Welcome to the wonderful world of rabbits! Whether you are doing your research (kudos!) or just brought your bunny home, we know you might have some questions! We decided to create this section of our website with our new fosters and adopters in mind, or even for our adopters who have had bunnies before but they're looking for a refresh on rabbit care or where we recommend purchasing supplies! While we don’t mind answering questions (we love them!), sometimes we know that you’re looking for information quickly. We’re hoping that this will help be a one stop shop for any information you may be looking for! Shopping List For Your Bunny Here's our handy shopping list to use while you're at the store! For more information on the "why's" for these recommendations click on the questions below. • Habitat (6-8 panel dog exercise pen or large cage (over 45 inches in length)) • Litterbox (large cat size works best (no top)) • Litter (paper-based unscented pellet preferred, no clumping cat litters or cedar shavings) • Water bottle or large bowl • Food bowl • Pellet food (no "mix-ins" minimum 20% fiber, recommend Oxbow Adult Essentials) • Grass hay (timothy and/or orchard grass hay are top choices, you will need a large bag! Try to get lbs instead of oz) • Toys (look for things that have willow, hay, wood chews, NO seeds/mineral or salt blocks) • Treats (Oxbow treats are great, look for hay based, no yogurt, see our treat cheat sheet here) • Carrier (top-loading preferred, i.e Petmate Two Door Top Load Dog & Cat Kennel) What type of housing do you recommend? Even if your goal is to eventually let your rabbit free-roam, it's always a good idea for your rabbit to have its own space or "bedroom" to itself, especially in the beginning as they get used to the sights, sounds, and smell of your home. When a bun first comes home, it's best to let them roam under direct supervision for the first few times to verify that all the areas they have access to have been adequately "bunny-proofed" and they can stay in their habitat when you're away or sleeping. The easiest, quickest, and most convenient setup is an exercise pen. It’s super easy to clean and you can position it pretty much anywhere. It's also the most cost-effective for the square footage vs. a store-bought cage. You can purchase vinyl flooring remnants to put over your floor in case of accidents (just make sure the edges go 3-5 more inches beyond the exercise pen so they won’t be as tempted to nibble!). For some bunnies who aren’t a big fan of the slippery vinyl, you can also purchase a cheap rug from Dollar General, 5 Below, or carpet squares from Dollar Tree to put over it. You can also get a large 6x8 foot outdoor rug from Home Depot that can be cut to fit any size habitat or left full size. Some of our fosters like to have gym foam underneath for extra padding! The picture to the right is one of our fosters 'free roam' set ups for their trio of bunnies. Features the outdoor rug from Home Depot, our favorite hay feeder type to make (see hay question below for information on how to make your own!), 2 Ikea Duktig beds next to each other, Willow twig tunnel & assorted toys, and a cat scratcher house from Target (the bunnies don't chew it heavily). Breeds such as mini-rexes have thinner fur on their feet and will need thicker padding to prevent sore hocks. You can read our article on types of housing for mini rexes, special needs, or escape artists here. You can also add a border for the pen such as pavers or bricks, or a frame made of 1x1s, to keep busy bunnies from moving the pen. A rabbit's habitat size should be a MINIMUM of their length flopped + 2 more of their flopped length, they should also be able to lay comfortably width wise (at least 1 flopped length + some) and stand upright without issue. So if your rabbit is around 14 inches flopped their habitat size would need to be 42 inches long, 20 inches wide, and at least 24 inches tall, but when in doubt bigger is always better. You can get an exercise pen that is 16 square feet for around $30 from Amazon or Chewy which is a much better price than a larger cage which would be anywhere from $50 to $100 more to get a similar amount of floorspace. Most small to medium rabbit's can be housed comfortably in that type of exercise pen. Large and XL rabbits may need an exercise pen with more panels OR two exercise pens connected. The Prevue cage that's 48" long would be a good option for homes with dogs that may not be trust-worthy around the bunny yet, or smaller breeds of rabbits. Click here to learn why we recommend the habitat size we do and why we recommend exercise pens over cages! Bunny Proofing Your Home Bunny or Rabbit proofing is a must-do for rabbit owners in order to help prevent bunnies from chewing or destroying things in your home. Rabbits can be quite destructive if they get bored, so the trick is making sure they have a good variety of toys rotated in and out but you especially want to go ahead and bunny proof your home before any damage occurs. Bunny proofing helps to keep your home "safe" but more importantly helps to keep your rabbit safe from chewing on anything dangerous. Here are a few websites and also a great video we recommend checking out if you're new to bunnies and need to bunny proof your home. House Rabbit Society's Bunny Proofing Article - This is a good overview with FAQs on the basics of bunny proofing and mentions the most popular areas rabbits target and goes over the best method for preventing. Long Island Rabbit Rescue's Bunny Proofing Article - This article lists out best bunny proofing methods according to specific problem/solution. It has a little more variety for some of the things to try, especially with specific types of furniture. My House Rabbit's Bunny Proofing Article - They have more pictures for creative methods to try, and also link to a blog they made about specifically trying to bunny proof a Victorian house that had a lot of wood paneling. Definitely check this out if you have an older home with lots of potentially bunny chew-able wood! There's also a bunny proofing supply list down at the bottom with links to things to purchase. BunnyProof.com - An entire website dedicated to bunny proofing your home! Lots of articles dedicated to specific subjects and links to destructive toys to try out with your rabbit as well as different housing solutions. What litterbox and litter should I use? For most rabbits we recommend using large cat litterboxes. Corner litterboxes fill up much quicker and do not leave much room for error, and aren’t very inviting due to their smaller size. Most bunnies prefer to nibble and eat while they poop so you can also put hay in their litterbox piled up to one side of a large cat litterbox, and we have a few recommendations for a hay feeder. Bonus: this also helps contain the hay, which makes cleanup even easier! We recommend paper pellet litter such as Yesterdays News or Exquisicat, just make sure to get the kind that is unscented and does not contain baking soda. Typically the paper pellet litter is a pretty economical choice compared to small animal bedding choices. You typically will fill the litterbox with 1-3 inches of litter, and you can put a small layer of hay over the top and then pile up some hay for them to eat on one side. We typically recommend cleaning the litterbox out every 3-5 days at first, since if you clean it too frequently it may confuse them as to where they’re supposed to use the bathroom and they’ll have more accidents outside the box. Rabbits are pretty territorial, and you may notice that after you completely clean your rabbits area or litterbox they like to leave a few poops around to “mark” their territory. Cleaning the litterbox or their area too frequently it may cause them to constantly feel like their need to mark their territory. Keep in mind, even if your new rabbit has had great litterbox habits before it came to your home, it may take your bunny up to a month to get back to that point, but most usually get back on track within about 1 to 2 weeks. If your rabbit is having issues with using their litterbox, click here to read our article on things you can try. We do not recommend using pine or cedar shavings in your rabbits habitat. Softwood shavings such as pine and cedar have been linked to causing health issues in rabbits including liver and respiratory issues. For more information click here: "The Dangers of Softwood Shavings" by Dr. George Flentke. What food do you recommend and how much hay should they eat? A rabbits diet should primarily should consist of unlimited, good quality hay, such as timothy or orchard grass. Pellets are only meant for getting micronutrients and trace minerals that may or may not be present in hay from season to season. Because of this, pellets are not the center of a rabbits diet and should only make up a small portion of their diet (less than 10%) depending on how much greens they are getting. We feed and recommend using Oxbow brand rabbit food pellets, typically adult unless specified otherwise. Most rabbits will receive ¼ cup of pellets, but depending on size, activity level, or if its a pair a smaller or larger amount may be recommended. Please refer to your adoption or foster packet to see the amount they have been receiving while with us. Other brands of pellets that we recommend include: Small Pet Select (they also have hay!) as well as Sherwood Pet Health. You can feed them pellets once a day or break up the amount and give it to them twice daily, but keep in mind if you feed them first thing in the morning they may try to wake you up for it ;) A good rabbit pellet should have the primary ingredient of Timothy hay, and should NOT have any additives such as seeds or colored bits. Besides the additives being unnecessary and usually unhealthy, your rabbit may become picky and start only eating the “junk food” instead of the good pellets, and this usually leads to obesity and/or other health issues. In addition, the treats already in the food means you’re missing out on the bond created by offering treats by hand. Because rabbits are grazing animals, they should have unlimited timothy or orchard grass. A rabbits diet should be 90% hay since the fiber helps keep their gut moving and healthy and preventing hairballs. Chewing the hay also wears down your rabbit’s ever-growing teeth naturally, helping to prevent molar spurs. If you have allergies and are sensitive to grass or hay, we recommend trying orchard grass since it is usually less dusty than timothy hay. When picking out hay, you should look for the greenest hay since that usually is the freshest. Try to avoid the cubed version as it takes a lot more effort to consume, so the rabbit often eats far less of it than what is needed. Click here to view our favorite cheap/easy hay feeders for rabbits. If your rabbit ever stops eating or pooping for several hours please see an experienced rabbit vet since it is usually one of the first signs of illness, which can be the beginnings of G.I stasis. Click here to see a list of veterinarians in the area that we recommend. What are safe treats? Hay-based treats are a safe route, Oxbow has a few different flavors and some other brands such as Kaytee do have hay-based treats as well. The occasional piece of fresh or dehydrated fruit is a safe treat (refer to HRS’s safe fruit and veggie list to see what’s safe to feed) just make sure it isn’t too much at once or too often since most fruits have a lot of sugar. Dehydrated treats from the grocery store may have added sugar or oil. One of our favorite healthy treats is canned 100% pumpkin that you can often find in the pie section of your grocery store, just make sure it’s not the pumpkin pie mix! Pumpkin has very little sugar and a spoonful a day can help with gut health. Another good thing about canned pumpkin is you can mix it with critical care instead of water and some buns like it better, and if you syringe feed it, it's good training! While it doesn't have a lot of sugar, it is high in carbs which become sugar so small amounts are better than larger ones. Rabbits do not need salt or mineral blocks in their diet, and it is also best to avoid treats with seeds, corn, or yogurt drops since they are not the healthiest and can potentially cause G.I upset. If your rabbit ever stops eating or pooping for several hours please see an experienced rabbit vet since it is usually one of the first signs of illness, which can be the beginnings of G.I stasis. Click here to see a list of veterinarians in the area that we recommend. How much greens should I feed my rabbit? We recommend checking out House Rabbit Society’s safe fruit/veggie list since they have a good list of safe veggies to feed and how often. The general rule of thumb is 1 cup per 2 lbs of body weight, but the biggest thing is making sure that you introduce veggies to their diet slowly, and keep an eye on their poops to make sure they don’t start looking too dark/wet/mushy. You can start them out at ¼ a cup daily or every other day for a week and gradually increase by ¼ each week if all goes well till they’re at the recommended amount. Try to add only one or two types of new veggies at a time to see if any one in particular causes gas or digestive upset. If your rabbit ever stops eating or pooping for several hours please see an experienced rabbit vet since it is usually one of the first signs of illness, which can be the beginnings of G.I stasis. Click here to see a list of veterinarians in the area that we recommend. Where can I purchase food and hay? Websites that we like include: Chewy.com, Amazon.com, Small Pet Select, and Sherwood Pet Health Stores that we like include: Petsmart, Petco and Neighborhood Pet Market All websites/stores listed above typically have Oxbow products in stock or Yesterdays News or their own brand of paper pellet litter, and some may special order larger quantity sizes of hay if requested. Local Feed Stores That Sell Timothy Hay By The Bale: Quality Feeds in Covington, Louisiana does sell Timothy Hay by the bale (2 or 3 wire) for around $35. Tractor Supply and other feed stores that may not sell timothy hay bales often can be hit or miss on quality, so be sure to check the bale for green/freshness before purchasing. Know of any other feed stores that sell quality timothy or orchard grass by the bale? Let us know! Should I use a water bottle or bowl? Rabbits tend to prefer a water bowl over a bottle. Large ceramic crocks or glass food storage containers tend to work best. While they will likely need to be filled daily, this is the best way to keep track of how much water they’re drinking, helps ensure they’re drinking fresh water, and we’ve found encourages them to drink more. Glass or ceramic is also harder for your rabbit to knock over or spill than plastic is. An added bonus is bowls are not nearly as noisy when they drink water compared to the clacking of a water bottle. If your rabbit still has issues spilling their bowl, getting excess hay or poo in their bowl, or putting their paws in the bowl frequently to the point of aggravating sore hocks, then you may want to use a water bottle. We’ve found that the choco no drip is the best choice when it comes to bottles since they really do not drip! Water bottles also tend to work best for long car rides so it’s not a bad idea to keep one handy. You can also primarily use a water bowl, but still keep a water bottle in their area as a backup just in case they run out. Water fountains are also another good option, just make sure that you can easily take it apart to clean any slime or gunk out thoroughly. Whichever option you choose, water should be changed out every 1-2 days to ensure it stays fresh. If the water sits for too long, your rabbit may not drink as much. Their bowl, bottle, or fountain should be cleaned out regularly with hot water and soap to prevent any slimy buildup. When refilling your rabbits water source, always feel the inside of it with your finger to make sure there isn’t any residue. This slimy residue, if left for too long or if your rabbits immune system is compromised, can potentially lead to urinary tract infections or other health problems. What type of food dish or feeder should I use? A small ceramic pet bowl works well for food dishes. Plastic dishes can be easily tossed and chewed, and most pellet feeders are awkward for your rabbit to fit their faces into to eat. Bin feeders are also more expensive and the goal with those feeders are to feed large quantities that your rabbit does not need. What toys should I get for my rabbit? There are a variety of different toys or hideouts you can get for your rabbit. Favorite chew toys include: • Willow (balls, tunnels, twigs, wreaths) • Timothy hay based toys (balls, mats, hideouts) • Seagrass mats • Untreated wood chew toys (blocks, beds (i.e the Ikea doll bed), hideouts) • Cardboard (paper towel/toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes without tape or staples) • Hard plastic baby keys (any that do not have soft plastic that could be bitten off and ingested) • Hard plastic cups for tossing • Tunnels (Willow, Hay, Cardboard) You typically want to stay away from plastic igloos or anything plastic that is easily chewable since if they ingest it it could potentially cause G.I issues. Also avoid the tunnels/logs made from compressed alfalfa as it is very rich and can cause digestive upset. Rabbits also do not need salt or mineral blocks. Toys made from loofah tend to be their least favorite, though they are safe. What type of brush should I get for my rabbit and how often should they be groomed? Making sure your rabbit never runs out of hay and has plenty of water is one way to help keep their gut moving and preventing "hairballs," but sometimes they need a little help! Our favorite types of brushes include the Furminator and the Hairbuster. We’ve found both to be fairly effective for both long and short haired breeds. Most rabbit breeds molt approximately every three months, alternating between light and heavy sheds. Because rabbits groom frequently, they can get hairballs if they ingest too much fur or don't have enough fiber (especially if they aren't big hay-eaters), but unlike cats, rabbits cannot vomit. This means that the more fur your rabbit ingests, the more likely it will be that they can develop a large mass of tangled hair and food that can block their stomach exit, causing a painful and potentially lethal condition called G.I Stasis or bloat. Rabbits should be brushed weekly to get rid of excess hair, but during heavy sheds they may need extra assistance by gently plucking the loose fur (pulling too hard can tear tehir delicate skin) along with brushing to help remove the loose fur quickly. Bald spots are common while rabbits are having a heavy shed, but if the bald spot appears irritated or flaky you may want to consult a veterinarian. Long-haired rabbits will especially require regular brushing, sometimes multiple times a week to prevent matting. Not sure how to groom your rabbit? Ask about coming to one of our Care Days and we’ll show you how. How often should my rabbits nails be trimmed and can I have them done somewhere? Your rabbits nails will need to be trimmed once a month or every other month depending on how fast they grow. We do offer nail trim services at our Adoption Days and Care Days if you are not comfortable with doing it yourself (there is no fee but donations are appreciated). You can also have them done at a veterinary clinic. How To Hold/Approach Your Rabbit Correctly Like most pets, rabbits need some time to adjust to their new environment and may not want to be held at first. Attempting to hold or snuggle immediately may make even the most snuggly ones a little opposed to it. Give them a few days to a week before attempting to hold on a lap - as far as they're concerned, you’re a stranger and they need to get to know you a little more before you do things like attempt to hold them. Rabbits are their own little individuals, and most do not like feeling trapped or forced to spend time with you. The majority of rabbits are like cats, they will come to you when they’re ready for attention. Rabbits are prey animals, so doing things like approaching them in their blind spot or suddenly reaching to pick them up is similar to a bird swooping in to eat them. We have a few tips and tricks on how to approach your rabbit so they feel comfortable instead of threatened. Make sure you’re approaching them correctly. Rabbits cannot see directly in front of them, so lowering your hand towards their nose (like you would for a dog to sniff) is not recommended. Some rabbits may think you’re offering food and bite or nip, others may be startled. Also when you put your hand directly below their head/mouth, you’re accidentally telling them in rabbit language: “I’m the boss, groom me!” and some might react negatively towards this request. The best way to approach a rabbit is talking softly and waving your hand where they can see on either side of their face, but not so close that they feel threatened. This lets them know that you are there, and they’ll learn that you’re signaling you want to give them pets. Then move to pet them from above by going to pet their forehead, and then working up to stroking them along their back. Always give pets before attempting to pick up. This helps them relax and get acquainted with you. Make sure you are supporting them properly It is all too easy to incorrectly handle a rabbit since there is a lot of misinformation out there. You should never pick a rabbit up by their ears, or scruff them to pick up. You should never just pick them up by their middle. This makes them feel very insecure and they may kick out and injure themselves. ALWAYS pet your rabbit before picking up. ALWAYS pick up with one hand under their ribs/front legs, and ALWAYS have one hand under their butt/back legs. ALWAYS when holding, let them have all four feet against your chest, butt in the crook of your elbow or hand and that leaves your other free hand to place on their back or to pet them and make them feel secure. Practice picking up and holding when you are close to the ground so in the event they struggle, you can let them hop safely to the ground and they do not have far to fall as their bones are easily broken. Now, this may sound counter productive to the previous paragraph, but whatever you do, do not always stop holding your rabbit when they struggle. If you consistently put them back down when they fuss, you are accidentally training them that fussing = they get to go back down, they then may repeat this behavior often to the point where you never feel comfortable holding them. Instead, let them hop to the ground, wait a few seconds, pet thoroughly, then pick back up, even if it’s only for 30 seconds, and before they fuss let them hop back down to the ground after you release your hold ALWAYS start holding your rabbit for short durations, reward them when they don’t fuss, and slowly work up to longer durations, but not too long since you don’t want them feeling trapped and reinforce that they don’t get a vote. For long cuddle sessions they should have the option to hop off without too much fuss if they need to use the litterbox or get some food. Pay attention to what your rabbit is telling you Learning rabbit body language is crucial to understanding what your rabbit is telling you. If you don’t pay attention and only focus on your wants or needs, your rabbit will get frustrated or annoyed. Don't let your rabbit get frustrated to the point of exploding (lunging, biting) as that is a much harder point to work your way back from. Here are a few signs your rabbit isn’t happy about you approaching or picking up: • Grunting • Ears back, butt and tail raised • Lunging/Boxing with their front paws • Biting • Kicking out with their back feet Those are the five main signs to watch for. If you get any of those behaviors, evaluate what you are doing that may cause them to feel aggressive towards you. Sometimes it’s not your method, but something else. Common reasons your rabbit is showing aggression/dislike: • You’re in their space: they likely are feeling cornered or trapped, or possibly even unrespected. Try picking them up and petting after they’ve hopped outside their area, and they’re visiting you looking for attention (but don’t try every time, or they may learn to stop approaching you for fear of always being picked up! This is also somewhat common behavior when you’re cleaning their area. If that’s the case, you should move them out of their area first. • You’re not approaching correctly, you may need slow down and to talk to them more beforehand. • They need more time to settle in: Every bun is different, and some may take longer than the typical 2 weeks before they’re completely comfortable. If your rabbit is suddenly being aggressive without having a history of it with you, it may be a health issue and you should seek out a rabbit veterinarian. Some rabbits have also shown disapproval if they smell something like a dog, cat or even another rabbit. Rabbits and Children If rabbits are displaying this behavior commonly around children, it may just be the child is moving too quickly or some kids are just too small to physically support/make them feel comfortable. Always observe your children when they interact with your rabbit to ensure that the rabbit doesn’t get to the point of frustration/biting/nipping/lunging, or that the rabbit gets hurt trying to get away. Looking for more information on bunny behavior? Click the next question below or click here to go to the video. Bunny Behavior Guide Have questions on rabbit behavior? The video below is one of our favorites that details and explains pretty much every behavior! Click the video below to play or click here to go to the video. What veterinarians do you recommend? We have compiled a list of veterinarians in the Louisiana/Mississippi area that our volunteers or adopters have used regularly and feel comfortable recommending. Rabbits are technically classified as exotics in the United States, so oftentimes you will need to locate an exotic specific veterinarian as opposed to a small animal vet. Some small animal veterinarians may say they see rabbits, but if they do always ask how often they see rabbits since it may only be rarely. Click here to see a list of veterinarians in the area that we recommend. Rabbit Health Issues You Should Know About If your rabbit ever refuses a treat or food they should be brought to the vet as soon as possible, that is usually one of the first signs that something is wrong. It could be as simple as gas buildup or it could be an early warning sign to something more serious such as G.I. stasis, blockage, or liver torsion. Other things to watch out for once you are more familiar with your rabbits routine include flopping in odd areas or in an odd position. This is an early warning sign that they may be having gut issues especially if they can’t seem to get comfortable and are pressing their stomach to the floor. Click here to see a list of veterinarians in the area that we recommend. It isn’t a bad idea to take your new family member to the vet to establish a relationship with your veterinarian so you may be able to take advantage of emergency services later. They will also have a current healthy weight of your rabbit on file to note any weight loss during a visit for illness. Good things to keep on hand in case of emergencies include simethicone (Gas-x) and meloxicam (Metacam) but please discuss these options with your veterinarian. Metacam is a prescription drug that you would need to obtain from your veterinarian along with dosage instructions. FOSTERS/FOSTER TO ADOPT: If your rabbit has any concerning health issues please refer to your packet information and contact us. Why You Should NEVER "Trance" or Hold Your Rabbit On It's Back Like A Baby Never "Trance" Your Rabbit (also known as "holding in the baby position") For more info watch the video or read the article copied and pasted below. Trancing a rabbit (i.e putting them in that position) is NOT the same thing as when a rabbit flops on their own, occasionally onto their back. Flopping is done voluntarily by a rabbit, usually when they are content. From Rabbit Welfare Association:"Tonic Immobility, often referred to as “Trancing” or “Hypnotising”, is a technique for handling rabbits that has been around for many years. It takes advantage of the rabbits’ tendency, as a prey species, to “play dead” and stay immobile when placed in a vulnerable position, on its back. In studies, behavioural observation (facial expression, ear position etc) and physiological monitoring (heart rate and stress hormone levels) suggest that the rabbits are both well aware of their surroundings, and are exhibiting a fear response rather than being calmed by the position. It is also very important to note that, even if they do not react, they are still perfectly capable of feeling pain. Although the resulting immobility makes procedures easier for the owner, and repeated use appears to make it easier to perform in the rabbit, it is not good welfare practice to use this technique in prey species. There are some circumstances (for example, non painful procedures such as radiography in sick rabbits with possible gastrointestinal obstruction), where it can allow diagnostic x-rays to be taken, and it can then literally be a lifesaver to have the option. However, this should be as a last resort, and not as part of a routine groom or check up. For these reasons, the RWAF does not recommend its use for grooming purposes. It is not cute, and the rabbits certainly do not enjoy it. Owners should never do this to ‘cuddle’ their rabbits. Additionally, rabbits that have been frequently placed in a TI position learn to anticipate when this will happen, and become stressed more quickly and enter a TI state more quickly. Rabbits do not have to be have to be fully reclined to be in a TI/Trance. Gallup, G.G. (1974) Animal hypnosis: factual status of a fictional concept. Psychological Bulletin, 81, 836-853 McBride, A, (2015) Animals in trances: peace of mind or panic. Rabbiting On, Winter 2015 issue, 10-12"