Rabbits are a popular pocket pet, and it’s no wonder with their soft, sleek fur and their cuddly nature. Rabbits can be excellent companions, but just like with some humans, building a relationship takes time, patience and gentle persistence. Your first step in developing an everlasting bond is to create an environment where the rabbit feels comfortable and safe. From our experience as pet people, here are some of our best tips for caring for your rabbit.
If you’re in the pre-stages of getting a rabbit, then you’re in the lucky position of prepping before bringing him home. You can also follow these basic tips if you already have a rabbit or two and need a “re-fluff” of the environment, diet, grooming and social interaction.
Whether your rabbit stays inside or outside, she will need a good-sized hutch that’s well-ventilated and easily accessible. The purpose of the hutch is to provide a safe place for sleeping and hiding. Natural sunlight is best, and if it’s kept outside, it must be rain and windproof and ideally will need to have a flyscreen or mosquito net to keep out insects.
We recommend first to cover the floor with newspaper, then layer it with bedding material such as hay, straw or shredded paper. Be sure to not only replace the bedding once it’s dirty but also to clean out the hutch at least once a week.
A playpen is a small fenced area specifically designed for your rabbit to run, play, hide, burrow and lounge. You can create a playpen inside or outside of your home, and it should provide elements that you would find in a rabbit’s natural habitat. These can include,
- Cat tunnels – these mimic burrows they would have in their natural habitat
- Litter tray – rabbits can be trained to use these! Here is a good article on how to train your rabbit to use a litter tray, or you can ask one of our pet experts at Poplar Pets.
- Cardboard boxes – these make nice chewing and digging toys, but just be sure they have an escape route.
- Gum tree branches – with leaves still intact. These will help to keep the rabbit’s teeth trimmed. As a bonus, the eucalyptus oil is beneficial for their coats and keeping parasites at bay.
- Flooring – if your playpen is outside, then grass makes the perfect flooring. If inside, rabbits aren’t compatible with hard floors, so consider rugs, cloth placemats or something similar.
- Treats – toss in carrots for your rabbit as these are nice little nibble treats. Carrots are not a staple diet since they’re loaded with sugar.
- Water – hang a bottle-type drinker high enough for your rabbit to sip clean water easily.
Proper nutrition and the right texture of feed is essential for all living creatures, including rabbits. Knowing that fibre is the staple in their diet will help you to understand the necessity of having an unlimited supply of grass hays throughout the day. This helps to mimic their natural environment by providing grazing food for them at all times. If there are hay allergies in the household, this will pose a problem, so consider this before adopting a rabbit.
Rabbits have a digestive system that breaks down fibrous foods such as grass. Hay is the perfect fibre representative for keeping their digestive tract in good shape, as well as helping to wear down their teeth, which continuously grow. Molar spurs are sharp hooks that form on rabbit teeth if they don’t have roughage like hay to help wear them down. The rabbit may stop eating because it is so painful, and eventually, a gastrointestinal (GI) can occur.
We offer a few options when it comes to hay. These brands include:
- Full or Mini Bales of Lucerne and Oaten hay for those watching their pennies.
- Oxbow Timothy Hay for those looking for more quality.
Pellets are also popular for rabbits because they’re packed with nutritional benefits. We sell bulk (20kg bags) of Castlereagh and Vella rabbit pellets and for those looking for a more premium food in smaller quantities, we suggest two of our favourites,
Oxbow and Vetafarm both provide foods for small herbivores, such as guinea pigs and rabbits. The grasses are additive-free and 100% grass hay, so you can rest assured you’re giving your pocket pet precisely what he needs. One trick we’ve learned is to hang the hay feeder above the litter tray allowing your rabbit to toilet and eat at the same time, which is, strangely, something they enjoy doing.
And finally, two more things to consider are:
1. Rabbit-proof your home. This means hiding cords and anything else that is dangerous but can be easily chewed. If you have dogs or cats, consider putting them away if your rabbit is coming inside for a visit. Or make sure their playpen is secure enough that it doesn’t allow unwanted intruders.
2. If the house is relatively quiet and empty throughout the day, consider getting another rabbit buddy. Rabbits are social creatures and tend to be happier if there are one or more rabbits to play with.
Rabbits are a nice addition to the family. Still, you’ll need to make proper preparations to keep your new pocket pet safe and happy. Maintaining a proper diet, having a cosy enclosure and plenty of running space are just three essentials to have ready when the rabbits come home! Plus, if there are kids in the house, it gives a chance for minor responsibilities in caring for an animal, even if it’s checking on empty water and food containers. If you need any advice or are looking for rabbit materials for your home, come in or call our Poplar pet experts and we’ll be happy to help you out.
Written by Miranda Altice