Pet World: Caring for your rabbit

So the Easter Bunny left you a bunny for Easter this year. They are a lot of fun. However, there is a lot you need to know about caring for a rabbit. They will need as much attention as a dog or cat and special accommodations for housing and feeding.

HOUSING: Let’s start with the obvious: what the cage he should have. They need a big enough cage for them to run and play and have a litter box and a nest box. You will need at least 4 feet of cage. Larger is better, but it can get pricey. If you can get a two- or three-story condo for them, they love having a ramp to climb up and the top floor for nesting. They need a smooth floor—no a wire grid like bird cages, as this will hurt their feet.

There are all kinds of beddings to use in the rabbits house: pine pellets, aspen shavings, recycled paper and more. My recommendation for indoor rabbits is lavender recycled paper bedding because it is very soft and keeps the ammonia under control.

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RABBIT PROOF YOUR HOUSE: If you are keeping the bunny in the house, you must rabbit proof your home. A rabbit’s favorite chewing target is electrical wiring, which could electrocute your bunny as he chomps through the chord to your favorite lamp.

You can protect your wiring with hard plastic tubing or flex tubing. Try to keep all wires out of reach of your bunny. You can place large flex tubing around the base of chairs and table legs to prevent them from eating the wood.

Some people buy a large plastic ball so they can put the bunny in it and allow him to run freely around the house without damaging anything. It is the easy solution to letting them out of the cage to play inside your home.

FEEDING: Your bunnies thrive on timothy and orchardgrass hay and LOTS of water. Purchase a large water bottle, as rabbits drink a LOT.

Avoid alfalfa hay for adult rabbits. Don’t feed guinea pig pellets to your rabbit… they are different. Timothy hay and rabbit pellets are available at your local pet shop or feed store.

Higgins Sunburst Gourmet Rabbit Feed is my recommendation because it contains alfalfa meal, soybean hulls, wheat middlings, soybean meal, flaked peas, flaked beans, oats, wheat, monocalcium phosphate, flaked carrots, flaked corn, ground corn, pumpkin seeds, barley, sun-cured timothy hay, papaya, pineapple, ground carrots, ground beets, salt, sunflower oil and more. This eliminates the worry about a balanced diet.

You should also feed your rabbit greens such as red leaf lettuce, cilantro or dandelion greens daily. Don’t feed more than a bit of carrot, as they are too high in sugar.

TEETH: Rabbits’ teeth grow constantly. Herbivores, such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, horses, cattle, deer and more wear down their teeth from eating a natural diet of grass, dried grass, weeds, leaves, hay and branches. Their teeth are constantly growing in order to replace what is lost by chewing.

Pellets, balsa and other soft wood to chew help to keep their teeth worn down. If they grow too long they can kill the bunny by puncturing the brain… so keep an eye on those teeth. They can be trimmed down if you have a rabbit savvy vet.

TRAINING: Litter box train your bunny by using a cat litter pan in one corner of the cage. Fill it with newspaper to absorb moisture below a layer of hay. They will basically train themselves to use it as their potty place.

PLAY TIME: Confining the bunny with a puppy playpen that can be moved around the yard is a good idea to let them graze on the unfertilized, insecticide free lawn. Or, as I mention before, rolling themselves around indoors is good for exercise.

Be sure to give them lots of attention—and love your bunny!

This is the first in a new series on pets—how to choose them, love them and care for them.

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