Preparing for a new pet rabbit
Rabbits are a fine choice of pet for older children, providing an opportunity for the child to learn responsibility for another living creature, as well as the simple pleasure of being a pet owner. Before taking on a rabbit it is important to have gained an understanding of the care they require so that the adjustment is as smooth as possible for both you and your new bunny.
Indoors vs. outdoors - deciding which is best for you and your family
The decision of whether to keep your pet rabbit indoors or outdoors depends on your preference and your location. It may be more convenient for you to have the rabbit indoors if you spend little time outside, or you may prefer your rabbit to have constant access to grass, in which case outdoor housing would be best. Both options have pros and cons, the summary below may help you make the choice:
- Mess stays outside
- You may have more room outside to accommodate your rabbit as opposed to indoors
- If you set up the hutch on the ground the rabbit will have access to grass, and so you will not need to supply it with as many fresh greens etc.
- Risk of predators
- Enclosure will cost more than an indoor one
- Rabbit will be more exposed to the elements and harsh weather
- Rabbit can be easily forgotten and may not be checked as often as a rabbit that lives indoors, so illnesses may not be detected as quickly
- There will be less to clean if you train the rabbit to use a litter tray
- You may be more inclined to interact and play with it
- The rabbit will be less exposed to fluctuations in temperature and to extreme weather
- No risk of attack from predators
- The rabbit may chew things, such as wire or possessions left on the floor
- It may damage carpets by attempting to dig into the floor.
- Other pets may consider the rabbit as prey and might try to break into its run or chase it if it is loose in the house. This will cause stress and anxiety in the rabbit.
- Rabbit urine is pungent and they often urine-spray to mark their territory - this is easily corrected through neutering.
What to look for in a hutch
A rabbit needs to be able to stand upright in its hutch and be able to hop at least three times from one side to the next. The hutch also needs to protect the rabbit from the elements whilst allowing air to circulate. The outside should be part mesh and part covered in. Avoid placing the hutch in direct sunlight to avoid overheating.
How to set up an outdoor run
A rabbit requires daily exercise and grazing. An outdoor run should be provided that is secure; it should stop the rabbit from escaping and prevent predators from entering. It can be connected to the hutch, so the rabbit has free access to grass.
What to buy
The list below includes the essential items you need to purchase before you get your new pet rabbit home:
- Hutch + run
- Water bottle
- Chew toys
What sort of diets to have on hand
Pellets are more important for younger rabbits than adults; as they contain a higher amount of nutrients important for weight gain and growth. Rabbits require a constant supply of hay to provide fibre, and also need grass. They require fresh vegetables including root vegetables, which help to wear down their teeth, and dark leafy greens such as kale, watercress and cabbage. Avoid feeding too much alfalfa as this is high in calcium and could predispose to urolithiasis (bladder stones). Also avoid offering lettuce and make sure you don’t get too carried away with treats such as carrots!
Cleaning the hutch and run
You should aim to clean the hutch every day, and remove all the bedding and clean the hutch thoroughly once a week. Move the run to fresh pasture once the grass has been cropped short.