Learning about proper rabbit care is essential for owning a pet rabbit. Listed below are some suggestions for caring for your rabbit:
Grooming a bunny:
Bunnies often molt or shed so it’s important to habitually brush your bunny. You can use a grooming brush to help brush out your rabbit’s loose fur. Otherwise, your bunny may wind up with a hairball that could block his intestines after too much self grooming.
Routinely check your bunny’s ears and skin to make sure they are free of crusts or scabs which may be an indication of mites. If signs of mites are found you can give your bunny a bath and treat him with miticide.
Monthly oral health check:
You should also routinely check your bunny’s teeth. Use your fingers to spread your bunny’s lips into a smile so that you’re able to view your rabbit’s 4 front incisor teeth (2 top and 2 bottom). Ensure that they line up correctly and that none are loose. Your rabbit has more teeth in the back, but these often do not cause problems. Your rabbit’s gums should be a nice healthy pink, rather than red or purple.
Apply slight pressure along the sides of your rabbit’s face and under the jaw to check for any unusual swellings. If your rabbit repeatedly flinches when you reach a certain area it might be a sign that there’s a problem in your bunny’s mouth.
Trimming your bunny’s nails is important to ensure your bunny can hop properly and ensures the nails don’t get snagged in caging and ripped off. You can use a small dog or cat nail trimmer
to clip your rabbit’s nails. However, don’t trim the rabbit’s nails too short or you may hit the bunny’s blood vessel. It may be helpful to shine a flash light on the nail so that you can see where the blood vessel begins. Rabbits have five (5) nails on their front feet and four (4) nails on their back feet.
With a well behaved bunny, trimming a rabbit’s nails isn’t too hard. But if you are hesitant, you can always have a qualified veterinarian do a routine check up, and most often they can trim your bunny’s nails for a nominal fee.
Giving bunny a bath
Rabbits are like cats and clean themselves well enough so giving a bunny a bath is not often necessary. But there may be some cases where a bath may be needed because bunny can not adequately clean himself. In such cases, you can spot treat the soiled area with pet wipes
or waterless rabbit shampoo. If this still isn’t enough, you can give your rabbit a full bath. Fill a small tub with warm water, with only enough water to cover the bunny’s paws. Add pet shampoo, and lather up your bunny, making sure to avoid the bunny’s sensitive eyes and ears. Rinse your bunny off and immediately dry off your bunny with clean dry towels. You can also use a blow dryer on low and cool settings to help speed up the drying process.
Handling a bunny
Rabbits are social creatures and most love being petted, especially on the head. Some bunnies may instantly stop what they’re doing and plop down to enjoy a nice head rub. You can also massage the bunny’s cheeks being careful not to accidentally hit the bunny’s eyes.
- Picking up your rabbit:
NEVER PICK UP A RABBIT BY ITS EARS.
If attempting to pick up a rabbit and it begins to violently thrash, stop the attempt. Rabbits can break their backs in this way. Rabbits need to feel secure when they are being picked up. The common way to do this is to come from behind or from the side of the bunny. Pet the bunny first so he knows you’re there. Otherwise, if he or she is suddenly picked up, it might feel like he’s being snatched up by a bird to be eaten. When the bunny is calm, place one hand under the bunny’s chest and raise the bunny upward as in a standing position. Simultaneously, use your other hand to scoop up and support the bunny’s butt. Then use your own chest as an additional support for your bunny to rest against.
The below video demonstrates this process of holding a rabbit:
- The “Bunny Burrito” is another way of picking up a bunny so that it feels supported. This involves wrapping up the bunny tightly in a towel, much like you swaddle a newborn baby and of course similar to how you wrap a burrito. The image at the top of this page is an example of rabbit wrapped bunny burrito style. The video below demonstrates the bunny burrito technique:
When a rabbit is placed on its back and gently stroked, he may appear to freeze and be completely at rest. However, there is much debate over whether this calms or frightens the bunny. Some scientists say that what’s happening is called “Tonic Immobility” and it’s a
primitive survival mechanism. It’s believed that if a predator has captured a rabbit, the rabbit will go into this tranced state and will appear dead so that the predator releases its hold or relaxes its grip. Once this happens, the rabbit is able to burst to life to escape.
Bunnies on leashes
Believe it or not you can actually “walk” your bunny. Or should I say you can put a rabbit leash on your bunny and he will walk you.
Spaying Or Neutering
Having your rabbit fixed has it’s pros and cons. As is common knowledge, rabbits are very adept at breeding. They can reach sexual maturity as young as 3 months old. So if you aren’t planning on becoming a bunny breeder it may be best to spay or neuter your bunny if he or she may have company of the opposite sex.
Even if reproduction isn’t a concern, there are also health benefits to spaying or neutering your bunny. Having your female bunny spayed reduces her risk of having uterine cancer.
Additionally, there are behavioral benefits as well. Male rabbits who haven’t been fixed are very territorial. And one way that they exert their dominance over a territory is to spray urine everywhere. If you’re unlucky, your bunny may decide to claim you by catching you in his spray. Neutering your bunny will fix this behavior. Subsequently, bunnies are easier to litter train once they have been fixed. Additionally, rabbits will get along with companions (owner, other bunnies male or female, or other species) better if they are fixed. They will be less aggressive, calmer, and not as territorial. If you have a rabbit that is especially aggressive, often bites and scratches, it might be a good idea to have him or her fixed.
With that said, the cons of having your bunny fixed is that it could be risky. Rabbits can literally die of fright, and the procedure may be too frightening for your bunny. Secondly, rabbit alterations may not be common where you live so the veterinarian may not have too much experience with the procedure. Make sure you choose a qualified veterinarian to do the operation.
If you choose not to neuter your male bunny, it’s been suggested to give your bunny a stuffed animal girlfriend so that he can release some of his sexual angst.
Housebreaking and litter training
Rabbits like to get into every little nook and cranny and chew on everything, especially cords, so it is not advisable to let your bunny run freely around the house unsupervised. It’s best to have a home base/cage where your bunny is caged and can be left unsupervised. This will also be where he can return if he is let loose and needs to relieve himself.
If you’re worried about your pet bunny using the restroom in unwanted places, rest assured that rabbits are relatively good about being potty trained. They may leave a stray poop or two around but these are easy to clean up. To potty train a rabbit, first find a suitable litter box that can accommodate your bunny. I like to use the pans with the grates on them for easy cleaning. You can line the litter box with newspaper. I also like to add some wood chip litter to absorb some of the moisture and urine smell. Next, take notice of where your bunny usually likes to use the restroom. Most likely this will be in some corner of his or her house. Place the litter pan in that corner to encourage using the litter box. Place some droppings and soiled newspaper or hay in the litter box to begin. This is so your bunny can smell it, and know to use the restroom in the litter box. If you see your bunny using the restroom outside of the box, immediately place him or her on the litter box and clean up the poop/pee that is not in the litter box. Once you see your rabbit using the restroom provide him with a treat to provide positive reinforcement. Note that like human infants, baby bunnies seem to have utterly no control of their restroom habits. So at first you’ll need a lot of patience scooping up every one of your baby bunny’s droppings. With age, the rabbit will use the litter box more regularly.
It’s also suggested to keep the litter box near your bunny’s food since bunnies tend to eat and poop simultaneously. Spaying or neutering your bunny will also help with litter box training.
Make sure to clean the litter box often or else your bunny will protest by using the restroom outside of the litter box.
With enough patience, rabbits can even be trained to do tricks such as in the below video. There are even rabbit jumping competitions for well trained rabbits.