If you are a new rabbit owner, or even an old one, you might realize that taking care of your little furry friend is much different from taking care of larger pets like cats or dogs. Being new to the game means that a lot of things are unknown territory, and you might feel like you might not be doing certain things right. That’s alright, because you’re here looking for help now, and there’s no better place for you to be than this page right now.
What are the most common errors that both new and old rabbit owners make?
Below is a selection of some of the most common ones:
- Improper housing, such as in a small hutch, or outdoors.
- Too much faith in Rabbit-branded pet products, some of which are not healthy for your pet.
- Attempting to hold and carry your rabbit too frequently.
- Neglecting to fix their rabbit, which can cause some unwanted behavior and increase the risk of some disease.
- Feeding in the wrong manner; either over or underfeeding or using water bottles instead of bowls.
In-depth examination of these Common Mistakes
Rabbits are complicated pets, and expertise from taking care of cats or dogs doesn’t transfer over to taking care of rabbits. Rabbits are herbivores and prey animals, and as a result of this, a lot of their behavior is grossly distinct from the more common domestic pets. It’s important not to treat rabbits like any other animal, and to garner information from experienced rabbit owners so as not to make mistakes like any of the following:
- Leaving rabbits cooped up in their hutches: Pet rabbits enjoy the outdoors every once in a while and they benefit the most from large expansive spaces in which they can run around and play. There’s nothing inherently wrong with keeping your rabbit in a hutch, but you need to ensure that it is large enough for the rabbit to move around easily and play. It’s also essential to let your little guy out every day to run around. Dogs need walks, and rabbits need runs!
- Housing rabbits outside permanently: Bringing your rabbit outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunlight every once in a while isn’t a bad idea. But leaving their hutch outside permanently is not a good idea. Pet rabbits are different from the wild breeds and they don’t handle the outdoor environment as well as their wild kin. Exposing them to elements like that can make them get sick easily, and outside is where the predators are. It should always be kept in mind that rabbits are prey animals, and simply seeing a predator trying to get into its hutch can give a rabbit a heart attack. Inside is the best place for a rabbit to stay, just like you would keep a cat or a hamster. Just make sure that you rabbit-proof space!
- Feeding your rabbits inappropriately: Your rabbit’s feeding and diet is such an important part of getting them to stay healthy and in happy, hopping, shape. But a lot of the time, both new and old rabbit owners can make very big mistakes when it comes to feeding their rabbit. First of all, you need to make sure that your rabbit has food and water available at all times of the day. You should always ensure that the water is replaced regularly and kept fresh. A rabbit should be served water in a bowl, and not a bottle as those can easily harbor bacteria and make your rabbit sick. One of the more common conditions rabbits can come down with is ileus, which refers to poor motility of the intestinal tract of your pet and can make your pet very sick and even die. Ileus occurs when their intake of fiber is too low, and this is usually due to feeding your rabbits products which aren’t very good for them.
- Feeding your Rabbit junk food: Some of you might be sure that the food you buy for your rabbits is great, because it has a rabbit on the packaging and says that it was made for them, but sometimes some of these feeds are the equivalent of junk food and will do your pal no good in the long run. Hay is the mainstay of your rabbit’s diet, and your little rabbit doesn’t need seeds or nuts or any of those other things included in a lot of rabbit feed. You can opt for timothy hay-based pellets in small amounts as an addition to the hay, an alfalfa pellets should be given only to rabbits younger than 6 months, and most particularly to rabbits under 3 months due to the rich calcium content. Just know that most of those other foods are unnecessary for rabbits, and if you want to spice up its diet occasionally with a treat, just opt for fruit like apple slices.
- Handling your rabbit too frequently: Rabbits are interesting pets, and they are quite different from dogs and cats, mainly because the average rabbit doesn’t show their affection by being constantly beside you, or enjoy being cuddled. Rabbits are animals that do quite well on their own, and as such, they don’t warm up to their human really quick. Even when they do, some rabbits might prefer the stay beside you, and that’s fine. That’s how a lot of them show that they like you. Of course, all rabbits are different, and some of them love being in the arms of their owner. An important addition to make to this is that both children and adults should be very cautious if they do attempt to pick or cuddle the rabbit. Like we’ve discussed, most rabbits don’t enjoy being carried and if they squirm or bite their way out of the hold, they can fall to the ground and be injured quite badly. A good rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t come over to you, it’s best not to try and cuddle it.
- Keeping your rabbit’s home Spartan: Rabbits are absolutely lovely pets, and just like any other pet, they love to have fun. Toys are a very easy and important way to keep your rabbit happy, and there are a variety of toys you can get that will keep your rabbit entertained for quite some time. You can get little tunnels for them to crawl through, little balls to roll around or toys that jingle when they interact with them. Another great tool you can get is little wooden sticks. The rabbit can’t eat them, but they enjoy chewing on them and it keeps those constantly growing teeth in control.
- Opting not to spay or neuter the rabbit: It’s common for new pet owners, in particular, to not see the necessity of spaying or neutering their new pet, but it is important in most cases for them to get that done. Any pet that isn’t intended for breeding should be fixed, and that includes rabbits. Not only does it save you the risk of ending up with a family of bunnies that you can’t take care of, but it has a variety of behavioral and medical benefits. Female rabbits have an unfortunately high risk of developing uterine cancer as they grow older, and spaying reduces this risk from 80% to 0%. This means your female rabbit will be more likely to have a much longer and healthier life. The benefits of fixing don’t stop with the females, as neutering your male rabbits can reduce a lot of the hormonal behavior that they typically display when they are not fixed. This means that behavior which rabbits typically display so as to defend their territory, such as scratching, spraying and biting, are reduced. This makes the rabbit safer to be around and is of particular note if you have children around the home.
- Not knowing enough about the natural behavior of rabbits: It might have been said hundreds of times already, but rabbits are so different from the average pet, and their relative uncommonness means a lot of people don’t know some things about the natural behaviors of rabbits. For example, there’s no need to give your rabbit a bath as you might do for a dog. Rabbits love to be clean, and they do it all themselves. Sure, if your rabbit decides to take a few hops into a puddle of mud, you might need to wipe it down or clean the particular spots that are stained, but you should never give your rabbit a full bath. If you feel that your rabbit isn’t clean, however, it might be indicative of a more serious underlying problem, so a visit to the vet might be in order to understand why your little friend might not be cleaning itself.
Another thing that new pet owners need to know about rabbits is that as prey animals, they do their best to hide any signs of weakness so as not to look more attractive to potential predators looking for a meal. This means that even when your rabbit is sick, the signs to look out for may not be glaring. You should learn your pet’s natural behavior so that you can observe the most minute deviations from their routine behavior, and take them to see the veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Underestimating the amount of attention required to take care of a rabbit: It’s easy to see that rabbits are quite small, but their size should not be used to judge how much attention and commitment is required to take care of them. Rabbits are small, but they require a lot so that you can take care of them perfectly fine. Rabbits are considered to be exotic animals by most insurers, and you’ll want to pay for pet insurance for your rabbit. You’ll also need to take your rabbit to the vet regularly for check-ups and vaccinations, which after some time can really start to rack up quite a bill; that’s not to mention regular teeth filing which can typically cost hundreds of dollars at a go. Toys, equipment, and food are all other things which need to be purchased. All this just leads to the conclusion that rabbits are not the best pets for the unprepared.
How can I rabbit-proof my home?
It’s great to keep your rabbit indoors and give it space to play around, but a lot of the things in the home which are harmless to adults can cause a lot of harm to a little inquisitive bunny. This is why people bunny proofs their homes; to make sure their little pal is safe, even when unsupervised. There are so many ways to make sure your home is perfectly rabbit proofed, but here are a few steps that can be taken:
- Wires must be covered. This is absolutely essential. Rabbits love to chew, and homes have a lot of electrical wiring. If a rabbit comes across an uncovered electrical wire and chews into it, the poor thing can get electrocuted. As such, it is a great idea to protect your wires and your rabbits with hard plastic tubing.
- Cordoning off the off-limit areas. There are certain parts of your home which are definitely too dangerous for your rabbit to come across. They can climb tall objects and it can be quite injurious if they fall. You can use a baby gate to block off areas that are off-limits to the rabbit. These gates should ideally be metal to prevent the rabbit from gnawing through them.
- Lay ceramic tiles to protect the carpet. Rabbits, just like dogs, love to dig. And when they are indoors, one of their favorite things to dig is your carpet. They’ll chew and dig at it until it is ruined, and placing ceramic tiles over areas you’ve noticed they’ve taken a liking to is a good way to stop them from focusing on that spot. You can also provide alternatives for them to chew on, such as wooden sticks and toys. A digging box is also a great way to channel that digging energy.
- Houseplants should be out of range or removed. Bunnies will chew anything, and houseplants are almost like food. Unfortunately, a lot of these plants are poisonous to rabbits and should be kept out of their range at all costs.
- Use bitter sprays to discourage chewing. For objects that can’t be removed or covered, but your rabbit still loves to chew on them, you can opt for certain sprays that contain a non-toxic bitter spray which deters your bunny from continuing to chew on whatever you decide to apply it on.
If you are interested in more information regarding this topic, you can visit my article on “How to rabbit-proof your home”.
How do I know if my rabbit is sick?
Rabbits don’t show symptoms that easily, so you have to keep an eye out for changes from the ordinary. Rabbits which are lethargic for more than a day, with reduced appetite, are most likely sick. Drooling rabbits can point to dental issues, as it might be difficult or painful for them to completely close their mouths. Grinding of teeth, a tilted head, poor passing of waste, and a runny nose can all point to a rabbit that needs the vet.
How can I get my rabbit to settle into its new home?
When you first bring the rabbit home, it is best to keep it in a cage in a peaceful part of the home. This cage will be the rabbit’s safe zone, so until it is fully familiar with the location, it is best to keep the cage available for it to run back to. Make sure food and water are available to it and don’t be too quick to move when around it so as to let it get used to you and not see you as a threat. You can leave a few toys nearby as well.
Rabbits are not the most common pet, so no one can blame you if you make some common mistakes when taking care of them. What really matters is to spot out these mistakes and do better so as to keep your friend in the absolute best of health, and keep it as happy as possible. Rabbits love you as much as you love them, so make sure you show them by taking good care of them.