Rabbits need daily care and attention from their owners, but happily this never feels like a chore. It’s a good chance to interact with your pets and enjoy their company. Each day, you will need to feed your rabbits twice, check their water bottle, check that they are healthy and clean, and clean the lavatory section of their hutch. With some breeds, you may also need to allocate some time to grooming them each day, too. Less frequently, you will need to give them thorough health checks, groom them, and clean out the hutch and run.
This section of the guide provides some basic information on rabbit care that we expand on in more detail in other sections, such as on in our illness pages, and in our food section. We recommend you read this thoroughly before you move on to any of the more in-depth sections - especially if you are new to rabbit ownership!
Caring for your rabbits involves lots of fun bonding activities.
Rabbits need some things done for them on a daily basis.
You will also need to check their behaviour - do they look spooked? Are they lying down and hyperventilating? As you get to know you pets, you will learn how they look when they are happy and healthy - any departure from this norm requires further investigation.
Rabbits Love A Routine
Like most animals, your rabbits will be happier and more relaxed if they have some kind of routine. It is for this reason that a lot of rabbit owners try to check up on and feed their pets at roughly the same time every day.
Each day, your rabbits will need the following:
- A quick freshen-up of their home
You should clean out the dropping tray, or, if there is a lavatory corner, clean it. If such waste is allowed to accumulate then it can create a really unpleasant atmosphere for the rabbits and often even cause health problems, such as flystrike in the summer months. The Eglu for rabbits is extremely easy to clean, so this daily task shouldn't take long. You can find out more about this in our Rabbit Hutches section.
- A water bottle refill and check
It’s really important that your rabbits have access to water at all times, so as well as cleaning it thoroughly once a week, you’ll need to check that the bottle is full, clean and functioning correctly each day.
- Food and bedding refills
You will need to replenish their food (including pellets, hay and fresh food), and their bedding if they’ve eaten a lot of it. The Eglu for rabbits has a special integrated hay and water holder, so that you can bring the food and water inside to refill them.
- A very general health check
There is no need to give your pets a thorough health examination every single day, but you will need to look at them to make sure there’s nothing out of the ordinary. Make sure that they are breathing properly, that they don’t appear hurt or injured, that they are eating, and that there is nothing stuck in their fur. You will need to check their rear end twice a day in the summer to make sure that there is no buildup of poo there - this can attract flies and cause a very serious medical condition known as flystrike, which can be fatal.
Bugs Bunny and Peter rabbit may well live on a diet of juicy carrots and big lettuces, BUT this is not all that rabbits eat.
A rabbit has a very delicate digestive system that can be upset relatively easily by eating the wrong things leading to diarrhoea among other things. In the wild, rabbits evolved in areas with lots of low quality vegetation. They had to spend a lot of time eating and have a digestive system that would extract maximum goodness out of what they ate. Your pet rabbit is the same and so its diet should consist mainly of grass and hay. Don't worry though, it's not all as complicated as it may seem! Follow the simple rule of not making any sudden changes to diet, so if you buy a different brand of rabbit mix for instance, Mix it with your old one for a couple of weeks before switching completely.
Rabbits love getting their teeth into hay.
The Caddi makes a great rabbit hay feeder and can be hung in any wooden rabbit hutch.
Pellets / Mixes
These are 'complete' solutions and contain everything your rabbit needs in terms of nutrients and vitamins. Young rabbits i.e. younger than five months old are growing fast and may need feeding twice a day but after that once a day is fine. The amount that you feed your rabbit is to some extent common sense as it varies massively between different breeds. So if your rabbit seems to be getting a bit fat, reduce the quantity of feed, if your rabbit tries to eat your hand as well as the food when you feed it, increase the quantity! There can be a drawback with a rabbit mix. Although it looks more interesting than the extruded foods or pellets, some rabbits can be a bit fussy and not eat all of the mix leaving it deficient. If this is the case then a pelleted food is a better option. It may look boring to us but rabbits tend to like them. Don't be tempted to buy feed that is meant for another animal, that bag of hamster or goat food may look nice, but different animal have different needs and the wrong food could cause your rabbit's problems. Here at Appletons we recommend Westons Rabbit Pellets.
What is the point of hay if you are using a 'complete' mix? It provides the roughage / fibre that the rabbit needs. Make sure you have a plentiful supply of fresh hay. Appletons sell meadow hay both by the bale and in a handy courier size box. The hay also plays an important role in keeping the growth of your rabbit's teeth in check by wearing them down.
Water as with any animal is very important. Try to make sure that the water is kept fresh by replacing it every couple of days (if they haven't drunk it already!) When winter comes check that the water hasn't frozen over. If you aren't able to check very often, then move the water container inside the rabbits' hutch, where it should keep above freezing. If your rabbits get dehydrated they are less able to withstand the cold so won't last long with an icy crust on their water.
Unlike children, all rabbits love to eat their greens as part of their diet. You can try adding things like broccoli, kale, and fresh herbs as part of their diet but do so one at a time. Too many items on the menu will confuse the rabbits' digestive systems. Rabbits should not eat lettuce or other vegetables like cucumber and tomatoes. Don't forget that grass and hay should be the major part of their diet. As with any new food that you give your rabbits, don't make any quick changes. Grow Giant Chicory for your rabbit they will love it.
Although it might look revolting, your rabbit will actually eat some of its own (what looks like) poo! A rabbits food goes through two stages of digestion. If you look carefully at what comes out of the back end of a rabbit, you will see that there are two different kinds of pellet. One type of pellet is round and relatively dry, this is a poo. The other type known as a caecotroph is actually the result of the first phase of digestion and is full of goodness, so don't try and stop your rabbit doing this it is all part of the process of extracting all the goodness possible from grass. A reason to introduce more vegetables and hay to your rabbits diet is 'sticky bottom syndrome.' Basically this occurs from a diet that is too rich and can easily be seen as the rabbit will be producing excess caecotrophs.
As with people, most rabbits have a sweet tooth! Even though it can seem kind to give them treats they can get fat very easily. Avoid human treats like sweets altogether - these can be very dangerous. Appletons Apple Munch makes a great natrual treat.
Picking Your Rabbit Up
Using the correct technique to pick up your rabbit will make it more comfortable for your rabbit and easier for you. Remember, if a rabbit were to be picked up from above in the wild it would usually be in something's mouth. If a pet rabbit isn't used to being picked up it may take some time before it is happy for you to pick it up. A good technique for lifting your rabbit is to put one hand on the back of its neck and slowly bring it round to the front. At the same time put your other hand underneath the rabbit's hindquarters to support its weight whilst lifting.
If your rabbit is very timid it may be hard to get close enough for you to pick it up. So let's go back a stage, try offering something irresistible like a carrot or a dandelion leaf. Once it is familiar with you being on the other end of the food, try stroking its head. If you do this repeatedly then you will soon become associated with food and you will hopefully find the rabbit bounding up to you expectantly! Remember not to become frustrated - some rabbits will simply never like to be picked up and it will be easier for you to spend time with your rabbit on the ground!
Be very careful to support your rabbit's behind when you're picking them up.
Rabbits Love to Play!
The key to providing your rabbits with a stimulating day is to vary their surroundings. A great way of doing this is to put toys in their run. These don't have to be bought; you can use things that you already have at home. Rabbits like to hide, climb and chew, so below are some suggestions.
- Cardboard Box - It may seem simple, but as with small children the box the toy comes in is often more exciting than the toy itself! It handily provides your rabbit with something to chew on as well as something to hide in.
- Tubes - Drainage pipes and cardboard tubes make great toys for rabbits. They whizz through them, hide in them and will even reverse out of them if they meet something coming the other way! Omlet has designed the ingenious Zippi Rabbit Tunnel System plus fun play tunnels and rabbit shelters to give all bunnies more active, stimulating play.
- Chews and Gnaws - These items not only provide good stimulation for your pets, but have the added benefit of providing something for them to wear down their teeth on. Cutting fresh willow branches is great for chewing.
- Hanging Greens - Keep food off the ground and entertain your rabbits at the same time with the Caddi Rabbit Treat Holder from Omlet. The ideal way to feed fresh fruit and vegetables to your rabbits, the Caddi Treat Holder keeps food off the ground which is healthier for your pets, improves run cleanliness, reduces food wastage and keeps pests away.
- Unsuitable Objects - Avoid giving your rabbits any sharp objects or things they could get trapped in.
Rabbit toys provide your pets with a bit of much-needed variety.
Bringing Your Rabbit Indoors To Play
Depending on where in the world you live, rabbits are best kept outdoors. However, there are many owners that choose to keep them as in-house pets. Living outdoors gives them a much more natural lifestyle, but bringing them inside to handle them can be a useful way for your rabbit to get to know you better.
Rabbits aren't particularly keen on being carried large distances, so try to keep the trip from Eglu to inside as short as possible. Before you bring your rabbit inside though, there is a certain amount of rabbit-proofing that needs to be done. It’s not that they don't like the decoration in your house - it’s more that they have an insatiable urge to chew to keep their teeth short! Anything at ground level is a possible target for nibbling teeth. Carpets, curtains and wires are all also often shredded. Try not to make the mistake of bringing your rabbit inside and forgetting about it for a bit whilst answering the phone as you will probably come back to find a mess and no rabbit!
Make sure you keep the doors to the room closed so that there is no possibility of a sly escape attempt! Also, you will need to keep any other pets out of the room. Dogs and cats can be very dangerous for rabbits, even if your larger pet is just trying to be friendly.