Rabbits naturally hide illnesses from predators and so do our domestic rabbits. You need to pay close attention to your rabbit’s behavior and eating habits. If your rabbit is not eating/drinking/pooping/peeing, these are serious symptoms. Take your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy vet immediately. A change in either of these is a a sign to take your rabbit to the vet. Do not wait for the “illness” to pass, many issues are deadly and will cause death within 24 hours of onset.
Rabbits live 10+ years. Adopting a rabbit is a long-term commitment. Rabbits are high maintenance pets with expensive food, vet and housing bills. Feeding cheap food will lead to many health problems and will only increase your vet bills. Make sure you are READY for the long term.
Getting a rabbit
Don’t get a rabbit, get two rabbits. Rabbits will enjoy human company, but it is not the same as having a fellow fluffy friend to cuddle with, groom and clean each other. Your food and vet bills will double, but you rabbit will be happier.
Remember you will need to take them to the vet at 8 weeks old to check gender (never believe a pet store), no later to determine the sex. Rabbits can have babies from as early as 12 weeks old.
Males can be sterilized at 13 weeks old, or when their balls drop and females no earlier than 6 months old.
Unsterilized rabbits will fight.
Rabbits & Children
Rabbits are very fragile and at the best of times don’t like to be picked up but rather prefer to be petted on the ground.
However, young kids love to pick up bunnies and this is very risky due to rabbits backs being very fragile. If a rabbit kicks in the air whilst being picked up there is a chance that it could cause damage to the rabbit’s spine, leaving him/her paralyzed for life, with this, we suggest that rabbits are not given to kids as pets.
Rabbits also don’t always come when they are called and most don’t want to be cuddled. This could provoke the wrong type of behavior such as a child trying to hold a rabbit down, chasing the rabbit or cause a child to lose interest in their pet, leaving it lonely, and stuck in a cage for the rest of its life.
If adult is going to be the primary owner of the bunny, then it is suggested young kids only interact with the bunny under supervision. Make sure any youngsters in your family know how to handle your bunnies properly and are always supervised. Younger children should interact with rabbits while they’re sitting down, which makes it safer for them and for your pet.
Rabbits have amazing personalities, but will only reward you with affection on their terms (much like a cat). This is worth the patience and effort.
Rabbits need space
A hutch with a run extension is not adequate enough, rabbits need a large area to run, jump and binky. Keeping your rabbit in a hutch or a small confined space is detrimental to their health, as they easily become depressed and it will lead to very aggressive behavior. They are crepuscular which means they are active at dawn and dusk and therefor need adequate running space during these times.
It is easy to rabbit proof your home, to allow them to be free roaming rabbits
Cover all wires with protective cables.
Clear sellotape on your furniture corners will deter them from eating furniture.
Lots of chew toys such as willow sticks, hay balls, cardboard boxes to keep your rabbit entertained.
The average cost per bunny per month is R250
Average vet consultation is R400
Sterilization costs R1200 – R1600, so best is to support your local rescue who will have you rabbits sterilized already and a cost of no more than R500
Rabbits tend to hide their pain and illnesses because it is their natural instinct. First sign of illness is your rabbit refusing food, especially treats, hiding away and sitting hunched up. VET care is a must, treatment cannot wait, if a rabbit stops eating it will lead to stasis and sadly death within 24 hours.
Please read more on the “is you rabbit sick” tab.
It is very easy to litter train a rabbit, but you need to spay or neuter your rabbit first. It’s almost impossible to litter train an un-spayed or un-neutered rabbit.
Males can be sterilized from 14 weeks old, best to do it when their balls drop.
Females may only be spayed at 6 months old, doing this before is putting your rabbit at risk.
Litter tray items
Eco wood pellets (Fireplace Eco wood pellets)
Large litter box, the bigger it is the easier to litter train.
Do not use
Setting up the litter box
Line the bottom of the tray with a few sheets of newspaper
Add the eco wood pellets on top.
Add 3 or 4 sheets of newspaper on top of pellets
Add hay on top
Most effective, if you place the litter tray against a wall, and the hay on the side of the litter tray furthest from the wall. The reason for this is rabbits, like to have their backs protected and they always eat where they poop. So with the hay being at the front of the litter tray, it avoids them pooping and peeing over all the hay.
Top up the hay a few times a day, fresh hay encourages eating.
Changing the top sheets of newspaper daily.
Eco wood pellets need to be changed twice a week, or more frequently depending on how many bunnies are sharing a tray.
How to litter train your rabbit
When training your rabbit you will need to start them off in a small area, or a bedroom before giving the full reign of the house and preferably an area without carpet, but rather tiles where you can place washable anti slip mats or towels down for your rabbit to lie on.
Place towels or blankets on slippery floors
Trim your bunny’s nails to make it easier to walk on tiles
Place multiple litter boxes in the areas your rabbit is choosing to pee in
You will need to keep your rabbit in this confined space for a while. Your rabbit will urinate and poop outside the litter box for a while.
Pick up all stray poops and chuck them in the litter box.
If your rabbit is urinating outside the litter box, wipe the floor with vinegar and move the litter box into the area your rabbit has chosen to urinate in.
Cleaning up accidents as quickly as possible will be more beneficial to litter training.
Let the litter box stay a little dirtier than usual to encourage your rabbit to keep using it, changing the tray to quickly during training will make your rabbit think they are not supposed to use it.
Encourage your rabbit with a very tiny treat (one pellet) each time they use the litter box to urinate. Always talk to your rabbit positively when they use the litter box.
Once your rabbit is using the litter box fully, you can expand the area or give full reign of the house and having multiple litter boxes in each room your rabbits has access to, will provide for successful litter training.
If you catch your rabbit urinating outside their litter box, pick your rabbit up and place them in their litter box. Don’t shout at your rabbit, rather praise them once inside the litter box.
Rabbits should never be fed muesli mixes as they cannot properly digest corn, peas and seeds. The types of mixes are low in fibre and will lead to dental issues and deadly digestive disorders and a large nutritional deficiency. Feeding these mixes will shorten the life span of your rabbit.
Avoid cheap based pellets as these contain a large amount of alfalfa (Lucerne) which can cause bladder stones and other issues due to the high calcium content.
Feed your rabbit non muesli mixes such as Burgess Excel nuggets, oxbow rabbit food. These can be fed daily and in addition to hay and grass.
25 grams for a 1 kg rabbit, 37.5 grams for a 1.5 kg rabbit, 50 grams for a 2kg rabbit, 70 grams for a 3kg rabbit and so forth.
For pregnant, nursing or rabbits younger than 6 months of age, pellets should be available all day due rabbits requiring the extra calcium for development.
*Please note that these are guidelines. If you have questions about your pet’s daily feeding regimen, please contact your veterinarian for more specific feeding information.
Grass or hay contains a large amount of fibre which is vital for your rabbit’s digestive system whist also promoting good dental health. Rabbits teeth constantly grow and as such require large amounts to keep teeth trimmed. Not providing unlimited fresh hay or grass their teeth will over grow causing dental disorders, reduce eating and lead to deadly digestive issues.
Fresh hay or grass must be provided in unlimited quantities, available at all times and not be provided in compressed formats such as biscuits, pellets etc.
They will learn to love their hay and will be happier & healthier for it. Do not mistake straw for hay. Although rabbits may eat straw, it has no nutritional value. An average rabbit’s diet should consist of unlimited hay and grass, 1-2 cups safe veggies/greens, 1 egg cup quality, non-muesli pellets, tsp. of occasional fruit/treats.
Types of hay:
Timothy hay (Burgess UK brand provides this, which we have in stock), oat hay, teff hay and orchard grass.
Alfalfa (Lucerne) is not so much a hay but rather a legume, which contains a large amount of calcium, providing this to adult rabbits can lead to bladder stones, bladder sludge and other issues.
Alfalfa (Lucerne) can be provided in addition to hay to pregnant, nursing rabbits who need the calcium for development of their babies, or to baby rabbits younger than 6 months of age.
Please test that you don’t have allergies to hay before getting a rabbit, this is one of the main reasons that rabbits are dumped, rehomed or sent to shelters.
If you are unsure whether you have allergies to grass hay, buy a bag of grass hay (Timothy, teff and oat) and keep it open in your home to test for any reaction