Your New Rabbit
You are the proud new parent of a wonderful rabbit! Please refer to
the following information to help make your transition into a new
life together easier. Even if you are an experienced pet caregiver,
there may be some new information here, so please take a few minutes
to read over this guide.
You will need
- Roomy cage/exercise pen
- Litterbox (cat-sized)
- Paper-based litter or newspaper (no pine or cedar bedding/litter)
- Pellet and water bowls
- Plain pellets (no seeds, nuts, or dried
- Grass hay (e.g., timothy hay)
- Food storage bin and scoop
- Chew and toss toys
- Pet carrier
- Nail clippers
- Plastic tubing for electrical cords
- Plain white vinegar
Many people allow their rabbits free run of a room or a portion of
their homes. At least initially, however, it’s good for your bunny
to have a home base—an exercise pen or a roomy cage. Exercise pens
make ideal bunny habitats because they are spacious, easy to clean,
easy to move, and no more expensive than a decent cage. If you opt
for a cage, it should have at least enough space for your bunny to
stand up on her hind legs without bumping her ears and to stretch
out in both directions. The floor area should be at least six times
the size of the adult rabbit and should have plenty of room for a
litterbox, food and water bowls, and toys. The floor should be
solid; wire bottoms are bad for a rabbit’s feet.
Rabbits are full of energy and need plenty of space to run and play.
If you house your rabbit in a pen or a cage, be sure to allow her
time out every day for recreation. Your bunny will be so much
happier—and you’ll enjoy her so much more.
Because rabbits love to dig and chew, it’s essential to
“bunny-proof” the areas of your home your rabbit will have access
to. Thread electrical wires through plastic tubing (available at
most hardware stores). 2x4s around the perimeters of your room can
protect carpeting and baseboards from diggers. Many people have
found Ivory soap or bitter apple spray effective deterrents for
rabbits who like to chew furniture. Rabbits often turn to carpets
and furniture out of sheer boredom, so providing chewable toys or a
place to dig can help. Cardboard cottages, toilet-paper rolls
stuffed with hay, hard-plastic baby toys, and untreated willow balls
and baskets are great favorites.
Rabbits that have been spayed or neutered are usually very easy to
litterbox train. Start with a cat-sized litterbox; line it with
newspaper or a paper-based litter, and top it with hay (change the
hay and litter daily). Bunnies typically eliminate in one corner and
munch the clean hay. Until your bunny is using her litterbox
regularly, confine her to a fairly small area—ideally an exercise
pen or a small room like a bathroom. If your rabbit picks her own
spot to eliminate, move the litterbox to that spot. Bunnies are
notoriously stubborn about where they want to go! Keep plain white
vinegar on hand to clean up accidents; it works wonders on stains
An adult rabbit’s diet should consist of unlimited grass hay
(timothy, orchard, brome, or oat), limited pellets (1/4 cup per 5
lbs of rabbit), and green vegetables (dark leaf lettuce, dandelion
greens, endive, turnip tops, parsley, cilantro). Putting the hay in
your bunny’s litterbox is a good way to avoid a mess. Choose a plain
pellet (no “deluxe” brands with fruit, nuts, or seeds) that has at
least 18-20 percent fiber and no more than 16 percent protein. Timothy-based
pellets, not alfalfa, are the best choice for an adult rabbit. Fresh
fruit and carrot should be fed sparingly as a treat (no more than
Handling Your Rabbit
When you pick up your rabbit, be sure to support her hind quarters;
never pick her up by the ears or the scruff of her neck. Most
rabbits don’t like to be picked up or carried and prefer to have
their people get down on the floor to play or snuggle.
If you already have another rabbit, introduce your new rabbit
gradually and in a space unfamiliar to both rabbits.
Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits do not get annual vaccines; they
nonetheless need annual check-ups to make sure they’re healthy and
to nip potentially serious problems in the bud. Be sure to take your
bunny to a veterinarian experienced with rabbits; many veterinarians
who are wonderful with cats and dogs know very little about rabbits.
Be loyal to and patient with your rabbit. Make sure the expectations
you have of your companion are reasonable and remember that the vast
majority of behavior problems can be solved.
For more information on rabbit
care and behavior, visit
the House Rabbit
Society website .