Contrary to popular belief, bunnies are not rodents. They have their own unique requirements for care and live an average of 9-12 years. Rabbits can be very social and even trainable. Bunnies can be litter box trained, so many bunny owners give their rabbits free range of the house or an entire room. Other housing options include exercise pens (such as those made for dogs) and large cages. Due to the skittish nature of rabbits, it is best to house rabbits in areas that are not noisy or busy. With indoor rabbits, be sure to keep the cage out of reach of other pets in the household. Outdoor rabbits should be kept high enough off the ground to avoid predators. Outdoor cages should be kept in a place that is out of harsh weather and direct sunlight (usually on the north side of houses), and has a solid area for the rabbit to “hide” during storms.
There are many breeds of bunny, each with their own special considerations. Long-haired rabbits require more grooming, for example. All bunnies will need periodic nail trims and some degree of grooming. Research the breed of any bunny you are considering before adding it to your home, to be sure you are prepared for the commitment. Keep in mind that rabbits can grow to be anywhere from 3-18lbs, so some rabbits will require more space compared to others.
When handling your bunny, be very gentle to prevent injuries. Rabbits are naturally skittish animals, so careful handling is essential to prevent injuries from struggling. Never pick up a bunny by its ears, legs, tail, or the scruff of its neck. Always support your rabbit’s entire body, including its legs, so that it feels secure.
A balanced rabbit diet consists of hay, vegetables, and pellets. Hay should always be available, as it makes up the bulk of a bunny’s diet. Alfalfa hay is a good choice for young rabbits (usually under seven months), but has too much sugar and protein for adults. Fully-grown bunnies should be given timothy, orchard grass, or oat hay. Rabbits also benefit from fresh vegetables given in moderation- iceberg lettuce and other vegetables can cause diarrhea in large quantities. Many commercial pellet diets are available to ensure that your bunny gets the remaining nutrients it needs.
Unlike dogs and cats, rabbits in the United States do not receive vaccinations. However, this does not mean that they do not need routine vet check-ups. Yearly wellness exams can help you catch a disease before it becomes too serious. Regular exams can also help you and your vet know what is normal for your pet, in order to more easily recognize when something is abnormal. As with any animal, be sure to contact your vet if you suspect your bunny may be ill or injured.
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