The Beginners Guide to Caring for a New Pet Rabbit

If your child has just become the proud owner of a pet rabbit for the first time, the excitement is no doubt unbearable!  Your child will probably be enthusiastic to learn all about how to care for their new bunny so it’s a good idea to foster this and hand your child some of the responsibility of taking care of their pet.

At Rabbits.ie, we are asked some common questions about caring for a new pet rabbit, so in this blog we answer some of them.

Should my rabbit live Indoors or Outside? 

This depends on a number of things, like the time of year you get your rabbit and what age they are.    It is not recommended to keep very young babies outside in winter as they are more susceptible to the cold.  However, it’s actually getting wet that’s more dangerous than the cold for your bunny; if they get wet it will be impossible for them to keep warm during cold spells.   The importance of having a place to shelter should also not be underestimated – rabbits in the wild use their burrows to keep warm and dry.  All of our hutches at Rabbits.ie offer a cosy place for your bunny to shelter.

The ideal air temperature for rabbits is 10 to 20 degrees Celsius.  Most breeds are well insulated with their warm coat and this can help them withstand moderately cold temperatures.  So, when housing your rabbits outside its essential to make sure they have a draft free, dry hutch or house with plenty of warm bedding that they can snuggle into.  There are insulated hutch covers, which sit over your rabbit’s house, that some owners buy to protect against cold winter weather.

You might consider bringing your pet inside if there is a prolonged period of below freezing weather.  But if your bunny is used to being outside, be sure to place them in the coldest room in the house when you bring them in for a short time.  If your rabbit is living outdoors all year round she will have acclimatised, especially in Ireland.  Rabbits cope less well with heat than cold so if the temperature is above 25 degrees Celsius you are putting your rabbit in danger.

For summer time, be aware of the temperature and humidity on very hot days and move your rabbit to a cooler place.  You can minimise the chances of overheating by introducing a fan to the hutch or a bottle of frozen water for them to lie against.  Heatstroke is a possibility, especially in breeds with longer hair, and for older and younger rabbits.

What should I feed my pet rabbit?

Rabbits need a varied diet including hay, vegetables and pellets.  Hay is the most important food for your pet rabbit.  Hay keeps your rabbit’s digestion system healthy and helps keep their teeth filed down!  Hay is just grass that has been cut and left to dry out. It has the same health and digestive benefits that fresh grass does. If you don’t have access to hay you can purchase it from the Rabbits.ie store.

Rabbits also enjoy fresh vegetables, which have been washed to remove any potential pesticides.  The best herbs and vegetable to give bunny are greens such as coriander, bok choy, dill, mint, parsley, basil and romaine lettuce.  Funnily enough carrots should be an occasional treat as they are high in calcium.  Other tasty treats which can be given in very limited quantities are strawberries, bananas and apples.  Chocolate should never be given to a rabbit as its toxic!

A balanced diet should also include rabbit pellets which introduce additional fibre into your rabbit’s diet.  A low protein pellet is generally better as it limits obesity and other health issues for your bunny.

A source of fresh water is essential, at all times.  This can be provided in a bottle or bowl.  If you are away from home during the day and won’t be checking on your rabbit, then a bottle is probably better, as bowls can be kicked over or spilled, also creating a mess with bunny’s bedding!

Can I litter train my pet rabbit?

Yes!  Rabbits can be litter trained quite easily as they are inclined to pee and poop in one place.  So, in the early days try to encourage this and it will make life easier when it comes time to clean out your bunny’s hutch!

We recommend buying a cat litter tray instead of the bunny versions in the shops.  They are a much better size for most rabbits.  However, cat litter is not safe so use a bunny friendly version.  Many owners hang some hay near the litter tray to encourage bunny to use it.

How do I play with my rabbit?

Rabbits need some entertainment and stimulation.  They love to get outside a couple of times a day, in a safe and enclosed area.  Because bunnies can be fragile especially when young, it’s better for them to be played with on the floor, and this is a good option especially for younger children.

If there are long periods of time where your pet will be in the hutch, it’s important to provide some toys to keep your bunny from becoming bored.  Things like toilet roll tubes and cardboard boxes are great options as rabbits like to chew, buy you can also purchase lots of toys and activity products especially designed for rabbits.

Rabbits should also be groomed a few times a year to remove excess fur as a result of shedding.  The coat should be brushed through and hair disposed of, so your bunny doesn’t get sick because of ingesting a lot of excess hair.  You need to keep an eye on your rabbit’s nails, which can be easily clipped every once in a while, to ensure they don’t become too long and sharp.

We hope this article will help you when it comes to caring for your new pet rabbit! Visit our website for more information on looking after your bunny, as well as for all your pet supplies including hutches, bedding, food and accessories!