Rabbit Care Information Packet
Courtesy of House Rabbit Society
CHECKLIST FOR NEW BUNNY GUARDIAN
? Roomy cage, six times size of adult rabbit (optional); pen
? Front opening door is preferable for rabbit to come in and out on her own; top
opening cages are nice too in that they allow humans to reach in and out. Both top
and front opening door is ideal. Door must be large enough for litter box. ? Resting board to cover part of cage floor (piece of cardboard, wood, or carpet) for
rabbit‟s comfort. Slatted floors are more comfortable than wire floors.
? Litterbox fastened inside cage to reinforce litterbox training. ? Heavy pellet bowl or clip-on feeder
? Water bottle or crock
? Indoors: gradually increase freedom. Bunny-proof electric cords. Place second
litterbox outside cage. Let rabbit have access to cage (leave door open with water and
food inside). Clean small litterbox once a day — clean cage tray and floor covering
once a week or as needed.
? Outdoors: fenced patio, porch or wire playpen (with floor), daytime only Consumables
? Rabbit pellets (observe amount eaten daily)
? Fresh water
? Fresh vegetables and fruit. Introduce gradually and in give fruit in small quantities.
Give plentiful vegetables.
? Hay (for fiber and nutritional value): timothy, oat, alfalfa
? Straw (no calories for fiber and chewing entertainment)
? Wood (pine, oak, apple) for chewing and recreation
? Papaya enzymes/multiple enzymes (especially Prozyme for prevention of fur-block and
? If rabbit struggles violently, either restrain the rabbit against your body OR squat
down and release the rabbit (fighting may injure her). Prevent rabbit jumping from
Demonstrate to the rabbit that you are the source of petting, treats, freedom, and anything else the rabbit likes. Pet the rabbit on the broad area on top of her nose. Try short
sessions several times a day. Don‟t chase the rabbit unless necessary. Don‟t punish her. Distract or remove rabbit from chewing or digging destructively. Give her something she
CAN play with. Rabbits readily develop habits — good or bad — and can be influenced
Spay your female bunny at age 6 months, males at 4 months.
Regularly check eyes, nose, ears, teeth, weight, appetite, and droppings. Notice any
behavior change. Avoid stress, heat and sudden temperature changes. Find an
experienced rabbit vet BEFORE a problem develops. Groom regularly.
New Bunny Shopping List
House Supplies: Cleaning Supplies: ? cage: at least 6x the size of your stretched out bunny, preferably with 2 ? spray bottle levels and a ramp * ? white vinegar ? water bottle or crock ? clean sponge ? food crock - heavy enough so your bunn can „t throw it! ? bucket ? hay rack ? rubber gloves ? plastic litter box ? old towel ? edible litter, such as Carefresh or Cat Country (no cedar!) * ? broom and dustpan ? pet carrier ? vacuum ? blankets/sheepskin rugs to protect feet from wire floors
? bunny toys *
? cardboard box or tube to hide in and run through
? collapsible fence for exercise area Health Care Supplies:
? House Rabbit Handbook
by Marinell Harriman st Century ? Rabbit Health in the 21Food: by Kathy Smith ? timothy or alfalfa pellets *
? comb ? unlimited grass hay: timothy, oat, orchard grass *
? nail clippers/styptic powder ? fresh vegetables-at least 3 kinds each day *
? Petromalt ? apple twigs or other untreated wood to chew on *
? papaya enzyme digestive aid
? disinfectant: chlorhexidine or hydrogen peroxide
? antibiotic: Neosporin or triple antibiotic (NOT
Neosporin Plus) ? calendula lotion to sooth minor wounds
? Vaseline or corn starch for urine scald House Protection: ? simethicone: gas relief medicine for babies a) electrical cords: ? Pedialyte to rehydrate ? pvc tubing/hacksaw ? saline eye wash ? aquarium tubing/exacta knife ? sterile bandages ? electrical cord wrap from Radio Shack ? cotton swabs ? cotton balls b) off limit rooms, bookshelves, baseboards, ? eye dropper or syringe for oral meds furniture: ? tweezers and scissors ? baby gates ? rectal thermometer/KY lubricant ? chicken wire ? rubbing alcohol to clean thermometer ? fabric covers
SAFE GROOMING AND HANDLING TECHNIQUES
Rabbits can act as if they‟re hardy creatures, but they are, in fact, extremely delicate—from their
skin to their spines to their external systems. Care must be taken to maintain their good health.
The following basics are necessary to groom rabbits safely and to help keep them healthy. For
information specifically geared towards caring for long-haired rabbits, see the House Rabbit
Journal article, “The Well-groomed Rabbit.”
FLEAS Cat flea products are generally safe for rabbits with fleas. It‟s better to stick with powders and sprays only. Carbaryl is the ingredient preferred by the House Rabbit Society's
veterinary advisors. One must be hesitant to treat rabbits‟ fleas aggressively, because the cure can
be more stressful than the infestation, so flea baths and dips are not recommended.
A flea comb is a non-toxic device, which takes more patience, but is both physically and
psychologically rewarding. Many rabbits learn to love the attention of being flea-combed, and it
can be used as a supplement to or as your main flea-control program. If you want to control fleas
in the environment with sprays or a flea bomb, do only one room at a time and keep your rabbits
out of that room for at least 24 hours.
BATHS Although some bunnies grow up swimming in the family pool and going on camping trips where they paddle around in the lake, most rabbits are not used to this routine and would find
even an occasional bath quite stressful. NEVER —unless your vet advises it to bring down a
fever—should you bathe a sick rabbit. Because seemingly healthy rabbits can have undiagnosed problems, it‟s best not to subject them to the stress of a bath. If your rabbit is very badly infested
with fleas, there‟s a good chance that he is already compromised and may go into shock when bathed. Also, a thoroughly wet rabbit takes a very long time to dry, so spot cleaning the dirty area
is better than an over-all bath. Normal rabbit body temperature is 102?. Since they are subject to
heat stress, use a warm dryer, not hot.
MATS Rabbit skin is delicate and highly susceptible to cuts, so mats should not be cut off with scissors. Instead, use a mat splitter or mat rake to take the mass apart. Bunny fur usually requires
a finer blade than most cats and dogs.
SKIN Scratchy, flaky skin with bald patches is usually a symptom of skin mites or an allergic reaction to fleas. Cat flea powder clears up either condition. A vet should be consulted for other
FEET House rabbits who spend all of their time in homes with carpeting and linoleum
periodically need to have their toenails trimmed, in the same way as dogs and cats.
Because of risk of infection, as well as humane consideration, declawing is definitely NOT
recommended for rabbits. If excessive digging or scratching is a problem, then a large box of hay
or straw, where bunny can pursue these activities, may help. Spayed/neutered rabbits are less
likely to dig excessively.
If the padding (fur) on the feet is worn down, exposing inflamed or callused skin, then soft dry
resting pads (rugs) should be provided. Exposed skin that becomes urine burned or broken is very
likely to infect. Take extra care that rugs and litterboxes are kept clean and dry.
INCONTINENCE A rabbit with urinary infection or a disabled older rabbit may not be able to
project urine away from the body. The result may be saturated fur around the hindquarters. For
milder cases, shave the areas that get wet so the skin can dry (remember, rabbit fur takes a long
time to dry), rinse the affected areas daily, and follow up with a dusting of baby powder or corn
starch. For more infirm cases, disposable baby diapers—turned backwards so the tabs are up—do
wonders for keeping the moisture away from the skin. (Huggies Step 2 work well for an 8-LB
EARS Ear wax can be lifted out with a cotton swab, being careful not to push on wax in the canal,
or you can try a mild ear cleaner containing Chlorhexadine, such as Nolvasan Otic. For ear mite
infestation, apply a topical medication such as Mitox. The vet may also prescribe Ivermectin.
TEETH Bunnies with straight teeth will keep them worn down with everyday gnawing and
chewing. Those with malocclusions, or crooked teeth, will need to have their teeth kept trimmed
with guillotine-type clippers.
EYE DISCHARGE Watery eyes or any eye discharge needs to be diagnosed by a vet. In addition to any medications or eye drops, the cheek needs to be kept dry and clean so the area will
not become chafed nor the fur peel off. Clean tissues will absorb mild wetness. Ophthalmic saline
solution (what people use with their contact lenses) carefully poured onto the cheek will crystallize
the tears so that they can be removed with a clean flea comb. A touch of prescription anesthetic
powder on a finger can be applied to the area if there are painful lesions.
APPROACHING A RABBIT The safest initial approach with rabbits is to begin by stroking the
top of the head. Do not offer your hand for a bunny to sniff the way you would to a dog, because
most seem to find this gesture offensive and may attack (lightning-fast lunge with a snort). Most
rabbits also do not like having the tips of their noses or chins touched. Their feet also tend to be
HYPNOSIS Often a bunny can be “hypnotized” by cradling him on his back in your arms or across your lap, tipping the head backwards until he‟s “out.” It‟s helpful to do this when cleaning
bunny‟s sensitive areas, like the cheek, feet, and under the tail. If the hind feet seem to be vibrating,
touching them will stop it.
LIFTING Bunnies should NOT be lifted by the ears or scruff. See the HRS handout, “Getting off the Ground,” for safe ways to lift and carry rabbits.
Compiled with the assistance of Dr. Carolynn Harvey, DVM
Rabbit-Proofing Your House
Rabbit Proofing one's home involves three things:
1) Preventing destruction of your property;
2) Protecting your companion rabbit(s) from harm; and.
3) Providing safe and fun chewing alternatives for your rabbit.
Preventing rabbits from chewing on electrical cords is of utmost importance, since
rabbits can be badly burned or electrocuted. The consequences of biting into an electric
wire are too severe to risk relying on training alone. Instead, you must take action to
move the cords safely out of reach. Some ways of doing this follow.
? Plastic tubing (similar to that used in fish tanks, or with "swamp coolers") from a
hardware or aquarium store can be slit lengthwise with a blade and the wire can be
tucked safely inside. A harder, black, pre-slit type of tubing is also available.
? Decorative gold and wood-grained wire-concealers that stick to the base of walls
come in strips, corners, etc., so they can follow the shape of the wall. This is a
more costly and time consuming method than the clear plastic tubing above, but is
more permanent, and rabbit proof, as well.
? Of course, wires can be run under or behind furniture or carpets in order to hide
Most houseplants are toxic. Putting them on high furniture may not keep a rabbit
away. Hang them from the ceiling if you have an active bunny, but watch for falling leaves!
If you are unsure which plants may be toxic, the House Rabbit Handbook (Drollery Press)
has a complete list of poisonous plants (indoors and outdoors), as do two back issues of
House Rabbit Journal.
If a rabbit insists on chewing baseboards, edges of chairs, etc., a board can be put over the places of temptation, making them inaccessible while also providing an acceptable
chewing surface. This method should be combined with training your rabbit not to chew
on these items.
Rabbits can't resist digging at the end of "tunnels" (any place that furniture forms a narrow path to a wall). Lay a piece of wood or hard plastic at the end of the tunnel,
holding it down with the furniture on either side to protect the carpet. You can also place
a tub full of hay, shredded newspaper, or a phone book, here as well for bunny to dig in.
Upholstered furniture and beds that are several inches off the ground are wonderful
places for rabbits to hide underneath. However, some will burrow up into the soft
underside and make a nest. A flat cardboard box or frame of 2x4s, smaller than the area
of the future base, will keep the rabbit out, and won't be seen from human level.
Rabbits chew to exercise their minds, not just their teeth. Provide lots of entertaining alternatives for your bun to chew on. If she enjoys chewing a hole into the back of the
couch, give her a closed cardboard box filled with paper or straw, with a small hole in it to
start, and let her finish the job. Be imaginative!
Why does your rabbit chew things other than her meals? Chewing is a normal, natural, necessary
— and highly enjoyable — activity for rabbits. Here is an outline of some considerations to help you understand the why of chewing, as well as the how of preventing destruction of your favorite
I. Psychological factors
A. Sex. Females often have a stronger urge to burrow than males, although this is not the only reason rabbits chew. The hormone/age factors below also apply to males. Both males and
females can and should be spayed or neutered as soon as they are sexually mature (3 1/2 to 6 mos.
B. Hormone/age. Is she spayed? If young (under 2 yrs.) & unspayed, spay her.
If young & spayed, her chewing will lessen with time.
If mature (over 2 yrs.) & unspayed, spay her but get a checkup first.
If mature & spayed, her behavior isn‟t governed by hormones.
C. Personality. Chewers are often intelligent, outgoing, affectionate individuals who like
to be in charge and get lots of attention. Does she chew to get attention? Would a companion
alleviate boredom? Anything that would entertain her/make her happier might lessen her chewing.
II. Environmental factors
A. Diversions: keep trying to find something harmless she enjoys doing. What kind of
“burrow” (such as a cardboard box stuffed with hay), can you provide for her?
B. Protecting the environment: Besides the more traditional wire protection devices
(plastic tubing), a box or wire basket can go over a group of wires. Browse a large hardware store
for products to use for bunnyproofing.
C. Confinement (to a cage or room). This simply buys you time, while you bunny-proof,
get her spayed, or wait for her to mature.
Discipline (clapping hands, saying “no”) has a small role in stopping chewing behavior. Most
people report that it‟s easy to make their bunnies understand them, but difficult to make them stop
the behavior through the use of discipline only, especially if the bunnies are left alone for periods of
Since swallowing indigestibles such as carpet presents a health hazard to your bunny, follow up
excessive chewing incidents with a petroleum laxative such as Petromalt or Laxatone (sold at pet-
Remember: A spayed rabbit will chew less and less as she matures. It may be just a matter of
riding out a high energy stage of your bunny‟s life.
Suggested Toys for Rabbits
1. Mental stimulation. Without challenging activities to occupy your rabbit when you‟re not home, your rabbit, especially a solitary rabbit, will get bored. This could lead to depression and/or excessive destruction. The creative use of toys can extend your
rabbit‟s life by keeping him interested in his surroundings, by giving him the freedom to interact with those surroundings, and by allowing him to constantly learn and grow.
2. Physical exercise. Your rabbit needs safe activities to keep her body in shape as well as her mind. She needs things to climb on, crawl under, hop on and around, dig into,
and chew on. Without outlets for these physical needs, your rabbit may become fat or
depressed, or may create jumping, chewing, or crawling diversions with your furniture.
3. Bunny proofing for your home. As is clear from the above descriptions, toys are not just for your rabbit, they also keep your house safe. By providing your rabbit with a
selection of toys chosen to meet her age, sex, reproductive status and temperment, you
have fulfilled most of the requirements of bunnyproofing your home. Some good toys to
? Paper Bags and Cardboard boxes for crawling inside, scratching, and chewing ? Cardboard concrete forms for burrowing
? Cardboard roll from paper towels or toilet paper
? Untreated wicker baskets or boxes full of: shredded paper, junk mail, magazines,
straw, or other organic materials for digging
? Yellow Pages for shredding
? Cat toys: Batta balls, and other cat toys that roll or can be tossed ? Parrot toys that can be tossed, or hung from the top of the cage and chewed or hit ? Baby toys: hard plastic (not teething) toys like rattles and keys, things that can be
? Children's or birds' mobiles for hitting
? "Lazy cat lodge" (cardboard box with ramps and windows) to climb in and chew on.
Also, kitty condos, tubes, tunnels, and trees
? Nudge and roll toys like large rubber balls, empty Quaker Oat boxes and small tins ? "Busy Bunny" toys
? Rainbow slinkies
? Toys with ramps and lookouts for climbing and viewing the world ? Dried out pine cones
? Jungle gym type toys from Toys R Us
? A (straw) whisk broom
? A hand towel for bunching and scooting
? Untreated wood, twigs and logs that have been aged for at least 3 months (apple tree
branches can be eaten fresh off the tree. Stay away from: cherry, peach, apricot, plum
and redwood, which are all poisonous.
? Untreated sea grass or maize mats from Pier One or Cost Plus Imports
A rabbit's diet should be made up of good quality pellets, fresh hay (alfalfa, timothy or oat), water and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a "treat" and should be given in
Pellets should be fresh, and should be relatively high in fiber (18% minimum fiber). Do not purchase more than 6 weeks worth of feed at a time, as it will become spoiled.
Pellets should make up less of a rabbit's diet as he or she grows older, and hay should be
available 24 hours a day.
When shopping for vegetables , look for a selection of different veggies--look for both dark leafy veggies and root vegetables, and try to get different colors. Stay away from
beans and rhubarb.
Hay is essential to a rabbit's good health, providing roughage which reduces the danger of hairballs and other blockages. Apple tree twigs also provide good roughage.
Babies and “teenagers”
? Birth to 3 weeks--mother‟s milk
? 3 to 4 weeks--mother‟s milk, nibbles of alfalfa and pellets
? 4 to 7 weeks--mother‟s milk, access to alfalfa and pellets
? 7 weeks to 7 months--unlimited pellets, unlimited hay (plus see 12 weeks below) ? 12 weeks--introduce vegetables (one at a time, quantities under 1/2 oz.) Young adults: 7 months to 1 year
? introduce grass and oat hays, decrease alfalfa
? decrease pellets to 1/2 cup per 6 lbs. body weight
? increase daily vegetables gradually
? fruit daily ration no more than 1 oz. to 2 oz. per 6 lbs. body weight (because of
Mature adults: 1 to 5 years
? Unlimited grass hay, oat hay, straw
? 1/4 to 1/2 cup pellets per 6 lbs. body weight (depending on metabolism and/or
proportionate to veggies)
? Minimum 2 cups chopped vegetables per 6 lbs. body weight
? fruit daily ration no more than 2 oz. (2 TBL) per 6 lbs. body weight Senior rabbits: Over 6 years
? If sufficient weight is maintained, continue adult diet
? Frail, older rabbits may need unrestricted pellets to keep weight up. Alfalfa can be
given to underweight rabbits, only if calcium levels are normal. Annual blood
workups are highly recommended for geriatric rabbits.
Note: When you feed a lower quantity of pellets, you must replace the nutritional value
without the calories, which is done by increasing the vegetables. Also, a variety of hay
and straw must be encouraged all day long, we do this by offering fresh hay a couple
of times a day.
Living Arrangements Cages.
? Rabbits were not designed to live on wire floors--they're hard on their feet (which have no
pads on the, like cats or dogs). If you must use a cage with a wire floor, you need to
provide your rabbit with a resting board or rug for her to sit on, otherwise she will spend
all of her time in her litterbox. ? You can find cages with slatted plastic floors, which are more comfortable, or you can use
a solid floor. As long as your rabbit has a litterbox in the corner that he chooses as his
bathroom, there shouldn't be much of a mess to clean up.
? Bigger is better! A cage should be at least 4 times the size of your bunny--more if he is
confined for a large amount of the day. You can build your rabbit a two-story "condo"
with the floors connected by a ramp--they love this!
? An untrained rabbit probably should be kept in a cage while you're not home to supervise
and at night when you sleep. Rabbits are crepuscular, which means that generally they
sleep during the day and during the night but are ready to play at dawn and at twilight. Be
sure to let them out during the evening when you are home, and if possible, in the morning
while you get ready for work. ? A cage should be seen as the rabbit's "nest." A special place where he can feel safe and
secure. Make the nest enjoyable and she will enjoy being there, even when the cage door is
open! Keep it stocked with baby toys, a synthetic sheepskin rug, a piece of wood attached
to the inside (like a baseboard), and when you put him to bed at night, a nice veggie or
Rabbits in the House.
? When your rabbit is better trained, and when your house (or the part that your rabbit will
have access to) has been sufficiently bunny-proofed, your rabbit can be allowed free run of
the home (or part of it) even when you are not home. The more room your rabbit has to
run around in, the more delightful you will find her as a companion.
? Even when a rabbit has a lot of room to run around, he may still get bored. A bored rabbit
is often a naughty rabbit. If you don't make every attempt to provide your rabbit with lots
of entertainment, in the form of boxes, baskets, brooms, sticks, magazines, phone books,
grass mats, etc., then he will make his own entertainment in your carpet, behind your
couch or under your recliner. Rabbits Outside.
? Always supervise your rabbit when she's outside. It takes just a few seconds for the
neighbor's dog to jump the fence and attack or frighten your rabbit to death.
? Make sure that the grass has not been sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers. Check the
yard for holes in the fence and poisonous plants.
? Under no circumstances should rabbits be left outside after dark. Predators are possums,
raccoons, skunks, coyotes, dogs and occasionally cats. If you have an outside enclosure
that you feel is very secure, a rabbit can still die of fright while a predator taunts the rabbit