Help! Ten Ways To Care For My New Easter Bunny

So, someone got you or your child a rabbit for Easter.
First of all, congratulations! You have just received a precious gift that will bring you years of enjoyment and friendship as long as you take care of them properly.

I am going to give you a few tips to get you started on the right path with your new friend.

1.  First, make a few calls and locate a rabbit savvy vet. Generally speaking, they are listed under 'exotic vet.' However, you can ask your normal vet about their experience with rabbits. Sometimes, it may work out. Anytime you think your rabbit isn't acting right, you need to call the vet. Rabbits deteriorate quickly. They can be fine in the morning, and deathly sick by evening, so don't wait. The most common ailment is probably gastric stasis. Anytime your bunny starts to not eat as much, or at all, not drink, and you see a decrease in poop amount, or size, it is an extreme emergency. Click here to read more about gastric stasis so you learn to recognize the symptoms and catch it early. The other issue is called 'snuffles.' Rabbits do not catch colds, so runny eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, or wheezing is dangerous and needs to be treated by a vet with antibiotics. A good diet of hay, pellets, and fresh foods, and a lot of exercise will go a long way to building a strong immune system. I keep a product called VetRx Rabbit on hand to use if something happens during the night.

2.  Remember your bunny is a rabbit, not a dog or a cat, don't expect them to act like a dog or cat. You have to build trust with a rabbit, it isn't automatically given. Sit on the floor with them, allow them to come to you, give gentle head rubs. Never pick up a rabbit by its ears. Be extremely careful picking up a rabbit at all, they can get upset and leap from your arms and break their legs or worse. A rabbit has a natural curve to their spine, and they can break their backs attempting to get away, falling, etc.

They need a LARGE area to call home. A small starter cage, or hutch is not enough at all. A spare bedroom will work in a pinch. Setting up their cage, with a large pen around it will give them some roaming room, then you can let them explore the house more when you are there to watch and play with them, until they have learned how to return to their litter box. Also, make sure they are not standing on a wire bottom. If your cage has that. Please use a cardboard piece to create a bottom, and place a small blanket on it.

These grids are great to increase the size of a cage you may have purchased. It creates a safer area that your bunny can play and exercise in while you are away. They can also be used to create a fence/border if your rabbit is wanting to chew a baseboard. A large cage such as this one creates a nice 'home base' for all your rabbit's stuff, i.e., food dish, water bowl, hay, toys, litter box, etc. But again, this cage on its own is not large enough to keep your bunny healthy and happy. You can create a large pen around this cage with the grids to create a much better area to keep them when you are away for the day.
3. You cannot discipline a rabbit. They will not understand, and their bodies and bones are so fragile that any type of spank or pop could break something. They are also, very tone sensitive, yelling at them will terrify them. Not to mention either of these will permanently damage any type of bond you are developing. If your rabbit is being naughty. Just return them to their cage temporarily. Keep a safe place for your rabbit, such as a cage, and teach them to return to this spot on command. This is possible, and I used papaya bits to teach them this. Also teach children that when your rabbit returns to their cage, whether on command, or voluntarily, that it is off limits. This way, your bunny knows where it can go to ‘get away.’
4. Rabbits require exercise and interaction. Keeping them confined to a cage or hutch is cruel. You wouldn't attempt this with a dog or cat, so don't expect a rabbit to be okay being ignored. They need be allowed to free run in a safe place for a minimum of 2-3 hours a day, you can train them, and have a fully free rabbit, which is the ideal. However, more is preferable, and will make for a much happier rabbit. Also, standard rabbit cages/hutches, are not adequate. Please make sure it is large enough for your rabbit to make 3 full hops inside, and stand up without their ears touching the top. Homemade rabbit enclosures are much better and usually cheaper.
5. Rabbits, generally, don't like to be carried or snuggled. Gentle pats on the head are the best way to begin your relationship with your bunny. Let them take the lead on how much affection is okay. Tell children that chasing the rabbit is not acceptable. Screaming and loud sounds will also scare them. They need a calm environment, especially when they are just getting used to your home. Click here for a few ideas for ways to help your rabbits deal with stress.

6. Rabbits have delicate digestive systems. Don't give too many treats. They really need their hay, pellets, and greens most of all. Purchase some dried papaya bits and give a piece of that as a treat daily. Do not give things like cookies and cereal, sugar is disastrous in a rabbit’s system. They will get plenty of sugar from things like a bite of carrot or apple. Click here to learn about giving papaya and pineapple to your rabbit.

7. Feeding: Purchase a high quality pellet and timothy hay and be prepared to purchase fresh greens each week at the grocery store. Things like romaine lettuce, kale, and herbs such as parsley, thyme, lemon balm, basil, oregano, etc. Click here for some ideas on feeding!

8. Do NOT bathe your rabbit. Rabbits do not require a bath, and it can cause major issues with shock. This can actually kill a rabbit. The occasional butt bath may be required if they have diarrhea, but if you keep their living conditions clean, and their litter box fresh, it should never be required.

This baby wipes are great for quick cleanups. They are all natural, scent free, and have aloe and E. Be careful not to use anything with scents/perfumes/dyes or baking soda.
BAKING SODA is deadly to rabbits. Never clean them, or their area with it.

9.  Rabbits need to have chew toys and unlimited timothy hay. This helps keep their teeth filed down. If their teeth begin to get too long, you will need to take them to the vet to have them filed down. Their teeth grow just like our fingernails. Please bunny-proof your home. If you haven't learned already, cords are just so yummy! The more expensive, the better! Door edges, baseboards, table or chair legs also make yummy toys to some rabbits, others will not even notice. You will just have to watch your rabbit to see if they are attracted to the wood, and then block it off from them if they are.

Tip: if they are going after a table or chair leg, pull a long sock over it for a few days. (If it is a brown leg, get a brown sock) This will protect it from them, and they will hopefully turn to their toys. Baseboards can be blocked off temporarily with furniture, books, or grids, or more permanently with a cute little homemade picket fence and some double backed tape.
10. Depending on breed, make sure to brush your rabbit appropriately. Some breeds may only need a good brush once a week. The longer haired breeds may need a daily touch up. Rabbits do not have the ability to throw up like a cat does, so any hair that enters the digestive tract will either pass through or get caught, causing gastric stasis. However, you must be gentle when brushing, they have very delicate skin.
Basically, the trick to keeping rabbits is to realize they are not low maintenance, silent pets. Lean their habits, watch them, spend time with them. All these things will come easily once you learn that your rabbit will communicate with you in the only way that they can. You just have to learn to listen.

Stay tuned, we will be doing a few more posts over the next few days about caring for your new rabbit! We all want Hoppy, Healthy Bunnies!

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