Rabbits have become increasingly popular pets in recent years. But they can be difficult to look after because owners make incorrect assumptions about their day-to-day care needs. So, it’s vital that anybody who adopts a bunny as a pet must know how to keep a rabbit healthy and happy.
Rabbits have complex digestive systems, so the right nutrition is essential. For example, Timothy hay will break down any excess calcium and prevent urinary stones. Avoid feeding rabbits toxic foods like bread, rice, potatoes, biscuits, iceberg lettuce, etc. as these can cause illness and sickness. Your pet needs regular daily exercise and will benefit from the company of a bonded second rabbit. They also need intellectual stimulation to avoid sadness and depression. Spaying or neutering your rabbit, regular grooming, and keeping their hutch clean is also crucial.
With experience, keeping a rabbit contented becomes second nature to a new owner. Avoid making assumptions about what is right and wrong for your rabbit. Rabbits and humans have completely different requirements and failing to acknowledge this could lead to an untimely demise.
How to Keep a Pet Rabbit Healthy
Rabbits are not always easy pets to care for. They can be demanding, and they have particular requirements. Thankfully, their love and companionship make all this effort worthwhile.
There are tips that you need to follow for appropriate rabbit care. If you take the time to learn more, your pet bunny will be a joy to be around. If you take chances, their health will suffer.
Let’s look at how you can ensure your rabbit enjoys a long and happy life.
1) Provide an Appropriate Diet
Food is the cornerstone of pet care, regardless of the species. So, ensure that you are providing appropriate nutrition. There are four cornerstones to your rabbit’s food.
- Fresh vegetables
- Clean water
As your rabbit ages, their dietary needs will vary. Until a bunny reaches adulthood (at about seven months), they should eat alfalfa hay. This is high in protein and will provide all the necessary calories.
Hay must always be new and fresh. Change the hay in your bunny’s hutch daily, as rabbits eliminate it. If this sends the hay moldy, eating any mold can make your rabbit sick.
Beyond this, switch the alfalfa to timothy, oat or meadow hay. Alfalfa will be too calorific for adult bunnies and lead to weight gain. Unlimited supplies if these other forms of hay should be provided.
Pellets are important to young bunnies, as they are critical nutrients. Feed a baby rabbit unlimited pellets. Once the rabbit reaches adulthood, reduce pellets. If your adult lovely bunny is indifferent to pellets, phase them out completely.
Fresh vegetables are a treat for rabbits and introduce more nutrients to their diet. My House Rabbit lists recommended and suitable vegetables. As a golden rule, dark, leafy greens are best.
Concerning water, standard tap water is fine. Just ensure that your rabbit is drinking enough. Learn if they prefer a hutch-mounted bottle or a dish on the floor. Refresh the water at least once a day, ideally twice.
2) House Your Rabbit in an Appropriate Hutch
A hutch should be your rabbit’s home. This means that your pet should always feel happy in their hutch. This will keep your bunny safe from potential predators when they’re unable to run free.
The first thing to consider when investing in a rabbit hutch is the size. As we just said, this should be your rabbit’s home. A hutch is not a cage, and should never be treated as one.
Make sure the hutch is wide enough for your rabbit to stretch from the nose to toes, minimum. Your bunny should be able to make at least three hops before running out of space. They should also be able to stand on their hind legs comfortably.
how to maintain a healthy rabbit ?
Your rabbit will also need to have sufficient zones in their hutch. Rabbits are clean animals; they don’t want to sleep or eat where they are eliminated. They’ll also want to undertake a range of activities and games in their hutch.
Remember, you can’t entertain your rabbit all the time. By ensuring they’re comfortable in their hutch, you won’t need to. A rabbit that enjoys their surroundings will patiently wait to be let out for play and exercise.
3) Maintain a Comfortable Temperature
While bunnies are hardy in the face of cold weather, they become uncomfortable when hot.
A rabbit should run a body temperature of 100 – 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Bunny fur grows and sheds according to the ambient temperature, so nature does most of the work. You’ll still need to be vigilant, though. Rabbit Haven lists the symptoms of a bunny overheating as:
- Rapid breathing
- Lack of energy and vigor
- Heat around the tops of the ears
- Damp nose
Cold weather is rarely a problem. Most rabbits can cope with living outside all year round. They would experience worse in the wild, and they grow a thick winter fur coat.
Start to consider your rabbit’s safety if the temperature outside drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. You may wish to move your rabbit indoors. A garage is ideal, as long as your rabbit will still be able to breathe clearly.
Rabbits struggle with sudden changes in temperature. Don’t go from extreme cold to a home that’s warmed by central heating. This is arguably even more dangerous than entrusting your rabbit to keep themselves comfortable.
4) Keep Your Rabbit Calm
Rabbits are easily stressed. They are a prey species, and they’re acutely aware of this. As a result, it doesn’t take much to frighten a bunny.
This means that your pet needs to feel safe and secure at all times. You may find that your rabbit is reluctant to return to their hutch at night. If their hutch is comfortable, there is a safety concern.
Rabbits cannot see in pitch-blackness any better than humans. They can hear and smell well, though. This means that coyotes, foxes, and other predators in the yard will frighten them. Ensure your bunny always feels safe and secure when alone.
Lack of routine, or a sudden change, can also cause anxiety in rabbits. Get your pet into a strict schedule. Help them understand that they’ll be fed, exercised, and played with at particular times.
Just because rabbits cannot tell the time in the traditional sense, they do have a body clock. They’ll learn to expect certain activities at particular times, based on their routine. If you stick to this, they’ll be perfectly happy.
5) Ensure Your Bunny Gets Regular Exercise
Exercise is vital to rabbits. It helps them maintain a healthy weight, and it also keeps them happy. Rabbits have bags of energy, and staying in a hutch all day gets dull and frustrating.
The average rabbit needs around three hours of free-roaming each day. This should be divided into two sessions. One in the morning, when they’re most active, and again in the early evening.
The best way to get your rabbit exercise in the morning is to set up a playpen in the yard. Your bunny will need to be watched, as they can be master escapologists. Most often, though, rabbits will run themselves into exhaustion.
You should also attach a run to your rabbit’s hutch. This will provide a bunny will the opportunity to exercise at their leisure. It’s not as good as being free-range, but it’s better than nothing.
6) Ensure Your Rabbit Has Companionship
Rabbits hate being alone. They are sociable animals that live in substantial groups in the wild. This means they’ll become stressed and lonely in their own company.
Your rabbit will want to be the center of attention at all times. If you cannot provide this level of commitment, think twice about getting a bunny. They are not aloof or independent animals.
Rabbits are also much happier sharing a hutch with a fellow bunny. Just ensure that the two rabbits are bonded. Once this happens, they’ll be inseparable and perfectly content.
7) Clean Your Rabbit’s Hutch
Cleaning a hutch is a critical part of rabbit care. Your pet may not be happy about it, as they’re territorial. They’ll consider this cleaning to be an invasion of their space. It’s the only way to keep your bunny healthy, though.
You should give your rabbit’s hutch a full deep clean, with disinfectant, once a week. Use pet-safe cleaning materials for this, and return things as you found them.
In between, change your rabbit’s hay and litter every day. This is important, as mold is a silent killer of bunnies.
8) Check Your Rabbit’s Teeth
In addition to their fur, you should always ensure that a rabbit’s teeth are healthy. Bunny teeth never stop growing, and this can cause discomfort. If a rabbit has dental pain, they will not eat. This can quickly become dangerous.
If your rabbit eats an unlimited supply of hay make sure their teeth should be fine. A high fiber diet is pivotal to oral health in bunnies. Munching on hay will keep their teeth filed.
Take a look at your rabbit’s teeth at least once a week. They should be white, smooth, and the top and bottom rows should meet neatly. If this is not the case, have your rabbit investigated by a vet. They may need their teeth filed down.
9) Vaccinate Your Bunny
One of the first steps that a new rabbit owner should take is arranging appropriate vaccinations. This only applies to particular territories, though.
In the USA, there are no formal vaccinations for rabbits. You can still purchase them, but they are not a legal requirement. Because the USA has a small rabbit population. Bunny-centric disease outbreaks are rare.
In other countries, there are two core vaccinations highly recommended to rabbit owners:
- Myxomatosis – This contagious viral disease is incurable and invariably fatal. Outbreaks are rare in the United States as wild bunnies have developed an immunity. It’s a substantial problem elsewhere, though.
- Viral Hemorrhagic Disease – This disease spreads like wildfire, and humans can carry it without displaying symptoms. It usually kills rabbits before they can even be diagnosed.
When you arrange to bring your rabbit home, discuss potential vaccination needs with an expert. Doing so may save their life.
10) Rabbit-Proof Your Home
Your rabbit will be part of the family. As a result, they’ll likely run free for several hours each day. You have a duty of care to ensure they are safe while they do this. Common concerns that must be addressed include:
Escape Routes. Rabbits are curious creatures. They may squeeze through the smallest holes in a garden fence. Block any escape routes. Domesticated bunnies cannot survive in the wild.
Electrical Cables. Cables are irresistible to rabbits, who love nothing more than chewing on them. This is dangerous. Not only is your bunny at risk of electrocution, but they can start a fire.
Other Pets. If you have a dog or a cat, ensure they understand your rabbit is not a snack. It may be best to keep the animals separate until they understand each other.
Soft Landings. Rabbits love to climb and jump. This can lead to leaps from height, risking a severe injury. Place blankets and pillows around the furniture to provide your rabbit with a soft landing.
Rabbit-proofing a home is just as important as baby proofing. If a bunny can get into trouble, they probably will. Take the time to minimize the risk.
11) Handle Your Rabbit with Care
Handling a rabbit is a critical skill, and it must be done right. As cute and cuddly as they are, many bunnies do not like being picked up. They feel trapped and frightened and may try to escape.
Dealing with rabbits is sometimes essential. You’ll need to scoop them out of their hutch for cleaning if they’re reluctant to leave. You’ll also likely need to pick up your pet to transport them to the vet.
Never pick up a bunny by their ears, legs, or the scruff of their neck. To handle a rabbit:
- Keep your bunny calm by offering some gentle petting.
- Get down to the rabbit’s level. Scooping up a bunny from a standing position will terrify them. Birds of prey are a common rabbit predator.
- Place one hand under the rabbit’s chest, and the other under their rear end. This will create an even distribution of their weight.
- Lift the rabbit into your chest. Hold them close enough that they cannot escape, but not so tight that they panic.
- Put the rabbit down immediately if they show any signs of distress.
Handling – and the distaste that many bunnies have for it – is something that must be considered. This fear of handling is why rabbits are not always appropriate pets for children.
Rabbits can be seriously injured if they are dropped and can be squirmy while being handled. They may also nip, bite, or kick to avoid being picked up. If you have children, ensure they understand how delicate a bunny is.
12) Prepare for a Long Commitment
Keep in mind that a healthy, happy rabbit is a long-term commitment. You may have read that rabbits only live around two years. This is true of wild bunnies. A well-cared-for domestic pet can live as long as a decade.
Prepare yourself for ten years of caregiving and expenses. Rabbits take time and money to keep healthy. As they age and reach different stages of their life cycle, bunnies also have differing needs.
If you’re prepared to accept this, your rabbit will live a long and happy life. They’ll provide many years of wonderful companionship in the process, too.