Considering adding a rabbit to your family? You’re not alone! Bunnies are quiet and clean creatures who form close bonds with their families, are easily trained to use litter boxes, and can even learn tricks such as jumping through hoops – just like dogs! Bunnies are also absolutely adorable, and purr when they’re happy – just like kitties!
However, these wonderful animals are among the most frequently surrendered to shelters due to their unique set of needs. If you’re thinking of getting a pet bunny, here are some essential pieces of information to know. This list is by no means exhaustive – but it does include some solid information to get your life with your bunny off on a right foot – and on a budget!
Bunnies Need Space
(I bought my bunny a fancy hutch, but he doesn’t seem to carrot all)
Cages typically found in standard pet stores are quite small – and expensive! Your best bet for your new bunny friend is a simple x-pen, which is a fraction of the cost of your typical rabbit cage, simple to put together, and easily expandable!
Rabbits also need at least two hours of free roaming time a day to exercise, so if you have the space, consider giving them some supervised playtime outside of their pen!
Pro-Tip: A simple and inexpensive solution to nosy dogs and curious cats, you can use hardware cloth to cover the top of your rabbit’s enclosure to keep them safe and secure when you’re not home!
Litter Box Training
(Many, many, little poops)
Bunnies learn quickly, and most adapt to litter box training quickly! A rabbit-specific litter box is unnecessary – a regular litter box for cats will do just fine!
Paper bedding and natural wood bedding are both excellent options for your bunny. Clumping clay litter can cause respiratory damage from the dust, and is not a recommended type of bedding. Arrange your litter box so that the bottom is lined with a layer of bedding, and place a pile of hay on one side. Bunnies enjoy pooping and eating at the same time, and will be more likely to adapt quickly to training in this kind of setup!
Pro-Tip: use puppy training pads to line the bottom of your bunny litter box for fast and easy cleanup!
Let’s Start With Water
Many setups include a water bottle mounted on the side of the enclosure, which has a propensity to grow bacteria and typically holds less water than is necessary to keep your bunny healthy and happy. Remember, a bunny can drink as much water as a large dog!
Instead, opt for a large ceramic bowl that is difficult to flip over to provide your bun with optimal hydration.
All the Hay, All the Time
Natural grass hay should be 80% of your rabbit’s diet and made available 24/7 for your bunny to keep their digestive system and teeth in peak condition. Opt for alfalfa hay for bunnies under eight months, and timothy hay or orchard grass for older rabbits.
Many bunny parents also choose to combine alfalfa and timothy hays to make the transition away from alfalfa in adulthood easier!
Pro-tip: Check your local feed store & farm supply for better prices and bulk purchasing options!
Read Pellet Ingredient Labels
Most commercial rabbit food mixes contain junk ingredients – such as dried fruit and even yogurt drops – that are harmful for your rabbit. Stay away from anything labeled “muesli” or “fiesta” and stick to simple, hay-based pellets without additional ingredients and a minimum 18% fiber.
Rabbits between seven weeks – seven months of age may have unlimited pellets – after that, 1/2 cup pellets per 6 lbs body weight is recommended.
Pro-Tip: Oxbow and MannaPro are excellent brands with the recommended protein/fiber mixes.
Veggies & Fruit
(Romaine Calm and Be Careful!)
Many folks grew up watching Bugs Bunny munching on carrot after carrot. Carrots, however, are high in sugar and should only be given as an occasional treat – and never for very young rabbits.
General guidelines for veggie consumption are to wait to introduce any veggies until a minimum of 12 weeks in age, and after that, only a very small amount at a time (1/2” by 1/2’ bite) no more than once a week.
Pro-Tip: Basil, cilantro, kale (sparingly), and dark leafy greens are a popular choice – but *never* feed your bunny iceberg lettuce or cabbage (which can cause diarrhea and intestinal distress). For a complete list of rabbit-safe foods, visit the House Rabbit Society website!
Toys, Toys, and More Toys!
(Unless you just don’t like your laptop chargers)
Bunnies are naturally curious and easily bored, so be sure to provide your long-eared friend with plenty of toys to keep him occupied. Look for toys made with natural ingredients and organic dyes that your bunny can safely enjoy. Willow and applewood bundles are a popular choice, as are willow balls. If you’re on a budget, you may also stuff your empty toilet paper rolls with tightly-packed hay, and let your bunny fish it out!
Pro-Tip 2: If you only have one bunny, a bunny-sized stuffed animal can be a welcome cuddle companion.
Love and Connection
(Less carrying, more scritching!)
Bunnies are sensitive creatures who thrive on human companionship – but most don’t like being picked up, as they are prey animals, and are developed to think you might just be a hawk about to carry them away!
To build trust with your bunny, lay down with them in their pen or on the floor and allow them to come to you! A handful of pellets or a treat (such as kale) torn into tiny pieces can help. Give your bunny some treats while scratching their forehead or rubbing their head in front of their ears and behind their eyes. A happy bunny will close his eyes once you’ve hit a good scratching spot, and don’t forget, they purr!