Adopting Rabbits

What to Know Before Bringing Bunny Home

Looking for a pet that’s on the same 9 to 5 schedule as you are? Then a rabbit could very well be the right pet for you to adopt.

Many multi-animal shelters adopt out rabbits but there are plenty of shelters across the country dedicated to rabbit rescue. You can find such a list via the House Rabbit Society. Experts at devoted pet shelters will provide potential rabbit parents with information and support during the adoption process and beyond.

Are You a Rabbit Person?

Three rabbits

For advice on co-existing with rabbits we turned to Adam Goldfarb, issues specialist at The Humane Society of the United States and happy rabbit owner.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about rabbits,” says Goldfarb. “One of those is that rabbits are easy starter pets. The other being that in order to be a qualified rabbit owner you require fields of greens for the little guy to hop through.” Rabbits, he says, actually make great pets for busy apartment dwelling young professionals.

Here’s why: Rabbits sleep during the day, become active around dusk and fall back to sleep at night. What’s more, most people can train their rabbit to roam freely around the house similar to the way a cat might. However, it’s highly recommended these devout chewers be caged while you’re away.

Making a Home for Rabbits

Before brining your bunny home, make sure that your home is rabbit proof. Get down on your hands and knees and look around from a rabbit’s point of view. Loose objects and wires should be secured and concealed so that your rabbit can’t gnaw on them and become injured.

Girl holds rabbit

Rabbits require a cage at least 4 to 5 times their anticipated body length and tall enough for them to stand on hind legs. Since rabbits don’t have a tremendous amount of padding on their feet, their pens should have a soft floor rather than a wire bottom.

Puppy pens with floors made from carpet remnants, shredded newspaper and cardboard usually work just fine. Since rabbits are easy to potty train (especially if they are spayed or neutered) and will use the liter box you put inside their pen.

Goldfarb recommends using Care Fresh wood pulp instead of kitty liter because it will clump. Rabbits tend to ingest some of their litter and a clumping formula could wreak havoc on their digestive systems. Wood pulp also tends to have better odor control though the box should be changed every 1 to 2 days depending on the number of rabbits you have. (Don’t be alarmed if you see red or brownish urine — it’s perfectly normal.)

Chew On This

You may have heard horror stories about rabbits chewing up everything from furniture to wiring. Rabbit teeth grow at such a rapid pace they gnaw to keep their choppers at a tolerable size.

You can prevent rabbits from eating up precious possessions by supplying them with an ample supply of hay as well as wooden rabbit toys in the form of rings, balls and baskets. (It’s a good idea to keep them within eyesight, especially when they are young.) Wood toys can be purchased at pet stores and online at Busy Bunny. Goldfarb says the toys not only deter destructive chewing but are great exercise and fun.

Tip: Have old phone books piling up? Tear off the cover and let your rabbit satisfy its urge to burrow. This is often a safer option then allowing them to burrow outside where they can escape or be in the path of a predator.

While chewing toys and hay can help keep teeth in good shape, rabbits usually need dental checkups at least once a year.

Not Carrots Alone

Contrary to popular belief, rabbits require a diet low in carrots and high in plenty of leafy greens, fruits and pellets, says Goldfarb. Here are some guidelines for creating a healthy and tasty diet plan.

Rabbit eats greens
  • Plenty of timothy hay.
  • Vegetables such as green leaf lettuce, Romaine, cilantro and basil. (Avoid iceberg, peas, potatoes, beans and anything with seeds such as tomatoes.) One or two baby carrots here and there are OK.
  • Rabbits go crazy for bananas but because of their high sugar content should be restricted to small quantities. Apples, pears and berries minus any seeds are healthy but avoid citrus.
  • Supplement the diet with Timothy hay based pellets opposed to the mixture with seeds, nuts and cereal.

Run, Hop and Play

If you want to give your rabbit outdoor access, make sure that it won’t be in danger of being attacked by predators. Certain breeds of dogs might even be tempted by your bunny while cats usually make safe companions.

Last, Goldfarb says that rabbits should get at least a couple hours of exercise each day. These often playful creatures like to climb, play with toys and are easily entertained with chasing games, says Goldfarb.

Rabbits may seem timid but Goldfarb says they are big on personality and often like to be picked up, cuddle up on the couch and just be silly.

Hoppy Healthcare

Find a veterinarian that specializes in caring for rabbits and exotics before bringing home your rabbit.

Rabbits are most prone to digestive problems that can escalate quickly, which is why it’s essential to follow a good diet plan. Owners should check the litter box occasionally for misshapen or soft stools. While it’s unknown exactly why rabbits have such sensitive systems, you should call your veterinarian with any concerns as soon as problems arise.

Some common rabbit conditions such as cervical cancer in females and testicular cancer in males can be prevented by getting your rabbit spayed or neutered before the age of five.