Learning the best rabbit care is an important part of welcoming this pet into your home.
Rabbits are social animals that need safe housing, daily exercise and mental stimulation.
You should handle your rabbit from a young age, to make grooming and interaction a lot easier.
Recognising signs of illness and unhappiness are also key for rabbit care.
Let’s take a closer look at how to take care of rabbits, so you’re fully prepared for this new pet.
- Rabbit supplies checklist
- Food and diet
- Exercise needs
- Enrichment and mental stimulation
- Vet checks
- Learning bunny behavior
Rabbit Care Supplies Checklist
Before getting a rabbit, you will need to make sure you have suitable products and accessories available.
Pet rabbits often live over 10 years, so you’ll need to be prepared to offer the best rabbit care for a long time.
In fact, the oldest rabbit in the world lived to be over 18 years old!
Creating a list of the absolutely essential items you need is a great way to make sure you don’t forget anything.
So, here’s a list of everything you must have before you bring a rabbit home.
- Hutch/rabbit cage (if you don’t have a house rabbit!)
- Water bottle or bowl
- Food bowl
- Litter tray and rabbit-safe litter (for house rabbits)
- Toys and chew toys
- Grooming tools
- Rabbit carrier
- Pet-safe cleaning supplies
Some of these rabbit care supplies will depend on how you’re planning to keep your rabbit.
For example: will you have a house rabbit, or are you going to keep your rabbit in a hutch?
Rabbit Care: Housing
Housing is one of the most important parts of rabbit care. You first need to decide whether you will be keeping your bunny in a hutch or whether they will be a house rabbit.
Because the housing you’ll choose will be very different!
Lots of people decide to keep house rabbits rather than buying a hutch.
The pros of this choice are that your rabbit gets lots of space to exercise, plenty of social interaction and bonding with you, and there is a higher chance of noticing quickly when something is wrong with your bunny.
But, rabbits can be messy, can chew things they shouldn’t, often make a lot of noise at night, and won’t suit homes with other large pets, like cats and dogs.
If you choose a house rabbit, you won’t need to buy a hutch. But, you will need to spend time and money completely rabbit-proofing your home.
Make sure there is nothing dangerous they can chew on or swallow, like wires.
You will also need to create a dedicated sleeping area for your bunny. Rabbits love to burrow in dens, so will need somewhere secluded and quiet to sleep during the day and at night.
If you’re choosing a house rabbit, you might want to invest in some baby gates, so you can keep your rabbit safe in just a couple of rooms.
It’s worth noting the cleaning needs of house rabbits. Rabbits are intelligent animals that can be taught to use litter trays.
But, you must use a rabbit-safe litter, and make sure to clean this out regularly.
You should also be aware of the risk that your bunny could go to the toilet in other parts of your home. So, you may have to clean this up!
The alternative to a house rabbit is one that is kept in a hutch. This could be an indoor hutch, or an outdoor hutch – there’s plenty of choice.
The pros of this type of housing are: practicality, ease of cleaning, and can keep your bunny safely outdoors.
But, it makes interacting and bonding with your rabbit harder, it can be expensive to buy the best size and products, and if your hutch breaks, you will need to replace it straight away.
The best hutch will have a separate compartment for your rabbit to use as a den to sleep in.
You should buy your rabbit the biggest hutch possible, especially if you have more than one rabbit, to keep your bunny happy and healthy. But, you will also need to give it time to exercise and run around on top of this.
So, you might want to invest in a playpen for your rabbit too.
Here are some of the best rabbit hutches and cages for you to consider.
Just like house rabbits, hutched rabbits will need their homes cleaned.
You should generally clean your rabbit’s hutch once a week. But, keep an eye on your bunny, as you may need to clean it more often.
If you have more than one rabbit, you are also likely to have to clean them out more often.
Rabbit Care: Food and Diet
The next most important rabbit care element is their food and diet. Rabbits have specific dietary requirements that are important for their digestive health, but also their dental health.
So let’s take a closer look.
Hay and Grass
The majority of your rabbit’s diet should be made up of hay and grass. Your rabbit needs constant access to hay or grass, not only for its fiber content, but also to help grind down their ever-growing teeth.
This is important, as overgrown teeth can contribute to dental disease and abscesses in your rabbit.
Only give your rabbit freshly picked or growing grass. As, it can decompose and lose nutrients very quickly.
Leafy Greens and Veggies
Alongside hay, you can also feed your rabbit a selection of leafy greens and fresh vegetables.
Make sure you have checked that any ‘human’ food you are giving your rabbit is safe for your bunny to eat first.
And, wash everything thoroughly to remove any possible pesticides.
Pellets or Muesli Mixes
Pellet rabbit food is okay to provide alongside you rabbit’s daily hay allowance. But you should never use muesli-type pet foods.
Rabbits are concentrate selectors. So, they will eat the tastiest parts of the food and leave the rest.
This means, on a muesli regime, your rabbit will not be getting a full, balanced diet.
And don’t completely replace hay or grass with pellets. Pellets alone don’t help with digestion and grind down teeth as well as unlimited access to hay does.
Fruits can be offered as an occasional treat for your rabbit. But, check they are safe first. We have plenty of great guides to help you with this.
Rabbit Care: Exercise Needs
Good rabbit care involves providing time and space for exercise. Rabbits need this to stay happy and healthy.
If you want to exercise your rabbit outside, you might want to buy a playpen. You can get them in a huge variety of sizes, and could even sit inside one with your rabbit to bond and interact.
It is important to watch over your rabbit if you are putting him in an outside playpen. You need to keep him safe from any potential predators.
These playpens are also a great way of offering your rabbit time to graze on grass in your yard.
If you are keeping your rabbit in a hutch, playpens offer additional space for them to get the exercise they need. And, if your rabbit is kept in the house, it can be a fun way to mix up their exercise environment!
Enrichment and Mental Stimulation
Rabbit care also involves making sure your rabbit is happy and getting enough mental stimulation. Rabbits are social, intelligent animals. So they need regular company, interaction, and entertainment.
Rabbits are very social. So, it is best to keep pet rabbits in pairs or small groups. This can prevent a single rabbit from becoming lonely and depressed if it does not have enough company.
On top of this, your rabbits will need toys and activities to keep them from becoming bored.
These could be in the form of chew toys (to help grind down those teeth!). Or it could be balls, tubes to run through, or something more interactive.
Rabbit Care: Grooming
An important part of how to care for a rabbit involves looking after their fur, ears, and teeth.
Rabbits shed their fur every few months. And this can range from a light, hardly noticeable shedding, to a very heavy one.
Bunnies clean themselves, just like cats. So, they can be prone to hairballs. But, they cannot vomit these up.
So watch out for any stomach swelling, and take your rabbit to the vet if you notice any abnormalities, or refusal to eat.
Rabbit Care: Handling
Many parts of rabbit care, such as grooming, require you to pick up your rabbit and hold him. So, your rabbit needs to get used to be handled by you.
Make sure you handle your rabbit from a young age, so that he is comfortable with you. You can pick your rabbit up and feed him on your lap to help him feel safe.
Then, your rabbit will be happier and trusting when you need to groom him or perform any other checks.
Rabbit Care: Vet Check Ups
An important part of rabbit care that is sometimes overlooked is the importance of check ups at the vet.
Obviously there will be routine check ups, but also you should consult your vet if you think anything is wrong with your rabbit.
Or, if you aren’t sure that you’re giving him the best possible lifestyle.
Your vet is the best person to talk to, as they have a wealth of knowledge and tools. But, they can also look at your individual situation and problems.
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying or neutering your rabbit will mean that you are at no risk of a litter of babies. Plus, you won’t have to worry if you have rabbits of different sexes.
Many vets and societies will recommend that you get your rabbit spayed or neutered between 3 and 6 months old.
This process can alter your rabbit’s personality and make them much calmer and happier around other bunnies. Which can be a great solution if your rabbits are fighting.
Recognising Rabbit Behaviors
Rabbit care isn’t just about providing all the right things. It is also about knowing your rabbit, and recognising when something is wrong.
This can help you to make sure any problems in your rabbit are addressed and solved early on, rather than letting them develop into something more serious.
Learn about your rabbit’s body language so you can speak to your vet if you are ever worried.
Signs of an unhappy rabbit can include:
- Flattened ears
- Tense bodies
- Showing their front teeth
So, if you’re noticing these behaviors in your rabbits, you may need to change something about their rabbit care.
A happy rabbit will have a twitching nose and a relaxed body.
They will show curiosity to the things and events around them, and will hop around their home.
If your rabbit is acting like this, well done!
Rabbit Care: Summary
Overall, there are a lot of elements to consider when looking at rabbit care. It can seem overwhelming, but don’t panic!
If you dedicate time and care to your rabbit, the bond and relationship you get back will be worth it.
What’s your favorite thing about taking care of your rabbit? Did you choose to have a house rabbit, or keep yours in a hutch?
Let us know your bunny stories in the comments!
References and Resources
- Meredith, A. ‘The Importance of Diet in Rabbits’, Fur and Feather (2007)
- Meredith, A. ‘Rabbit Nutrition – An Overview’, Vet Times (2011)
- Guinness World Records, ‘Oldest Rabbit Ever’
- Parr, D. & Holt, S. ‘The Effects of Routine Veterinary Appointments on Rabbit Welfare’, British Veterinary Nursing Association Congress (2019)
- Meredith, A. (et al), ‘Impact of Diet on Incisor Growth and Attrition and the Development of Dental Disease in Pet Rabbits’, Journal of Small Animal Practice (2015)
- Rooney, N. (et al), ‘The Current State of Welfare, Housing and Husbandry of the English Pet Rabbit Population’, BMC Research (2014)
- Clauss, M. ‘Evidence-Based Rabbit Housing and Nutrition’, Veterinary Clinics: Exotic Animal Practice (2017)
- Hedley, J. ‘Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Ferrets: Neutering and Avoiding Complications’, BVASA Congress Proceedings (2016)