Rabbits can make wonderful household pets and can be a great addition to your pet family, but there are some things that new owners should be aware of when getting a pet rabbit in Zion, IL. As with any pet, rabbits need appropriate shelter, nutrition, exercise, and attention to ensure their overall health and welfare. Caring for your rabbit also depends on what kind of rabbit you get, and you can expect that your rabbit can live anywhere from 5-12 years. Also, some breeds of rabbits such as longer-haired rabbits may require daily grooming, and some rabbits may even need regular nail trimming and dental work by a veterinarian as well.
Feeding Your Pet Rabbit
Rabbits are herbivores and exclusively eat plant material. Their natural diet consists generally of young leaves from, grasses, plants or bushes, weeds, and even bark from bushes and trees. Rabbits are natural grazers and are used to frequent small meals in the wild. Pet rabbits should be fed a high fiber diet to help maintain their body weight and healthy teeth, and as the teeth of rabbits grow continuously, constant grazing and munching are needed to keep the teeth from overgrowing. A rabbit’s diet should consist of unlimited access to timothy hay, grass hay, and/or grass.
What Should I Feed My Pet Rabbit?
Rabbits can eat a variety of grasses and vegetables, and good things to offer your rabbit include:
- Hay/grass. Bunnies love fresh hay, and it’s important to provide an unlimited supply of hay at all times. The fiber provided by hay is the best defense against intestinal blockages and teeth issues, and as far as hay is concerned, timothy hay is the most recommended hay for rabbits, as well as oat, Bermuda, and orchard grass hay.
- Fresh vegetables. Fresh green vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, and celery are a good addition to any rabbit’s diet, but it’s important to know that vegetables do not offer as much fiber as grasses, and it’s recommended not to feed more than two cups of fresh vegetables per day.
- Commercial rabbit nuggets. Pet stores offer commercial diets for rabbits, and these usually come in the form of pellets or nuggets, and it’s recommended to feed a tablespoon once or twice daily.
- Root vegetables. High fat and high sugar foods such as carrots, beets, fruits, and other root vegetables should be offered in small amounts and should be considered as occasional treats.
- Fresh water. It’s also important to offer your rabbit fresh, cool water at all times.
If you have questions about what to feed your rabbit, call Gray Animal Hospital in Zion, IL. We would be happy to answer any of your questions about a proper diet for your bunny.
Housing Your Pet Rabbit in Zion, IL
Rabbits need a safe place to live that is safe from predators, such as dogs and cats. It needs an area that protects them from the weather and has enough space for exercise. Rabbit hutches are popular among rabbit owners, and an ideal hutch is well ventilated, keeps your rabbit out of the weather, as well as a dark, dry area for the rabbits to nest and rest. It’s also recommended that the other part of the hutch should have adequate light and large enough to allow for a separate exercise and toilet area.
Rabbits should not be placed in pens or hutches with wire floors, it is bad for their feet. It is ok for part of the pen to be made of wire as long as your rabbit has an area where they can stand on solid ground. Rabbit enthusiasts suggest that a hutch should be at least ‘three hops long’ (approximately 4 times the length of your bunny when stretched out) and twice as wide as your bunny, because your bunny would be too cramped in a smaller space.
It is important to clean the hutch at least every second day by removing soiled bedding and make sure rabbits have a dry area to sleep. Rabbits that do not have clean bedding can suffer from respiratory infections, skin ailments, and pest infestation such as fleas and mites. Rabbits are capable of being toilet trained. There is plenty of information online about toilet training pet rabbits.
Exercising Your Rabbit
Pet rabbits need regular exercise, and if your rabbit is housed indoors, your fluffy friend should have at least some time to roam around each day. Rabbits are most active during the early morning, late afternoon, and evening, and if possible, these times may be the best for your bunny to get some playtime. Some rabbit owners set up a separate playroom for their rabbits, where they can hop about and interact with family members. But always remember that rabbits like to chew things, so if unsupervised, they may nibble on a chair leg or two.
Socializing Your Pet Rabbit
Rabbits are social creatures and like to live in groups. If you want to get a rabbit, think about getting two. However, if it’s not possible to get two rabbits, plan on spending enough time with your rabbit. If you will be at work all day, offer your rabbit enrichment toys to keep him occupied, and prevent stress or loneliness. If you have two or more rabbits of different sexes, you may want to prevent unwanted pregnancies by separating the males from females into different pens, or have your veterinarian spay or neuter them.
Health Problems in Pet Rabbits
Rabbits are vulnerable to several health problems, and some particular diseases. Some health issues are listed below:
- Myxomatosis. This is a deadly virus carried by biting insects and is fatal in 99% of domestic rabbits. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, swollen eyelids, lips and can cause breathing difficulties.
- Calicivirus. This is also a deadly virus also known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is very infectious and fatal. There is a vaccine for Calicivirus, and you can contact your veterinarian if you have questions.
- Dental problems. Rabbits can develop dental problems, so they must chew on something at all times, either grass, hay, or a gnawing block. Rabbits’ teeth grow at a rate of 2 to 3mm per week, and overgrown teeth can lead to weight loss, a lack of appetite, and oral discomfort. If you think your rabbit’s teeth are getting too long, call your veterinarian in Zion, IL.
- Mite infestations. Rabbits can be susceptible to mite infestations, and symptoms include scratching, itching, and patchy hair loss. If you think that your rabbit may have mites, contact your veterinarian and make sure that the hutch is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- Heat stress in rabbits. Rabbits do not like the heat and can suffer from heat stress if temperatures get above 70F. To protect your rabbit from heatstroke during warmer months, keep your bunny’s hutch in the shade, bring your rabbit inside to a cooler place in your house, place fans around the hutch, or provide a frozen drink bottle or ice brick in the hutch to help keep them cool.
Symptoms of Heat Stress Include:
- Increased respiratory rate
- Uncoordinated movements
If you suspect your rabbit is suffering from heat stress, call your veterinarian immediately, and while you are waiting, you can help reduce your rabbit’s temperature by spritzing their ears with a cool water spray or wrap them in cool wet towels.
When to Contact Your Veterinarian
Contact your veterinarian if you notice a change in your rabbit’s behavior such as:
- Drinking a lot
- Acting aggressively when you try to pick them up
- Excessive cage chewing or of objects
- Any change in attitude or eating
- Excessive grooming
- Any changes in urination or defecation
- Diarrhea or loose stools
- Obsessive circling or pacing
Handling Your Rabbit
Pet rabbits should be handled gently and appropriately so that they have a positive experience when interacting with humans. It’s important to handle rabbits regularly, especially when they are young, and to always sit while you are handling a rabbit so that your bunny won’t fall. Rabbits should always be picked up with two hands and held close to the chest, or on your lap so that they can feel secure and safe.
Rabbits and Other Pets
Pet rabbits can make a wonderful addition to any family and can offer hours of companionship and fun, but if you have other pets such as dogs, make sure that your rabbit is always safe. Both dogs and cats are hunters, and if you bring a rabbit into a home with dogs and cats, keep your rabbit safe from your other pets at all times.
Have Questions? Talk with a Rabbit Vet in Zion, IL
Owning a pet rabbit can be fun, and they make wonderful household pets. If you have any questions about what to expect when getting a rabbit, call Gray Animal Hospital at (224) 304-0668 or book an appointment using our online form and we’d be glad to help!