Bunny

Info Pack

Environment

Did you know that a wild rabbit’s territory is equivalent to around 30 tennis courts?

Running around such large areas every day keeps wild rabbits fit and healthy, so we need to give our pet rabbits the opportunity to have lots of exercise too.

There are several options to house rabbits; either inside or outside.  Please ensure that your rabbit has enough space to move around. If your rabbit has access to the house make sure that all electric cables are secured with trunking to prevent your bunny from being electrocuted.

Choosing the right home

Traditional small hutches can compromise rabbit welfare because they do not allow rabbits to behave normally. A hutch should actually only be viewed as your rabbits’ ‘bedroom’. The hutch should be permanently attached to a much larger run or exercise area, so your rabbits can decide when they go outside to stretch their legs OR they need to be able to have daily exercise (most of the day) in an exercise run or safe free-roaming space.

If a ramp connects the hutch to a run, ensure it is wide enough and not too steep, so your rabbits can get up and down safely and easily. A good quality hutch provides shelter and protection from extremes of weather and temperature, is draught-free and predator-proof, and is a cozy place to sleep.

Provide lots of bedding for your rabbits to keep them warm; the bedding should also be safe for your rabbits You can use dust- free hay, and or fleece (never sawdust or wood chips). Hay should be part of their bedding at all times!

In the wintertime when it’s particularly cold, you should consider moving your rabbits’ home somewhere warmer such as a shed, an unused garage or outhouse; and don’t forget to make sure they can exercise every day.

Give your rabbits space

It’s important that your rabbits have plenty of space to run around, leap, dig, frolic and graze, because this is what happy rabbits like to do. A secure exercise run or enclosure will allow your rabbits to exercise, graze and play safely.

  • The general rule for the size of the smallest run advisable should be big enough for your rabbit to hop across three times and stand without their ears touching the top.
  • Preferably, the run should be placed in the garden so the rabbits can enjoy the grass as they would in the wild.
  • Make sure the roof of the run is covered and that the run is secure from predators. Make sure the run is escape-proof.
  • Areas of shade should be provided within the run.
  • Make sure you also provide constant access to places to hide in the run, such as boxes or wide tubes. Rabbits are prey animals and need to be able to hide when frightened.
  • Provide a ‘digging’ area with child-safe play sand or earth. A dedicated area will help discourage them from digging up your lawn, but make sure the bottom of this area is secure so that your rabbits don’t end up digging their way out of the run.
Enrichment

In the wild, rabbits have plenty to keep them occupied, from foraging to reproduction to territorial defence. Pet rabbits, on the other hand, often lack stimulation, which can lead to behavioural problems and poor health. You can replicate a rabbit’s natural environment by providing some of the items below:

  • Tunnels (that are wide enough for the rabbits to pass through easily)
  • Tree stumps (from trees that are safe for rabbits to chew, e.g. apple, that have not been sprayed with chemicals) to act as look out points (platforms)
  • Suitable toys (there are many rabbit toys available commercially; ensure any you buy are safe and that your rabbits use them) see our website for some boredom breakers.
  • Digging Box i.e. A planter filled with organic soil for digging
  • Platforms for hiding under and climbing on
  • Constant access to safe hiding places (such as cardboard boxes)
  • Games, such as food items in brown paper which they have to unwrap
  • Put food in multiple places so they have to move around to find it
  • Use food balls (the treat balls made for cats work well) to feed their nuggets as they will spend longer eating and have fun chasing them around
  • Rabbits become bored of toys quickly, so rotate items regularly to keep them interested. Ensure there are enough resources for all your rabbits to use at the same time. Regularly inspect items for damage and potential hazards and repair, discard or replace any items that become dangerous.

Chewing items:

In addition to nutrition, hay and vegetables are also important to your rabbit’s dental health. A diet that requires little chewing produces uneven tooth wear, causing enamel to grow on the sides of the teeth. These spikes can cause severe oral pain and excessive salivation (often called “slobbers”). They also cause reluctance to chew, inability to close the mouth, and reduced food intake. The situation deteriorates as the teeth continue to grow, and, if it is not treated, results in severe malnutrition. In addition to hay and vegetables, you will want to provide your rabbit with chew sticks or gnaw “bones” of untreated wood of various sizes and shapes. Cardboard tubes and untreated wicker can also be used.

 

Treats:

Treats, including fresh fruits, should be given sparingly because of their calorie content. Rabbits can digest small quantities of rolled oats and barley, but again, they generally provide more calories than necessary. And, too much carbohydrate has been associated with enteritis in rabbits. Fruits are high in sugar and shouldn’t be given to the bunny everyday (Apples (no seeds), Strawberries, and Grapes).

Do not feed any stone fruit, i.e any fruit that has a single pit.

 

Toys:

You’ve heard us say it before, right? A boring bunny is…a BORED bunny! We can’t be with our bunnies all the time, so, because they like to play and be entertained, it is important that we provide them with toys of their very own. Plus, bunnies are fun to play with! We encourage you to get right down on the floor with your bunny. Let her check you out, jump on you (nap on your back!); go nose to nose with your bunny and giver her kisses! Try tossing some toys gently towards your bunny. Often they will bat them back or pick them up and fling them away. Sometimes a bunny will growl and pounce on a toy, showing it proudly just who really the boss is. Try different toys. Not all buns like the same things. Some like to flip and toss, some like to roll things, some like to make noise. Change toys around and offer different things to play with so your rabbits (like children) don’t get bored. Encourage your rabbit to play by talking to her in happy or excited higher pitched tones. Let her know you are having fun and that she is doing a good job!

 

Toys are entertaining. They help keep bunny from getting bored while confined, as well as help keep them from getting into [the wrong] things when they are out playing in the house. An older or compromise rabbit that is kept interested and entertained will generally live longer, because his mind is engaged, keeping him from getting bored and depressed.

 

Toys provide exercise. Bunnies need safe ways to exercise and play, which helps keep their bodies AND their minds healthy. Digging, chewing, climbing, flinging, hiding, running through tunnels – these are all things that bunnies like, want and need to do.

 

Toys are a diversion. They are a great way to redirect a bunny from doing damage to your home by shredding or chewing. Bored bunnies, like bored children, tend to get into things they should not. Plus, bunnies teeth grow continuously and they must have safe wooden toys to chew on to help keep them filed down.

 

  • Wooden chew toys – for flinging, or those that hang from the cage for chewing, pulling & batting.
  • Cardboard boxes – for crawling in & out, hopping upon and personalizing/interior decorating (chewing). Fill a box with shredded newspaper or dried leaves so bunny can jump in and dig!!
  • Paper towel or toilet paper tubes – Leave some paper towels on so bunny can shred happily.
  • Tissue Box – Remove plastic, stuff with hay and let bunny try to get it out. (Be sure no heads get stuck inside!)
  • Paper bags – to shred, shove around.
  • Untreated straw or wicker baskets – for chewing (can be filled with hay or straw for digging).
  • Pine cones – washed and dried for at least 4 months.
  • Phone books – without the shiny cover, for ripping & shredding
  • Cat toys – can be rolled or tossed, no small, removable or chewable pieces
  • Metal lids – from mayonnaise jars, etc. Are great for flipping around and making noise!
  • Baby toys – hard plastic that teeth cannot break or eat through, such as keys, stacking cups or stacking blocks that can be knocked over, fish links, rattles, etc.
  • Slinkies, Tonka trucks or plastic Playskool type trucks & toys
  • Oats boxes – You can cut out the other end, or not…
  • Whisk brooms – made of broom straw only
  • Towels – for bunching and scooting (with paws); make sure bunny does not eat the towel
  • Wood branches & twigs – pesticide free & aged at least three months (apple can be chewed while fresh, but CHERRY, PEACH, APRICOT, PLUM & REDWOOD ARE ALL POISONOUS).
  • Balls –Wire cat balls, plastic balls, big (light) kids’ balls-balls they can nudge, paw and/or fling.
Indoor Setup for Your Bunnies

Free-roaming

Allowing your bunny to roam around freely inside can be so rewarding and your bond between you and your bunny is guaranteed to become stronger. The most important thing to do prior to allowing your bunny to free roam is to bunny proof the areas to which they have access. The following should be taken into account:free roaming

Cables

Bunnies like to chew- oh boy! Electric cables pose a great danger to bunnies if chewed- i.e., electrocution (their whiskers will curl, similar to hair burning). To prevent them chewing cables, injuring themselves and your bank account, cable protectors are a great investment. Budget options however include buying a garden hose and cutting a slit into it in order to place the cables inside.

Skirtings

Heavy duty packing tape over skirtings may discourage your bunny from chewing on the yummy wood. The smooth surface that packing tape provide makes the skirtings less appetizing.

Couches

One of the biggest concerns when starting to free roam our bunny is usually the fact that they can have bathroom accidents on the couch. The best way to combat this is to ensure that your bunny is fully litterbox trained. However, bear in mind that accidents do happen- so don’t get mad at your bunny if you find a pee spot- simply take white vinegar and clean the surface ASAP.

Pro tip for new homeowners when buying furniture: a day bed is an excellent option if you have free roaming bunnies as you can place a waterproof mattress protector on it.

Smells

It is a myth that bunnies have a bad smell- in fact, we love the bunny smell! However, a litterbox does have a bad odour if it isn’t clean. Bunny-safe litter, such as paper-based litter (non-scented) and eco-wood litter pellets can absorb the majority of smells and keep your house smelling fresher than if it is not used. We personally place the litterbox in a corner near a window.

Please also remember that essential oil diffusers (and any other fragrances) are harmful to your pets- so please refrain from using it.

Floors

Bunnies have the tendency to accidently lick the floor as they are grooming themselves. Thus, it is important to use non-toxic floor cleaners without any harsh fragrances.

Traction is also very important as they like to binky and zoomie! Placing a few carpets will ensure they can properly express their happiness (and who doesn’t like a pretty carpet?).

Hideys

Most indoor bunnies will opt to hide and sleep under a bed or couch; however, it is still very beneficial to provide a hidey specifically for them. The hides do not have to be unappealing- there are some really aesthetically pleasing bunnies’ furniture on the market.

A budget friendly option is cardboard. Tunnels and castles can easily be made out of cardboard- beware that you might have to replace this often as previously stated: they chew!

Playtime

Having an indoor bunny does however not mean that they do not enjoy being outside every now and then. Playtime outside is very enriching. Please ensure that the area is bunny safe (i.e., no toxic plants or escape routes)

Keep your rabbits housing clean

Rabbits are fastidiously clean animals, and spend a large proportion of their day grooming themselves and their companion rabbit(s). Housing needs to be cleaned out frequently and must be adequately ventilated to deter flies.

  • Thoroughly clean your rabbits’ home regularly. Replace some of the used bedding material each time, as this will smell familiar and so provide reassurance.
  • Clean the toilet areas every day (rabbits tend to pick the same corners of a hutch to toilet in, or you can train your rabbits to use litter trays).
Can I play, cuddle or pet my tame rabbit?

Keep in mind that a bunny is not a relaxed animal. It is almost always active, and the slightest sound or movement will make it jump. They are also not naturally cuddly, although if you gain the trust of your rabbit then it can be very rewarding to have a tiny warm furball on your lap.  Then again, rabbits like being petted (if they trust you), they are pack animals, and they are used to grooming each other. If you win the trust of your bunny and you are accepted into its pack you can even expect it to counter-groom your hands. And rabbits are more playful than you would expect.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Rabbits do NOT like to be carried or lifted.
  • Never, ever, pick a bunny up by its ears.
  • Always support a rabbit’s hind legs with one hand and rest the bunny against your chest, to upset your bunny the least.
  • Rabbits are pack animals, meaning they are social animals. If you don’t plan to spend a lot of time with your bunny then maybe you should consider adopting two.

Emotional Health

In the wild 70% of a rabbit’s time above ground is spent searching for grass, hay, plants, herbs and bark to eat. This foraging and chewing behaviour keeps rabbits busy, stimulated and exercised. So the right diet is essential to rabbits’ emotional wellbeing as well as keeping their teeth healthy.

 

Behaviour

People often think rabbits are very easy to look after and that all they need to do is pop them in  a hutch in the garden and feed and clean them when needed. However, this is actually very far from the truth! !

Did you know?

  • Rabbits have a life expectancy of 9-10 years, so having a rabbit is a long-term commitment which requires dedication, care and money.
  • Rabbits have a very fragile skeleton and can easily be seriously injured by small, inexperienced hands.. Children should be showed how to carefully stroke rabbits and should not be around very young rabbits.
  • Rabbits generally don’t bite, but may do so out of fear or anger.
  • Rabbits are social creates that need a companion, not only for their emotional well-being but also for their health, so homing them in pairs or small groups is best. We suggest either same gender (two females) or mixed gender (1 male and 1 female) with one being sterilised of course. We do not suggest you introduce any females if there are more than 1 male rabbit (even if sterilised), as they will fight.
  • Rabbits need regular grooming which includes brushing, nail trimming, ear checking and scent gland cleaning. they need regular de-worming too, as well as dental check-ups.
  • Rabbits are intelligent, personable, inquisitive and amusing companions. When bun’s housing is maintained properly, they are nearly odourless.
  • Rabbits should never be left unattended with other animal family members or other animals such as dogs or cats, even acts of play can result in someone being injured.
What is my rabbit trying to tell me?

While rabbits and bunnies obviously cannot speak to you, they will still communicate with body language and sounds. Here is a list of the sounds your rabbit can use to talk to you.

Grunts or growling

When your bunny growls at you, it means that he is angry. It will often be followed by them either biting or turning their back on you.

Oinking

Your rabbit may make this sound when he or she is content, or when he/she is in heat.

Biting or nibbling

It can be a sign of affection, but more often it is your bunny gently yelling you that it wants you to stop whatever you are doing at the moment.

Squealing

The rabbit is very scared or in extreme pain. If you are causing the squealing by something you are doing, you should stop immediately. Bunnies can die if they are stressed out too much.

Running in figure-eights or circles around you

If your bunny is doing this, it means he is trying to court you.

Chinning

Rabbits have scent glands under their chins. If your bunny is rubbing its chin against you, then it means he is marking you as his. Congratulations, you now belong to your rabbit!

Tooth grinding

As mentioned above, a low grinding sound means your bunny is happy and is the equivalent of a cat purring. Louder grinding might be cause for worry. Loud tooth grounded is also a sign of severe pain and you should get your bunny checked out.

Licking

Your bunny is grooming you. This is a great honour to receive from a rabbit, as in nature, lower bunnies groom the ones ranking higher in the hierarchy. If your bunny is licking you, then it either means that he accepts you as a superior, or he likes you so much that hierarchy doesn’t matter.

Nose poking

The rabbit is showing affection and it wants you to pet him.

Ears forward

Some sound has the rabbit’s full attention. Your bunny is ready to run if the sound should turn out to be danger coming his way.

One ear forward

Partly paying attention to something, but not 100% interested.

Ears flat

This can mean two things. If the bunny is generally happy, it means that he is relaxed. If he is angry, it could be a sign that he is ready to attack and bite.

Sitting upright on hind legs

The rabbit will do this when it is curious about its surroundings, often when it hears a strange sound that doesn’t seem immediately threatening. It is basically just the bunny trying to get a better overview of the room.

Thumping

Bunnies are pack animals and if your bunny likes you, then you are automatically part of the pack. If your bunny is thumping its hind leg, then it is most likely trying to warn you (the pack) so that you can escape from the danger it is sensing.

Digging

Rabbits dig instinctively; they were born to do it. However, they will dig as a way of communicating.  If you are holding your bunny on your lap and it starts digging, then he may be saying that he needs the toilet, or that he just doesn’t want to sit with you anymore.

Lying flat

On the side with eyes half closed and hind legs stretched out. This is the eltimate sign of trst. Your bunny is super relaxed, happy and feels so safe with you that he doesn’t feel the need to be ready to run.

Doing a ‘binky’

(Jumping and twisting in the air(. IF your bunny does this, it is a sign that he is a really happy bunny.

 

Keeping your rabbit's teeth short

Rabbits are not rodents, but they do have some characteristics in common, one of which is ever-growing teeth. If the teeth get too long, the rabbit won’t be able to eat properly, and as a result will become ill or die within a very short period if you don’t get veterinary assistance. To avoid an emergency situation, include tooth care among the many things you’ll need to do for your bunnies.

Stock Up on Hay

The basis of your rabbits’ — always keep them in pairs – diet should be hay, so provide an unlimited supply. Fresh grass is also good. As well as keeping rabbit digestive systems healthy, hay needs a great deal of chewing, which helps to wear down teeth, especially the back ones. Also provide plenty of fresh leafy greens and small amounts of a commercial rabbit food. Fruit and sweet vegetables, such as carrots, should be a treat and certainly not constitute a major part of the diet.

Twigs and Chews

Some, although not all, rabbits also enjoy demolishing hard chews, such as twigs and chunks of wood. If your rabbits have a gnawing habit, indulge it with a steady supply of chews, as these also wear down teeth, not to mention giving your rabbits an alternative to your best furniture. Not all wood is safe, though. Avoid toxic woods, such as yew, and anything that has been chemically treated or painted. Safe woods include apple, pear, willow and poplar. Among the many potentially toxic woods are walnut, cedar and those from stone fruit trees, such as cherry and peach.

Ask Your Vet

During the initial veterinary check-up, ask the vet to show you how to examine your rabbits’ teeth and explain what problems to look for — this is something that should be demonstrated in person. Your vet can also advise whether an individual rabbit might be more prone to tooth problems, in which case include a monthly dental check as part of your care routine.

Dental Check-ups

Rabbits rarely enjoy being picked up and they may object strenuously to having their teeth examined, so you might need to wrap your bunny in a towel. Put a large old towel over him, pick him and the towel up, and roll the towel around him. Place him in your lap and look at his teeth. Release him and provide a treat — he won’t have enjoyed the experience. Obviously, if you notice overgrown teeth, you should make an appointment as soon as possible for tooth clipping.

When to Call the Vet

If your rabbits have healthy teeth, it’s normally sufficient just to have your vet check them about once a year. Also keep an eye on your rabbits’ eating habits. If a rabbit appears to have difficulty eating or has started eating only soft foods, call the vet. The same goes if he stops eating or starts eating less — this could be a sign of illness, overgrown teeth or digestive problems, and is an emergency. If rabbits don’t eat, they are in serious trouble. Just 24 hours without eating can cause them to develop potentially fatal digestive problems.

Diet essentials

Pellets

Pellets are most important in the younger stages of rabbit development because they are highly concentrated in nutrients, helping to ensure proper weight gain. A quality pelleted food should be high in fibre (18% minimum) and nutritionally balanced. As a rabbit reaches maturity, however, pellets should make up less of the diet – replaced with higher quantities of hay and leafy greens. Overfeeding pellets in mature rabbits can lead to obesity and other medical conditions. WE RECOMMEND BURGESS PELLETS FOR ALL OUR CRITTERS!!

Hay

Rabbits should have fresh hay available 24 hours a day. Rabbits less than 7 months old may have alfalfa hay, but older rabbits should have grass hays such as timothy or oat hay. Hay is essential to a rabbit’s good health, providing the roughage that helps reduce the danger of hairballs and other blockages.

Water

Fresh water should be available to your pet around the clock, as well. Each day, change the water in the dish or water bottle with fresh water. On a weekly basis, sanitize the water dish/bottle with a mild dish detergent and rinse thoroughly before adding drinking water.

Vegetables

Vegetables provide valuable roughage, as well as essential vitamins. As early as 3 months of age, you can begin to offer vegetables. Introduce new vegetables one at a time. This way, if a digestive upset occurs, you will know which food may be the culprit. Eliminate those that cause soft stools or diarrhoea. Continue to add new varieties, including both dark leafy vegetables and root vegetables, and serve vegetables of different colours. Once your rabbit is used to several vegetables, feed him or her at least three different kinds daily for a mix of nutrients.

A Good Rabbit Diet Should Include Daily Fresh Vegetables.
Include a variety of vegetables from the list below.
(Those containing a high level of Vitamin A are indicated by an *. Feed at least one of these each day).

• Alfalfa, radish and clover sprouts
• Basil
• Beet greens (tops)
• Bok choy
• Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)*
• Brussels sprouts
• Carrots and carrot tops*
• Clover
• Dandelion greens (NO pesticides)*
• Endive*
• Escarole• Mint
• Parsley*
• Peppermint leaves
• Radicchio
• Raspberry leaves
• Romaine lettuce (NO iceberg or light coloured leaf lettuce)*
• Wheat grass

Kale, mustard greens, and spinach contain high levels of oxalates (the salts of oxalic acid), which can accumulate in the system and cause toxicity over time. Rather than eliminating these veggies from your list (because they are highly nutritious and loved by most rabbits).

THESE FOOD ARE TOXIC AND MUST NOT BE GIVEN EVER

• Avocado
• Bamboo shoots
• Beans, dried
• Beans, raw: lima, kidney, soy
• Bracken Fern
• Cassava
• Coffee beans and plant
• Whole corn kernels (can get stuck in intestines)
• Grains
• Iceberg lettuce
• Millet
• Nuts
• Onions
• Pea’s, dried
• Potatoes, including peels
• Rhubarb
• Sweet Potatoes
• Tea leaves
• Whole seeds
• Most house plants
• Chocolate
• Refined sugars
• Cabbage
• Spinach

Chewing items

In addition to nutrition, hay and vegetables are also important to your rabbit’s dental health. A diet that requires little chewing produces uneven tooth wear, causing enamel to grow on the sides of the teeth. These spikes can cause severe oral pain and excessive salivation (often called “slobbers”). They also cause reluctance to chew, inability to close the mouth, and reduced food intake. The situation deteriorates as the teeth continue to grow, and, if it is not treated, results in severe malnutrition. In addition to hay and vegetables, you will want to provide your rabbit with chew sticks or gnaw “bones” of untreated wood of various sizes and shapes. Cardboard tubes and untreated wicker can also be used.

Treats

Treats, including fresh fruits, should be given sparingly because of their calorie content. Rabbits can digest small quantities of oats and barley, but again, they generally provide more calories than necessary. And, too much carbohydrate has been associated with enteritis in rabbits. Fruits are high in sugar and shouldn’t be given to the bunny everyday (Apples (no seeds), Strawberries, and Grapes).

Feeding rabbits through their stages of development

Like human beings, rabbits need to be fed differently at different stages of their growth to ensure healthy development, digestion, and weight. Throughout a rabbit’s life, avoid any sudden changes in diet; new foods should always be introduced gradually. Remember to keep fresh clean water available at all times, too. Water bottles versus dishes are recommended.

Baby rabbits

A baby rabbit, or kit, feeds solely on its mother’s milk for about the first three weeks. During the first few days, the milk contains high levels of antibodies that help protect the kit from disease. After three weeks, the kit will begin nibbling on alfalfa hay and pellets. By 7 weeks of age, baby rabbits can handle unlimited access to pellets and alfalfa hay in addition to mother’s milk. Kits are usually weaned from their mother’s milk by 8 weeks of age, depending on the breed.

Juveniles

Between weaning and 7 months of age, the young rabbit can have an unlimited amount of pellets and alfalfa hay. At 3 months of age, start introducing small amounts of vegetables into your rabbit’s diet. Introduce one vegetable at a time. If any vegetable seems to cause digestive problems, avoid feeding it in the future.

Young adults

Young adult rabbits from age 7 months to 1 year should be introduced to timothy, grass hays, and/or oat hay, and it should be available all day long. The fibre in the hay is essential for their digestive systems to work properly. At this point, they will require little alfalfa hay, as well as fewer pellets. Alfalfa hay has more calories and calcium than rabbits need at this stage of development, and the high-calorie content of pellets can also begin to cause weight problems. Instead of offering unlimited pellets, a good rule of thumb is 1/2 cup of pellets per 2kg of body weight daily. To make up for the nutritional loss, you must increase your rabbit’s intake of vegetables and hay. You can feed your rabbit some fruits during this stage, but because of calories, limit them to no more than 56g per 2kg of body weight daily.

Mature adults

Mature adult rabbits should be fed unlimited timothy, grass hay, and oat hay. Once again, you should reduce the pellet portion of the diet. A standard guideline is 1/4 cup of pellets per 2kg of body weight per day. Several servings of vegetables are required (2 cups per 2kg of body weight daily). Make sure to choose dark, leafy greens, and feed at least three different kinds daily. Iceberg or other light-coloured varieties are NOT nutritious. Also, make sure you are offering dark yellow and orange vegetables. Treats, including fruits, must be fed sparingly.

Seniors

Senior rabbits over 6 years of age can be fed the same diet as mature adults if they do not have weight loss problems. You may need to increase pellet intake if your pet is not able to maintain his or her weight. Alfalfa can also be given to underweight rabbits, but only if calcium levels are normal. Annual blood workups are highly recommended for senior rabbits to determine the level of calcium and other components of the blood.

Toys

You’ve heard us say it before, right?

A boring bunny is…a BORED bunny!

We can’t be with our bunnies all the time, so, because they like to play and be entertained, it is important that we provide them with toys of their very own. Plus, bunnies are fun to play with! We encourage you to get right down on the floor with your bunny. Let her check you out, jump on you (nap on your back!); go nose to nose with your bunny and giver her kisses! Try tossing some toys gently towards your bunny. Often they will bat them back or pick them up and fling them away. Sometimes a bunny will growl and pounce on a toy, showing it proudly just who really the boss is. Try different toys. Not all buns like the same things. Some like to flip and toss, some like to roll things, some like to make noise. Change toys around and offer different things to play with so your rabbits (like children) don’t get bored. Encourage your rabbit to play by talking to her in happy or excited higher pitched tones. Let her know you are having fun and that she is doing a good job!

Toys are entertaining. They help keep bunny from getting bored while confined, as well as help keep them from getting into [the wrong] things when they are out playing in the house. An older or compromise rabbit that is kept interested and entertained will generally live longer, because his mind is engaged, keeping him from getting bored and depressed.

Toys provide exercise. Bunnies need safe ways to exercise and play, which helps keep their bodies AND their minds healthy. Digging, chewing, climbing, flinging, hiding, running through tunnels – these are all things that bunnies like, want and need to do.

Toys are a diversion. They are a great way to redirect a bunny from doing damage to your home by shredding or chewing. Bored bunnies, like bored children, tend to get into things they should not. Plus, bunnies teeth grow continuously and they must have safe wooden toys to chew on to help keep them filed down.

• Wooden chew toys – for flinging, or those that hang from the cage for chewing, pulling & batting.
• Cardboard boxes – for crawling in & out, hopping upon and personalizing/interior decorating (chewing). Fill a box with shredded newspaper or dried leaves so bunny can jump in and dig!!
• Paper towel or toilet paper tubes – Leave some paper towels on so bunny can shred happily.
• Tissue Box – Remove plastic, stuff with hay and let bunny try to get it out. (Be sure no heads get stuck inside!)
• Paper bags – to shred, shove around.
• Untreated straw or wicker baskets – for chewing (can be filled with hay or straw for digging).
• Pine cones – washed and dried for at least 4 months.
• Phone books – without the shiny cover, for ripping & shredding
• Cat toys – can be rolled or tossed, no small, removable or chewable pieces
• Metal lids – from mayonnaise jars, etc. Are great for flipping around and making noise!
• Baby toys – hard plastic that teeth cannot break or eat through, such as keys, stacking cups or stacking blocks that can be knocked over, fish links, rattles, etc.
• Slinkies, Tonka trucks or plastic Playskool type trucks & toys
• Oats boxes – You can cut out the other end, or not…
• Whisk brooms – made of broom straw only
• Towels – for bunching and scooting (with paws); make sure bunny does not eat the towel
• Wood branches & twigs – pesticide-free& aged at least three months (apple can be chewed while fresh, but CHERRY, PEACH, APRICOT, PLUM & REDWOOD ARE ALL POISONOUS).
• Balls –Wire cat balls, plastic balls, big (light) kids’ balls-balls they can nudge, paw and/or fling.

 

How to pick up my rabbit

Many rabbit owners have difficulty when it comes to picking up their rabbit. Contrary to popular belief rabbits are often not very keen on being handled and may wriggle, kick out and even bite when you try to pick them up. In this article you will find instruction on how to pick up your rabbit as well as how to deal with some of the common handling problems.

Your rabbit’s point of view

Being picked up is not a natural experience for you rabbit. They do not have wings and are not designed to fly through the air at great (to a bunny) heights. Rabbits are prey animals and your hands reaching down to pick up your rabbit can seem very similar to being caught by a hawk or other predator. A pet rabbits natural reactions are to fear being picked up and it takes time and patience for them to realise that being picked up by you is not going to cause them harm.

How not to pick up your rabbit

Rabbits should never be picked up by the ears, legs or scruff. Doing so could result in serious harm to your rabbit.

If you cannot carry your rabbit without it jumping from your arms then use a carry case as described below.

Lifting your rabbit

When lifting your rabbit you should use two hands, one supporting the chest and one supporting the bottom. If your rabbit is small enough you can position the hand supporting the chest with you thumb over their shoulder for a firmer grip. Hold the rabbit with its head slightly higher than its bottom and with the bottom slightly tucked in. This will help prevent the rabbit kicking out backwards or trying to do a forward summersault.
You should only move your rabbit short distances in this position, such as from the hutch to carry case, for longer distances the next step is to bring it closer to your body for a firmer hold.

Carrying your rabbit

To carry your rabbit you should either hold it close to your body or use a carry case (see below). There are several ways to hold your rabbit, you should use the one that your bunny feels most comfortable in and you feel most secure holding it.

The first position pictured is most suitable for smaller bunnies. Hold the rabbit facing you with all four feet against your chest. Place one hand supporting the bottom, holding it against your body to stop it kicking out and the other hand across the rabbit’s shoulders. If you put your thumb in front of the rabbit’s front leg it helps prevent attempted escapes over your shoulder. Note: The bunny modelling in the photo is a perhaps a little on the large side for this technique.

The other position is like a hug using your arms to hold the bunny firmly against your chest. Hold your bunny sideways with its feet resting at your hip facing your right shoulder. Wrap you left arm across its body and support the chest with your hand, thumb over the shoulders, fingers underneath. Use your other hand to support the bottom, firmly to press her feet against you so he/she can’t lift them to kick out. You might want to practice with a calmer bun/pillow first so you can get the position right.

Nervous rabbits

Many rabbits are nervous about being picked up; they may have had bad experiences in the past and now associate being picked up as a nasty experience or just aren’t used to be handled. With time and patients you can encourage them to feel happier about the experience. If you need to carry your rabbit whilst you are working on building up its confidence then use the carry case technique mentioned later in this article.

You need to build up your bunnies’ confidence slowly. Sit near him/her and stroke, talk and offer yummy treats. Once your rabbit is happy with that gently pick them up (hand under chest) so just the front feet leave the floor and inch or so then put them back down and offer more praise and treats. A distraction such as a big pile of greens may help your bunny get used to this. Once your rabbit is comfortable with this you can introduce hand number two (bottom support) when you lift the front feet. To start with just put it under the bottom but still only lift the chest up. You can gradually build this up so you lift the bottom too and her back feet almost leave the ground. Again repeat this until your rabbit is not bothered by it. Progress to lifting an inch or two of the ground and then putting him/her down again. To get to this stage may take you several weeks of a few lifts a day.

The next stage is to introduce more movement. First review the section on lifting your rabbit above so you get the correct hold. You could sit next sit next to your rabbit and lift them on to your lap or move them across the floor. From there you can progress to slightly longer lifts and just keep building as your rabbit gets used to the new experience.

The carry case

If your rabbit is nervous, aggressive, very wriggly or you not confident carrying then, then you can use a carry case to move it. A plastic cat carry box is the best option, these come with either top or side opening doors.

Introduce the carry case to your rabbit before you use it. Put it somewhere they can explore it and get used to it. You can give it positive associations by putting food, treats and toys inside.

Aggressive rabbits

A few rabbits may show aggression when you try to pick them up. There are two possible reasons for this. Firstly your rabbit may be territorial of its home and see your hands as invaders and secondly your rabbit may be very scared of being handled.

Territorial behaviour is very common, particularly in unneutered females. Its characterised by growling, biting and lunging at your hands when you put them in to your rabbits space. The hutch and food bowl may be guarded viciously. Generally once in a neutral environment away from their territory, such as being taken to play inside, the aggression disappears or much improves. The solution to this problem is neutering which helps in most cases although there may be a delay of several weeks after neutering, whilst the hormones reduce, for improvements to show. In the mean time you can bypass the problem by not putting your hands in the hutch, use a carry case instead.

If the aggression is fear related then before you progress to picking up your rabbit you first have to gain its confidence. First it has to learn that you being around don’t constitute a threat. Give it an old t-shirt you have worn to get it used to your smell. Then spend time sitting in your rabbits space, ignore it and make no sudden movements eventually it will learn that you aren’t going to attack it when it comes close. Hand feed favourite foods and once it start coming to you start gently stroking it. Only once it is happy to be stroked and used to your presence can you move on to advanced things like picking it up.

Putting your rabbit down again

When putting your rabbit back into its house or on to the floor you need to be careful not to let it jump out of your arms. Many rabbits will attempt to leap down once they see their hutch. Hold the rabbit firmly until its feet are on the ground. Be careful as you let go as some rabbits kick out backwards when released.

Prevent and protect- Rabbit’s health

Keeping your rabbit fit and healthy is vital to ensure a long, happy and fulfilling life. Rabbits can be prone to some health issues which can prove challenging to treat, but can often be easily prevented if you know how.

Some of the most important health problems that can be encountered and how to prevent them are listed below:

Infectious diseases

Myxomatosis is caused by a virus spread by fleas, mites and biting flies such as mosquitoes. In some circumstances it can also spread by direct contact between infected rabbits too. The first signs of infection are usually puffy swellings around the head and face. Within a day or so, these swellings can become so severe that they can cause blindness. ‘Sleepy eyes’ are another classic sign, along with swelling around the mouth and ears, which then spreads around the anus and genitals. A high fever occurs and eating and drinking becomes progressively more difficult. Death usually follows within around twelve days. Recovery from this disease is rare and euthanasia is often necessary to prevent suffering. Occasionally a longer and more protracted disease course occurs with multiple skin modules. All types of rabbits can be affected, including house rabbits. Regular flea and fly control measures with revolution capsules (for kittens and puppies so dose is correct) can help prevent this.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is a very serious condition which causes a high fever, internal bleeding and liver disease. It is usually rapidly fatal and is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and domesticated) and
indirect contact, such as via insect transport or people, clothing, shoes and other objects. Regular flea and fly control measures with revolution capsules (for kittens and puppies so dose is correct) and avoiding pet rabbits coming into contact with areas wild rabbits have been, can help to lower the risk of infection.

E.cuniculi E cuniculi is a parasite of rabbits which can cause paralysis, tremors, kidney and eye diseases, and ultimately death. However not all rabbits show signs of illness; they can appear healthy whilst passing E. cuniculi spores on to other rabbits through contaminated urine, so it is important to prevent urine contamination of food and water. Medicinal treatment can be given to treat this disease.

Snuffles (Pasteurellosis) is one of the most common diseases that strikes domestic rabbits. This disease is very contagious and can also affect the eyes, ears, and other organs. If detected early, it can be treated, but it can become chronic or fatal if left untreated. This info will help rabbit owners identify, understand the treatment, and prevent snuffles in their own rabbits. While there can be different causes of these infections, the most common and generally accepted cause of snuffles is infection with the bacteria MPM PM. There are several different strains of these gram negative bacteria and depending on the strain that infects a particular rabbit, the signs can be either mild or severe. Some strains are commonly found in the nasal tract of rabbits, but may not cause infections unless the animal is stressed or has a suppressed immune system. The signs of snuffles can be varied, but are usually associated with the upper respiratory tract. Many infected rabbits will initially develop a watery nasal discharge followed by sneezing and then a thick, whitish to yellowish nasal discharge. Because rabbits groom their faces with their front paws, infected rabbits will often have discharge and mats on the inside of their forepaws.

The disease can also travel to their eyes causing conjunctivitis and a resulting discharge, or it may travel to their ears causing ear infections. These ear infections can then cause ‘torticollis’ (wryneck – twisting of the neck), head shaking, scratching, a head tilt, disorientation, circling, or inability to stand. The infection will sometimes clear up in the nose, but be persistent in the ears. In some severe cases, a rabbit may develop pneumonia or bacteraemia (the bacteria enter the bloodstream). In a few cases, abscesses may form under the skin, in joints, or in the internal organs. The Treatment for Snuffles is generally antibiotics for 14-30 days. Antibiotics commonly used include enrofloxacin (Baytril), ciprofloxacin, and trimethoprim sulfa. Rabbits need beneficial bacteria in their intestine to aid in digestion and they often need to be supplemented with these bacteria during and after antibiotic treatment; therefore, these drugs should only be used under strict veterinary guidance and with probiotic. In severe cases, supportive treatment consisting of fluids and supplemental nutrition may need to be given as well. If the strain of MPM PM is a mild one and the immune system of the infected rabbit is strong, the symptoms may be mild and the animal will recover without treatment. However, if the strain is aggressive or the animal has a weakened immune response, the disease can be severe, chronic, and even fatal. The goal with treatment is to use an effective antibiotic at the first signs of infection. If the infection goes for days or weeks without treatment, it is likely that it will become chronic and very difficult to eliminate. In most cases, the signs of the disease may disappear, but the bacteria are usually still present, only in smaller numbers. Even in cases that are treated early, some animals will still develop chronic infections in their sinus passages that require long-term treatment, or even lifelong treatment to keep them under control.

As Snuffles is a very contagious and difficult disease to treat, prevention plays a very critical role in trying to control and eliminate this disease:

• Reducing stress is very important in helping a rabbit avoid infections and reducing the severity of the disease if they do become infected. Common causes of stress in rabbits include poor nutrition, improper housing, chilling, overcrowding, or aggression from other rabbits. To prevent stress, provide the best possible housing, offer a variety of fresh vegetables and of course good quality hay (timothy if possible) in addition to a properly formulated pelleted diet.
• Also, avoid letting your rabbit come into contact with other rabbits, particularly if they are sick. Because this disease can be transmitted through secretions on your hands and clothes, be very careful when handling other rabbits, and always wash your hands and clothes after handling a rabbit other than your own.
• Because it is so contagious and widespread, rabbit owners need to be aware of its signs and seek veterinary attention (exotic vets only) at the first sign of illness. By understanding the disease and taking precautions against it, rabbit owners can help reduce both the severity and incidence of this disease.

Other illness’s

Flystrike is a common, extremely distressing and often fatal disease which predominantly occurs in warm weather. It most commonly occurs when the rabbit’s rear end becomes soiled with faeces and/or urine. This attracts flies which lay eggs on damaged skin or on the soiled fur. These eggs then hatch into maggots that eat away at the tissues in the surrounding area and release toxins which make the rabbit sick. The problem, if left untreated, can get so bad that the maggots reach the rabbit’s abdomen, causing so much suffering that the rabbit has to be put to sleep. If you spot any signs of flystrike on your pet, such as eggs or maggots, seek urgent veterinary advice (exotic vet only).

You can prevent flystrike by:
• Keeping housing clean and dry.
• Feeding the correct high fibre diet to make sure they eat all of their caecotrophs.
• Checking your pet thoroughly for signs of illness, injury or abnormal behaviour every day, and in warm weather checking the fur and skin around your pets’ rear end and tail area, at least twice a day.
• Removing any wet or soiled bedding every day.
• Keeping rabbit’s active and healthy – obese rabbits may be too big to clean themselves effectively or to eat their caecotrophs (which then build up around their rear end).
• Using suitable insecticides and insect repellents (speak to your vet for more information).

To avoid these next illness’s- use Revolution capsule (pour a few drops on the rabbits back depending on weight) once every 4 months or so. Make sure you buy the one for puppies and kittens so the dosage is correct. Revolution will also de-worm your rabbit/s.

Fleas: The fleas most commonly found on domestic rabbits are the same species of flea as will most likely be affecting all other pets, and you, in the household. Rabbits’ symptoms can be varied, from itching to severe scratching of the neck and biting of the area around the base of the tail and some show no signs at all. Treatment should focus on an animal and environmental approach so as to minimise the level and persistence of infestation. Only use treatments and medicines designed for rabbits, some treatments/medications designed for other animals can be harmful and in some cases fatal to rabbits.

Lice: The incidence of lice infestation in rabbits is low however, if your vet believes that the risk to your rabbits is high, lice can be prevented with treatments similar to those for fleas and flies. Similarly, treatment of the environment with an approved rabbit-safe environmental insecticide would also reduce the level and persistence of infestation.

Mites: Cheyetiella is a type of skin mite that can affect rabbits; it lives in the fur, and causes areas of thick crusting and dandruff type material to develop. It is often termed ‘Walking Dandruff’, with affected areas most commonly being at the back of the neck and at the base of the tail. Your vet will easily be able to diagnose these mites by examining some of the dandruff material under the microscope, and will then be able treat your rabbit effectively. Rabbits can also be affected by ear mites that cause crusting and ulceration of the ear canals.

Overheating / Heat Exhaustion
As the temperatures rise, so do a rabbit’s chances of getting heatstroke. Though this is a legitimate concern for all rabbits, rabbits with thick or long coats of hair, overweight, and young or old are at an even greater risk. Temperature, humidity and air ventilation are all factors that contribute to heatstroke in a rabbit. Like people, rabbits are individuals and could respond to these conditions somewhat differently. It is important to check your rabbit consistently to insure they are comfortable and do not overheat. Early detection of heatstroke and proper corrective steps could mean the difference between life and death for your beloved companion.

Signs to look out for:
• Fast, shallow breathing
• Hot ears
• Listlessness
• Wetness around the nose area
• Tossing back of head while breathing rapidly from open mouth.

What should you do if your rabbit shows signs of heatstroke?
Your first goal will be to relocate your bunny to a cool place away from any sun. Dampen the ears with cool (not cold) water as this will help to bring down his/her body temperature. Rabbit’s ears are his/her air conditioner. Give your bunny plenty of fresh, cold water with a few ice cubes in it and call your rabbit savvy vet for further instructions.

Preventing heatstroke
Change out waters twice a day or more frequently if needed and be sure to drop in an ice cube or two when refilling. It’s a good idea to have a bottle water feeder available as back up during the summertime just in case they run out of water or their bowl gets tipped over and you can add crushed ice to these. Be sure to clean water bottles thoroughly and regularly as they tend harbor bacteria in all the small spaces. When bunny is outdoors, make sure he/she has access to plenty of shade; wearing a fur coat in constant, direct sunlight is deadly.

The cold
Rabbits can easily die in hot weather from heat stroke, and they are in danger of freezing or coming down with cold-related illnesses during the cold months. With winter swiftly moving in, we will discuss some pointers for keeping a rabbit warm and comfortable during these times when temperatures can fall well below freezing, and biting wind and snow are constant considerations. Especially in northern climates, precautions must be taken before the onset of winter to keep these animals safe.

Prevention:
• The location of their hutch/housing should be located in a sheltered area that affords protection from the wind, rain, hail etc. It should have a roof of some kind (many rabbit owners prefer roofing tin since it cannot be chewed) and, depending on the kind of shelter, will likely need protection on the sides. For maximum protection, a heavy canvas cover can be made for the front of the cage that will be rolled up during nice weather, but that can be put into place during wind, storms, and at night.
• Keep your rabbit dry. Most breeds of rabbits have thick coats which are exceptional insulators against the weather, but if water reaches their skin they will be unable to stay warm. Keeping the animal safe from precipitation will remove the largest of these risks, but there are still others. Water dishes should be securely attached to the side of the cage so that the rabbit cannot accidentally knock it over. Ideally, this dish will also be up off of the cage floor so that the rabbit does not run the risk of stepping in it.
• Next, it can be difficult to keep your rabbit supplied with water in freezing temperatures. Especially in the cold, it does not take rabbits long to suffer severe dehydration and they must have access to water at all times. While most rabbit owners prefer water bottles with a ball-activated tube so that rabbits always have clean water to drink, these can be hazardous during the winter. The thin metal tube freezes much faster than the water in the bottle, so caretakers may believe that their rabbit still has drinkable water when the tube is frozen solid. A plain dish, or a dish that uses a 20-ounce or 1-liter plastic bottle for its supply, are preferable. The wider mouth of these bottles does not freeze as easily. If heated dishes that the rabbit cannot chew are available, the water can be kept from freezing all together. Place the water dish in a sheltered area inside the cage, enough above the floor to keep it from being stepped in or spilled. Fill the water every day and check it several times during the day, especially in very cold weather. The heat from the rabbit’s body inside a well-sheltered cage can often be sufficient to keep the water from freezing, or will slow the rate of freezing.
• Finally, make sure that the rabbit has a nesting box available that is not much larger than the rabbit’s body size. This box can be lined with straw to provide greater warmth. If the box is too large, it will allow too much room for cold air to get in around the rabbit, especially to its less-protected feet. The box should allow for comfortable entrance and exit, with just enough space for the rabbit to turn around inside it. The rabbit’s body should fit snugly within the nesting materials when it curls up to sleep. This will allow the rabbit a warmer refuge during cold nights or windy days when bitter winds can easily come up through a wire bottom and freeze its feet.

3 tips for healthy rabbits

1. Know your Rabbits weight
This is very important. Invest in a kitchen scale- By the time you can feel a different in guinea pig weight; they have likely lost too much.
2. Know your Rabbits personality
Some illnesses are obvious. If there’s blood or snot or your pig is laboring to breath, you know there’s a problem. But many illnesses are subtle. If your Rabbit, who usually runs laps all morning, suddenly stops their daily run, it may be worth looking into. Sulking in corners, sitting puffed up more than normal, suddenly sleeping heavily, picking fights or suddenly getting picked on — any of these can be a sign of illness.
3. Food is life
Rabbits are bottomless pits and have complicated digestive system which begin to shut down if they haven’t eaten for several hours which causes serious problems. If a Rabbit had stopped eating, it is URGENT they get to the vet immediately!

Please understand that with all illnesses, the rabbit will need to be taken to an exotic vet immediately in order to save their life!

Dangers & Poisons

1. Amoxicillin: Antibiotic used for cats and humans. Kills rabbits
2. Cedar/Pine Shavings: Inhaled hydrocarbons cause liver damage
3. Houseplants: Many houseplants are toxic, bunny doesn’t know what is safe
4. Electric Wires: Fires and electrocution could result
5. Stray/Strange Dogs: Always supervise your rabbit around dogs
6. Hairballs/Intestinal Blockages: Feed plenty of Timothy hay and give plenty of daily exercise

TOXIC AND POISENOUS PLANTS TO RABBITS:

PLEASE SEE AN EXOTIC VET URGENTLY if you think there may be a chance your rabbit has come in contact with any of these plants. If you are unsure of any plants in your home, please do not try your rabbit with the plant but remove it entirely!

Common Name

Toxic Parts and Effects

Treatment

Autumn crocus, Crocus, Fall crocus, Meadow saffron, Wonder bulb

Entire plant is toxic. Milk of lactating animals is a major excretory pathway. Observed signs are thirst, difficult swallowing, abdominal pain, profuse vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, and shock within hours of ingestion. Death from respiratory failure.

Prolonged course due to slow excretion of the toxin. Flush out stomach contents; supportive care for dehydration and electrolyte losses (fluid therapy); central nervous system, circulatory, and respiratory disturbances. Analgesics and atropine recommended for abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Avocado pear, Alligator pear

All above-ground parts (leaves in particular) reported toxic to, rabbits,. Toxicity associated lung congestion, irregular heartbeat, swelling of the jaw, sudden death, respiratory distress, generalized congestion, subcutaneous swelling, and fluid around the heart (suggestive of cardiac failure).

Primarily symptomatic and supportive

Azalea, Rhododendron Entire plant, including pollen and nectar. Within hours of ingestion of toxic dose (1 gram/kilogram), drooling, tearing, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, convulsions, coma, and death. Signs may last several days, but toxin is not cumulative. Supportive; flush out stomach contents, activated charcoal, saline cathartics, calcium injection, and antibiotics to control possible pneumonia suggested.

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Fun facts about bunnies!

• A female rabbit is called a doe.
• A male rabbit is called a buck.
• A young rabbit is called a kit (or kitten).
• Rabbits live in groups.(Colonies or Warrens)
• The European rabbit lives underground, in burrows. A group of burrows is known as a warren.
• More than half of the world’s rabbits live in North America.
• Rabbits have long ears which can be as long as 10 cm (4 in).
• Rabbits have a lifespan of around 10 years.
• Rabbits are herbivores (plant eaters).
• Pet rabbits that live inside are often referred to as ‘house rabbits’.
• Rabbits reproduce very quickly. They are pregnant between 31-33 days.
• Rabbits are born with their eyes closed and without fur.
• It may seem gross, but rabbits normally eat some of their faeces once a day, either early in the morning or late at night. These special faeces are called cecotropes, or “night faeces.” They are produced through fermentation of food in the part of the rabbit’s digestive tract called the cecum. Bunnies need to eat their poop in order to keep their digestive system going.

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