The Bunny Shed

Things every rabbit owner should know

If you've new to bunny ownership, then there are certain things you need to know in order to make sure your rabbit has a happy and healthy life with you. If you haven't already, then first take a read of Things you should know before you get a rabbit as this has some basic information. The following list contains the most important things you need to know about keeping your rabbit.

NEVER pick up your rabbit by its ears

I put this at the top as I'm horrified by the number of people who still think this is acceptable. It is not. It is extremely painful for the rabbit (How would it feel if someone lifted you off the floor by your ears!). It will also damage the rabbit's ears usually beyond repair.

Some people (even vets) still recommend carrying a rabbit by its scruff. Personally I do not agree with this, especially with larger rabbits. The correct way to carry a rabbit is with one hand under it's chest, and one supporting its rear end. Hold it firmly so that the rabbit feels secure, but not so tight that you are hurting it. If it does not feel safe then a rabbit will struggle and squirm with vigor in an attempt to escape.


Rabbits need hay

I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Beyond anything else, a rabbit needs unlimited access to hay.

From the above points it should be obvious that hay is extremely important for your rabbit!

Do not use pine, cedar or cat litter for rabbits

Using pine, cedar or other litter that "smells" is very bad for your rabbits. It can cause liver problems and has also been linked with cancer. We simply use a layer of newspaper with hay on the top in our litter trays. This is simple, cheap and easy to clean out. The rabbits enjoy munching on the hay while they are sat there too. In the past we have also used a layer of newspaper with shredded paper on top. The shredded paper works the same way as the hay in keeping the rabbits feet and bum out of contact with existing mess in the tray.


Beware of fly strike

Fly strike is a horrible problem for rabbits in the summer months. This is when flies become attracted to the rabbits due to dampness or smell, especially around their rear ends. The fly will lay eggs on the rabbit's fur which eventually hatch out into maggots, and start eating the rabbit alive! The rabbit then usually dies of shock. If this sounds horrible it's because it is! Please do everything you can to prevent this happening to your rabbit.

Do not feed your rabbit too many vegetables

Rabbits have very delicate digestive systems which work completely differently from our own. They need a lot of fibre in order to keep healthy, and many vegetables are too rich for their system. You can see which vegetables are recommended by taking a look at the Carrot Cafe site. The most important thing with your rabbits diet is to change it slowly. Introduce different vegetables slowly and in small quantities and if any symptoms occour such as runny or squishy poos then remove them from the diet.

Rabbits are very good at hiding illness

Rabbits are extremely good at looking perfectly healthy one day, then falling down dead the next! The theory is that in the wild, looking sick is a bad idea as it means you will be the one picked on by any predators lurking around. However, as long as you get to know your rabbit properly, you can usually tell when something isn't quite right. Usually they will not be quite so nosy or interested, or may stay lying down when usually they come running. Other good indications are the number and size of their droppings, and the amount of food or water they are consuming. If your rabbit is obviously unwell and is sat hunched up in the corner looking miserable and grinding his teeth, then get to a vet straight away! A rabbit displaying these obvious symptoms is a very poorly rabbit indeed!

Cool Flump

Rabbits do not cope well with heat

Rabbits are designed to live outside in all weathers, so they have a very nicely insulating coat to keep them warm. In the summer months they can always escape down into their cool burrow. Unfortunately, pet rabbits don't have that luxury, and can get very hot in the summer. You can help them keep cool in several ways:

Rabbits do not like being picked up

A popular belief is that having a rabbit is having a cute furry thing you can cuddle whenever you like. In truth rabbits rarely like being picked up. They are designed to live on the ground, and feel vunerable and helpless when taken away from that ground. In many ways being picked up is similar to being caught by a preditor in the wild. They will struggle greatly if they feel there is a chance of escape, possibly injuring their back, or ending up falling from several feet.

Try and get to know your rabbit at its own level by spending time lying or sitting on the floor. If you do not try and grab it every time it comes near, it will eventually learn to trust you and become very affectionate, sometimes "grooming" you by licking your clothes and skin. If you do have to pick up your rabbit up by necessity to transport it, or administer treatment, make sure that you hold it firmly so that it feels secure.