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Basic Rabbit Info

Domestic rabbits are *not* wild animals.  They are not the same type of rabbit you see in the country side of the U.S.  A pet rabbit is not "better off in the wild" and abandoning a domestic bunny in the wild is a death sentence.  Wild rabbits in the U.S. are usually jackrabbits or cotton tales,  a different species from domestic rabbits, which are actually European rabbits.  What to do if you find an orphaned wild baby rabbit.

When I tell someone I have a pet rabbit, I almost always hear two questions

1)  Are rabbits good pets? (Variations - Are rabbits affectionate?  Do they actually like you?  Can they be happy staying in a house?)

YES!  Rabbits are very intelligent and affectionate.  They love toys and games.  Rabbits are a lot of work, though.  Overall, I'd say rabbits are a medium to high maintenance pet.  You need a responsible adult in charge of the bunny - to spot clean their cage every day and totally clean it at least once a week, along with cleaning their litter boxes every day or two.  They need to be feed twice a day (around sunrise and sunset) and you need to check their hay and water several times a day.  They also need *at least* three hours a day outside of their cage, and many rabbit owners let their rabbits stay out of their cage all the time.  You  have to brush them, some daily (we brush Nibbler several times a day when he is molting).  You need to totally bunny-proof every area the bunny will have access to - they insist on tasting everything in their domain.  Nibbler's been healthy so far, but many bunny owners report frequent illnesses and very high vet bills.  Since rabbits are so different from cats and dogs, you need a vet who specalizes in exotic pets (rabbits are considered an exotic) and who is very skilled in rabbit care.  Pet insurance is also a good idea for ALL pet owners.  We use Veterinary Pet Insurance, which is the only company I've found who offer insurance for rabbits.  So far, they are very good and they are cheap.

2)  Are rabbits more like cats or dogs?

NO!  They are like rabbits.  They have some things in common with cats, including keeping themselves very clean, and the ability to be easily litter box trained - Nibbler was using his litter box consistently within a few days of coming to live with us.  They also have some things in common with dogs, such as being able to walk on a lead and  learn many voice commands. In no time at all, Nibbler has learned "come", "up", "down", and "no".  Well, at least he knows "no" means "not while someone is looking".   He knows what "stay" means but he usually thinks doing what he feels like is more fun than staying.   He's also worse about begging than any dog I've ever had, and much harder to resist!


House Rabbit Society - the best reference for taking care of a house rabbit
Bunny Bytes - a great place to get supplies for your bunny
Leith Petwerks - the best bunny homes I've found, and lots of other great bunny supplies
Learn the language of bunnies
A more humorous site explaining how bunnies talk to us
alt.pets.rabbits - a Usenet group dedicated to pet rabbits - no talk of breeding or "meat rabbits" is allowed.  This group is a fantastic place to ask any questions you might have, and dozens of experienced, friendly rabbit owners will be happy to help you!


House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live With an Urban Rabbit - the ultimate book on rabbit care
Why Does My Rabbit . . .? - a great companion book to the House Rabbit Handbook - it explains many of the "crazy" things our bunnies do
Rabbits for Dummies
Stories Rabbits Tell - this book is less about rabbit care and more about rabbit's place in our world.  It's full of excellent stories, but some of the stories are painful to read. 

Nibbler's monthly budget (all numbers approximate):
2 bags of hay - $4 each (many bunny folks buy hay by the bale, so about $10 per bale and they need about one bale every 6 months or so.  Buying by the bale isn't an option for me, because of the size of my apartment, and my allergies)
1 bag of pellets - $10
$24 worth of pre-washed, pre-cut salad (he uses 3 bags of salad a week and each costs $2.  Many bunny folks buy much cheaper vegatables.  You can go to farmers markets, or you can buy standard, unwashed and uncut veggies from the grocery store)
$30 worth of litter - he uses about a pound a day and it costs about $1 per pound (many bunny folks buy litter in a higher volume so it's cheaper, again, this isn't an option for me. There are also cheaper litters, but I think Yesterday's News is the best)
treats - maybe 1 lb of dried papaya a month, appx $3
So, around $70 a month for basic expenses

There are one time expenses, like cages, litter boxes, feed bowls, etc. but these can be as cheap or as expensive as you want.  If cost is an issue, do a lot of research BEFORE you get your bunny.  Toys can range from free (like paper towel role cores or phone books) to very cheap (like wooden spoons) to more costly (like special wooden or willow bunny toys).  Medical care can be expensive.  I'd budget at least $50 a month for vet bills, including spaying/neutering, microchipping, general checkups, and any illnesses.  The pet insurance we use is $120 a year or $12 a month, so it's definately worth it.

My first bunny I am nowhere near an expert on rabbits. I had a bunny in high school named Skunk, and at the time, I thought rabbits were "looking at" pets - like a fish you could pet. Cute but dumb.  Skunk got plenty of food and petting, but not much mental stimulation.  Here she is, talking to my cat.  Fortunately for Nibbler, I've learned a lot since then!

Rabbit FAQ:
These are questions that pop up on alt.pets.rabbits from time to time, or questions people have emailed to me, and my answers to them.  The answers are copied directly from my newsgroup post or email, so please forgive the formatting.

How do you protect wires/cables from bunnies teeth?
Well, first of, I cover ALL my cables, even the one's I think Nibbler can't reach - he's shown me too many times that my idea of bunny-proofing isn't very bunny-proof.  I've always wrapped cables with Split Loom Harnessing, even before I got Nibbler, in places where I have to run several cables - like behind my desk - to keep them organized and less jumble looking.  You can get Split Loom Harnessing anywhere - they sell it in bunny supply places but it's way cheaper if you get it from a place like home depot or a bulk place online - - it comes in several sizes and you cut it to the length you need.  It's very easy to use and makes everything look very nice and streamlined.  It also comes in white which some people find more aesthetically pleasing than than the black.

I then hide as many cables behind heavy furniture as I can. I slide wood behind furniture he can crawl under - like our desk - and drop the cables behind the wood.

For cables that just can't be hidden behind furniture, I use two layers of protection - Spiral Wrap underneath, then Split Loom Harnessing on top. For cables like my laptop cable which have to be moved around a lot and must stay flexible, this is great. For cables which don't need to be moved around a lot, I clip the covered cables to the wall and run as much of them out of his reach as possible.

For cables that cross doorways, I use rubber ducts - - cut to fit, slide the cable in - then bunnies can't eat them and people don't trip over them.

I have cables everywhere - computers, servers, peripherals, sound systems, everything - in all rooms - and this system has really worked. It didn't take much time or money. It also looks pretty good - most of my cables are basically invisible and the ones you see look neat and
organized. Best of all, it's safe for bunnies and people!

It's funny how drawn to cables bunnies are. I was once listening to music on my Walkman and suddenly heard nothing but silence - Nibbler had sliced through the headphone wire with one touch of his teeth.

How long do bunnies live?

In general, smaller breeds tend to live longer lives than larger breeds of the same species.  This is just a rule of thumb, and proper care means more when it comes to an individual rabbit than just statistics. Many "official" estimates have smaller bunnies living 10 - 12 years and larger ones living 7 - 10 years but that's just averages.  Large breed bunnies can easily live 10 years.  So, take good care of your bun and he could be around several more years!

One thing that might bring the average down for large buns, is, they seem to injure more easily - if fall from high furniture, or thrash around while being picked up they are more likely to break their spines than smaller bunnies. I've even heard of large buns being injured by slipping on non-carpeted floors, which isn't something I've heard happening to small buns. I plan to keep Nibbler around a good long time!

How can I get my bunny to eat pellets which are good for him, but he doesn't like?

Nibbler's pretty stubborn.  He likes Bunny Basics T from Oxbow, but when he was a baby (before I got him) he was given really crappy pellets.  To switch him from them to a pellet good for growing bunnies (higher protein), I sprinkled powered cilantro (just  regular powered cilantro you can buy in the spice area of your grocery store) on it.  He loves cilantro, as do most bunnies, so he just wolfed the new pellets down, instead of picking out only the old pellets.   I kept using the cilantro until he was fully switched over and by then it wasn't necessary to "trick" him into eating his new healthy pellet.

How often do you clean up after the bunny?
Nibbler has two litter trays so I empty one every day (so each one is cleaned every other day).  I spot clean his cage - pick up any scattered poos or litter, his hair, loose hay, etc. - every day and once a week I totally clean the cage by pulling out the carpets and vacuuming them and wiping everything else down.

How can I avoid hay messes when feeding my bunny hay?

I have pretty severe allergies so it's important to me to keep hay (and all other) mess to a minimum.  What works for me is buying hay in bags instead of in bales and using a hay loft instead of some other arrangement.  I keep the bag on top of Nibbler's cage.  I open it, and, directly over his hay loft (so any lose pieces are caught by the hay loft) pull some out for him.   I then twist-tie the bag shut.  There is almost no mess that way.  This works for any type of hay.

Nibber has decided the only hay he will eat is orchard grass. This is good, though, because orchard grass is basically long strings and, in my experience, is much less messy than other hays. With the orchard grass, I can fill Nibbler's hay ball with hay, and even though he flings that around, there is very little mess. I keep a small hand broom/dustpan in his supply box and use that to pick up the little hay crumbs.

Is it OK for my bunny to chew paper?

Yes.  Virturally all ink now days is non-toxic.  Bunnies love to shread paper.  We give Nibbler books, newspapers, phone books, etc. and he has a blast shredding them.  Consuming paper isn't a problem as long as he doesn't consume so much that he doesn't eat his hay.

Worst case scenerio products:
If anyone has a pet who hasn't been microchipped yet, I'd strongly encourage it.  It can definitely bring our furry friends home if they are ever lost.  Even though Nibbler doesn't go outside, I still had him chipped.  I couldn't stand it if he got lost and I didn't know I had done everything I could to help him get back home.  This place is great -  For cats and dogs, particularly ones who go outdoors, it's great - tags can get lost, but these chips can't.

I also recommend pet insurance to everyone with a pet. The only place I've found in the U.S. who will insure bunnies is (There are several places in the U.K. where bunnies are more popular pets) Nibbler has been covered for a few months, and so far they have been great. They are cheap - only $12 a month for one bunny (I don't know what kind of discount they give for multiple pets) and your bun doesn't need to get more than one or two, even minor, illnesses in a year for the insurance to pay for itself. But piece of mind is the best. I know I'll never have to consider money when making health care decisions for Nibbler!

Rabbit diets:

Young, growing rabbits should be on an alphala based pellet, ideally Oxbow Bunny Basics 15/23.  Rabbits who are finished growing (about 7 months) should be switched to a timothy based pellet, ideally Oxbow Bunny Basics T.  (NO pellets with little bits in it, like corn and stuff.  In addition to being to fattening, it can also cause impaction)

Rabbits should be fed twice a day. 1/2 their pellets in the moring, 1/2 in the evening, along with some bunny safe vegetables. Bunnies graze at dawn and dusk (they are crepuscular) The amount of pellets they get should be determined by her current weight. And they should always have hay available.  Timothy hay is the best, but some bunnies don't like it - if they won't eat it, orchard grass is also ok.

Bunnies should get about a cup of loose vegatables every day, I give mine 1/2 in the morning and 1/2 at night, same as when I give him his pellets.

be very sparing with treat, extra sugar causes bunnies to put weight on very easily.

Bunny safe food:

Alfalfa, radish & clover sprouts
Beet greens (tops)*
Bok choy
Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)*
Brussels sprouts
Carrot & carrot tops*
Collard greens*
Dandelion greens and flowers (no pesticides)*
Green peppers
Kale (!)*
Mustard greens*
Pea pods (the flat edible kind)*
Peppermint leaves
Radish tops
Raspberry leaves
Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf)*
Spinach (!)*
Wheat grass

(!)=Use sparingly. High in either oxalates or goitrogens and may be toxic in accumulated quantities over a period of time

*= contain vitamin A, bunnies should have some every day

# Fruits: only one daily; fresh or dried - one tablespoon per 2kg bodyweight, use sparingly, as a treat


Generally, anything human edible (except for onions and other members of the lilly family) is safe for bunnies. Anything humans need to cook (potatoes, sweet potatoes) shouldn't be fed to bunnies. High sugar veggies (carrots, corn, fruits) should be fed in small amounts.

anise tops
apple - not the seeds
apple leaves and branches
beets and beet greens
bok choy
broccoli, broccoli stems, and broccoli leaves
Brussels sprouts
carrots and carrot tops
catnip & catmint
celery (cut into short lengths) and  its leaves
clover (except Alsike clover)
collard greens
dandelion greens, and dandelion flowers
elm leaves
grapes and leaves/vines - not the seeds
lemon grass
lollo rosso
maple leaves
mesculin greens
mints: all but pennyroyal
mustard and mustard greens
Oxeye daisies
parsley (flat or curly)
pear (not the seeds)
pear branches
peas (only Snow peas)
pea pods (peas removed)
peppermint leaves
peppers (green, yellow, or red Bell peppers)
plantain (the lawn weed)
radish and radish tops
raspberries and raspberry leaves
red chard
rolled oats (Quaker Oats)
romaine lettuce (dark leaf)
strawberries and strawberry leaves
sweet marjoram
Swiss chard
tomato - just the fruit not the plant!
turnips and turnip greens
wheat grass
willow leaves and branches
yarrow leaves

     Can cause gas or are very sugary: do not feed

        * Green beans
        * White and red potatoes
        * Beets
        * Fresh corn
        * Fresh peas

    Dangerous, contain compounds that destroy nutrients: do not feed

        * Sweet potato
        * Cassava
        * Bamboo shoots
        * Maize
        * Lima beans
        * Millet
        * Bracken fern
        * Tea leaves
        * Coffee plants

    Dangerous, contain toxins: do not feed

        * Rhubarb leaves
        * Raw lima, kidney or soy beans
        * Onions 2
        * Citrus peels

    Can cause impaction

        * Whole seeds
        * Nuts
        * Grains
        * Dried corn
        * Dried peas

    Things to watch out for

        * Carrots and root vegetables are high in sugar and may cause cecal problems or gas in some rabbits.
        * Celery and rhubarb stalks contain strings that should be removed before feeding. Alternatively, cut the stalks into small pieces.
        * Iceberg lettuce has a reputation for causing diarrhea in many animal species.