Tomorrow, September 27, marks International Rabbit Day, a day dedicated to our long-eared pals and their care! Much like the dogs and cats we dote on, rabbits are smart, curious, affectionate, and social. They can even be trained to do certain things like use a litter box or come when called!
When well cared for, rabbits can live for 7 to 10 years (or more), making them a solid companion animal and worthy investment of your time. They’re relatively inexpensive, with the only ongoing expenses being litter, food, chews/toys, and rare veterinary bills. And, the best part is, you can ADOPT them! There are often many rabbits in shelters just waiting for their forever homes.
Now, a few tips on their care. The most important part of a rabbit’s diet is grass hay, such as timothy or brome – they should have unlimited access to this, as it keeps their intestinal tract healthy. For added nutrition, however, they’ll need high quality pellets (it’s recommended to opt for a diet that’s 15-19% protein and 18% fiber.) If your rabbit is grown, feed them about 1/8 – 1/4 cup per day per five pounds of body weight; if they’re not yet fully grown, they can free feed. The last piece of this nutritional puzzle is fresh, leafy greens like collard greens, carrot tops, or other dark lettuces – recommended feeding is a minimum of 2 cups per 6 pounds of body weight. And, of course, constant access to fresh, clean water is a must!
While a commonly mundane chore, cleaning a rabbit’s cage is incredibly important to their well being, so be sure to empty out that old litter and clean the cage at least once a week, twice being optimal. If you notice your rabbit favoring a particular corner as their bathroom, try setting up a small newspaper-lined box in that corner, which will make cleaning their cage easier, prompting you to do it more often. Never use pine or cedar shavings for their cages, as the fumes can be bad for their livers.
Rabbits need veterinary check ups about once a year and should be spayed or neutered. And, like any other pet, pay attention to their food and water intake as well as their excrements – as these are all windows into your rabbit’s health.
Rabbits have varied personalities and getting to know yours is one of the best parts of being a rabbit owner! Make sure when handling your rabbit that you’re using, soft hands, supporting their rears so they feel safe, and talking in low, calm tones so as not to startle them. These simple care instructions should be all you need to get started with your pet rabbit, but if you’re curious about particular behaviors or specialty diets, consult your veterinarian!
We hope these tips are helpful, and as always, we’d love to see photos of you and your floppy-eared pals on our Facebook page!