Rabbits

Last updated: March 17, 2016

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Feeding

A cute little orange bunny eating grass.

Hay and Grass

  • 80-90% of a rabbit’s diet should consist of fresh pasture hay, grass hay or timothy hay.Provide your bunny with enough hay to fill a litter tray each day.
  • Ensure that you throw away old hay everyday as the rabbit will also use it to toilet in.
  • These hays are different from straw. Straw is a good form of bedding, but contains no nutritional value.
  • There are many good quality hay products for small animals in the Oxbow range (http://oxbowaustralia.com)
  • It is very important to provide plenty of fresh grass too. Make sure the grass has not been sprayed with any chemicals like weed killer.

Vegetables

Two rabbits eating leafy green vegetables
  • 10-20% of a rabbit’s diet should consist of fresh, green, leafy vegetables.
  • This is roughly 2 cups of veggies per 1 kg of rabbit, per day.
  • If your rabbit weighs about 2kg, he would need to have 4 cups of veggies each day.
  • Some healthy vegetables for rabbits include:
    • Asian greens such as bok choy
    • Carrot tops (the green part)
    • Celery (especially the leaves)
    • Silver beet
    • Spinach
    • Chicory
    • Endive
    • Kale
    • Leaves from broccoli and cauliflower
    • Dark coloured lettuces and purple lettuces
    • Herbs such as mint, coriander and parsley.
A head of iceberg lettuce with a red cross over itWarning: Avoid feeding iceberg lettuce (light green and white lettuce) it will give your bunny diarrhoea.


Pellets and Treats

  • Fruits and some sweeter vegetables can be given in very small amounts as a treat.
  • No more than ¼ cup of treat foods per day.
  • These include:
    • Apple
    • Banana and peel
    • Capsicum
    • Strawberry
    • Watermelon
    • Carrot
    • Sultanas
  • Most pellets are also a treat food. Rabbit and Guinea Pig mix/pellets are very sweet as they are made of chopped lucerne hay with other yummy things like sultanas and sunflower seeds.
  • If you are providing plenty of hay, grass and veggies, 1-2 tablespoons of a good quality pellet mix (such as Oxbow) is all that your bunny will need.

Water

Black rabbit drinking from a clean water bowlJust as with any pet, fresh, clean water is necessary at all times. You can purchase small animal drip bottles which clip to the side of the cage and can help to keep the water clean. It is always a good idea to provide more than one water container, just in case one gets tipped over. Try a bottle and a heavy ceramic bowl. This will ensure your pet always has water to drink. Check and change your pet’s water every day. Dirty water can make animals sick, so make sure you clean the water containers too.

Handy Hint: On hot days freeze a plastic water bottle then place it inside a sock or tea towel. Now when your bunny feels too warm he can lie against the cool bottle.


Housing

Custom rabbit hutch with outdoor runAn indoor rabbit hutchIn most cases – a hutch is not enough. Often, hutches do not provide enough room to run and play. Many rabbit enclosures don’t even allow the animal to stand up and stretch. If your rabbit must live in a cage, consider the following:

  • The hutch should be at least 3 square metres (3m x 3m) with enough room for bunny to stand up on his hind legs.
  • The floor should be made of something non slip such as hay, straw, towels or saw dust.
  • Avoid metal enclosures as they heat up very quickly.
  • The hutch should have a hiding area with lots of nice bedding straw to keep bunny nice and comfortable.
  • When the weather is hot, bring your bunny’s home inside where it’s cooler and out of the sun.
  • The rabbit’s enclosure should be fully insect proof to protect from mosquitos which can transmit a deadly disease called ‘Myxomatosis’.
  • If your bunny lives outside, you would also need to protect him from other animals like cats, dogs and foxes.
  • If you would like your rabbit to be friendly and unafraid of humans, you must spend lots of time with him each day.

Lots of rabbits are very happy living inside the family home. If you would like your bunny to be indoors, consider the following:

  • Bunny proof your rooms, covering up electrical cords- they would be dangerous for the rabbit to chew.
  • You could use baby gates and play pens to divide up the house into bunny friendly and bunny free zones.
  • Be careful – if you have other pets or young children they may frighten or harm your rabbit.
  • Rabbits enjoy private ‘me time’. Give your bunny its own hiding place or safe enclosure to go to when he’s had enough of roaming the house.
  • Rabbits are easily litter trained. He will choose one or two corners to toilet in. Just place a litter tray in these areas and he will learn to go to the tray when he needs the toilet. This reduces mess around the home.
  • It is very important to clean your pet’s area every day.

Exercise

We all need to run and play to keep our bodies and brains healthy. Rabbits are no exception.

To ensure that your rabbit is happy and healthy, make sure you provide him with:

  • Wooden toys to chew – these keep teeth healthy and stop them growing too long.
  • Hiding boxes (even a cardboard box can be great!)
  • Tunnels are fun too.
  • Treat toys like a grass/hay ball can be good fun.
  • You can make a hay/grass tube, using a cardboard roll.
  • A big play area to explore. He needs to be able to stand up in this area too.
  • You might wish to train your bunny to walk on a harness and lead – remember you need to follow him, don’t pull him around.

Two rabbits on leashes going for a walk in the grass

A spinning wheel toy full of hay

Friends

Two rabbits snuggle together in their hutchPets can feel lonely too. Consider providing your bunny with a friendly desexed play mate.

  • If you bring your rabbit to the RSPCA, adoption officers can assist you in finding the right friend for your bunny.
  • If the rabbits are not desexed, you could have a problem.
  • Rabbits can give birth to many litters of babies each year.
  • Some guinea pigs and rabbits can also be friends.

There are many desexed, vaccinated and microchipped rabbits and guinea pigs at the RSPCA waiting for a new home. http://www.adoptapet.com.au/

Note: not all rabbits will get along! Big fights can occur, if you are not very careful, particularly with males.


Vet Care

A veterinarian listens to a rabbit using a stethoscopeMake sure your rabbit visits the vet at least once a year for a check up. The vet will also check that:

  • The rabbit is desexed and microchipped and can arrange for these procedures to be done.
  • The teeth are growing normally and are not too long.
  • The rabbit is vaccinated against Calicivirus, which is another disease that can harm bunnies.
  • The rabbit’s skin, nails and body condition is healthy.

You can also ask the vet for advice on the care of your rabbit.


Lifespan

Rabbits live for up to 10 years.


Rabbits and the law

In some states, such as Queensland, it is against the law to keep rabbits as pets. In Queensland all varieties of rabbits are declared pest animals under the Land Protection (Pest and stock route management Act) 2002.

This information provided by RSPCA Victoria. www.rspcavic.org

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Rabbit Behaviour & Training

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