Friday, March 29, 2013

Caring for a Pet Rabbit

Easter is almost here, and many people will choose to buy a pet rabbit for the holiday. While there are many reasons to avoid bringing a new pet home for Easter, rabbits can make good pets if they are cared for properly.  If you choose to add a rabbit to your family, the best place to get one is from a shelter or rescue.
Rabbits have some very specific needs and can live between 7 and 10 (or more) years. Here are some rabbit care tips to ensure you and your rabbit have a long and happy life together:

  • Have the proper housing. The minimum cage size for rabbits is 2' X 2' X 4', but they do require exercise time outside of the cage every day. Choose a cage with a solid floor, as wire bottomed cages can cause foot problems for your rabbit.
  • Keep your rabbit inside. Rabbits are very social animals, and often do not do well if isolated outdoors. If you have an outdoor exercise area for your rabbit, don't leave her alone even for a few minutes. Most predators can easily get through or around fencing, and the mere presence of a predator can create panic in your rabbit, causing severe injury or even death.
  • Learn how to handle your rabbit. Always lift your rabbit with both hands. By supporting his chest with one hand and his hing legs with the other hand, you will have less chance of injuring your friend.
  • Always supervise children. Rabbits are fragile animals and can be easily injured if they are not held properly.
  • Choose the right diet. Always have fresh water and grass hay available to your rabbit at all times. Your rabbit's diet should also be supplemented with commercial rabbit pellets, dark leafy greens, and vegetables. Don't feed too many pellets. A full grown rabbit should be fed between 1/8 and 1/4 cup per 5 pounds of body weight, per day. 
  • Provide plenty of exercise and attention. Rabbits should have several hours to romp and play and interact with you outside of the cage. This is a good time to brush your rabbit with a soft-bristled brush to remove excess hair. Be sure to bunny-proof any rooms your rabbit will have access to. Protect electrical cords, or any other object your rabbit might try to chew.
  • Have your rabbit spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering reduces the chance of urine spraying, a behavior the rabbit uses to mark its territory. The procedure can also reduce aggression associated with territory, and lessen chewing behavior.
  • Teach your rabbit to use a litter box. Your rabbit will naturally eliminate in the same area of her cage every time. Once you know which spot your rabbit prefers, you can place a litter box there, lined  with newspaper and filled with grass hay or pelleted newspaper litter. Clean the litter box daily, and your rabbit's cage will stay clean longer. Once your rabbit is regularly using her litter box, and you have bunny-proofed the room, you can leave her cage door open to allow her more space to stretch her legs.
If you have a new pet rabbit, one of the vets here at VACC would be happy to look him over to make sure he is in good health! Just give us a call to make an appointment: (508) 394-3566