Rabbit care basics

I am a qualified vet nurse but if you are thinking of getting a rabbit please do your homework and read lots of information about their care first. This blog post will just focus on basic food and housing. You’ll still need to read up on rabbit handling, bonding, vaccinations and care in general. 
Rabbits are really great and easy pets and are fun for the whole family. Rabbits are very easy to look after and do not require a huge amount of special attention (with regards to food and housing) but there are some things you should consider before you get a rabbit.
First decide what type of breed you want; a small, medium or large bunny. One just as a pet or maybe for showing, breeding or eating.
You need to decide if you want a baby rabbit to bring up or one that is a rehome so might be older. The SPCA has loads of lovely rabbits that need loving homes.
Do you want a male or female rabbit? If you have a male; they can be more aggressive and so might need a friend or need de-sexing. Though my current bunny has been known to bite and scratch people so don’t think all females (or all rabbits) are lovely docile creatures.
Before you bring your rabbit home you’ll need adequate housing. This might be a cage in your home that the rabbit can then free range around your house or you’ll need a cage outside. This cage will need to have a sleeping section as well as a run. It will need to be large enough so your rabbit can exercise properly. Obviously a bigger rabbit needs a bigger run. Our last rabbit was a mini loop and only weight 1.5kg so she didn’t need a very big cage though we also let her run around the house to stretch her legs. The rabbit I have now is a Flemish giant (about 6 kgs) and so she needs loads of space.
I have a rabbit tractor that I move around the lawn every day so Nijntje has access to fresh grass every day. You can also have your rabbit in a stationary run. Just make sure the hutch is cleaned out regularly and that you provide plenty of green for your rabbit to eat. You may decide to free range your bunny around your yard. This is a wonderful option and if you do make sure they are safe from cats and dogs and has a secure sleeping area for night time.
For your rabbit’s bedding use hay, straw or shredded newspaper but not sawdust, and clean this out regularly as it can get mouldy quickly. Also provide extra hay so that your rabbit can nibble on it. Add extra bedding in the winter time to keep your rabbit warm. I even put a heavy wool blanket over the rabbit’s cage when it’s super cold.
Rabbit also need stimulation and love to play with toys. This can be balls, pine cones, steps, light containers they can throw around, toilet rolls or anything else you think of to help entertain your rabbit.    
Rabbits cannot survive on kitchen scraps alone and you’ll need to buy proper rabbit pallets. I buy rabbit muesli since it contains rabbit pallets plus seeds, nuts and corn in it. I feel it is better for them than just the pallets. Give fresh pallets every day in a heavy bottomed bowl so the rabbit can’t knock it over. You’ll need to supplement your rabbits pallets with leafy greens as they shouldn’t just be given pallets and nothing else.

Rabbits will eat most vegetables and herbs that we can eat. I give loads of greens in the from of grass (rabbits need lots and lots of fresh grass every day), silverbeet, spinach, grape, broccoli and cauliflower leaves and whatever other greens I have around the home. My rabbit loves weeds such as dock, plantain and dandelions. A few times a week I also give her a carrot (especially tops she loves them) and sometimes an apple. John often feeds her flowers and leaves through her cage which she loves to take from his hand. However contrary to popular belief you shouldn’t give rabbits lettuce it’s fine in small quantities but you feed them other greens as well. 
Don’t feed your rabbit cabbage, parsnips, swedes, or any nightshade plants ie potatoes or leaves or tomato leaves. Most flowers are not safe for rabbits so it’s best to keep rabbits out of your garden and if you’re unsure of what to feed them figure if it’s a fruit or vegetable and you’d eat it then it is probably safe for your rabbit too. 
You’ll need to provide fresh water for your rabbit. I use a pet sipper bottle attached to the side of her cage. This water needs to be clean and checked everyday. 
Most of all enjoy your new friend and play with them every day. The more rabbits are handled the more they will give back.

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