So you’re thinking of getting a rabbit, and what’s not to like?
Pet rabbits have cute, twitchy noses, and on top of that, they’re also quiet, intelligent, and sociable.
Sound like the perfect package?
That’s ’cause they are!
However, bunnies do one significant drawback — it’s a lot harder to care for them than it is to fall in love with them.
Many owners compare the commitment of owning a rabbit to owning a dog, without the daily walks, of course.
But don’t worry; we’re here to help with this ultimate guide on rabbit care.
As long as you put in the dedication and the hard work, you’ll be a great owner, and your pet rabbit will make for a wonderful addition to your family.
Table of Contents
Let’s kick this article off with 10 bunny facts to turbocharge your bunny knowledge in the least amount of time possible:
- Pet rabbits are a member of the family Leporidae and the order Lagomorpha.
- They can live for well over 10 years if you take good care of them.
- They dozens and dozens of different rabbit breeds, ranging from tiny Netherland Dwarf rabbits to the enormous Flemish Giant.
- Both wild and domestic rabbits are herbivorous animals.
- They are known to be affectionate with their owners.
- Spaying/neutering your pet rabbits can improve their health and increase their lifespans.
- They enjoy living with other rabbits.
- They need a lot of floor space to play, romp, jump, run, and display the full palette of their natural behaviors.
- Constantly chewing (primarily high-quality Timothy hay) is essential to their dental health. If a rabbit doesn’t chew enough, their teeth can grow out of control and cause diseases or death.
- A baby rabbit is known as a kit.
Alright, now that we’re in a bunny mood, we can talk about more serious rabbit care issues, starting with your choice of rabbit home.
Pet Rabbits: At Home…or Away?
Are you planning on keeping your rabbit inside or outside?
There’s no right answer, as views vary from expert to expert.
However, most people agree that keeping your delicate rabbits inside is an excellent choice for all bunny breeds.
- Your rabbit is 100% safe from potential predators
- They avoid weather extremes
- You can spend more time with them, contributing to more mental stimulation
But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep a rabbit outside.
You just need to take special precautions like:
- Getting a weatherproof and predator resistant hutch
- Placing the hutch out of direct sunlight
- Adding an extra level of security by placing the hutch within a fenced-off environment as even the shock of seeing/sensing a predator can cause potentially life-threatening levels of stress to your poor rabbit. After all, they’re prey animals, and we need to respect that!
But regardless of inside vs. outside, it’s imperative you get the biggest rabbit’s cage you can afford to fit into your home or garden.
If you’re tight on space, then the smallest you can go is an enclosure that’s at least four times their size so they can hop, dig and stretch.
And make sure their heads don’t touch the wire cage roofing when they’re sitting up on their haunches.
An Indoor House Rabbit
If you go down the house rabbit route, you have various options:
- A free-roaming rabbit
- A puppy playpen.
- A spacious rabbit cage
- A multistory rabbit house
Each option is perfectly valid, even though we feel that a free-roaming rabbit enjoys the best quality of life as they can hop around how they please.
However, this choice requires you to bunny proof all the rooms your pet rabbit will have access to.
Do things like:
- Covering up wires and skirting boards with tubing and/or physical barriers
- Putting house plants and anything else that could be confused for food at a height your bunny can’t reach them
- Removing any furniture or rugs, you don’t want them to chew on
- Setting up a dedicated area for your rabbit, complete with a litter box/hay box, ceramic water, and food bowls, toys, and a cozy place to nest and hide
If a rabbit-safe house sounds like too much work, or your home is full of precious antique furniture you can’t move elsewhere, you should go for the puppy playpen or the rabbit cage route.
This type of rabbit housing confines your pet bunny to one area and limits the potential damage to your possessions.
Check this article on the best rabbit cages and hutches to find the right product for your home.
An Outdoor Rabbit
Rabbits that live outside should have an outdoor hutch that’s spacious, weather- and predator-resistant.
The best ones even have rabbit runs and exercise areas incorporated into their design, so you can rest assured your rabbits always have enough space to go for a pleasant evening run.
We recommend you place your rabbit’s hutch away from busy areas (so in a garden next to a busy intersection is a big no-no), and watch out for temperature extremes, especially during the coldest winter months and the warmest summer months.
And one more thing:
If your pet is living outside, you should really consider keeping at least a couple of rabbits for their mental wellbeing and company.
One of the best parts of being a rabbit owner is sitting down and having a cuddle with one of the softest creatures to inhabit God’s green earth.
One caress through a rabbit’s fur coat is enough to melt even the coldest of hearts.
But you need to be careful before you start trying to pick your bunny up left and right.
Rabbits are prey animals, and they only respond well to handling if they’ve been slowly trained to accept you as one of their buddies.
If you jump in from day 1, more than likely, they’ll associate you with one of the many predators they fear.
Here are six essential things you should know before you start handling a rabbit:
- Rabbits don’t respond well to loud noises or physical punishment — so stay calm and speak firmly but quietly to your rabbits
- Never pick a rabbit up by their ears. It’s a recipe for disaster.
- Bunny rabbits have delicate musculoskeletal structures and need to be handled gently.
- Never restrain your rabbit, as they could suffer from spinal cord injuries when they try to wiggle free from your grasp.
- Focus on stroking their heads, as this type of cuddling reflects the rabbits’ natural grooming behavior.
- Pick up your pet rabbit by carefully putting one hand under their front legs and the other beneath the rabbit’s bottom and hind legs — once your hands are in position, lift them up slowly and nestle them next to your chest.
Litter Box Training a Rabbit
Did you know that rabbits naturally prefer to go to the bathroom in the same area?
It’s the principal reason it’s so easy to train them to use a litter box.
All you have to do is:
- Wait for your pet rabbit to pick their preferred corner of their cage (or rabbit-proof room) to go to the bathroom in
- Place a plastic litter tray or litter box filled with paper-based litter (or pelleted litter) in that exact corner
- Add plenty of grass hay (make sure it’s yummy fresh hay!) to their litter box, so your pet can eat, nest, and potty in harmony
And poof, your rabbit will do 95% of their pees and poops in the litter box.
Just avoid clumping cat litter or gravel litter as these types of products aren’t suitable for rabbits.
Pet rabbits usually eat a little bit of their nutrient-rich poo, and that’s perfectly natural if you’re a fluffy bunny. You only need to worry if you notice that your rabbit’s feces are soft and liquid or if your kids start copying your rabbit’s behavior!
Rabbits are very social animals, and they can be kept in pairs — same-sex pairings work best, particularly if they’ve been reared together.
Introducing two adult rabbits can also work wonders, but you should always closely supervise the first couple of days to ensure they get along.
And don’t get discouraged if two rabbits don’t like each other. It happens, and it’s not your fault. Simply separate them and try to find a new partner for each one.
You can keep opposite-sex pairings as long as you’ve remembered to spay your female rabbits and neuter your male rabbits. Well, unless you’re planning on breeding rabbits, but that’s a whole different ballgame.
The Ideal Rabbit’s Diet
A rabbit’s diet is pretty simple.
You should feed them:
- Unlimited amounts of grass hay — Timothy hay if they’re adults and a mixture of Timothy and alfalfa hay if they’re youngsters or pregnant (it’s best to place it in a hay feeder, so it’s available 24/7)
- Unlimted fresh water
- A small handful of fiber-rich rabbit pellets
- A portion of leafy vegetables and fresh greens like cabbage, kale, collard greens, and carrot tops
- A tiny amount of fruit (like strawberries and bananas) as treats
And avoid the following foods as they’re known to cause problems in rabbits’ sensitive digestive systems — tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, seeds, grains, and onions.
You can dive deeper into a healthy rabbit diet by heading over to our complete guide on what rabbits eat.
Here’s a super-fast summary of the other rabbit care factors we haven’t discussed so far:
- Brushing the excess fur — at least once a week if you have a short-haired rabbit, or twice a week if you own long-haired rabbits (like Angora rabbits)
- Grooming — keep your rabbit’s nails nicely trimmed and their external ears clean
- Chewing — always, always provide your rabbit with an abundance of chewing materials (like a cardboard box, wooden chew toys, or other rabbit toys)
- Veterinary advice — take your rabbit to the vet for regular health check-ups (the House Rabbit Society website can help you find a great veterinarian in your local area)
- Cleaning —clean out your rabbit’s cage at least once a week using a mild, rabbit-friendly disinfectant. And remember to change their bedding and clean their toys as well!
And that’s it — you’re ready to take care of your very own bunny rabbit!
Just don’t take the responsibilities lightly, and always remember you’re taking care of a beautiful, delicate creature that relies on you for pretty much everything.
Now go out there, adopt a rabbit from a reputable breeder or a local animal shelter, and then have a ton of fun welcoming these little mammals into your home and your heart. 🐰 ❤️