Rabbits are adorable and loving creatures that make wonderful pets, if people are willing to give them the time and energy they need. Sadly, many people adopt rabbits thinking they make a great starter pet for small children, believing they are easy to care for with little maintenance required. The truth is that rabbits require just as much care and attention as a cat or a dog. Rabbit care is intensive, requiring regular veterinary visits and a solid diet of fresh fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. Rabbits need regular exercise and enrichment, which includes hours spent outside of their rabbit cage each day, close to their human companions. While a rabbit can be a loving and rewarding pet, it is important that you know how much care is required to keep your pet rabbit healthy and happy for his or her entire life.
Housing Your Rabbit
Although the ideal habitat for a rabbit would be a large puppy playpen, it is alright to use a rabbit cage to house your pet rabbit. For one rabbit, choose a rabbit cage that is no smaller than 4 feet in length and 2 feet in width. These cages can be purchased at the local pet store, or you can easily build your own rabbit cage. The rabbit should be able to have plenty of room to move and hop about, allowing your rabbit to exercise and stretch his or her legs. Inside the rabbit cage there should be a designated area for the litter box, as well as an area for food and fresh hay. Any rabbit cage should have a solid bottom which can be made more comfortable with a soft mat or blanket to give your rabbit solid footing.
In addition to providing a solid rabbit cage, it is important to have a safe place for your rabbit to play when he or she is outside of the rabbit cage. Consider dedicating a room, or part of the house to daily supervised playtime. Make sure you also own a small pet carrier to easily transport your pet rabbit to the vet for his or her yearly wellness checks.
Maintaining a Healthy Rabbit Diet
One of the best ways to maintain rabbit health is to keep your rabbit on a healthy diet. Rabbit health is pivotal to prevent certain diseases and illnesses that can come from diet deficiencies. The best rabbit food for their diet is a mix of both fresh vegetables, as well as greens such as hay.
- Pellets - Rabbit food should consist of a variety of options, but pellets are a great way to supplement a rabbit's diet. Try to find pellets that contain a high level of vitamins and minerals. Avoid rabbit pellets that have seeds or corn, as these can contribute to disease.
- Hay - This is the most important aspect of providing healthy rabbit food. Hay should be supplied in an endless amount for your rabbit. Mix up the types of hay you feed your rabbit to include Timothy Hay, brome, wheat hay, and coastal hay. Not only does hay give your rabbit the nutrients he or she needs, but it helps to promote healthy chewing to protect your rabbit's teeth and gums.
- Vegetables - Giving your pet rabbit fresh vegetables is a great way to not only guarantee that your rabbit is getting fresh vitamins and nutrients, but giving your rabbit vegetables can help keep their teeth clean. Before giving your rabbit any vegetable, make sure that it is healthy for your rabbit to eat. Consult this list of fresh fruits and vegetables that are suitable for pet rabbits.
- Water - Your rabbit should always have access to fresh water. It is important to fill your rabbit's water daily, and make sure that your rabbit stays well hydrated. A traditional hanging water bottle firmly attached to the rabbit cage is the best way to give your rabbit water.
Even though compared to a cat or a dog a rabbit may seem small and easy to care for, rabbits in truth need the same level of veterinary care as other pets. In order to keep rabbits healthy they should see a veterinarian who is trained to care for rabbits at least once per year. This will help ensure that the rabbit remains healthy, and any potential issues or concerns are caught early and addressed. Once a rabbit reaches maturity they should be spayed or neutered. Not only does this help prevent unwanted litters of baby rabbits, but it can help protect against certain cancers and diseases found particularly in female rabbits. Luckily, the House Rabbit Society keeps an updated published list of veterinarians that are trained to care for rabbits so it is easy to find a veterinarian in your area.
Although it may seem like a rabbit is a perfect "starter" pet, rabbits in turn require a great deal of care. Rabbits are incredibly social animals and enjoy the company of other rabbits and people. Rabbits crave interaction and regular exercise, and require four to five hours of time spent outside of their rabbit cage each day. Be ready to prepare your home for "rabbit proofing" so they do not harm themselves. Rabbits prefer to romp around on carpeting, so they can get solid traction. Tile or wood floors can cause a rabbit to slip which could potentially cause an injury.
Further, inside the cage, rabbits need to have some sort of toy or game to play with. Rabbit enrichment is great to keep their minds occupied and entertained. Rabbits like puzzles to get to tasty treats, or burrows to crawl into and hide. Experiment with different cardboard boxes and paper bags for rabbits to explore. Of course, it is always possible to make your own rabbit enrichment ideas. Be sure to constantly change the game to keep your rabbits thinking and entertained.
Rabbits are loving, entertaining pets that can build a strong bond with their human companions. A rabbit will usually live for 7 to 10 years, making this pet a big commitment. Not only do pet rabbits require a long term commitment to their care, but they require regular veterinary checks, a diet of fruits and vegetables, and regular daily exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Before adopting a rabbit as your next pet, be sure to examine your own availability and dedication to housing and caring for one of these gentle pets.