Inherently destructive, impossible to toilet train, extremely expensive food habits and a lingering odor around your house, there is no dearth to myths surrounding house rabbits. Reality though, is a stark contrast from these ‘myths’ as we like to call them.
From the looks of it, most of these myths seem to be floated around by people who knew nothing about rabbit care and possibly, got it all wrong from the moment a bunny hopped into their lives.
Oh yes. That happens more often than you’d want to believe. People get inspired seeing a bunny at their neighbors and think ‘Hey hon, that bunny sure looks cute. How about we get one home?’
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Like bringing home any other pet, rabbit parenting has its own challenges and if you jump head first into it without knowing what you are getting into, then you are most likely to end up disappointed.
And then, you’d probably dole out advice like the aforementioned that deters people from keeping bunnies as pets.
As pet lovers who have had the fortune to live with everything from dogs, cat to hermit crabs and of course, a bunch of lovely furry bunnies, we have firsthand experience in dealing with everything bunny.
We figured that it was time we put some of that experience on paper and create a bunny parenting guide for rookie pet parents. In the process, we will briefly touch upon rabbit parenting challenges like picking the right breed, getting nutrition right for bunnies, grooming them, toilet training them and also setting a home within your home for bunnies.
Oh, almost forgot to mention that we will also be busting some myths.
In simple words, this is your Rabbit Care 101.
Table of Contents
- An Intro Into The World of Bunnies
- Best Rabbit Breeds For Pets
- Rabbit Nutrition Demystified
- The Living Space For Your Rabbit
- How much space does my rabbit need?
- Can’t I just leave my rabbit in my home all day?
- Making an enclosure for my rabbit vs. buying one off the shelf
- Best Cheap Rabbit Cage – Ware Manufacturing Home Sweet Home Pet Cage for Small Animals
- Best Small Rabbit Cage – Living World Deluxe Habitat
- Best Small Rabbit Cage – Living World Deluxe Habitat
- Our pick of the best outdoor hutches for rabbits
- RH-25 Rabbit Hutch 2-storey
- Advantek White Picket Fence Rabbit Hutch
- TRIXIE Pet Products Rabbit Hutch with Attic
- Things That You Didn’t Know About Rabbit Grooming
- Rabbit Health And Common Conditions to Watch Out For
An Intro Into The World of Bunnies
Rabbits are one of the most intelligent, social animals that you can keep as pets. They love interacting with your family and given the right environment, love and care, can keep you excellent company for years to come.
They are not difficult to live with. But it is very important to pick the right breed that can adapt and adjust to the surroundings that your home has to offer. It is a given that all rabbit breeds are not alike.
Some are more docile while others can be livewires. You may want to pick a breed, depending on the availability of living space, the presence of kids in the house and your ability to modify the existing space for the rabbits.
Here are the three best rabbit breeds for pets.
Best Rabbit Breeds For Pets
If you have ever seen a pygmy-sized rabbit with fur that stands out very much like a puppy and unlike conventional bunnies, then that’s most likely to be a mini Rex. Mini Rexs are a small rabbit breed that originated in France in the later part of the 18th century.
Today, they are among the most popular rabbit breeds in the world. In the United States, they are the most common rabbit breed in households. And there is a reason for this.
A mini Rex has a calm and curious demeanor and is extremely friendly. This makes them an excellent choice for a first-time rabbit parents. Also, since they only weigh between 2-4.5 lbs. they don’t require a lot of room.
- Physical traits: The most notable physical feature of a mini rex is the absence of long upper coat to protect the softer undercoat beneath. This gives it a velvety touch to the coat and it has rightly earned the moniker ‘Velveteen Rabbit’. The coat requires minimal grooming and in case the bunny tracks in dirt or mud, just wipe it gently with a wet cloth.
- Colors: The sky is the limit when it comes to fur colors. Name it and you can find the color. Some are even tricolor.
- Room: A mini rex is ideal even for small sized apartments. If you have a large house, then you can have an indoor rabbit cage until the bunny is toilet trained and then have a separate area of the house that they can move around freely in.
Originally from Germany, the Mini Lop has quickly become one of the most popular house rabbit breeds in the United States. Considering that it was accepted into the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) as recently as 1980, the popularity of the breed has skyrocketed in very little time.
The reasons for the popularity vary from the rabbit’s inquisitive nature and the cutesy appearance with the customary large head and long thick ears that flop downwards. A mini lop is a medium sized bunny that grows slightly bigger than a Mini Rex. A healthy mini lop should weigh between 5-6 pounds. A body weight of more than 6.5 pounds for a mini lop is considered unhealthy and usually means that your bunny is not getting the exercise it needs.
The mini lop is known for its affectionate temperament. So, along with kids, the breed is also a preferred choice for seniors looking for a low-maintenance, cuddly pet.
- Physical Traits: The mini lop has a compact medium sized body with a soft and luxurious coat. It is not a wooly breed and hence will not take up a lot of your time in grooming. A weekly brushing session will keep the coat soft and tangle free. However, if the bunny is molting (shedding that occurs once a year), then you may want to increase the frequency of the grooming to twice a year.
- Colors: Like the rex, you have a bounty of colors to pick from. From solid and broken patterns to interesting color combinations, the Mini Lop has a range of accepted colors combinations.
- Room: The Mini lop likes its space and a spacious enclosure will keep your bunny happy and healthy. If you are planning to keep the pet outdoors, then ensure that the enclosure or hatch has raised legs. Keep an eye out for predators.
Rabbit breeders will be familiar with the Chinchilla rage that occurred in the 1920s when thousands of standard Chinchillas were registered by the ARBA. Eventually, the rage died down for a while and other specialized versions like the American Chinchilla and the giant Chinchilla were bred and introduced. But the good old standard chinchilla with its trademark slate bluish gray coat is still a favorite with households around the world.
These docile and friendly bunnies love to interact with people, be it owners or even a stranger. So even if you walk into your friend’s home and pick up a chinchilla, they wont try to wiggle out of your hands or struggle to break free.
It is this demeanor that makes them an excellent choice for a first pet at home with kids.
Standard Chinchillas are medium sized bunnies and can weigh as much as 7 lbs. They are easily recognizable by the color of their coat and their erect ears.
Physical traits: With soft short coats, standard chinchillas are a no-fuss breed. Despite the short hair, the coat is reasonably thick which allows these bunnies to thrive both indoors and outdoors. They require minimum grooming (bi-weekly) and do excellent with a standard diet comprising of 70% hay, good quality dry pellets and fruits and vegetables. Their compact size makes them easy to pick up even by kids.
Colors: As we mentioned earlier, there is just one universally accepted color of a standard chinchilla. That’s a slate blue lower edge, a slightly darker shade of blue on the upper edge with a hint of grey in between them. The preferred eye color is dark brown. However, it is not uncommon to find Chinchillas with marbled or grey eyes.
Room: Chinchillas are like most other house rabbit breeds and require a fair amount of room to move around. If you intend to keep them indoors, then look for a cage that gives them ample room to stretch out.
Rabbit Nutrition Demystified
Most house rabbits have very similar nutritional requirements at different stages of their lives. However, much like nutrition for humans, the key lies in the ratio of the different ingredients in a healthy diet for a rabbit. And surprisingly, it is the ratio that most pet parents get wrong. Before we get to the details, let’s take a quick look at the dietary essentials for household rabbits.
- Pellets: It is almost impossible to address all the nutritional requirements of rabbits solely a natural or homemade diet. For this reason, dry pellets should comprise some part of their diet at all stages of their lifespan. For baby rabbits, the amount of pellets should be higher than that of other items like hay and fresh fruits and vegetables. The concentrated nutrients in pellets allow the baby in the developing stages of its life. However, for an adult rabbit, an overdose of pellets can lead to health complications, particularly obesity. The rule of thumb is to reduce the quantity of pellets as the rabbit ages and replace it with good quality hay and a portion of fresh fruits and veggies.
- Hay: Hay is undoubtedly, the most important part of your rabbit’s diet. Most veterinarians recommend that a rabbit have access to fresh hay 24/7. Apart from the roughage in hay that helps avoid a plethora of problems like hairballs for example, the incessant chewing also prevents dental health problems in rabbits by keeping their ever growing teeth in check. Fresh hay is an inexpensive purchase and a single bale, when stored in a cool location can last months. Rather than buying off supermarket shelves, we prefer sourcing them from local farms. For baby rabbits, the calorie rich alfalfa hay is the defacto choice whereas for adult rabbits, it’s timothy, oat or orchard grass.
- Vegetables: Contrary to what a lot of rabbit parents believe, vegetables should comprise of a small but very critical part of your rabbits diet. Not only are vegetables rich in dietary fiber which helps prevent Gastrointestinal Stasis, they also contain a whole blend of vitamins and minerals which are impossible to acquire from the other two dietary ingredients that we mentioned over here. The ideal age to introduce vegetables for your bunny is three months. Also, it is recommended that you start off by introducing one vegetable at a time. This helps spot any potential allergens. Any vegetables that triggers diarrhea or even softens the stool does not agree with your bunny’s system. Avoid them. As the rabbit goes from weaning to juvenile, you can add more vegetables to their diet including dark leafy greens and roots.
- Water: Like hay, your bunny should have 24/7 access to fresh water. The water must be changed daily and the bowl must be scrubbed clean once a week to prevent mold from building up.
Our pick of the Best Rabbit Food
The demand for quality rabbit food has surged manifold in the past few years the number of household rabbits has increased dramatically. The crippling demand has been met with an avalanche of rabbit food brands, many of which have mushroomed overnight. Not only do cookie cutter brands and foods lack in the nutrients that your rabbit needs, many of them are loaded with filler content like low quality carbs which contributes to obesity in rabbits.
Fancy packaging and inflated claims never equate to quality in rabbit food. The money lies in the label and you must be diligent about reading the food label to know what ingredients are used in the manufacturing process.
And to make your life simpler, here’s our recommendation of rabbit foods for bunnies in varying age categories in the market currently. We have picked our favorite brand of dry food pellets which is the best rabbit food for adult rabbits, our pick of the best rabbit food for young rabbits and the best hay for rabbits as well.
We absolutely love Oxbow’s range of animal foods. Their garden fresh range in particular is quite a favourite with our pets. There are many reasons why we prefer Oxbow. For starters, the brand has been around since we were kids and had two Himalayan bunnies at home.
Further, it is inexpensive. That might not seem like a huge criteria to many if they have one bunny or two at home. But for households with four or five bunnies, the price tag does matter. But the reduced price is not at the cost of quality.
Oxbow’s bunny essentials is a medium sized green pellet. It is easy to chew and we have never faced a problem introducing it to a bunny who has never tried it before. They take their time to smell it and then start guzzling it down.
The ingredients used in the pellets are Timothy Grass Meal, Soybean Hulls, Wheat Middling, Soybean Meal and Cane Molasses. That’s not a very fancy list but it is very effective.
Oxbow bunny essentials also happens to be the number one recommended rabbit food by vets for obese bunnies as well as for potential skin problems caused due to dietary reasons.
Why we like it
- Trusted brand
- Vet recommended
- Fresh ingredients
- Good nutritional profile
Isn’t it quite obvious that our favourite brand of rabbit food for young rabbits is no different? Oxbow’s Young Rabbit fortified food is a favourite with baby bunnies. These alfalfa fortified pellets are fresh, packed with nutrients and contain pretty much everything that a young growing rabbit needs.
Club it with an occasional fresh vegetable treat and you will see your teeny bunny grow into a healthy adult in a span of months.
The food can be given until the rabbit is 12 months of age after which, you can switch to the adult food by the same brand. The primary ingredients in the Oxbow Young Rabbit fortified meal are alfalfa, soybean hulls, wheat midlings, soybean oil and cane molasses. The composition is 15% crude protein and 22% crude fiber which are perfect for a growing rabbit. To add to it, there’s a blend of Vitamins A, D, B, E and calcium.
The young rabbit food also has excellent customer reviews all over.
Why we like it
- Reputed and trusted brand
- Vet recommended
- Reasonably priced
- Perfect for baby rabbits with a higher protein concentration
- Excellent nutritional profile
We try and source our timothy hay from local farms and stocks are easily available year round. But last year, there was an unexpected shortage of fresh timothy hay locally which forced us to look in the market for a reasonably priced and good quality replacement. Thankfully, we found this fresh timothy hay from Small Pet Select.
First things first, this is fresh and minimally processed timothy hay. With all the preservatives, fertilizers and chemicals that find their way into our dinner plates, we are extremely picky about what we feed our pets. This is as fresh as it can get. The hay is green and smells amazing. The bunnies almost cannot resist when we open the box.
At less than $30 for a 10 pound pack which is delivered to our doorsteps in a corrugated box, it is complete value for money too. Compare it with any bag of hay available at a local pet store and you’d know the difference instantly. It is that good.
If you like to source your hay from farms, then we are all for it. But if you are not, then this is the best alternative that you have. It is farm fresh and nutritious.
Why we like it
- Minimally processed
- Delivered to the doorstep in corrugated boxes
- Green with an amazing aroma
The Living Space For Your Rabbit
One of the biggest conundrums that rabbit parents face is to choose between keeping their new pet indoors or getting a hatch for them that will be installed in the backyard. To be fair, each one has its own share of pros and cons. But personally, I would never keep my bunnies in an outdoor hatch. We have always used indoor cages until the rabbits are toilet trained and then given them a free run of the house.
Never faced a single problem with it so far.
Coming back to the living space, irrespective of what type of home you choose for your pet, it is crucial that you get the size right and ensure that the rabbit has enough space in it.
How much space does my rabbit need?
That depends on the amount of time the rabbit spends in the cage. Being crepuscular (active at dawn and twilight and sleeping for the rest of the day), it is not uncommon for rabbits to spend a large amount of time in their cages. For this reason, most experts recommend that the rabbit cage be at least 5-6 times the size of a rabbit’s body when it is fully stretched out. Add at least 20-25 square feet of exercise space to it and you have a perfect living space for a couple of bunnies. If for some reason, you cannot accommodate a two storeyed condo for your rabbit, then ensure that the rabbit has a separate section of your home where they can run free and exercise.
Can’t I just leave my rabbit in my home all day?
You most certainly can if the rabbit is already toilet trained or spayed and neutered. But if you have just adopted a young bunny, then toilet training will save you from a lot of trouble down the road. You won’t have a compulsive bunny that goes marking its territory all around the house. Not to mention that when you won’t be around to supervise, the bunny will rest in its cage rather than finding new things to chew around the house. The idea is to separate cage time from exercise time around home. One of the best times to let the rabbit run around is dawn or dusk.
Making an enclosure for my rabbit vs. buying one off the shelf
For most people, a rabbit enclosure might seem like an ordinary space that the rabbit rests in. But for the bunny, the enclosure is this special retreat that it can escape to when it gets too maddening elsewhere. And for this reason, it has to be an enjoyable space with enough activities to keep them busy and entertained. Here are some of the essentials of a rabbit enclosure.
Solid flooring: Never build or buy a cage with wired flooring. Rabbits do not have padding on their feet and wired floors can be harsh on them. Many rabbits end up spending their day in the litter boxes because wired floors are so uncomfortable to rest on.
Ample room: Other than the room that the rabbit needs to stretch out, ensure that there is ample room for other essentials like the food and the water bowl.
Ramp: If you plan on a two storied living space, then there is nothing more entertaining for your pet than a ramp. Rabbits love ramps. Even if the living space isn’t multi storied, you can always make a makeshift ramp which allows the bunny to hop in and out of the cage. All you need is a wooden plank to make a ramp. Tip: Keep the cage slightly elevated.
Run: Outdoor rabbit hatches should have access to a run where the rabbit can jump, run and exercise for at least 5 hours every day.
As much as the DIY bug seems interesting, buying rabbit cages off the shelf is a lot simpler. There are some fabulously designed living spaces out there. And you can easily find one that fits into your home and your budget comfortably.
Here’s our pick of the lot.
The home sweet home pet cage from Ware Manufacturing ticks just about all the boxes that one looks for while shopping for rabbit cages. It is reasonably sized (28 inches long for the medium sized one), has solid flooring, a large opening for easy access and is airy and bright due to the wired frame. Most importantly, it costs less than $40.
If there are any thrifty minded first-time pet parents out there, this best cheap rabbit cage is just what you wanted.
Why we like it
- Enough room: The cage has enough room for 2 mini sized bunnies or guinea pigs. That’s in addition to storing the essentials like water and hay.
- Stain and odor proof: The materials used in the manufacture of the cage are stain and odor resistant. This means that you spend less time scrubbing grime and stink off the cage.
- Easy to clean: With a large opening access door and a solid plastic floor, the cage is surprisingly easy to clean. Just lift off the wired upper and hose it down.
- Chew proof: The wire frame is powder coated and chew proof.
Living world’s deluxe habitat is one of the bestselling cages for small to medium sized bunnies. While it may look very similar to our #1 pick, there is a world of difference in the quality and the add-on features that Living World throws in along with the basics.
For starters, you have the wire frame along with odor resistant plastic flooring. At 37.8 inches in length for the large sized cage, there is ample room for a bunny to stretch out. The access door is wide and spacious allowing the bunny to enter and exit the cage easily.
The easy assembly kit also includes a balcony, an access ramp for the bunny to play hoppity skip, a tip proof food dish (no more messy floors), a leak proof water bottle and a hay guard.
Why we like it
- Spacious and easy to clean: Available in three different sizes, the Living World deluxe habitat is just the perfect size for most small and medium sized bunnies. The stain and odor resistant clear plastic floor is incredibly easy to clean too.
- Balcony with ramp: Bunnies love the balcony with the easy to access ramp. Avoids the need to construct a makeshift ramp.
- Food dish, water bottle and hay guard: That’s just about everything that a rabbit needs in a living space without you having to make cumbersome modifications or additions to it.
Cages for large rabbit breeds need not always be bulky. The Precision Rabbit Resort is our pick for the best large rabbit cage. At 37 inches in length, it offers enough resting room for a large bunny to spread its feet.
On the bottom of the cage, there’s a heavy duty metal pan that slides out allowing you to clean the contents easily.
It has a wireframe design similar to the other two picks in this list. The wire is strong and chew proof and is coated with a black epoxy coating. The Precision rabbit resort also comes with two openings instead of the standard single door opening for access into the cage.
The top and the front door grant easy access for both pets and parents for replacing water and food.
The additional space also allows you to set up some neat extras in a corner of the cage. Like a ramp, for example.
Why we like it
- Two door design: If you have ever lived with large bunny breeds, you’d know how difficult it can be to pick them out of the cage when they refuse to step out. The top access door makes this effortless.
- Fully assembled: Even if most of the cages are designed for easy assembly, there’s nothing better than a fully assembled cage that sets up in minutes.
- Perfect size: It is the perfect size for large bunny breeds.
Our pick of the best outdoor hutches for rabbits
Outdoor hutches need to be very secure because rabbits can often die of fright when approached or intimidated by a predator. Even in an urban setting, there’s no dearth of predators around. Raccoons, possums, coyotes or even your neighbor’s dog can be potential threats.
To top it off, weather is a major factor that determines whether to house your rabbit outdoors or not.
Nevertheless, if you have carefully considered all the factors, then here’s our pick of the best outdoor hutches for rabbits.
This beautifully designed 2-storey outdoor hutch features wired frame on the sides and the door and removable plastic tray floors for easy cleaning. This keeps the hutch airy and bright at all times. It is approximately 47 inches in length and 38 inches tall with completely opening shingled roof.
The shingles allow rain water to run off naturally without entering the insides of the hutch. But if you live in an area with substantial rainfall, then you can always cover the hutch using a rain cover or apply a sealant on the roof.
The upper storey is connected to the lower one with a ramp that has a slip proof coating and allows bunnies to move about freely.
All the features apart, this one’s a looker and will draw some eyeballs.
Why we like it
- Aesthetic and functional: Along with a very attractive design, the RH-25 2 storey rabbit hutch also features a very functional living space for bunnies. It keeps the bunny active and busy and prevents habitual chewing which often stems from boredom.
- Easy to clean: Pull out plastic floors, removable roof. Need we say more?
- Airy and bright: Chew proof wire frame side that keeps it airy and bright.
The White Picket Fence rabbit hutch from Advantek is designed like a house with its own front yard space which doubles up as the run for your bunny. Manufactured from rot and insect resistant fir, the beautiful outdoor hutch has a white and auburn color combination clubbed with its own picket fence.
A slip proof ramp connects the house to the run which is protected by a white epoxy coated wire frame. Both the run and the roof of the house have a hinged roof which grants easy access to the insides of the hutch.
The roof is manufactured from non-toxic, waterproof asphalt which offers excellent insulation. During the cold winters, the insides stay warm whereas it traps cool air inside during the summers.
With ample room, a dedicated play area and a secure design, Advantek’s white picket fence is one of the best outdoor rabbit hutches in the market currently.
Why we like it
- Stunning house shaped design: If you thought rabbit hutches were mundane then look again. This looks absolutely stunning with its two tone color and the house shaped design.
- Functional and easy to clean: From pull out floors to opening hinged roofs, Advantek has designed this with functionality in mind.
- Secure and spacious: It not only gives the bunny access to a front yard but also protects it with a wire frame.
Our final pick is this rabbit hutch from Trixie pet products with a natural wooden finish and a bunch of extras which can be bought separately. The basic model features a 2-story design with a resting area on the upper floor.
Both levels have a removable plastic floor for easy cleaning and are connected with a non-slip ramp. There’s a lockable hatch door that prevents access from one level to the other. So, if you wish to restrict the bunny’s access to the lower level at night, you can lock the hatch door.
Access to the interiors of the hutch is extremely easy. The roof is hinged with locking arms and can be opened completely.
At 52.8 inches in length, this is one of the largest outdoor rabbit hutches in the market. It can easily suffice for two medium sized or three small sized bunnies.
Why we like it
- Solid wood construction: The Trixie rabbit hutch is constructed from solid pine. Throw in a water sealant coating and you have a hutch that could last for years without as much as a wrinkle to show.
- Extremely roomy: This can easily house two large to medium sized bunny and still have room for more. We have housed three mini lops and a few guinea pigs in ours at separate times.
- Low maintenance: Everything from the sturdy construction to the pull out trays scream low maintenance. This one is easy to clean, access, assemble and dismantle.
Things That You Didn’t Know About Rabbit Grooming
Grooming is one of the trickiest parts of being a rabbit parent. And the fact that different breeds of rabbits have different grooming needs doesn’t make it any easier. If you groom or brush the rabbit infrequently, then the rabbit will lick itself to cleanliness and may ingest hairballs in the process which can even turn potentially fatal.
Groom excessively and your rabbit can develop skin and hair problems which take forever to cure.
But it’s not as difficult as it sounds either. With some basic information about the breed type, you can easily create a grooming routine for your bunny which keeps them healthy and clean round the year.
When to groom
Most rabbit breeds do well with weekly grooming and brushing routine. Increase this to bi-weekly during the shedding phase. Shedding in itself is a whole different subject and is completely breed specific. Some rabbits can shed their entire coat within 24 hours whilst others take weeks. Some shed in patches resulting in bald spots on the skin. Long haired breeds will take more effort to groom as compared to short coated ones.
How much to groom
Apart from the basics that include cleaning the underside of the rabbit of any dry fecal matter or urine and keeping the nails trimmed, your rabbit does not require any special grooming techniques.
To get comprehensive information on grooming your bunny, read our articles about rabbit grooming.
Rabbit Health And Common Conditions to Watch Out For
Despite your best efforts and incessant attention, your bunny is inherently a very delicate creature that is extremely prone to a whole range of diseases. Some of these are easier to cure as compared to others.
Also, some of these conditions have no noticeable signs or symptoms that let you identify them. The only way to ensure early detection is to keep an eye out for the subtle signs of ailments in your pet.
Here are some of the commonest conditions in rabbits.
Gastrointestinal Stasis is more common in rabbits than you’d expect. The condition causes the digestive system of the rabbit to shut down temporarily. If left undetected or untreated, it can be potentially fatal. One of the easiest ways to know if there is something wrong with the digestive system is to track your bunny’s eating habits and check their feces. If you suspect that something is amiss, speak to your vet immediately.
Due to their incessant chewing and their teeth which continue to grow for as long as they are alive, a rabbit is prone to severe dental problems. Some of these are easily spotted. For example, a dental abscess can prevent a rabbit from eating normally. A routine checkup by the vet however should allow you to keep the condition in check.
To know more about common health problems in rabbits, read our articles about rabbit health.
Images sources: Bigstock.com, Amazon.com