5 Things to know when you get a New Rabbit
One pet that is not as common as a dog or a cat in households is a rabbit. Here are some things to consider if you’re about to get or just adopted a pet rabbit.
1. What Veterinary care does my rabbit need?
- Rabbits do not require vaccines unless they are housed outside; in that case, your veterinarian may encourage you to vaccinate against the rabies virus.
- Your rabbit should be spayed or neutered around 5-6 months of age. Males may begin breeding at 3 months of age and females at 6 months of age. This helps to curb inappropriate behaviour before it starts. Altered rabbits tend to live longer as cancer of the uterus or testicles is a significant cause of death.
- Rabbits do not require extra vitamins.
- Nail trims should be done every 4-6 weeks to prevent torn nails.
- Rabbits can obtain parasites, such as mites and fleas, just like other pets. Symptoms to look out for would include crusty, thick, and/or flaky skin accumulation around the affected area. If your rabbit is showing other symptoms, such as eye and nose discharge, your veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible.2
2. What should my rabbit eat?
- Your rabbit should have a daily diet of 80% roughage (supplemented with fresh produce) and 20% pellets. Overfeeding pellets may result in obesity and other diseases.
- They should have an unlimited amount of high-quality grass hay such as Timothy, Orchard, or Brome; these grass hays are high in fibre. Alfalfa hay is NOT recommended as it is very high in protein and calcium.
- The vegetables that are acceptable to give your rabbit on a regular basis include:
- Dark leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, kale, bok choy, mustard greens, cilantro, watercress, basil, kohlrabi, beet greens, broccoli greens, collard greens, and clover.
- Other acceptable vegetables include:
- Carrots, broccoli, green peppers, Brussel sprouts, endive, wheat grass, radicchio and squash. A variety is important.
- Vegetables to be fed in moderation include:
- Carrot tops, dandelion greens, kale and parsley. These foods are higher in calcium than other vegetables; excessive consumption of calcium may lead to bladder stones in some rabbits. A small amount of many different vegetables is much better than a large amount of one food item.
- Vegetables to AVOID include:
- Iceberg or head lettuce, as both are mainly water and contain very little nutrients.
- Rabbits do eat their own feces, so don’t be alarmed. This usually occurs at night, and these feces are different from their normal ones. They are called cecotropes and are usually soft, small, darker in colour, pasty, and have a strong fermented smell. They are a rich source of nutrients, protein, and vitamins B & K.
3. Where should my rabbit live?
- When it comes to your rabbit’s house, bigger is better. The materials should be strong enough that they can’t chew or dig their way out. Solid flooring and a well-ventilated top are a must. Wire bottoms are not recommended as this may traumatize their feet. Also, having a covered area that your rabbit can hide in allows your rabbit to feel more safe and secure.
- Clean their house regularly so it is free of feces and urine.
- Their house may be lined with hay, wood shavings (NO Cedar), pelleted recycled paper products or other non-toxic products that may be digested if eaten. Many rabbits may appreciate a towel, but this towel should be removed immediately if they begin chewing/eating them.
- Ceramic or steel food/water bowls may be used. (Water bowls seemed to be preferred over dropper bottles, which must be inspected daily to make sure they are not clogged.) Ceramic bowls are heavier and are less likely to be spilled.
- Rabbits must chew to maintain their teeth. Their teeth are worn down by a tooth on tooth contact. Chew toys should always be available. Boxes, paper tubes, paper bags, and hard plastic baby toys can make entertaining your rabbit easy. Sticks or blocks of wood make great chew toys as well. It is important to note that cherry wood should be avoided as it is toxic. Also, fresh pine branches emit a lot of sticky sap which can stick to their fur.
- Rabbits tolerate the cold better than the heat and are very sensitive to heat stroke. It is extremely important to keep their environment below 26 degrees Celsius and keep their house well ventilated.
4. Can I cuddle with my rabbit?
- Rabbits prefer to have you sit on the ground at their level. This gives them a chance to get close to you, while also feeling comfortable.
- Most rabbits do not like to be picked up. If you do need to pick your rabbit up, support its entire body with one hand under the chest and the other under their hindquarters. Rabbit’s ears are very fragile; NEVER pick them up by their ears!
- Children love rabbits; however, it is recommended to have adult supervision whenever your rabbit is being handled by kids.
5. How much exercise does my rabbit need?
- Rabbits require daily exercise (1-2 hours minimum). This means that they should be allowed to roam freely with close supervision as rabbits are quite mischievous.
- Potential hazards in your home may be electrical cords, carpet fiber, exposed wires, and poisonous houseplants.
- It is a great idea to have a designated rabbit-proof room where their destructive tendencies won’t ruin any furniture or parts of your house.
Rabbits make such great pets and require a lot of care. Please contact the staff at Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital to see if a rabbit is a right pet for you.
Written by Kaitlyn, RVT