high in calories and has a very high protein level as well -- far more than the average rabbit needs in its diet.
Leafy Greens – Fresh foods are also an important part of your rabbit's diet. They provide additional nutrients as well as different textures and tastes, making them enriching for your rabbit as well. Fresh foods also provide moisture in your rabbit’s diet, which is good for kidney and bladder function. Leafy greens should make up about 75% of the fresh foods that you give to your rabbit. Leafy greens that are safe for humans are safe for rabbits. You can give 1 packed cup of greens for every 2 pounds of your rabbit’s body weight either once a day or divided up into several feedings per day. Some examples of safe leafy greens to feed include the following: arugula, carrot tops, cucumber leaves, endive, escarole, kale, red/green lettuce, romaine lettuce, spring greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, mint, basil, watercress, wheatgrass, chicory, raspberry leaves, cilantro, radicchio, bok choy, and borage leaves.
Fruits – Fruits can also be fed in small amounts. You can give your rabbit a teaspoon of fruit for every 2 pounds of your rabbit’s body weight either once a day or divided up into several feedings. Some examples of safe fruits to feed include the following: apples, cherries, pears, peaches, plums, kiwis, papaya, mangos, berries, pineapple (skin removed), banana (peel removed), melons, star fruit, apricots, currants, and nectarines.
Water – The water in your rabbit’s cage should be fresh and should be changed often to prevent bacteria build-up. The water bottle should be scrubbed clean at least once a week.
Chewing – Rabbits have a tendency to chew. If a rabbit is given the run of the house, the rabbit may find and chew electrical cords. They can get electrocuted and die from this. Because of their curiosity and desire to chew everything, rabbits should only be let out in “rabbit proof” rooms.
Exercise – Rabbits enjoy getting some exercise and being able to stretch out their legs and really hop around. A good way for your rabbit to get some exercise is to let them explore your home, in a rabbit-proofed area. Please keep in mind that any dangerous objects should be moved out of your rabbit’s reach.
Rabbits are generally healthy animals, but they can get sick. Signs of illness include diarrhea, soft stools, constipation, seizures, weakness, lethargy or inactivity, trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of appetite or weight, a change in eating habits, a change in personality, drooling, watery eyes/runny nose, or tilting the head to one side constantly. Please take your rabbit to the vet if any of these symptoms persist for more than a week. Do not try to treat your rabbit yourself.
One health concern to note with rabbits is hairballs. Rabbits shed their fur every three months. During this time, you need to brush your rabbit to remove the excess hair when they start to shed. While rabbits groom themselves like cats, they cannot vomit. Therefore, if your rabbit were to get a hairball, this could be life-threatening to you rabbit. Simple ways to prevent life-threatening hairballs include providing hay to your rabbit at all times (the roughage/fiber helps the hair pass through their digestive system) as well as providing your rabbit with daily exercise (the exercise keeps your rabbit’s gut moving, helping the hair pass through the rabbit’s digestive system).
Taming and Handling Your Rabbit
The more attention you give to your rabbit when you first get it, the sooner it will get used to your voice, your smell, and begin to accept you. When you first bring your rabbit home, we suggest you give the rabbit a day or so to settle in. After this, you should handle your rabbit regularly to get your rabbit used to human contact.
Rabbits should be picked up by placing one hand under their midsection and another under their rump, and lifting them up.
If you decide to get a friend for your rabbit, please get a same-sex friend. There are many rabbits in rescues around the country already. Males and females housed together will produce kits, and there is no need to add more rabbits to the rescues. It is not advised to breed rabbits without extensive prior knowledge, as without the genetic history of the parents, you could greatly endanger the heath of the babies, as well as pass on deadly genetic conditions.
I hope you will be happy with your new rabbit. If you ever have any questions, concerns, or need anything relating to rabbits, feel free to call me at 219-789-0026 or e-mail me at [email protected].
There is a wealth of rabbit-related information available online. Some useful websites are found below:
- The House Rabbit Society - http://www.rabbit.org/index.html - a great website with lots of information about rabbits, their care, and their health.
- My House Rabbit - http://www.myhouserabbit.com/index.php - great website with useful information about rabbit behavior, health, and care.