An appropriate diet is absolutely essential to a rabbit’s health and overall well-being. Rabbits require a lot of dietary fiber in the form of fresh hay and vegetables, with a limited amount of pellets.
- Hay – High-quality timothy hay is by far the most important part of a rabbit’s diet. They should have access to free-choice hay at all times. Rabbits that are under a year of age should be fed a mixture of alfalfa and timothy hay.
- Pellets – Should be high in dietary fiber and should only be used as a supplement to timothy hay in adult rabbits.
- Vegetables - Fresh dark leafy greens and root vegetables can be offered daily. Examples include: carrot tops, green peppers, dandelion greens, cilantro, celery, spinach, parsley, radish tops and basil.
Fruits – Should only be offered to adult rabbits in very small amounts.
Fruits should never be given to baby rabbits (under 3 months of age).
- Water - Most rabbits prefer to drink water out of a bottle but some will drink directly from a bowl.
Enclosure – Rabbits may be housed in wooden or wire hutches as long as they have a solid bottom. Soft bedding should be used to line the bottom of the cage - avoid wood shavings such as pine or cedar. Litter boxes should be provided and cleaned regularly — most rabbits will urinate and defecate in a corner of the cage. The enclosure should be kept in the coolest, least humid area of the house, with an ideal temperature of 60 -75 degrees F.
Cage furniture – Adding wooden or cardboard boxes can provide places to hide and perch. Depending on the height of the cage, shelves may be added to create different levels within the enclosure.
Rabbit Proofing – Realize that rabbits can and will chew on absolutely anything. Therefore, it is imperative that household hazards are avoided at all costs.
- Electrical cords should be hidden or run through hard plastic tubing to prevent unwanted chewing
- Loose carpet should be tacked down, covered or removed, if necessary
- Plexiglass or untreated scrap wood may be used to cover baseboards or pieces of furniture to prevent unwanted chewing.
Rabbit Toys/Enrichment – Many wooden and plastic toys are acceptable for rabbits, as long as, they are not ingesting the material that they are chewing. Some acceptable toys include: untreated wicker, cardboard boxes, wooden blocks, phone books, and some hard-plastic toys.
Rabbits are naturally prey animals and prefer to be handled differently than dogs and cats. Try to avoid introducing your hand directly in front of a rabbit’s face and always avoid touching them directly on the nose. Instead, approach them from the side and pet them along the top of the head/back.
If you need to pick up your rabbit, support their entire body while picking them up or gently wrap them in a towel and scoop under their body with both hands. They have lightweight-fragile skeletons and may injure their backs or limbs if they struggle or are dropped.
- Gastrointestinal stasis
- Dental disease secondary to inadequate hay
- Abscesses (pasturella)
- Uterine adenocarcinoma (intact females)
- Bladder stones