Small Animal Care E-mail

Caring For Your First Rabbit

Rabbits make wonderful indoor pets for first time pet owners. In fact, many domestic rabbits are meant to be kept indoors. Domestic rabbits are not like their wild cousins; they do not fair well in extreme temperatures. They also do not react well to predators. Domestic rabbits are very attentive and affectionate. They care about their owners and are very social. Domestic rabbits are meant to be played with and loved by the entire family.

The choice of whether you keep your rabbit in a cage or allow him to roam freely is up to you. If you do opt to keep your rabbit in a cage, you should make sure that he is allowed to get out of his cage every day so he can exercise. When purchasing a cage for your rabbit, you should take into account how big he will be when he is mature and purchase a cage that is five times that size. Your rabbit's cage should be big enough for him to sit up on his hind legs. You should also put cardboard or a piece of untreated pine wood in the bottom of wire cages to protect his paws from the wire.

If you decide to allow your pet to roam, make sure that your home is safe. Rabbits like to chew and they don't know the difference between an electrical cord and a stick. Most rabbit owners that do allow their pets to roam limit their wandering to specific areas.

Rabbits are herbivores, which means that they only eat fruits, vegetables and grasses in the wild. You should keep a bowl of commercial rabbit food in your pets eating area. However, you should feed your rabbit hay every day, as well. Many rabbit owners also feed their pets a few fruits and vegetables, such as a carrot or a bit of apple. Always provide something hard and crunchy for your rabbit to gnaw on. This will keep his teeth from becoming overgrown. You should also make sure your rabbit has access to water and that it is changed every day.

Many domesticated rabbits become accustomed to be handled and even enjoy being held. However, you should always use both hands when picking up your rabbit. Place one hand under his chest and the other around his rump. You should never lift your rabbit by his ears.

Rabbits keep themselves clean. However, you should brush rabbits that have long hair regularly to keep their fur from matting. You should trim your rabbit's nails every six weeks. Also, check your bunny's teeth when you trim his nails to be sure they are wearing evenly. If a rabbit's teeth don't meet evenly, they may grow too long and curl, preventing him from eating. If his teeth are growing too long, you will need to ask your vet to trim them on a regular basis.

Rabbits do not need to go to the vet for vaccinations, but will benefit from a yearly checkup, just like any other pet. You should also take your rabbit to the vet if he has hair loss, loss of appetite, a runny nose, has difficulty breathing or has any swelling or lumps on his body.