Indoors or Outdoors? Where to Raise Your Pet Rabbit

The Burnaby BC area has a mild climate with even temperatures that allow rabbits to live outside all year round. However, it is definitely better if you own a pet rabbit to raise them indoors. Although it is possible to keep your pet rabbit outside as long as you are mindful of the dangers, most pet experts agree that raising rabbits indoors is the safest and healthiest option.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Indoors

  1. Safe from Predators – Your rabbit will feel much more secure if he or she lives indoors because predators will be out of sight and out of mind, sound, and smell. Unless there is a danger from other pets—in which case, they must be kept away—indoor bunnies can thrive happily and have plenty of freedom even in a very small house or apartment.
  2. Loneliness is Less Likely – Rabbits make adorable family pets and are intelligent and inquisitive by nature. Loneliness can be a serious problem for these little animals, and a family member must to be able to play and interact with your pet rabbit daily, which is much more convenient if a bunny is housed indoors. If you have a busy life and you can’t manage regular playtime even for an indoor pet, you should acquire a second rabbit so they can keep each other company.
  3. Weather is Never a Problem – No matter how cold, wet, damp, or stormy it is outside, you and your pet rabbit will be comfy and cozy inside. Your mind will be at ease even if the weather suddenly and unexpectedly changes and you are not at home. You don’t have to worry about racing home to rescue your little rabbit from the nasty weather while he or she is in an outdoor hutch.
  4. Housing Arrangements Can be Flexible – Your pet needs a suitable caged home indoors that is big enough to stretch and move around in easily, including room for lots of hay, food, water, and chew toys. In addition, you need an area for your bunny to have lots of exercise. When you litter-train your pet, he or she can have a whole room or part of the house where it is safe and fun to roam around. It is a good idea to put your bunny in the cage when you are not at home and when you go to bed at night, so that you can relax, knowing your little pet is perfectly secure and happy.
  5. Health Problem Signs are More Obvious – If your rabbit lives indoors with you, it will be easy to notice if there are symptoms of a health problem developing. It’s more difficult to notice symptoms if your pet lives outside and you have less interaction with them.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Indoors 

  1. Other Pets Can Be a Problem – Other pets in your family may pose a danger to your bunny. If you have, say, a hunting or herding breed of dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier, you will have to make special arrangements to keep them separated and the solution can’t be to keep your bunny locked in a cage all the time. That would be unkind.
  2. Furniture May Entice a Bunny to Chew and Dig – Rabbits love to chew, dig, and burrow and it is important for owners to provide the opportunity for their little pets to enjoy these activities without causing harm. You must rabbit-proof your home with the same care that you baby-proof one.
  • Secure electric cords out of reach, protect the legs and undersides of furniture, and provide lots of chew toys: blocks of wood, commercial rabbit toys, paper towel tubes, and towels or old shirts that can be used for tunneling.
  • Tape boxes together with openings through which rabbits can squeeze, or plush cat tunnels, wicker baskets, or sisal mats that can be chewed and torn apart, and provide a variety of items to keep your bunny busy and happy. Block off areas that are unsafe for your pet to go or where there are items that could be damaged by chewing.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Outside Was Once a Rabbit’s Natural Habitat – Today, a rabbit can survive even if the outdoors is not the natural habitat of domestic rabbits. They can adapt to living outside as long as a good home is provided and the owner keeps a close eye on the situation. Because your pet needs an exercise area that is three times the size of a hutch, it is usually easier to find a good location like this outside.
  2. Bunny has the Freedom to Chew and Dig – Most outdoor items won’t be harmed by a chewing, digging rabbit who can engage in these activities to his or her heart’s content. You must secure the area, of course, and take precautions to keep your rabbit from tunneling under a fence and escaping. If you are careful, your bunny will enjoy the freedom of living outside, especially if another rabbit is there for companionship.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Times Have Changed – Domestic rabbits, unlike the wild rabbits people remember from the olden days, don’t thrive as well or for as long if housed outside, nor are they equipped to survive on their own. If kept outside, a bunny now needs a very secure enclosure, which includes a hutch where your pet can hide if feeling threatened and can be protected from the elements when the weather changes.
  2. Predator Safety Concerns – Rabbits are prey to animals like dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, hawks, and eagles. Even if he or she is safely tucked away in a hutch, a rabbit can be so frightened at the sight, sound, or smell of a nearby enemy, he or she can suffer a heart attack.
  3. Loneliness is More Likely – Loneliness can be a serious problem for rabbits as they are social animals. If a family member can’t play and interact with your little pet daily, which is probably less convenient if he or she is housed outside, your bunny will become very unhappy fast.
  4. Weather Can be a Serious Problem – Rabbits do not handle extreme temperatures or stormy weather at all well, and accommodations that adapt to all weather conditions may be difficult to find, build, or arrange.
  5. Vegetation Must be Constantly Monitored for Safety – Rabbits will munch on just about anything, and you have to keep a close eye on what is growing in your bunny’s play area. See to it that all toxic plants that may start growing in the yard are quickly removed. Make sure you know and can identify all the plants that must be ruthlessly dug up before your bunny finds them first.

How Do You Make Your Decision?

You may have heard the argument that rabbits can be raised outside because they have lived outside in hutches for many generations, and wild rabbits still safely live outside today. However, that is not a realistic assessment of the situation because:

  1. Wild Rabbits are a Different Species Than Domestic – Domestic rabbits are not the same animals as wild rabbits. Wild rabbits are smaller, they grow thicker coats, have bigger feet, can run faster, and are better equipped to deal with and hide from their natural enemies. If domestic rabbits become lost outdoors, they cannot survive for long because they don’t have the instincts and traits that allow them to live in the wild.
  2. Rabbits Used to be Kept Outdoors Only Briefly – Outdoor rabbits were generally kept in hutches and raised as food for only a matter of months. Domestic rabbits are kept as pets for many years.

This is why, overall, raising a rabbit indoors is the best choice you can make for your pet rabbit. However, if you don’t have a suitable area indoors, and you have the space and the inclination to take all the special precautions that are required to raise a rabbit outside, it can be done—but you must be very, very careful.

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

How to Take Care of Your Rabbit’s Teeth

One of the most important tasks you’ll have after adopting a cute little rabbit is taking care of your new pet’s teeth. If you supply the diet and care needed to keep the teeth healthy, which continue to grow for his or her lifetime, you’ll have a happy, healthy bunny!

Why Teeth are so Important to Your Rabbit’s Well-being

A rabbit’s teeth are not like those of a cat or dog—they’re more like those of a horse. Horses and rabbits are herbivores with teeth of different sizes for different chewing jobs structured to break down tough, fibrous vegetation. They also share similar bacteria in their intestinal tracts to help them remove the nutritional value from fibrous material and digest it.

The slicing and biting action of the front incisors, along with the grinding action of the back teeth while chewing tough vegetation, is needed to keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy and reduce overgrowth. It is imperative that your bunny’s teeth are healthy for your little pet to be a healthy animal.

Rabbits that live indoors are at risk for dental problems if their owners don’t understand the risk of feeding their pets a pellet-based diet. Even though rabbits can get sufficient nutrition from pellets, this diet does not offer enough fiber and resistance to keep the teeth, particularly the large incisors, from becoming overgrown.

As well as the very visible four incisors at the front, there are two tiny incisors, called “peg teeth,” behind the upper incisors. Including the grinding teeth—the molars—behind the incisors called “cheek teeth,” there are 28 teeth total in your pet rabbit’s mouth. You won’t be able to safely inspect the back teeth, which is why your pet should visit your rabbit’s veterinarian to make sure all is well. Healthy teeth mean a healthy rabbit.

Teeth Problems Can be Created by Poor Diets

Your rabbit’s teeth will continue to grow throughout your pet’s lifetime just like our fingernails do. They grow at approximately two millimeters a week. An appropriate diet will wear the teeth down so that they don’t become too long. If that happens, these problems can occur:

  • An overgrowth of the front teeth means the top teeth won’t meet the bottom teeth as they should, which is called a “malocclusion” and this condition creates problems.
  • A malocclusion can cause the back teeth to become misshapen.
  • Misshapen back teeth can grow sharp and pointed, rub against the cheeks and tongue, and cut the inside of the mouth.
  • Another problem caused by malocclusion is the back teeth can become impacted and the gums inflamed, and painful and dangerous abscesses can form in the jaw.
  • Back teeth need the daily grinding that occurs when a bunny is munching on grass and hay. Otherwise, they may lengthen unevenly and the bottom teeth will no longer meet the top teeth as they should.
  • If your rabbit has dental problems, the resulting pain may cause your bunny to stop eating, which can quickly become fatal. It is dangerous for a rabbit to go without eating for 24 hours.

Signs Your That Bunny’s Teeth are Fine—or Not

Remember that rabbits in the wild are prey for many animals, and any sign of pain or weakness makes them targets. Both wild and domestic rabbits will instinctively go to great lengths to conceal any discomfort, so as a bunny parent you must be vigilant for signs that your dear pet is suffering. Examine your rabbit’s teeth once a month and take your bunny to their veterinarian once a year for a check-up.

Signs That Your Bunny’s Teeth are Fine: 

  • The top incisors should be creamy white and smooth except for a line down the middle. The bottom of them should be neat and chisel-shaped.
  • The top and bottom front teeth should be lined up and straight, and the gums pink.
  • When you feel the sides of your bunny’s head, below the eyes, and along the lower jaw, there should be no lumps.

Signs Your Bunny’s Teeth Aren’t Fine:

  • Drooling or discharge from the mouth
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Your bunny is using their paws to dig inside the mouth (you’ll probably notice wet paws)
  • Swelling of the face or jaw
  • Abnormal feces (small and dry, or big and long)
  • A sudden disinterest in eating
  • Weight loss

A Good Diet Ensures Healthy Teeth and Thus a Healthy Rabbit

You need to provide a good diet for the care of your pet rabbit’s teeth. Dental problems cannot be ignored. You must take your pet’s diet seriously or your little bunny will have a lifetime of regular teeth trimming and abscess draining under anesthetic. That’s not fun for either of you!

Rabbits need lots and lots of hay. It is the staple of their diets, so you must supply an unlimited amount. Hay is what bunnies need to keep their teeth healthy, to control the growth of their teeth, and to ensure good health for their digestive systems.

Expect adult rabbits to eat a daily amount of hay roughly the size of their bodies and it should always be fresh. Replace the hay before it becomes brown or moldy. If you offer different kinds of hay, your rabbit will be required to use different chewing motions, which is good for their molars. Timothy grass hay and oat grass hay are good choices.

As well as hay (did we mention lots and lots of it?), provide some green leafy veggies as well. The best choices are organic, free of pesticides, and washed thoroughly before serving them to your rabbit. Small amounts of three different vegetables can be offered at each feeding and you can choose from various greens such as leaf lettuce (not iceberg) and romaine, kale, carrot tops, watercress, dandelion leaves, and a variety of herbs such as basil and dill.

Fresh pellets can be offered in small amounts and should not contain corn or other high calorie foods, and they should be roughly the same colour and size and high in fiber. Bunnies love pellets but you mustn’t provide so many to the point where your pet will no longer eat the amount of hay they need every day.

Offer only healthy treats in very small amounts and save them for the times when your bunny needs comfort or when you’re training your pet. Treats can be pieces of strawberries, melon, green pepper, bananas, or small—that’s small—amounts of carrot (in spite of what Bugs Bunny cartoons have shown us!).

If you don’t know if a food is safe, don’t offer it. Certainly don’t offer chocolate, any type of candy, or avocado, and keep houseplants out of reach just in case. For more information on rabbit foods that are okay or not okay for your rabbit’s diet, please refer to our previous blog post.

As well as food, provide some rabbit-safe chewing items such as branches, twigs, and dried leaves and wooden chew sticks or blocks to help control the growth of your bunny’s teeth.

Taking care of your pet rabbit’s teeth means an annual check-up with a rabbit veterinarian who has been trained to care for bunnies, and ensuring that you supply the diet needed for their teeth. You’ll keep your bunny healthy and both of you happy as a result!

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

Health Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet Rabbit

Did you know that there are health benefits to spaying or neutering your pet rabbit? For example, expect a longer lifespan when you have your bunny spayed or neutered. It is as important for rabbits to be spayed or neutered as it is for cats and dogs.

What is Spaying/Neutering?

This type of surgery is often referred to as “sterilizing” or having your pet “fixed” or “altered.” The term for female rabbit surgery is called “spaying”; for males, it is called “neutering.”

The procedure renders the animals incapable of reproduction, which benefits not only the individual rabbits but the community of rabbits as well.

Overpopulation in the pet world means that animal shelters are unable to house or arrange adoption for the number of rabbits produced and brought to them. Many people have released unwanted bunnies into the wild, which is a death sentence for these little pets who have no idea how to survive on their own.

How and When Should Rabbits be Spayed or Neutered?

For female rabbits, spaying is best performed when your pet is between four and six months old. Spaying is when the uterus and ovaries are removed. For male rabbits, the surgery is best performed when males are between three and five months old. The procedure is castration, which is the removal of the testicles.

Rabbits younger than these ages are prone to complications from surgery. If you adopt your bunny from a shelter, be sure and ask if he or she has already been sterilized as you may not be able to tell by examining your new pet.

Generally, your rabbit’s veterinarian will have a good idea on the right time to sterilize your rabbit. If you have any concerns about the surgery, be sure and ask and also request an explanation of the procedure. Find out what kind of preparation is required and when it will be okay for your bunny to go home with you.

Rabbits Receive Many Health Benefits When Spayed or Neutered

  1. Females no longer run the risk of cancer in the ovaries and/or uterus, and they’ll have a reduced risk of cancer of the mammary glands.
  2. Males have a lowered risk of testicular cancer.
  3. Both sexes will have a lowered risk of contracting diseases that can be passed through the exchange of bodily fluids.
  4. Both sexes will have less chance of suffering from urinary tract infections.
  5. Males are less likely to roam, urinate to mark their territory, and engage in fights with other animals because of their sexual aggression.
  6. Females no longer have to endure the stress and discomfort experienced during heat periods, and will no longer attract the attention of unneutered males.

There are Other Benefits, Too

  1. Having your pet rabbit sterilized helps resolve the problem of animal overpopulation.
  2. Female rabbits are less likely to bite, lunge at, and scratch their owners and other pets.
  3. Males will become happier and more relaxed.
  4. Both sexes will become easier to train and will bond better with their owners after sterilization. They will also be able to have friends of their own and of the opposite sex, which isn’t possible after sexual maturation unless they are altered. Altered rabbits make much better companions when they are no longer preoccupied with the urge to mate.
  5. Both sexes will become less destructive and will chew and dig less, but will remain mischievous and fun.
  6. Not only unsterilized males but also females use urine to mark territory, and male urine in particular has a very strong odour. If he or she is not sterilized before reaching sexual maturity, territorial marking may become a habit even if it no long serves its original purpose of keeping rivals away.

Give Your Pet Special Care After Surgery

When it is time to take your pet home after sterilization, make sure you have your rabbit vet’s instructions and pain or anti-inflammatory medication, and know what to expect.

Check on your rabbit’s surgery site regularly to make sure everything looks normal and there is no sign of infection—i.e. redness or pus. Go back to your rabbit vet if things don’t look right.

Keep the location of your pet rabbit’s cage in a quiet area and don’t encourage your bunny to move around too much. Your rabbit will know what is comfortable and you can expect him or her to avoid hurtful movements.

As you can see, your pet rabbit will reap many health benefits from spaying or neutering, including living a longer, happier life. Your rabbit will also become a much better companion for you and other pets after the procedure is done.

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

Great House Training & Cage Training Tips for Rabbits

If you have decided that adopting a bunny (or two) would be perfect for you and your household, you can prepare for their arrival using these tips for cage training and house training for rabbits.

To start, you will want to find a cage even if you decide to give your bunny the run of the house. It is nice to be able to confine your pet now and then, especially when litter training and at night for safety and for your own peace of mind. It also may be your choice to keep your rabbit in a cage normally, and let your bunny out for exercise each day.

If you live in a part of Burnaby or the Lower Mainland in BC where there’s space to keep your bunny in a cage outside, or you want to keep him or her inside but allow them freedom to run in a well-enclosed yard during the day, please remember to take your rabbits into the house at night. Rabbits are considered to be prey by most animals, so by taking them inside every night you lessen the risk of harm coming to your pet.

Cage Training Tips for Rabbits

If you decide to keep your bunny in a cage most of the time, be sure to prepare a room or a safe place in a room or in the yard where your little pet can get the exercise he or she needs. Let them jump and run free for two or more hours a day. If you are using a room inside your home, train your pet to use a litter box so there isn’t a mess to clean up every day.

  1. Choose the Best Cage for Your Bunny
  • The right size and type – Most important is getting a cage big enough to house your pet (or pets, if you have decided to adopt two at once). It must be big enough for a litter tray and a little hidey box, as well as room to play, eat, and sleep.
  • If your rabbit is less than 8 pounds when it is fully grown, you need a cage at least 24” by 36”; buy one that is 30” by 36” for larger rabbits. Your rabbit should be able to stand on his or her hind legs without touching the top of the cage.
  • Wire sides give a bunny good airflow and lots of natural light—diffused sunlight is perfect. If the sides are tall enough, an open top is wonderful as long as the bunny can’t jump out and escape.
  • A side door helps. Your rabbit needs the ability to get in and out of the cage without your help; a side door allows that. When it is time for your bunny to come out, leave the door open; when it is time to go back inside, take your bunny to the cage but let him or her enter without your assistance. Clap your hands softly behind and say, “Cage time.” Also, don’t reach into the cage to get food or water dishes when the bunny is inside. The cage is his or her personal space.
  • Solid flooring – If the bottom of the cage is made of wire, cover part of it with something solid like plywood or heavy cardboard. The litter box must be solid, too. Bunnies can develop problems with sores on their feet if they stand on wire floors for too long.
  • Leave room for a “hidey” box. Rabbits love to burrow and they enjoy their privacy, especially when they’re asleep. There should be a covered box in the cage for the bunny to crawl inside and hide.
  • A litter tray should fit nicely inside the cage and leave your bunny enough room to sleep, play, and eat.
  • Don’t forget to attach a water bottle to the cage’s side to supply fresh water daily.
  1. Provide Bedding, Food, and Litter
  • The litter box should contain organic litter made of paper or wood pulp, and also some hay on which a bunny can munch on when it’s using the box.
  • Cover the bottom of the cage with straw, and add grass hay over it for your bunny to eat.
  • Provide items that your bunny can chew on, such as rabbit chew sticks and cardboard items such as paper towel and toilet rolls.
  1. Provide a Runway for Your Bunny’s Exercise Routine
  • Portion off a sizable area in a room where your bunny can exercise and hop around safely. Bunny-proof the area so there is nothing your little rabbit can chew on and destroy such as wooden furniture, and nothing that can harm him or her such as electrical cables and cords or plants.
  • House training is a very good idea even for caged bunnies. When your bunny is outside the cage for exercise or for playtime with you, train your bunny to use the litter box using the same methods used to train a kitten. This will take only a week or two.
  • Keep the cage clean, and clean it when your bunny is not inside it. Change the hay daily and use white vinegar to scrub down the floor and the litter box once a week.

House Training Tips for Rabbits

Before letting your bunny roam freely around the home, keep him or her confined to the cage and a portion of a room until their litter training is completed. Enlarge the free area gradually until it’s okay for your bunny to explore the entire room—and eventually other rooms—without forgetting where the litter box is located.

  1. Bunny-Proof Your Home
  • Conceal cords and cables. Rabbits love to chew, and these items are the right size and texture to be very tempting. Keep them out of reach.
  • Protect wooden baseboards and furniture. Put up plastic barriers to protect baseboards and use plastic shields for the wooden legs of furniture. If you have a lot of wooden furniture in a room, it’s best you keep your bunny out of that room altogether.
  • Hide dangling upholstery and carpet ends. As well as tucking away any tempting loose threads or cloth, you can prevent your bunny from chewing on the underside of an upholstered chair or sofa by placing a plastic runner underneath.
  1. Provide a Good Litter Box and Litter
  • A litter box suitable for cats also works for rabbits. The box should be big enough that litter can’t get kicked out. However, if your rabbit is a big “litter kicker,” consider getting an enclosed box with a cover over the top.
  • Choose the same litter for the litter box outside the cage as the type used inside the cage.
  • Don’t forget to provide hay on which your bunny can munch on while using the litter box.
  1. Make Sure Your Bunny has all the Comforts of the Cage
  • Provide lots of chewable toys to occupy your little rabbit and to discourage him or her from chewing on household items.
  • Have a water dish, a food dish, and a bed with hay, as well as a litter box outside the cage.

Provide These Necessities for Both Caged and House-Free Bunnies

Whether your rabbit spends most of the time in the cage or most time running free, the following necessities are always important:

  1. Consult an Experienced Veterinarian. Our rabbit veterinarian has had special training to deal with rabbits. Call Dr. Sheelagh Shanahan in advance before you take your bunny to her for a visit.
  2. Playtime with You. Rabbits are very social creatures and they need interaction with their owners. They will follow you around if they can and will greet you when you approach. Most bunnies like to be cuddled and they all become very attached to their pet parents. If you don’t have a lot of time available to socialize, consider buying a pair of rabbits together.
  3. Natural Light and Even Temperatures. Rabbits like natural light and filtered sunlight. They also thrive in mild, even temperatures.
  4. Keep Loud Noises and Predators Away. Rabbits are fearful of loud noises and many household pets, too. If you own a dog or cat, keep the bunny’s cage up high so the dog can’t sniff around it. Keep other pets out of the room when the bunny is enjoying playtime outside the cage.
  5. Spaying or Neutering. About 80% of female rabbits develop cancer of their reproductive organs before reaching six years of age or even earlier if they are not spayed. Unneutered males, after four to six months, develop biting, scratching and grunting behaviors, spray their urine around and refuse to use their litter boxes. After spaying or neutering, rabbits are more easily litter box trained, and are happier and healthier.

Prepare for your new pet’s arrival with these useful tips for cage training and house training for rabbits. Bunnies make great companions. Have fun!

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

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 Hospital 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 Hospital 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 Hospital 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 Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.