For the love of bunnies!
If you are considering adding a rabbit to your family, or have recently adopted a rabbit from Hi Tor, please watch this informative and lighthearted video on responsible rabbit ownership! Here you will learn what you need to know to raise and maintain a healthy happy rabbit in your home.
Basic Safety Tips
Rabbits are prey animals. That is the first thing to know. Rabbits are insecure when they are lifted off the ground. The best way to bond with your bunny is to either sit on the floor or on a chair and bend over close to your bunny. When you sit at their level they are usually made to feel more secure and will come to you for attention. Most rabbits will eventually jump into your lap for a petting.
Please do not let small children handle a rabbit without very close supervision. The back feet of bunnies are so powerful that they can kick when being held so hard that it can actually fracture their back. Again, bunnies belong on the floor!
There are several reasons to house your bunny inside. Not only will you ensure your bunny is protected from severe weather and predators, your bunny will become more of a member of your family when living inside with you because there tends to be more social interaction that way. **Please do not house your bunny outdoors.** There are many options for housing your bunny indoors, including custom enclosures, puppy-pens, or simply a bunny proofed room. We'll discuss each option below.
A great option to consider is setting up a puppy-pen, or X-pen, pictured at right,
in an area of your house for your rabbit. A puppy-pen can be purchased at
many pet supply stores. They are large enough hold all of the essentials for a
rabbit and give them room to roam. Pens are easy to move when needed.
If you are concerned about your flooring or carpet, you can place a plastic
chair mat, piece of linoleum, or an old rug at the bottom of the pen.
(Make sure your rabbit doesn't ingest these materials however, because this
can cause blockage. Keeping the edges out of reach helps limit this from
happening). The type of puppy-pens generally for sale do not have a top to
them, so make sure you purchase one that is high enough so that your rabbit
cannot jump out.
Puppy-pens are useful if you intend to eventually give your rabbit free reign in
a bunny proofed room. Limiting your rabbit's space in the beginning will allow
him/her to grow accustomed to the location of the food and litter box(es). By
gradually increasing the space, your rabbit will not feel overwhelmed by a large
area. This helps prevent accidents and lower stress. If you feel you must cage your rabbit, please find a cage that is large enough for him/her to move around and make sure they have at least 2-3 hours a day to run and socialize with the family. Rabbits who are caged all the time are not happy in our experience.
There are many different housing possibilities to consider for your rabbit. Rabbits need a place where they feel safe as well as room to exercise and explore. The best option will depend on your living arrangements. But remember, rabbits are very social creatures, so choose a location in your home that won't leave your bunny feeling lonely and abandoned.
Just like people, bunnies enjoy a well rounded meal! A nice mix of hay, pellets
and fresh vegetables as well as fresh water will make your rabbit healthy and
happy. An occasional treat can be given, but only in small quantities.
Fresh hay should make up the bulk of your rabbit's diet and needs to be
readily available at all times. Adult rabbits can eat timothy hay, grass, and
oat hays, while younger rabbits should be fed alfalfa. Alfalfa should not be
given to adult rabbits because of their higher protein and sugar contents. Hay
is important for rabbits because it provides the essential fiber needed for good
digestive health and it helps wear down a rabbit's teeth (which continuously
grow) for good dental health. Placing hay at one end of a litter box will also
encourage the use of the litter box, as rabbits tend to eat hay and poop at the
A varied assortment of vegetables should be a part of your rabbit's daily
diet. When choosing vegetables look for something fresh and free of pesticides.
Organic vegetables contain less pesticides than conventionally grown
vegetables. Always wash and dry your vegetables thoroughly before feeding
them to your rabbit. Feed new vegetables in small quantities until you can
judge if your rabbit reacts well to them. **Never feed your rabbit the leaves
from houseplants as many are poisonous and even fatal.**
Your rabbit may enjoy some of the following vegetables:
Basil, bok choy, broccoli leaves (stems or tops can make rabbits gassy),
carrot tops (carrots are high in calcium and should be given sparingly), celery,
cilantro, clover, collard greens, dandelion leaves, dill, kale (sparingly),
lettuce - romaine or dark leaf only (NO iceberg lettuce and NO cabbage),
mint, mustard greens, parsley, water cress.
Pellets that are high in fiber and low in protein. You will need to limit your rabbit's pellet intake as he/she ages. Pellets that are high in protein can lead to obesity and other health issues in rabbits.
Fresh water must always be available to your rabbit. If you have an ex pen, a hanging water bottle is a fine option. Rabbits will also drink from a water bowl. On a hot day feel free to drop an ice cube or two in your rabbits water dish. If your rabbit does not seem to be drinking enough water you can leave the vegetables fairly wet when you present them.
Everybody loves a treat now and then, but to ensure your rabbit's health they should be given only occasionally. DO NOT feed your rabbit items high in carbohydrates like breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels, cookies, chips, or cereal. Although branded for rabbits, many commercially-sold bunny treats are high in fat and sugar, such as yogurt chips, and should not be given. Never give chocolate as it is toxic to rabbits.
A common misconception is that rabbits are dirty animals. But rabbits make wonderful indoor companions in part because they can be litter box trained, just like cats! It's easiest to develop good litter box habits in rabbits by limiting their space at first. Use a puppy pen to confine your rabbit to one area, even if you intend to give him/her free reign of your home eventually. This allows your bunny to get acclimated to the area in the beginning. Once your bunny consistently uses the litter box, you can gradually expand the area. If your rabbit starts "forgetting" to use the litter box, then limit the space again until good habits resume.
If your rabbit is having a hard time training, this is probably due to your rabbit marking his territory. It’s a good idea to get your rabbit spayed/neutered in order to ease territorial feelings.
Follow the steps below to litter train your rabbit or watch this video for a great tutorial on litter box training:
Provide a small cat litter box (or a few) with low sides and no top. You can also use a shallow storage tub. Cut a doorway in one of the sides if it's too tall. Don't bother with the corner litter boxes advertised for bunnies, as they are too small.
For litter, use recycled paper litter such as Yesterday's News. You can get the larger bags made for cats, but choose the unscented version. This litter will neutralize any unpleasant urine odors. **Do not use clay-based or clumping litter as this is harmful to rabbits' respiratory systems. Avoid wood shavings as well.**
Put a thin layer of litter at the bottom of the litter box- just enough to absorb wetness. There's no need to fill it too high since rabbits don't bury their droppings like cats. Plus, when you clean the litter box, you dump the entire contents out each time. So you will unnecessarily go through a lot of litter if you deeply fill the box each time.
Rabbits like to eat hay and then poop simultaneously. To promote good litter box habits, place hay either directly in the box over the litter or place it in a hay box next to the litter box. If you use a hay box, position it so the rabbit must hop into the litter box in order to reach the hay.
Spaying/Neutering Your Rabbit
Altered rabbits are healthier and live longer than unaltered rabbits. The risk of reproductive cancers (ovarian, uterine, mammarian) for an unspayed female rabbit stands at is virtually eliminated by spaying your female rabbit. Your neutered male rabbit will live longer as well, given that he won’t be tempted to fight with other animals (rabbits, cats, etc.) due to his sexual aggression.
Altered rabbits make better companions. They are calmer, more loving, and dependable once the undeniable urge to mate has been removed. In addition, rabbits are less prone to destructive (chewing, digging) and aggressive (biting, lunging, circling, growling) behavior after surgery.
Avoidance of obnoxious behavior. Unneutered male rabbits spray, and both males and females are much easier to litter train, and much more reliably trained, after they have been altered.
Altered rabbits won’t contribute to the problem of overpopulation of rabbits. Over 7 million adorable dogs, cats, and rabbits are killed in animal shelters in this country every year. In addition, unwanted rabbits are often abandoned in fields, parks, or on city streets to fend for themselves, where they suffer from starvation, sickness, and are easy prey to other animals or traffic accidents. Those rabbits who are sold to pet stores don’t necessarily fare any better, as pet stores sell pets to anyone with the money to buy, and don’t check on what kind of home they will go to. Many of these rabbits will be sold as snake food, or as a pet for a small child who will soon “outgrow” the rabbit.
Altered rabbits can safely have a friend to play with. Rabbits are social animals and enjoy the company of other rabbits. But unless your rabbit is altered, he or she cannot have a friend, either of the opposite sex, or the same sex, due to sexual and aggressive behaviors triggered by hormones.
Spaying and neutering for rabbits has become a safe procedure when performed by experienced rabbit veterinarians. The House Rabbit Society has had over 1000 rabbits spayed or neutered with approximately .1% mortality due to anesthesia. A knowledgeable rabbit veterinarian can spay or neuter your rabbit with very little risk to a healthy rabbit. Don’t allow a veterinarian with little or no experience with rabbits to spay or neuter your rabbit. Rabbit Vets check here and here.rabbit at vet
Is surgery safe on rabbits?
Surgery can be as safe on rabbits as on any animal. Unfortunately, the vast majority of veterinarians aren’t experienced with safe rabbit surgery techniques. Don’t allow a veterinarian with little or no experience with rabbits spay or neuter your rabbit. Using isofluorene as the anesthetic and appropriate surgical and after-surgery techniques, spaying and neutering of rabbits is as safe as for any other animal.
If you have questions, please contact the shelter, and they can put you in contact with experienced rabbit owners that can help you make the settling in process easier for you and your bunny.
Rabbits are wonderful pets to share your home with. However, as you have read above, there are many things to consider when bringing one home.
We at Hi Tor Animal Care Center want you to have success and many years of happiness with your new pet. Please contact Hi Tor's rabbit expert Nancy Nolan at if you have any questions or concerns about your fluffy new friend!