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A Newbie's Guide to the Basics of Rabbit Care
Small PetsRabbits & Rodents

A Newbie's Guide to the Basics of Rabbit Care

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Apr 22, 2022

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Bunnies are arguably the cutest pets in the world. They're great for snuggles and are blessedly quiet. They're also one of the most low-maintenance pets, perfect for young children and new animal owners alike. Still, even straightforward pets require your time and attention. There are multiple factors to consider before you bring an adorable rabbit kitten home.

1

Set up a home sweet home

Portrait of grey pet house rabbit looking out from open door of hutch Mint Images / Getty Images

To ensure your bunny is comfortable, you'll need a pen that's about 6 feet long and two feet high. This size should be able to accommodate a baby bunny's growth. The hutch must be:

  • Dry
  • Easy to clean
  • Well-ventilated
  • Not too hot or too cold
  • Escape-proof
  • Weather-proof if outdoors
  • Protected from predators on land and in the sky

The more bunnies you have, the bigger the cage should be. Each rabbit must be able to stretch in all directions and have a stress-reducing hiding place of its own which could be a large-bore drainage pipe or a box. Rabbits also need areas within their cage to eat and go potty.

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2

Satisfy your bunny's tummy

A young woman feeds her rabbit celery Christa Boaz / Getty Images

Rabbits are herbivores, and they need significant amounts of dried or fresh grass or hay to meet their fiber needs. Straw is much less nutritious than hay. Steer clear of legume hays too, and supplement hay with store-bought rabbit pellets. Like hamsters and rodents, rabbits have teeth that never stop growing, so they require foods that wear them down.

Fresh veggies are essential. Use collard greens that are still good but have become too wilted for your consumption—bunnies like broccoli, celery, carrots, bell peppers, and squash. You can use fruit such as apples as treats, but grapes can inspire bunnies to reject other foods. These critters need access to food and clean water at all hours.

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3

Run, rabbit, run

Little siamese rabbit running on the field in summer

You want to avoid keeping your rabbit cooped up all day. If you don't provide it with enough time for exercise, it will become a chubby bunny and a bored one. Set up a rabbit run or designated space for your energizer bunny to do more than hop. Let it speed around for about two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. Preferably, the run should be outside in a grassy area, but you can also connect it to an indoor pen if you have the room.

Include small stable platforms or objects your rabbit can jump on and off to stay strong. And pepper some enrichment and hiding spots throughout the rabbit run. For example, dry branches, bird chew toys, and cardboard boxes work well.

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4

Rabbit-proof your living space

woman folding laundry takes a break to give her pet bunny a kiss FatCamera / Getty Images

You can let your bunny roam in your apartment or house, but be sure to cover or cut off access to chewable electric cables. You'll also need to look for potential escape zones to block and keep toxic household items such as certain houseplants and detergents well out of reach. Rabbit claws and teeth can get into prized furniture, so try to cover what you can or limit access to certain rooms.

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5

Get cozy

A cute white and black spotted bunny relaxing in a bed of hay on a nice fall day. wsphotos / Getty Images

Your rabbit will spend approximately eight hours asleep per day, so its bedding needs to be comfy and warm. Pelleted litter stays relatively dry and odor-free, and you can top it off with hay for insulation and hiding opportunities. Avoid pine and cedar shavings as they can lead to liver issues.

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6

Keep it clean

Black bunny sitting in hay

When making up your litter tray, avoid wood shavings and clay-based litters which aren't digestible. Use a nontoxic litter with some hay and shredded newspaper. The good news is that you shouldn't struggle to train your bunny to use a litter box. Simply look for where they've chosen to poop, and with gloved hands, you can put some of the pea-sized droppings in the litter box and place the box in the same area.

You'll notice your bunny eating and going to the loo simultaneously, so change the hay every day because your bunny will be consuming it. Keep some of the clean bedding behind to retain the rabbit's scent when you do your weekly pen scrub downs. This serves to reassure your bunny that it's in familiar territory after its hutch has been refreshed.

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7

Handle with care

young woman and her bunny pet miljko / Getty Images

Socialize your rabbit soon after you acquire it by gently picking it up for a pet and a cuddle. Sit or lean on the floor so it won't get injured if it falls from your arms. Don't lift it by the ears, and always support the hind limbs to prevent injury to a fragile spine.

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8

Groom away

A young lady brushes her pet rabbit Christa Boaz / Getty Images

Rabbits groom themselves, but your efforts will keep them clean and healthy. The first step is to wipe the bunny's bottom with a damp cloth. You can also give it a dry bath by applying cornstarch and massaging the powder off. Brush fur at least once a week to prevent your rabbit from ingesting too much hair. Brushings would have to be more frequent for long-haired rabbits with pelts that inspire heart-eye emojis.

In addition, rabbits shed heavily every few months, so brush daily on these occasions using a soft tool. Keep an eye out for parasites.

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9

Monitor health

Pet Rabbit Getting Annual Check-Up at Animal Hospital xavierarnau / Getty Images

Rabbits can live upwards of eight years in captivity. They can struggle with dental disease, gastrointestinal stasis, head tilt infections, and respiratory tract infections, so if you see changes in behavior, make an appointment with a vet. If you're going away on holiday, you'll need to find a pet sitter to look after your precious fur baby and keep an eye on any health issues.

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10

Spay or neuter for optimal outcomes

Cute bunny rabbit laying on the veterinary exam table FatCamera / Getty Images

Most unspayed female rabbits end up with uterine cancer, and male rabbits can become aggressive if you don't neuter them. Do the deed just before your rabbit reaches sexual maturity at around four months old. Of course, if you're keeping a male and female rabbit, not spaying will lead to mating.

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