Bunny Care Tips: Why you Shouldn’t Give Real Rabbits as Easter Gifts

Are you getting your home ready for Easter? If you’re scoping out ideas for Easter gifts, you may get excited about the thought of giving a live rabbit to your child. However, this may not be a good idea.

Giving a bunny as a gift on the day on which a magical gift-giving bunny is featured certainly has its appeal. However, control this impulse as a favour to both your children and to the rabbit that may be chosen as a pet. Instead, why not select from the many wonderful gifts available?

Real Life Bunnies Shouldn’t be Purchased Without Careful Thought

Bunnies are so charming and make such good companions, it is not surprising that they are the third most popular pets in Canada, right behind dogs and cats. It is also not surprising that they are the third most frequently abandoned pets.

Thousands of rabbits are taken to animal shelters right after Easter, the day on which these little creatures are so often given as gifts to children. Even worse, many are abandoned and left to fend for themselves—and that’s bad because these are animals of prey who have no idea how to survive in the wild. In many communities, dumping unwanted rabbits is illegal.

Here is Why a Live Bunny is Not a Good Easter Gift:

1. Rabbits live from 8 to 12 years, and owning one means making a long-term commitment.

2. Young children can’t be left alone with a rabbit because they don’t understand how fragile rabbits are and how easily they can be hurt. Rabbit bones can break and their limbs can become dislocated if these pets are dropped, held too tightly, or jerked around.

3. Rabbits are nervous creatures by nature. Too much noise, activity, and even other family pets can upset them so much that they can have heart attacks!  For the same reason, they need to be housed indoors instead of outdoors, because roaming animals outside can frighten them enough even when they are safe inside a cage.

4. Rabbits don’t like being picked up without warning, and they will scratch and hurt a child out of self-defense (especially those who attempt to lift the bunny incorrectly).

5. Rabbits not only need a cage, but they also need to be given space to exercise outside the cage.

6. Rabbits are social animals and need someone—an adult or an older child—to play with them, to litter box train them so they are not creating messes to be cleaned up each day, and to give them the daily, gentle companionship they crave.

7. Bunnies love to chew, and they will chew on almost anything. You need to rabbit-proof play areas for them so they don’t chew your furniture, electrical cords, or anything else that isn’t safe.

8. Rabbits are herbivores and don’t eat meat. Their special diet needs change as they age.

9. Like dogs and cats, rabbits need an annual checkup by a veterinarian and should be spayed or neutered when they mature. They are classified as exotic pets and must be taken to veterinarians who have taken special training to care for them.

Instead of Live Rabbits, Here are Some Great Easter Gift Ideas

Whatever your reasons to celebrate Easter and whether you have a lot or very little money to buy presents, there are plenty of other Easter gifts! You can find them in a great range of prices and at many stores as the holiday approaches.

1. General Gift Suggestions

  • You can’t go wrong with stuffed, cuddly little bunnies that come in all sizes, colours, and at every price.
  • Chocolate and candied bunnies and eggs—hollow or filled with a variety of yummy centers—are in grocery, candy, and corner stores. You can find candy and chocolate for diabetics as well as dairy-free, gluten-free, and Fair Trade candy.
  • ‘Tis the season for outdoor play! Treat your kids with skipping ropes, yo-yos, Frisbees, balls, or kites.
  • There are many suitable books for children of all ages to enjoy, such as:
    • Guess How Much I Love You – boxed with a cute, stuffed bunny for young children
    • The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story
    • Meet the Easter Beagle – and it’s Snoopy, of course!
  • Silly putty eggs filled with slime that stretches and bounces.
  • A Lego Easter Egg Painting Set is fun for older kids.
  • Easter baskets filled with small Easter trinkets, toys, and goodies are always welcome. For children not allowed candy, substitute it with fresh or dried fruit.
  • Plastic eggs – you can buy these pre-filled with candy or empty for you to stuff with healthier food choices or with little toys.

2. Easter Experiences:

  • Kids love to colour and decorate eggs for Easter! Egg painting kits are inexpensive and available at most grocery stores. Even less expensive are your own cups filled with boiling hot water, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, and 10 drops of food colouring. Using a tablespoon, you can dunk hardboiled eggs into the coloured water and wait for 3 to 5 minutes. For further eggs decorating ideas, search the Internet or your local library.
  • Using Easter themed cookie cutters available from the dollar store, cut bunny, egg, and flower shapes from rolled out sugar or shortbread batter. Bake, cool, and have children decorate the cookies with colored icing, chopped nuts, and candied cherries.
  • Help children plant seeds or seedlings into pots for indoor windowsill gardening. Eventually they’ll get to see lots of colourful flowers sprouting!
  • Visit an animal or bird sanctuary as a family outing on Easter weekend.
  • Make an appointment to visit a local animal shelter, so that your children can visit the rabbits and hold one.
  • If there is a community-sponsored Easter egg hunt in your area, your children will be welcome to hunt for eggs. Make sure you get there on time! If you have a yard, you can have your own Easter egg hunt. (Don’t forget to keep a little map showing where they have been hidden!)

With so many wonderful gift choices available, you can easily stifle the urge to bestow a live bunny on a child at Easter. Happy Easter, everyone!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Prepare for Your Bunny’s First Vet Visit

It’s always a little nerve wracking to take your bunny, or any other little pet, in for their first vet visit, isn’t it? What’s most important is for you to limit the stress that both of you will be under. Your bunny will be nervous and you’ll be nervous, too, and you can’t explain to your rabbit that everything will be fine.

Let us help you prepare for this visit! Learn more about what information your veterinarian will need, what you can expect during your rabbit’s examination, and what items you can bring that can help comfort and reassure your little bunny that all is well.

Our Veterinarian is Experienced in Rabbit Care

If you live near our veterinary clinic in Burnaby, then we have a rabbit vet who may be able to help your little pet. She is compassionate and caring, and will answer any questions you may have prior to necessary treatments.

We recommend that when you make your appointment with Dr. Shanahan you arrive a little early so that you can fill out the necessary paperwork.

Bring Information Needed by the Vet

As well as providing your name and address and your pet rabbit’s name, this is the information you will be expected to provide:

  • How long have you owned your rabbit?
  • Where did you acquire your pet? Was it from a breeder, a pet shop, a shelter, a farm, or as a gift?
  • How often is your rabbit handled, picked up, and carried? This information helps the vet understand how nervous your bunny may be at being touched or lifted.
  • Is your rabbit housed indoors or outdoors? If housed inside, is bunny allowed to roam in a yard or is he or she frequently taken outside?
  • How many other rabbits do you own and are they housed together?
  • What is the size of the cage in which bunny is kept, how often is it cleaned and what cleaner do you use?
  • What is your bunny’s diet? How much and what kind of hay is in the cage? Is your bunny given pellets, and, if so, what kind and how many? What veggies, fruits, and treats does he or she receive? How much does your bunny eat in general?
  • Do you know if the bunny has been neutered or spayed?
  • Bring any medical records that you have.
  • Bring a stool sample that is no more than 24 hours old.
  • Bring a list of any questions you want to ask your rabbit veterinarian.

Bring These Items to Comfort Your Bunny

  • Have a comfortable and easy-to-use pet carrier.
  • Put a soft blanket or towel at the bottom of the carrier so the bunny won’t slide around, and bring a replacement in case it is soiled.
  • Have a towel or small blanket to put over the carrier in case your bunny gets frightened by the journey or by the other animals and odours in the waiting room.
  • Bring along some comfort food, like one or two small pieces of your bunny’s favourite fruit.

Expect a Thorough Physical Exam

After your veterinarian has checked your pet’s history, diet, and living conditions with you, the physical examination will be conducted:

  • Ears – If there is any debris, the vet may swab the ears and check for mites, yeast, and bacteria under a microscope.
  • Eyes – The eyes should be bright and alert. The vet will look for any signs of infection, swelling, and tear duct obstructions.
  • Teeth – The front teeth, or incisors, will be examined to make sure they have not overgrown and can no longer meet the bottom teeth properly—this is called malocclusion, which puts pressure on the other teeth and creates various tooth problems. The back teeth will be examined to make sure the molars have no sharp points—called spurs—that can damage the gums. The lips will also be examined for sores, drooling, or swelling.
  • Fur and Skin – The vet will check for parasites and any fur loss, and the skin will be checked for lesions and signs that your rabbit is biting or scratching, which signals a problem. The areas around the neck and tail will be examined for mites.
  • Body – The vet will listen to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope, and will palpate the abdomen to check the size and shape of the organs and for irregularities. Any lameness, stiffness, or hunched posture will be noted as these are signs of health problems.

As well as testing the stool you have brought along, the vet may recommend a blood test, and an urinalysis, as means for further testing. The vet will check under the tail to make sure your bunny is male or female—whichever you were told! Expect a discussion about the benefits of spaying or neutering if surgery has not already been done.

Take your pet rabbit in to the office for a checkup every year so that your vet has a record of the signs of your bunny’s good health and will be able to quickly identify problems if they are beginning, or have already occurred. Health problems are easier and less expensive to treat if they are caught early.

You can expect your bunny’s first vet visit to go smoothly if you gather the information needed by your veterinarian, understand what to expect during a physical examination, and have a few items of comfort for your pet. After it’s all over and you are back home, you and bunny deserve a good rest and a treat. You’ve both earned it!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Rabbit Food: The Best and Worst Foods to Feed a Bunny

If you’ve always thought that lettuce and carrots are enough to feed a bunny, you’d be wrong! Rabbit food must cater to their unique digestive system. Thankfully, it doesn’t require a lot of work to feed them. Keep these facts in mind and you’ll find it is easy to keep your rabbit healthy and happy with the right diet. Here is the lowdown on the “good, the bad, and the never, ever” foods for rabbits.

Bunnies Thrive on Good Rabbit Food

Bunnies love a good meal! The right combination of hay, vegetables, pellets, and treats will make pet bunnies very happy and healthy, control the growth of their teeth, and keep them satisfied. Remember, rabbits are herbivores, which means they should only be fed plants, never meat. Don’t forget that water is also an important item in a bunny’s diet. Easy access to water should always be available.

Hay

  • Fresh hay is the most important item in a bunny’s diet. A constant supply of Timothy grass hay or oat grass hay should be available. Alfalfa hay is fine for young bunnies, but is only safe in limited supply for adults because of its higher sugar content and calorie count.
  • Make sure the hay looks and smells fresh. It should not be kept so long that it turns brown, develops mold, and ceases to smell like grass.
  • Hay provides the fiber necessary to prevent diarrhea, obesity, and hairballs, and assists with digestion. It also helps wear down a bunny’s constantly growing teeth and keeps their incisors healthy.
  • Place hay in one end of the bunny’s litter box because bunnies like to munch on it when they are using the box.
  • It is cheaper to buy hay from a farm than at a pet store, but whatever you buy should be stored in a dry place where circulating air can keep it from becoming moldy.

Vegetables

  • Vegetables are the second most important part of bunny’s diet, and you can offer three different kinds in small quantities during each feeding.
  • Veggies should be fresh and free of pesticides, and should be washed thoroughly.
  • Green, leafy vegetables are good for bunnies. You can include arugula, basil, bok choy, broccoli leaves, carrot tops, celery, clover, collard greens, dandelion leaves, dill, endive, kale in small quantities, romaine and dark leaf lettuce, mint, mustard greens, parsley, and watercress.

Pellets

  • Pellets should not be a mainstay of a bunny’s diet, but they can be offered in addition to fresh hay and fresh vegetables.
  • The pellets must be high in fiber and low in protein and should not contain seeds, corn, or other foods high in calories.
  • Bunnies will eat pellets only if they are fresh, and the amount in their diets should be reduced as they age.
  • Pellets should be uniform in size, shape, and colour.

Treats

  • Treats should be healthy foods too, and only given in very small amounts, such as when training (e.g. teaching your bunny to use the litter box).
  • Good treats are small amounts of fruit such as strawberries, bananas, raspberries, pineapple pieces, apples without seeds, and melons. Veggie treats include a small amount of fresh carrot, pieces of green pepper, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Make sure the fruits and veggies are thoroughly washed before feeding.

Bad Foods for Rabbits That Can Cause Problems

Some foods are difficult for rabbits to digest or cause tooth or tummy problems, or add calories and cause weight gains but are of no nutritional value.

  • High-carbohydrate sugary foods like bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cereal (like muesli), and potatoes are on the “bad food” list. They add calories and can cause digestive problems.
  • Iceberg lettuce and other light coloured lettuce adds no nutritional value to a bunny’s diet and it can even contain lactucarium, which can be harmful in large quantities to rabbits.
  • Silver beet (chard) causes colic and bloating, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, onion, and broccoli stems and tops.
  • Walnuts and peanut butter are hard to digest and can cause tummy aches.
  • Hamster food will add no nutritional value to your rabbit’s diet and neither will oatmeal.
  • Don’t offer uncut celery.

Stay Away From the Dangerous or Never, Ever Foods

The downright dangerous foods should be kept out of bunny’s reach and never, ever offered:

  • Both raw rhubarb and avocado are poisonous to bunnies.
  • Yogurt drops can lead to enterotoxemia, a bad bacteria growing in the intestines, which can be poisonous. These drops are not an appropriate “treat” for bunnies.
  • Chocolate is also not a treat and is as poisonous for bunnies as it is for dogs.
  • Common houseplants are usually poisonous and all of them should be kept out of your rabbit’s reach, just in case.

A Feeding Guide for Bunnies

1. Amount of Food for 6-pound Rabbit

  • Hay – Body–sized amount of 100% grass hay per day
  • Vegetables – Head-sized amount or 1-2 cups per day
  • Pellets – Small handful or ¼ cup (50 ml) per day
  • Fruit – Maximum 2 tbsp per day, preferably less often

2. Life Stage Suggestions Per day

  • At 12 weeks – alfalfa-based pellets and hay; veggies; teaspoon-sized piece of fruit
  • At 7 months-1 year – 50% grass hay; ½ cup pellets; +/- fruit treat; green veggies
  • At 1 to 5 years – 100% grass hay; 1-2 cups of veggies; 2 tbsp fruit or less; ¼ cup pellets

Encourage Natural Foraging and Chewing Behaviors

When you encourage your bunny’s natural foraging and chewing behaviors, it provides mental stimulation, occupies and entertains your little pet, promotes exercise, keeps teeth healthy, and is fun for both of you.

Aside from having unlimited access to hay and water, your bunny should be fed twice a day, preferably at times a rabbit would naturally like to graze and forage: morning and late afternoon or evening. Once you have established regular feeding times, try to stick to the schedule as rabbits like predictability and it reduces their stress levels.

Cardboard articles such as empty toilet tissue rolls or paper towel rolls or old phonebooks help keep bunnies occupied with chewing safe items. That way they will be less inclined to chew on your personal or household objects or unsafe things, which they will do if they can get their teeth on them.

Hang greens high on your bunny’s cage. This will force your pet to stand on his or her hind legs to reach them, which is good exercise.

Scatter greens or the daily ration of pellets around the cage or the room, and hide some food under boxes, or wrap it in brown paper, or tuck it inside a cardboard tube with shredded paper stuffed in the ends so that bunny has to hunt for some of his food.

Check at night to make sure bunny has enough hay in his cage to last until morning. You never know when the munchies will strike!

Bunnies thrive on good rabbit food that caters to their unique digestive systems. Remember the “good, the bad, and the never, ever” feeding rules and you will have a happy, healthy little bunny.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Adopting a Pet Bunny? Learn Rabbit Care 101

Are you planning to adopt a pet bunny, or have become a new rabbit owner recently? If so, congratulations! Now is a great time to learn basic rabbit care 101. That way you can provide a healthy environment that will keep your new pet happy.

There are lots of reasons for choosing a bunny as a pet. The following information will help you be a good pet parent for your brand new family member.

Why a Rabbit Makes a Good Pet

If you want a charming pet who will show you love and affection and will fit into a small household without requiring the attention a puppy needs or the space a kitty wants, a rabbit can be the perfect pet for your household.

  • Rabbits are very, very quiet, which is a big bonus if you live in an apartment or a peaceful neighborhood. There will be no barking when something or someone passes by outside or when left alone, and there will be no whining at the door when you leave the house.
  • Like cats and dogs, rabbits form deep bonds with their owners, recognize them on sight and by voice, will come when called, and tend to follow their parents around.
  • Rabbits can be housed in small spaces and are low maintenance compared to dogs. They don’t have to be walked, they require little grooming, and they can be litter box trained quite easily.
  • Rabbits are very cute and cuddly and they can be taught tricks too, like jumping through hoops or running through mazes.
  • Unlike most small animals (e.g. hamsters or guinea pigs), rabbits usually live eight to ten years or more, especially if raised indoors.
  • You can select the perfect rabbit from more than 50 breeds in a variety of colours and with distinctive personalities.

Why a Rabbit May Not be the Right Pet for You

There are particular considerations to make when choosing a rabbit as a pet. You might not be in the best situation to welcome this little animal into your household if any of the following applies:

  • For people who live in very small homes and have no yard, it might be difficult to bunny-proof a house for the times when your little pet needs freedom to exercise by running around outside a cage or hutch for two or more hours each day.
  • If there are small children in the home, it won’t be a safe place for a fragile pet who needs to be picked up and held very carefully. Rabbits can be injured easily, especially when being handled by children too young to understand how delicate little bunnies can be.
  • Although you can easily find rabbits in shelters and they are not expensive to acquire, you need money to buy a suitable cage or hutch, litter, appropriate food, an annual checkup by a rabbit vet, and spaying or neutering surgery if it’s not already done.
  • It is important to ensure there is a qualified veterinarian in your area who knows how to treat a rabbit, especially if your bunny becomes sick or is injured.
  • Rabbits are social animals and you need to have time available to play with your bunny. If you move frequently or travel a lot, please understand that rabbits hate travelling and tend to be very nervous in new environments.

Basic Rabbit Care 101

1. The First Important Decisions

Once you have decided a rabbit will be a great pet for you or your family, choose your pet carefully, decide if your rabbit should be an indoor or outdoor pet, and if indoors, caged or allowed to roam at will or with restrictions.

Spend time with the bunnies you like best before making a final decision on which one to take home with you. Just like dogs and cats, some rabbits are very playful and outgoing, others are shy and more conservative. You should select one with a personality that suits you and your household the best.

Because rabbits are extremely social creatures, you should consider buying a pair of rabbits so that they can keep each other company. Handling your rabbit gently and often can help avoid aggression. As well as, spaying or neutering them.

If you have a yard and live in a very mild climate, you may consider housing your pet outdoors. However, domestic rabbits are not like wild rabbits and can’t survive in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Even if the climate is fine, the sight or sound of a wild animal nearby—even if your rabbit is caged and out of harm’s way—can cause so much stress to a little bunny.

If you plan to house your rabbit indoors—this is a preferred, healthier, and safer choice—you have to decide how much freedom your bunny can have. If it’s allowed to roam at will or is restricted to certain rooms when out of the cage (i.e. for most of, or part of, or a few hours of each day), you have to bunny-proof all areas in the home that your bunny can reach. Rabbits love to chew and will munch on anything like electrical cords, toxic cleaning products, and various plants. Keep your bunny safe by removing these hazards!

2. Purchase a Cage or Hutch and Other Necessities

A cage or hutch should be five times the length your rabbit will be when it’s fully grown and high enough for your bunny to stand up on its hind legs without bumping his or her head. The average size is about 12 square feet (1.1 square meters) plus another larger area or a room for exercise. If the bottom of the cage is made of wire, place layers of cardboard or other materials that will protect your bunny’s feet; they are not covered with pads like those of cats and dogs.

There must be room in the hutch for a litter box, which should contain organic litter (not kitty litter) made of paper, wood pulp, or citrus, plus a little hay for your bunny to snack on when they use the box. Boxes should be placed in the corners of a room; they prefer to use the litter box in these areas.

Make sure there is enough room for a sippy cup or a bowl of water in the cage. The water should be changed at least once a day. Include some items for your rabbit to chew on, such as blocks, rings, or balls of untreated willow wood, and cardboard paper towel rolls, or toilet paper rolls.

Have some of these items outside the cage as well to keep your bunny occupied when they’re roaming the house or exercise area. That way the edges of carpets or loose, enticing, chewable household objects are less attractive to your ever-munching pet. Bunnies also like to hide, so you can supply a little box with an opening that your pet can go inside and be alone.

3. Provide a Balanced Diet

Hay is the main diet staple for rabbits, and a body-sized amount of grass hay (e.g., timothy grass, orchard grass, oat hay, or brome) is the right amount. There should be a constant supply as it ensures protection of your bunny’s digestive system.

Fresh vegetables, primarily leafy and dark green ones (e.g. leaf lettuces, arugula, dandelion greens, and parsley) are best and you can supply a head-sized amount each day. Alfalfa-based pellets can be used as a supplement (not a substitute) to the leafy greens, and should be given only in small quantities, such as a small handful a day.

Fruits and treats are great when training your rabbit (to come when you call them, etc.) and just for fun, but use sparingly starting with a teaspoonful and only one at a time. Carrots, in spite of what you have seen in Bugs Bunny cartoons, fall into the category of treats, along with fresh blueberries, strawberries, pears, peaches, plums, papayas, and melons.

Avoid giving your rabbit iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, corn, beans, peas, potatoes, beets, onions, nuts, seeds, crackers, bread, and cereal. Don’t offer them candy, chocolate, or food for humans in general either.

4. Be Careful Lifting and Holding Your Rabbit

Avoid inflicting severe injuries on your new pet by remembering these “don’ts”: Don’t pick up a rabbit by the ears. Don’t carry one by the scruff of the neck without supporting the hind end. Don’t try to restrain rabbits on either slippery or hard surfaces or by pushing down on the animal.

A towel can be used to help restrain a rabbit safely. Remember to lift your bunny gently with the hind end always supported. For moving an aggressive rabbit, lift them by the scruff of the neck and support the rump while positioning the hind legs away from you to avoid being scratched or kicked.

For docile rabbits, lift them in the same fashion but hold the rabbit close to you and support the hind end with your elbow while placing your fingers under the front legs. Another lifting method for docile and shy rabbits is to place the head of your rabbit in the crook of your elbow, and support its weight and hind end with your arm while placing your other hand to hold or pet your rabbit over the back of the neck.

If a rabbit is the right pet for you and your household, following these simple rules in rabbit care 101 will supply you with the basic knowledge of how to care for these delightful, loving, little animals.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.