Whether you’ve just brought your new furry friend home or are planning to become a bunny parent, we’re sure that you must be excited at the thought of this fluffy new addition to your family. You might also be wondering what to expect when it comes to taking care of rabbits.
Despite being considered low-maintenance, rabbits have some very unique needs and characteristics that every bunny parent should learn about.
To help you, we have written a rabbit care guide that covers everything from understanding rabbit behavior to the correct rabbit diet, from common health issues in rabbits to housing rabbits, and much more. Read on to learn all about your new fluffy companion.
With 50 recognized rabbit breeds - each with their own unique personality - new bunny parents have plenty of bunnies to get to know and choose from.
By learning about the different breeds, you can get a hint as to what to expect when bringing one of these fluffy friends home. However, every bunny is different, and even the calmest of rabbits may need time to adjust and feel comfortable around their new hooman family.
Rabbit Differences by Size
One thing that breed can tell you is the expected size of the rabbit, which usually falls into the three distinctive categories: small, medium, and large.
One of the smallest breeds is the Netherland Dwarf rabbit, which weighs no more than 2.5lb (1.1kg) and is as long as 9in (23cm). These bunnies also stand out for their kitten-like small ears!
Medium-sized rabbits like the Californian rabbit, instead, tend to weigh around 6lbs (2.72kg) to 8lbs (3.6kg).
While some of the biggest domestic rabbits around, like the Flemish Giant, can weigh anything between 10lb to 20lb (4.5kg-9kg) and reach a stunning length of about 2.5ft (76cm). But never judge a book by its cover, as their sweet temperament has earned them the title of ‘Gentle Giants’.
Since Dwarf rabbits are so light in weight, they’re generally more active and passionate high jumpers than their larger counterparts. But you can expect every bunny to have the tendencies of an athlete in training!
The Lifespan of Rabbits
On average, house rabbits can live between 8 to 12 years. So keep this in mind when deciding whether a rabbit is the right pet for you, as they require a long-term commitment on your part.
One World Record winning bunny even made it to the ripe old age of 18 years old!
This means many years of care and attention but also an a-bun-dance of cuddles for the foreseeable future.
Interacting with Rabbits
While some breeds may find it easier to warm up to people than others, all rabbits can make loving and affectionate pets.
Once they learn to trust their hooman, you might find them cuddled up by your side, giving you licks or nibbles as they attempt to 'groom' you. Just like they would with a fellow bunny!
Remember that since rabbits are prey animals in the wild, they will take some time to get used to your presence and understand that you will never do them any harm. Patience is key!
How to Pair Rabbits Together
In the wild, rabbits live together in a warren, creating large family groups that can reach up to 30 rabbits. While we don't expect bunny parents to adopt a whole colony, it's important that even pet rabbits have some company.
This companionship is key to their wellbeing, as it encourages their natural foraging behavior and helps them stay active.
The best way to successfully pair bunnies together is with neutering, as it reduces the chances of aggressive behavior. Matching a neutered male with a neutered female is most likely to work out, but if they’ve been introduced at a young age, the rabbits might bond regardless of their sex (as long as they’re neutered once they’re older!).
Introducing one rabbit to another should be a gradual process, done under close supervision and, ideally, in a space that neither are familiar with.
The first thing you need to learn about rabbit nutrition is that rabbits eat twice. Once food has been digested, their body absorbs most nutrients except for fiber. So their digestive system breaks it down into special droppings called cecotropes.
Since the fiber has now been fermented, the rabbits can complete their meal by eating these droppings to absorb the rest of the nutrients. So don't be alarmed if you see your bunny eat this way as it's completely normal!
The Right Diet for Pet Rabbits
The correct rabbit nutrition is made up of a good mixture of hay, grass, fresh veggies, a small portion of dry food, wild plants, and plenty of water.
Providing the right diet to your bunny isn't just important to their digestive system, it's also essential to their dental health. In fact, a rabbit's teeth are constantly growing and food is what maintains them at the right length and shape!
So let's see in more detail what makes up a balanced diet for a rabbit.
Hay and Grass
Hay and grass should be key components of your rabbit’s diet. Due to their high fiber content, they’re a great way to keep their gut and dental health in check.
Your bunny will enjoy nothing more than having plenty of grass to graze on. Just make sure to avoid recently mowed grass as it would have already begun fermenting, and can upset their tummy.
Since fresh grass is not always readily available, hay makes a great alternative that is just as nutritious.
Pro tip: Keeping your hay above floor level with a hay sack avoids dust while also making it easy to access for your bunny.
Fresh vegetables & fruit
Fruit and root vegetables aren't really part of the diet of a wild rabbit (yep, a rabbit's love for carrots is actually a myth!).
You can give them small amounts of safe veggies and fruit like carrot or apple as a treat but make this occasional as this type of food is rich in sugar.
While there is plenty of dry food for rabbits to be found in stores, nuggets or pellets should never make up a big portion of your rabbit's nutrition.
A small portion of this food is packed with nutrients so most rabbits won’t need more than 0.8oz (25g) per 2.2lb (1kg) of their body weight. If you give them more, you risk unbalancing their diet and could even affect their behavior by reducing how often they’d normally feed!
Offering safe wild plants to your rabbit from time to time will encourage their natural foraging behavior. Some examples of safe plants are dandelion, thistle, chickweed, and blackberry/bramble leaves.
You can go out foraging for your bunny to find them some delicious and safe plants to munch on, but make sure to check that these are free from pesticides.
Your bunny should have access to clean drinking water at all times. Without it, they could become seriously ill!
If you house your rabbits outdoors, remember to check their water twice a day in winter to ensure it hasn’t frozen and is still drinkable.
Wild rabbits enjoy spending hours grazing and foraging. Since your house bunny is so similar to their wilder counterparts, they will enjoy these activities just as much.
You can expect to see your bunny munching on something quite frequently, especially at dawn and dusk. As such, make sure that they always have access to good-quality hay and grass!
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should close an eye on overeating as rabbits can suffer from being overweight just as any other pet. The correct amount they should eat will vary depending on their health, age, and lifestyle.
It’s important that you give your bunny plenty of room to jump, binky, dig, and stretch their legs every day.
If you decide to house your bunny indoors, not only will you have better control over their safety, but you can still meet their needs by following a few simple tips.
How to House Rabbits Indoors
A great way to house your bunnies indoors without restricting their daily activity is to let them roam freely.
This doesn’t mean to let them go everywhere unsupervised, but rather to create a bunny-safe space in your home. One that is free from any dangerous plants and wires they can’t wait to nibble on!
The ideal solution would be to combine a spacious area for exercise with a safe enclosure where they can comfortably rest. Since rabbits are prey animals, they will appreciate having a space where they can hide, regardless of how much they might now trust you.
You can make this happen by bunny-proofing a room in your home (potentially using a barrier to keep them out of trouble!) and adding a bunny cage right next to it. Keep the cage open to allow them to hop in and out as they please.
Cages for House Rabbits
Even free-roaming rabbits will benefit from having access to a suitable cage. There, they can rest, find a safe hiding space, and be securely kept when you can't supervise them or are busy cleaning the room.
You can find plenty of options at Kavee to house your bunnies without making them feel like they've been squeezed into a tight space. Even if they only spend a few hours a day in that cage, they should be able to move freely!
Taking Rabbits Outside
Regardless of how much your bunny might now be a homebody, they’ll still benefit from spending time venturing outdoors.
You can use an outdoor playpen to secure a space in your garden where they can freely forage and play. This can keep them away from dangerous objects and plants, while also protecting them from predators.
Make sure that you place your outdoor playpen for rabbits on grass that has not been contaminated by pesticides or recently mowed.
Exercise and Enrichment for Rabbits
If there’s one thing that rabbits don’t like, is to have nothing to do. A bored rabbit isn’t a healthy rabbit, as mental stimulation and daily exercise are key to their wellbeing. But here’s the good news: entertaining your bunny doesn’t take much!
How to Entertain Rabbits
Make sure you can provide your bunny with a spacious area where they can zoom, binky, and hop to their heart's content. There, you can add fun accessories like tunnels, ramps, and boxes to make their daily runs and jumps more exciting.
Rabbits love to shred and chew on things, and anything that kicks off their foraging or digging instincts works a treat.
As always, make sure that wherever you decide to keep your bunny entertained and active is free from dangerous objects or animals.
How to Bond With a Rabbit
As much as their cuteness makes them ear-resistible and you might be ready for some bunny cuddles, it’s important that you give your new furry companion time to get used to your presence.
As prey animals in the wild, rabbits are wary little creatures who are always on the alert for dangers. Even seeing your hand reaching out for them from above can be quite scary!
Patience is key and being present is really important, especially at the beginning. Since they spend so much time eating, the way to their heart is definitely through their stomach.
As you keep bringing over such delicious food, they’ll learn to associate your presence with something positive (and tasty!). Combine that with some fun playtime, and you’re sure to become the best of buddies!
How to Handle a Rabbit
Once you notice that your bunny is relaxed and comfortable in your presence, you can try to pick them up for the first time. Approach them with calm, and stay at ground level, talking quietly to avoid scaring them off.
When you pick up a rabbit, you should be gentle yet firm, with one hand supporting the hind legs and another placed under the chest, holding them securely against your body (without squeezing!).
If at any point your rabbit shows signs of being uncomfortable, put them down gently, ensuring they don't fall from a high place.
It might be frustrating to have to be so patient but before you know it, your bunny will be the one to initiate contact!
Rabbit Behaviors and Socialization
While your bunny can't directly tell you how they're feeling and what they need, you can learn about some of the common rabbit behaviors to better understand them.
When your bunny is happy, they’ll show it with their own little dance known as a ‘binky’.
They’ll leap in the air and twist their body, sometimes repeating this movement a few times in a beautiful display of excitement!
Like any wild rabbit, your pet bunny will enjoy nothing more than to spend hours digging somewhere.
It's important to give them opportunities where they can act out this natural behavior. If this can't be done in your garden, you can provide them with a digging box or sandpit at home.
Yep, rabbits thump their hind legs exactly like you see in cartoons! This behavior is a way for your bunny to warn others of nearby dangers.
While your bunnies can now benefit from having you as their personal chef, they'll still love to forage.
You can encourage this behavior by hiding some of their grass and hay around their enclosure, and occasionally treating them to some safe foraged wild plants.
Like cats, bunnies also like to mark what’s theirs by rubbing their chin on it. This will leave their scent on it and yes, it’s likely that they’ll try it on you too!
Nudging and nipping
Your bunny may not be able to speak but they know how to get your attention. They’ll either nudge you or give you a few little nips to say ‘hey, look at me!’.
They might also do this as a way to ask you to stop petting them, or nibble you to keep you out of their territory.
If the nibbling persists, you can try shrieking every time it happens to discourage them from it.
Purring and flopping
Another way for your bunny to show how happy and relaxed they are, is by flopping on their side or purring.
A rabbit can 'purr' by grinding their teeth to create a vibration, and it can be a sign of contentment, especially if combined with a relaxed pose.
However, any louder, frequent purring that is matched with a tense pose might be a sign of pain and should be checked by your vet.
Screaming and growling
Bunnies growl as a way to show aggression. This is a common territorial response, so you might hear it if you end up invading their space when they wish to be left alone.
If you hear screaming, though, then your bunny needs to visit the vet immediately as it’s usually a sign of extreme pain.
How to Care For a Rabbit
Besides following the right diet, there are a few things you should watch out for and do to raise a happy and healthy rabbit.
Neutering a Rabbit
Uncastrated males and unspayed females have a higher chance of developing serious health conditions that could shorten their lifespans.
By neutering your rabbits, you not only limit the chances of your females getting pregnant (which brings other health risks!), you also make it easier for your rabbits to bond with one another by reducing aggression.
Preventing Sore Hocks
Your bunnies are constantly moving and with time, they might develop sores under their feet and hocks. It’s important that you check on them regularly to promptly relieve them from discomfort.
These are the common signs of sore hocks in rabbits:
- Fur that is shorter than normal or thinning out
- Big bald patch
- Reddish or dark pink skin
You can help prevent sore hocks in rabbits by opting for soft bedding, keeping their living area clean, and monitoring their weight to avoid obesity.
Dental Care for Rabbits
A rabbit’s teeth grow at an impressive rate and should be checked by you every week.
The best way to care for their teeth is by providing the right food and chew toys to your bunny, as these will keep them in the correct shape and length. If any teeth appear to have overgrown, you should visit the vet as they can safely trim them.
Signs of Distress in Rabbits
If your bunny is in pain, scared or stressed, they might display any of the following signs:
- Frequently hiding away
- Aggressive behavior
- Chewing cage bars
- Lack of movement
- Unusual feeding habits
These rabbit behaviors are not normal and they might indicate that something is up, so make sure you bring your fluffy friend to the vet for a visit.
How to Groom a Rabbit
Good fur health is just as important. Make sure that your bunny’s coat stays in great condition by grooming them as frequently as the length of their fur requires it: once a week for short-haired bunnies and once a day for long-haired bunnies.
If your rabbit is shedding, then they might need a more frequent groom. This is because any build-up of fur that gets ingested could slow down their gut.
Rabbits can’t vomit hairballs like cats and so will need your help to avoid this! You can get a set of grooming brushes to care for any knots and matted hair as often as needed.
On top of a good brush, you should also check their nails on a weekly basis. You’ll be able to tell if your bunny’s nails are too long if they’re no longer level with their fur, or if your rabbit moves in an unusual way.
You can trim their nails by using a pair of nail clippers for rabbits. To start, identify the quick (where their blood vessel is located) and trim just above it. If you’re not sure where the quick is, try to use a torchlight to help you spot it!
We hope that reading this rabbit care guide has made you even more excited to bring a bunny home with you. While they might have some needs that are at times complex, rabbits make such bunderful companions that every task is worth it - especially when you get a happy binkying bunny at the end of it!
If you’re looking for products that meet your bunny’s needs and guarantee your rabbit’s health and hoppiness, then check out Kavee’s range of rabbit care products and cages. Each one has been designed by passionate pet parents like you to help your bunny thrive in life.