Bringing Home Your First Pet Rabbit

My experience with caring for rabbits comes from both keeping one as a pet, as well as advising pet store clients on proper set-up and care.

The Warm Fuzzies

There is something about walking into the pet store and looking down into a pen full of fuzzy, long-eared creatures that makes the average person want to suddenly become a pet owner. Rabbits possess a charm that entices both children and adults alike. This charm is especially strong around Easter-time, when images of fluffy bunnies abound and children beg their parents to please let them have a bunny.

Unfortunately, too often the charm wears off after a few months and the child gets tired of caring for the rabbit. This leaves the parents with another responsibility they do not want, so the poor rabbit is dumped somewhere, or returned to the place of purchase, or (I hope) adopted by someone else. Understanding a few things about rabbits and their care might cause some potential owners to reconsider their decision. On the other hand, others may to desire to not only buy but actually keep the rabbit if they knew more about them from the outset. If you are thinking about adding a rabbit to your household, or perhaps you just have, please read on to learn more about how to care for these special little creatures.

A Few Things About Rabbits

It is not my intention to enter into an extensive discussion concerning the different breeds of rabbits or scientific facts here. There are many good publications available at the library or online if you wish to do extensive research on breeds before purchasing a rabbit. I would like to mention a few things about owning rabbits, mainly the types found at a pet or feed store, that may affect a person's decision to buy one.

The first thing is the lifespan of a rabbit. A well-cared-for rabbit can easily live seven or eight years, so when you purchase a rabbit, you must think long-term. Will your eight-year-old, who begs so passionately for a bunny now, want to still be taking care of it when he is fifteen? If the answer is "no," then will you want to look after it? Another thing to consider is where you will keep the rabbit. Most areas of the U.S. experience temperature ranges that are too extreme for most people to be able to keep a rabbit outside all year round. Do you have a place in your home to put its cage, either permanently or when the weather is too hot or too cold? Also, the initial costs are more than just the fifteen to twenty-five dollars you will pay for the animal itself. The bare essentials you will need to purchase for the new rabbit will total at least $85 to $100, if not more. In addition to this, the proper upkeep of the rabbit will require regular purchases of food, bedding, etc., along with potential extras like vet visits. Are you able to make the financial commitment, both now and in the future?

If the answer is "yes" to the above questions, then you are on your way to acquiring not just a pet, but a friend. Rabbits are not just cute critters that sit in a pen all day, twitching their noses and eating carrots. They love to receive attention, to play, to run around the house, and to be petted. I myself did not realize how interactive rabbits could be until I worked at a pet store for a couple of years. During that time, my sister bought one of the rabbits, and between my job and the bunny at home I was able to discover how fun a rabbit can really be!

A rabbit really does enjoy getting out of its cage to stretch its legs and spend time with its owners. My sister's rabbit often would follow us around the house like a puppy. When we walked by his cage, he would stick his head by the bars, begging to have the top of his head scratched. Grade-school age children up through adults will find rabbits to be just as interesting to have as a cat or dog. (I would not recommend a pet rabbit for a preschooler or toddler. Small children tend to have a difficult time holding a rabbit properly, and rabbits can, like any animal, become nervous and bite or scratch if held improperly.)

Picking the Perfect Pet

If you have decided that a rabbit is the right pet for you, then your next decision is where you will get one. It is worth checking to see if there is some sort of rabbit rescue in your area that has bunnies that need a home. If not, then pet stores and private breeders are the best places to look for one. If you are not picky about the specific breed you buy, a pet store can be the more convenient route than the breeder since you can also purchase all of the needed items for the rabbit's care during the same visit.

Once you have found a place to acquire this new pet, there are a few rules that should be followed when selecting a rabbit. First, look at the area where the rabbits are kept. Is it reasonably clean? If not, then you may want to go somewhere else. Too-dirty pens can mean you may end up with an unhealthy bunny. Second, examine the animals in the pen. Do any of them have runny eyes or noses? Is there evidence, in the cage or on the animals themselves, that one or more of them have loose or runny bowels (bunny poo should look like hard little balls, not wet and stinky!)? Once again, move on if any of the above is evident, even if only one rabbit appears to be ill. It is possible the others are sick as well but just not showing symptoms yet. You do not want your first bunny to be a sick bunny! If the animals are all well, then start to determine their personalities. Yes, like dogs or cats, they do have personalities. Be aware, however, that sometimes a rabbit that is shy in the pet store may end up bossing around the entire household!

A good sort of rabbit will not run away in terror when you slowly puts your hand into the cage to pet it. If it runs up to be pet, that is even better. If the pet store permits you to do so, pick up the rabbits gently. Put one hand under the rabbit's tummy near its front paws, and with the other hand, support its bottom. Draw the rabbit to your chest and move the hand that was under its stomach to its back. If the rabbit makes it through this process without freaking out, then you may consider it a potential winner. (The exception to this is if the person purchasing the rabbit is an adult or teenager that has the time to work with a nervous rabbit and teach it to trust. Otherwise, a more relaxed, friendly bunny is the better choice for a family with younger children.) To put the rabbit back down, lean over the pen and reverse the process, not letting go until the rabbit's feet are firmly planted on the pen's floor. You may find, in the end, two or three rabbits that would make good pets. At this point, it normally will come down to which bunny you think is cuter than the rest! I would advise resisting the temptation to get more than one, however, for a few reasons: first, one rabbit will be more than enough work for a first-timer, second, sometimes rabbits end up not getting along with each other once they reach adulthood, and, third, you want the rabbit to bond with its humans, not another rabbit.

Bunny Basics

After selecting a pet, the next thing you will need to do is find all of the items needed to house and feed the rabbit (unless you are going to a breeder to buy a rabbit—in that case, the items listed below should be purchased first). Normally a pet store associate can assist you with this step. The most expensive item you will need is the cage. I do not recommend trying to "save" money by buying a small or sub-par cage. Forgo things that are not necessary at first, like treats and toys. While the rabbit may enjoy those items, it will not need them, and you can always purchase such things later. The cage is the place where the rabbit will spend the bulk of its time. An unhappy bunny is normally found in an inadequate cage. Average pet store rabbits are breeds that will not exceed six or seven pounds, with most only growing to about four or five pounds. This means the rabbit will not need an enormous cage. Cages that are roughly 20–24 inches wide by 36 inches long are sufficient for small to medium rabbits. You may want to buy something slightly larger than this for a breed that can grow to seven pounds, though. Based on my personal experience, I believe the best type of rabbit cage is one with a plastic bottom and a top made out of coated metal bars. I do not suggest getting the wooden "bunny hutch" type as the wire mesh on the bottom can be very hard on their little feet.

I would also recommend getting a litter box to place in the cage. There are corner-fitting types made specifically for rabbits; however, a regular cat pan that fits in one end of the cage works just fine as well. The litter box cuts down on the amount of bedding you must put in the cage, because only the litter box bedding will need to be changed frequently if you train your bunny to do his business there. An easy way to encourage your bunny to use the box is to dump any bedding he soils outside of the box into the litter pan during the first few days you have him. Rabbits are smart, and if you do this most rabbits will make the connection within the first week or so that the box is the place to go potty. Make sure you use Velcro® to attach the litter box to the bottom of the cage so that the rabbit cannot move the box or tip it over and create a mess.

As for the type of bedding to use in the cage, try pine or aspen shavings. Pine is cheaper than aspen, but it is possible that the rabbit could have problems with the pine dust. This was the case with my sister's rabbit. His eyes would become very red around the rims every time she used pine bedding. After realizing the connection between the redness and the bedding, she switched to aspen bedding, and he never had this problem again. There are also pellet-style litters made of pine or recycled newspaper, or shredded bedding made of recycled materials. These tend to be more pricey, but work just as well as pine or aspen. I would suggest avoiding cedar shavings; the oils in the cedar tend to be irritating to small animals. You must never use kitty litter, in the cage or in the litter box. Rabbits tend to chew on their bedding and dig around their cage constantly. Ingesting clay, crystal, or clumping cat litter or inhaling large amounts of the dust from it would cause a rabbit to become ill.

For water, you will need a good plastic water bottle that attaches to the exterior of the cage. Attaching the bottle to the exterior will keep the rabbit from chewing on it or knocking it down. For food, you should get a small ceramic bowl. I would avoid using a plastic bowl as it tends to not be heavy enough to keep the rabbit from knocking it over or tossing it around the cage (rabbits will do this). You can also get a hay rack that attaches to the outside of the cage in which you may put hay for the rabbit. A rabbit's diet should mainly consist of a good-quality pellet food and timothy hay. You can supplement the rabbit's diet with fresh vegetables like carrots and lettuce, and also give it treats now and then. It is better to give rabbits treats that are made especially for them and avoid the temptation to give them snacks made for people. Wood chew-sticks made for rabbits, while not technically food, are an important thing to give your rabbit as well. Rabbit's teeth grow continually, so they need something to help them keep their teeth worn down to the proper length. Make sure to use something made specifically for small animals and not random pieces of wood, however, as random wood possibly could have been chemically treated.

Toys are something that can add some fun into a rabbit's existence, so if you can purchase a couple of playthings at first, do so. If not, it is all right to wait, as a bunny will prefer human attention over a toy most of the time anyway. There are toys that have been created for rabbits in particular, but there are some cat toys you can use as rabbit toys, too. Just make sure that whatever toy you choose is durable since a bunny's favorite game is picking up things with its teeth and giving it a toss. They seem to enjoy toys that jingle or rattle. I know my sister's bunny loved his plastic "wagon wheel" cat toy because it jingled and he could pick it up and give a fling! Another favorite of his was a carrot-shaped rattle-and-toss toy, which provided him hours of entertainment.

A Checklist of What to Buy for Your New Rabbit

  • A sturdy, plastic-bottomed rabbit cage
  • Bedding
  • Good-quality rabbit food
  • Timothy hay
  • Food dish
  • Hay rack
  • Water bottle
  • Chew sticks
  • Toys
  • Bunny treats (optional)
  • Litter box (optional)

Home Sweet Home

Once the rabbit and all of the items you need to make it comfortable have been purchased, the next challenge will be making the rabbit feel at home in its new environment. The first few days after coming home are important for the rabbit, both in its acclimating to a new place as well as its bonding with its new owner(s).

After bringing the rabbit home, leave it in the cardboard carrier from the pet store while setting up its cage. Place the cage in a quiet, draft-free corner of a room that will be away from any other pets that may be in the house. Put in a moderate amount of bedding (place the litter box in the cage first if using one), fill the bowl, hay rack, and water bottle, and put a chew stick in the cage. Once everything is ready, put the rabbit in its cage, pet it gently, and then leave it alone. I know the greatest temptation, especially for children, is to hold, pet, and play with the new bunny from the moment it comes into the house. This is great fun for the family, but not for the poor little rabbit. It will be quite frightened by all of the sudden changes in its environment. This causes stress in the rabbit, and if you add lots of noise and handling into the mix, it can make the rabbit even more stressed, which can cause it to become ill. The biggest favor you can do for your new pet is to give it time to adjust. This means gentle petting (with the rabbit still in the cage) and quiet for at least the first twenty-four hours. After that, if it still seems nervous, give it another day or two before taking it out to play with it or hold it. Otherwise, if it appears to be happy and responsive after the first day, then it is probably ready for some limited playtime.

If a you are going to allow the rabbit out to run in the house or yard (and I highly recommend that this be done) then a few things must be done before letting the rabbit loose. First, it is better to choose a single area within the house rather than allow the rabbit to wander freely. Rabbits can be prone to mischief! An area that has no carpeting, such as the kitchen, is best as bunny may decide that the carpet looks like something good to munch upon while playing. Next, get down on the rabbit's level and look around the room. Are there electrical cords, speaker wires, or other sorts of cables within the bunny's reach? If so, move them out of the way or find a way to cover them up so the rabbit cannot chew on them. Are there other things at "bunny level" that could be harmful if the rabbit chewed on them? Move these things, either permanently or temporarily while the rabbit is out of its cage. There will inevitably be things they may try to nibble on, like furniture or woodwork, that cannot be removed from the room. Supervising the rabbit while it is out running is the best way to keep it from chewing on such items.

Some rabbits seem to do well with not chewing on everything in their path once they have been taught not to do so. My sister's rabbit was actually very good about not chewing on the furniture (though a couple of door frames were not so fortunate!), but he still needed to be watched just in case. Others may need to be reminded consistently not to chew on things. A small squirt from a water bottle can be used to help reinforce a firm "no" whenever chewing occurs (avoid getting the water in bunny's ears, however). If the problem persists, you may need to purchase a bitter-tasting spray from the local pet store and spray it on whatever the rabbit insists on gnawing upon (always read the directions thoroughly before spraying this on furniture, as it can damage some materials). Outdoors, "bunny-proofing" the play space also applies. Supervision is also important due to the presence of potential predators. If one's yard is not fenced-in, a puppy pen works well. Make sure not to put the rabbit out in the grass right after your lawn has been treated for weeds or pests. Ingesting chemicals can equal one sick bunny!

Whether a rabbit is allowed to interact with other pets in a household is a question that must be weighed carefully. Cats are natural hunters and may try to pounce on a rabbit. Many types of dogs were bred to hunt animals like rabbits. Some cats or dogs, particularly those who are still young themselves, may learn to accept the rabbit as a friend rather than prey, however. Rabbits are not compatible with most other small animals (ferrets are a definite "no"), though rabbits and guinea pigs may learn to tolerate one another. Birds are better off as friends from a distance. My advice is to not assume that your other pets will not harm the rabbit, or vice versa, even if they are quite gentle normally. How an animal behaves towards other animals as opposed to people can be quite different. Exercise caution, and if there is any doubt, keep the rabbit and the other pet(s) apart.

Always monitor the rabbit's health carefully. Illness in a rabbit can quickly become fatal if left unchecked. Signs of diarrhea and dehydration call for immediate action. If the rabbit ever appears to be ill, call the vet's office. They will know whether the rabbit needs to be brought in or not. Try to find a vet in your area that specializes in small animal care as they will be more familiar with the illnesses and physical problems to which rabbits can be prone. A clean cage, proper feeding, and supervision while the rabbit is out of its cage are the greatest aids in keeping the rabbit healthy.

Play with your rabbit, talk to it, and let it know you love it. Rabbits love attention and can be quite affectionate. They make excellent pets for people of most ages in most situations. If proper consideration is given to the purchase and care of a rabbit, the result will be the gain of a furry friend the whole family can enjoy.

For Further Research on Different Rabbit Breeds

  • ARBA Breeds
    American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc. website offering brief descriptions of different rabbit breeds.

Questions & Answers

Question: I got a new bunny recently. I left her alone in the cage for a few hours, and then started to socialize with her as she became more comfortable and playful. After this, she stopped eating and started to have diarrhea, even though she was completely fine before I got her. I had to give her back to the breeder, who said that has never happened before. What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

Answer: If the rabbit comes to you with an undetected gastrointestinal infection, there really isn't anything you can do to prevent what you have described from occurring; it can only be treated by a vet. If such an incident is stress-induced, however, then you can take steps to avoid having it happen again. The first would be to leave the rabbit in the cage for 24 hours, and only pet it gently a few times during this period. After that, you can take the rabbit out for one or two 15-minute holding and playing sessions if it seems ready; if it isn't ready, give it another day or two in the cage. Give it at least a week to really settle in before you engage in any extended playtime. I know it is tempting to hold and play with it a lot those first several days, but a rabbit always does better when it is able to adjust to its new home slowly.

Question: I want to clean my new rabbit's cage, but he is still scared of me. How do I pick him up without scaring him?

Answer: If there is a side door on the cage, you could try putting him in a box temporarily. Open the door and place a box in front of the opening, then gently shoo the rabbit into the box. Just reverse the process after you are done with the cleaning.

If the cage only opens from the top, you can just try to clean it with the rabbit still in it. You may not be able to be as thorough as you would like to be, but it would better than a dirty cage. A small dustpan works well to scoop out old litter. A wipe-down with a damp paper towel gets the worst of the pee residue up before you add new litter. The rabbit may be a bit upset by the activity, but if you move slowly and speak in soothing tones while you clean, he will be all right.

Question: Do you think a rabbit would be too scared to go in a rabbit run or be around people on its first day in a new home?

Answer: Yes, a rabbit typically needs at least a day or two to adjust to its new home before it is ready to interact with people or run around. Each rabbit responds to its new environment differently, however, so after the initial 24 hours, proceed with interaction and running time according to how relaxed your rabbit seems to be in its new home.

Question: Are pet store rabbits already spayed or neutered?

Answer: Pet store rabbits are not usually spayed or neutered.

Question: Do rabbits need to be vaccinated?

Answer: If you plan to keep your rabbit inside at all times, then no, it is not necessary for you to vaccinate your rabbit. If you plan to let it run outside or house it in an outdoor pen, then I would consider having it vaccinated. Find a veterinarian that specializes in rabbit care, since that type of vet will know exactly what vaccinations your rabbit would need.

Question: I think I stressed out my bunny on its first day home. If I follow what you said in the article from now on, will it be okay?

Answer: Yes, the rabbit should be all right. It may be skittish a little bit longer than usual, but if you help your rabbit adapt to its new home slowly and gently from here on out, it will eventually overcome its fear.

Question: Can a rabbit roam freely from the time you first get it?

Answer: No, I would not let your rabbit roam freely the first week you have it. It needs time to adjust to its new environment, and a cage is a safe space in which it can do that without becoming too stressed. Also, if the rabbit hasn't learned to use a litter box yet, you may want to train it to do that first before letting it loose in the house (obviously this won't matter, however, if you plan to let it roam in a pen in the yard).

Question: Can a rabbit escape from an outside enclosure?

Answer: Yes, a rabbit can escape from an outside enclosure if it is not properly watched. Most rabbits are burrowing creatures by nature, and could easily dig under the fencing holding them in. Always watch your bunny if you allow it time outside!

Question: My bunny is always stressed out. How do I relieve its stress?

Answer: One of the main causes of stress for rabbits is an environment that is unpleasant for them. Too much noise, too much heat or cold, too much activity, or the presence of other animals that make it nervous (such as dogs) are all factors that can make an environment stressful to a rabbit. To alleviate your rabbit's stress, I would start by examining the area where its cage sits to see if one or more of these factors are impacting your rabbit's environment. If you find this to be so, then it may be time to move the cage to a new spot.

Question: Do you need to get a travel case for the rabbit when you take the rabbit home?

Answer: No, a medium-sized cardboard box with several air holes punched in the sides (close to the top) will usually suffice. Make sure to also put some bedding in the bottom of the box to absorb any bunny messes made while in transit!

Question: I recently got a cute white rabbit. I have noticed her feet get really dirty, so much so that they are almost impossible for her to clean herself. I can't pick her up yet, as she doesn't trust me enough to be comfortable with that. How do I solve this dirty feet issue, since I have read that you can't bathe a rabbit as you would a dog?

Answer: The feet of all rabbits are rather dirty most of the time; you are only noticing it more since your rabbit is white. Once you can pick her up, you can simply use a damp rag or cat wipes (available at most pet stores or online) to wipe her feet off now and then. Bathing is the only way to remove somewhat the yellowish stains that form on rabbits with white feet. It is possible to bathe a rabbit, as long as you have rabbit shampoo and avoid getting water in its eyes, nose, and ears. You should not bathe it very often, however, especially if you live in a cool climate, as you do not want to risk giving the rabbit a chill.

Question: Do I need to quarantine a new rabbit if it’s my only one?

Answer: No, it is not necessary to quarantine a new rabbit if you do not have any other rabbits already.

Question: Can I use fleece and towels as bedding for rabbits? I use them for my guinea pigs and want to know if I could use them for a bunny, too.

Answer: I would not use fleece or towels as bedding for a rabbit. Rabbits tend to always be nibbling on their bedding material, so whatever you use has to be safe for your rabbit to ingest. Fabric fibers are not something you would want your rabbit to be consuming. I would suggest using something such as aspen shavings or paper fiber bedding instead.

© 2011 Rhosynwen

Anonymous on May 21, 2020:

Thank You very much this helped alot

Rhosynwen (author) on May 20, 2020:

@ Anonymous:

I would give the rabbit 24 hours to adjust, even if the rabbit knows you really well before you take it home. This has as much to do with your rabbit getting used to its new home as it does getting used to a new owner. So, it's best to just give it some space at first.

It may take the rabbit a little while to get used to your brother. I'm not saying the rabbit will ever like the sound of shouting, but it will learn to tolerate it (though it would be best for your brother to learn not to shout around the rabbit). It won't "ruin" your rabbit's personality, but the rabbit may not like him very much because of the noise.

As far as having a breeding pair of rabbits goes, that will,of course, mainly be up to your parents. Breeding rabbits is a lot more work than just keeping one as a pet. You may want to consider waiting until you have learned the ins and outs of rabbit care by experience first before attempting to raise babies.

Anonymous on May 19, 2020:

Hello!!! I am realllllly committed to getting a rabbit I am 12 i have enough money that i have saved and I am getting a bunny from my cousin her rabbit just got pregnant and in two months I finally get mine!!! I feel like if i know the bunnies before hand while they are still very young they will get them used to me. will they not be as sketched out or will i still need to wait 24 hours? I also have a hyper 6 year old brother who is not calm at all and always runs into my room screaming will that ruin my rabbits personality or the way she acts? I really want a breeding pair but i share a my room with my sister is that bad? I dont have too big of a room and dont want to give my bunnies less space then normal i actually want to give them more than normal space i read your article and i still had these questions, awnser ASAP.

Thank You

Rhosynwen (author) on May 13, 2020:

@ Rylee:

There is one major reason I would say that a bowl is actually not the best idea: contamination. Unless you plan on housing your rabbit in a hutch with a wire bottom (which I absolutely advise against), your rabbit is going to be living in a cage with bedding in it. That bedding becomes contaminated with urine and feces throughout the day, which then can easily be kicked into a water bowl. Dirty litter in the bowl can then become a source for bacterial growth in the rabbit's water. Even if you skipped the bedding in the general cage area and only used it in the litter pan, there is still a good chance it could end up in the water dish. Rabbits are just on the messy side, and do a lot kicking around, even in their cages. Plus, even a "heavy" bowl is no match for a rabbit determined to overturn it (I know this from experience). Food being knocked out of a bowl isn't such a big deal, but water is.

I realize you could say, "Well, I'll just keep everything really clean." The reality is you'd have to be changing the water at least 3-4 times a day to be safe, and even someone with the best intentions isn't always going to remember to do that.

As far as the water bottle goes, the size of the bottle does matter in keeping the rabbit properly hydrated. A little bottle with a small spout (the type meant for hamsters) is insufficient for rabbits. Even medium-sized ones aren't the best. To ensure your rabbit always is getting enough water from a bottle, you need one marked "large" or "jumbo" that has a big spout at the end. The big spout allows the proper amount of water for a rabbit to flow when it drinks. Make sure the bottle is clear, or has a floater to mark the water level, so that you can always see whether your rabbit has enough water available. Also, test the spout regularly to make sure water is flowing properly when the ball is moved.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you whether you opt for the bowl or the bottle. Both can have drawbacks, but a lot of whether your rabbit is healthy and properly hydrated depends on you, the owner, carefully monitoring whatever watering system you use with your pet.

Rylee on May 12, 2020:

I’m about to get a rabbit in a few weeks, I’ve done a butt load of research. Today I went shopping for supplies and then I got distracted for a few minutes and while I was gone my mom had bought a water bootle for the bunnies. Everything that I’ve read says bunnies can potentially get dehydrated from those. Also I’m sort of against bunnies having water bottles. Do you think it would be okay if I started giving my bunny a heavy bowl with water once it is responsible and is trained, or do you think I should pitch the water bottle and go straight to the heavy bowl???

Rhosynwen (author) on May 11, 2020:

@ Hettie:

They may not like the sound of his barking at first, but eventually they will get used to it and ignore it (unless he is barking at them in their cage constantly, which would stress them out, so make sure to teach him not to do that).

hettie on May 11, 2020:

im getting two nether land dwarfs but i have a dog they will not be in contact with him but he dose bark will they be ok

Rhosynwen (author) on March 30, 2020:

@ Rabea:

I am glad you found the article helpful! As far as the dog goes, I would proceed with much caution. Most dogs still have that natural urge to hunt, and in the wild a rabbit would be prey for them. I would suggest you set the pen up in an area where the dog can be kept completely away at first (at least a week). After that, hold or leash the dog (I say this since I don't know how large your dog is) and let it sniff through the side of the pen just to get acquainted with the rabbits. How much interaction you allow the dog and rabbits have after that is up to you; as I said, though, I would be very cautious, and I really don't recommend letting the rabbits run loose in the same room with the dog.

Enjoy your pet rabbits!

Rabea on March 30, 2020:


Thank you for this article. We are going to adopt 2x 4 week old little ones on Wednesday. As we didnt get a hatch on time we are temporarily placing the 2 into a playpen we bought for our doggie with their essentials. How do i get my doggie used to the rabbits wmfor the first few days so that the rabbits can get comfortable?

Thank you, Rabea from Malaysia

Rhosynwen (author) on March 01, 2020:

@ Livi:

Both names sound like very good ones for a rabbit. My strategy for naming a pet is to wait until I get it to pick a name; it's easier to decide once you see and hold the animal.

Enjoy your rabbit once you do get it! :)

Livi on February 27, 2020:

Thanks this was very helpful for when I get my bunny around Easter. But I am trying to pick a name, is Buttons or Buttercup sound best for a brown or grey bunny?

Rhosynwen (author) on January 07, 2020:

@ Zoe:

Give your rabbit a few days to adapt to his new surroundings before trying play with him or even petting him much. He is (naturally) overwhelmed right now by all the new smells, sounds, and people. Simply caring for his needs at first actually does build his trust in you.

Zoe on January 06, 2020:

We just brought home a baby lop last night. We had to drive 5hrs home. I definitely know he is stressed. I think I have scared him even more when he came home and today. Will he be able to trust us? And how do I make that happen. I just leave him in his cage and his room and only go in once a day to clean?

Rhosynwen (author) on June 22, 2018:

@ kina: I'm so glad you are rescuing this poor bunny! No, rabbits do not normally require any shots; yes, do take it to get its leg treated and get it some proper rabbit food.

The rabbit can be washed. You can find rabbit shampoo at most pet stores, though cat shampoo will work if the store has no rabbit shampoo. Just make sure to keep the soap and water out of the rabbits eyes, nose, and ears. Use lukewarm water, and dry it thoroughly before putting it in its cage again (a damp bunny can become chilled if it sits in a draft). If you can have someone help you bathe it, that would be the best way to do it. Rabbits are not usually very fond of baths if they've never had one while young; your rabbit may try to bolt if there is not a second pair of hands to keep it in the bath.

Rhosynwen (author) on March 28, 2018:

@ Kiara: Yes, anything I have said here would be applicable to a rabbit kept outdoors. I would add that you would need to pick a spot for the pen that is out of the elements. A place that is shady from mid-morning onward would also be ideal, as you do not want the rabbit to overheat.

Kiara on March 28, 2018:

Very helpful. If I were to get an outdoor rabbit would the same rules apply?

(I want to ensure my rabbit has what it needs)


Rhosynwen (author) on January 04, 2018:

@ Sierra T: Everything I said in the article would apply regardless of the animal's age (though litter box training might be more difficult if this rabbit hasn't already been trained). I would say that the rabbit may be a bit confused at first and miss its original owner. Don't be surprised if it doesn't take to you right away, as it will need to adjust to its sudden change of environment. Just be gentle and patient with the rabbit as it processes being in new surroundings, and before long it will see you as its best friend.

Sierra T on January 03, 2018:

hi! I am about to get a rabbit that is around 2 years old within the next month or two. Is there something that I should be extra careful with or something I should know since she wont be as young as when someone normally gets a new rabbit?

Rhosynwen (author) on December 18, 2017:

@ Mackenzie Bates: Congratulations on getting your new friend! I am glad I could help you out in making sure you have what you need to keep your rabbit happy and healthy.

Mackenzie Bates on December 17, 2017:

i just got my bunny today it was a early christmas present this was very helpful because it told me what i needed and eveything so yes it was helpful

Rhosynwen (author) on November 06, 2016:

@ Freyjia: I would watch them carefully when they first interact, and hold them while introducing them to one another. Rabbits are langamorphs, and rats are rodents, so it is not a given they will get along, since they are different species. I honestly would be more concerned about the rat showing aggression, since rats are omnivores. They may end up liking each other, but it is best to monitor their interactions heavily until you are absolutely certain they won't bite/scratch each other. Even after that you would need to watch them if they are out together.

As for the hay: it is better to give a rabbit timothy hay if you can get it.

Have fun with your new bunny! :)

Freyjia on November 04, 2016:

Hi! My fiance and i are getting a 5 month old bunny soon. This will be our 1st bunny. What im curious about is: we also have a baby rat too. What precautions should we take to introduce them to each other, they are both boys and both babies. I do have separate cages for them. Also for a 5 month old bunny can we feed him timithy hay or does it have to be alpha hay?



Rhosynwen (author) on September 29, 2014:

@ Rachel: No, I'm sorry to say that would not be a good choice for a snack for your bunny. You might try giving her a piece of celery or a carrot stick instead -- your bunny would most definitely enjoy a fresh vegetable like one of those! :)

Rachel on September 28, 2014:

Can I feed my bunny

Vlasic bread& butter pickles

She's about 3 month old

Rhosynwen (author) on June 13, 2012:


purnimamoh1982 on June 13, 2012:

Interesting and useful hub. Your tips on precautions before letting the rabbit open in house are really important. Recently, I had written a hub on house rabbits I had with me. Please visit

Bringing an unaccompanied pet cat, dog or ferret into Ireland

If any of the following situations apply to you:

  • you are buying a dog, cat or ferret abroad and having it shipped to Ireland unaccompanied, that is, you are not going to collect it and travel home with it, or
  • your pet is in another country and you want to have it shipped to Ireland unaccompanied, that is, you are not going to collect it and travel home with it
  • you are travelling to Ireland to buy, sell or gift a dog, cat or ferret, or if any change of ownership is involved after arrival, including delivery of a purchased or rehomed animal
  • if you are travelling with more than 5 pets (the exception is if you are travelling for a dog show/competition, and you will need to provide written confirmation [email protected] )

your pet may not enter Ireland under pet travel rules. These pets must follow a different set of rules.

For information for pets other than dogs, cats, and ferrets travelling under these circumstances, please contact [email protected]

Please note: cats, dogs and ferrets travelling unaccompanied, or traded cannot enter Ireland directly from a third country or on a pet health certificate. They must enter the EU through a Border Control Post (BCP).

Movement of cats, dogs and ferrets travelling unaccompanied, or traded, within the EU are subject to the following requirements:-

They must be microchipped

The microchip must be inserted before the rabies vaccination is administered, and must be readable by a device compatible with ISO standard 11785. If the microchip cannot be read when you enter or return to Ireland, your pet could be put into quarantine or refused entry. You may carry your own hand-held scanner if the microchip is not readable by a device compatible with ISO standard 11785.

Have a valid rabies vaccination

The vaccination must be given after the microchip is inserted. The pet must be at least 12 weeks old before the vaccine is given and it must be given by an authorised veterinary practitioner. You must wait until the appropriate immunity has developed, as stated by the datasheet of the vaccination given, which must be at least 21 days after the primary vaccination is given, before you can bring the dog, cat or ferret to Ireland. If the datasheet of the vaccination used says that immunity is not present until day 30 after vaccination, then you must wait 30 days before travel and your vet should record the same in the EU pet passport (if used) and health certificate, before bringing the dog, cat or ferret to Ireland. A rabies vaccination with a 1 year or 3 year validity period is acceptable for entry into Ireland. Booster vaccinations only are exempt from the post vaccine waiting period, if there has been no break in coverage. If there has been a break in coverage, the next vaccination will be considered a primary vaccination, and the appropriate waiting period applies.

Rabies blood test may be required if coming from outside the EU

In the case of unaccompanied animals travelling from a third country into the EU, a successful rabies serological test (blood test) is required if travelling from countries other than:

Ascension Island Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Aruba Australia Barbados Bahrain Belarus Bermuda Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (the BES Islands) Bosnia and Herzegovina British Virgin Islands Canada Cayman Islands Chile Curaçao Fiji Falkland Islands French Polynesia Hong Kong Jamaica Japan Malaysia Mauritius Mexico Montserrat New Caledonia New Zealand North Macedonia, Russia Saint Helena Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Sint Maarten Saint Pierre and Miquelon Singapore Taiwan Trinidad and Tobago United Arab Emirates United States of America (including American Samoa Guam Northern Mariana Islands Puerto Rico US Virgin Islands) United Kingdom Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Vanuatu Wallis and Futuna.

The blood test must be completed at least 30 days after the valid rabies vaccination, and the animal cannot travel for at least 3 months after the blood test, if they pass.

Your vet must send the blood sample to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory that is either inside or outside the EU. Labs can be found here .

The result of the blood test must show that the vaccination was successful (a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml).

Be accompanied by original, signed paperwork

Animals coming from another EU country must be accompanied by a valid pet passport and an Intra Trade Animals Health (TRACES) Certificate.

The TRACES certificate is obtained in the EU country of origin, and completed by an official government vet in the country of origin. A health check on the animal must be carried out by an authorised veterinary practitioner within 48 hours of departure. Please contact the authorities of the country of origin to arrange this.

Unaccompanied cats, dogs or ferrets coming from a non-EU country must be accompanied by a different commercial health certificate and may only enter the EU via an official Border Control Post (BCP). Please contact the BCP directly to arrange this (see next section.)

If coming from outside the EU they must enter through a BCP

There are no BCPs in Ireland for the entry of small animals. Therefore unaccompanied animals originating in a non-EU country may only enter Ireland if they enter a BCP in another EU Member State first. A list of approved BCPs and the species they are approved for can be found here .

The person responsible for the movement must contact the authorities of the BCP to ensure they are aware of all requirements.

Tapeworm treatment for dogs

If you are coming from countries other than Finland, Norway, Malta or Northern Ireland, a vet must treat your dog for tapeworm (specifically Echinococcus multilocularis) and record the treatment in the pet passport or third-country official veterinary certificate each time you intend to travel to Ireland.

The treatment must contain praziquantel and must be administered by a veterinarian no less than 24 hours (1 day) and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before the scheduled arrival time of the dog in Ireland. Your dog may be refused entry or put into quarantine if you do not follow this rule.

Licenced Transporter and Welfare

Each animal must have access to food and water for the duration of the journey. Detailed guidelines on the welfare of these animals during transport are detailed onTransport of Live Animals

Animals must be consigned out of the EU countries by an approved Type 2 transporter only. For list of type 2 transporters see here.

Registration for Exporters

If you are intending to export dogs, cats or ferrets, your premises must be registered under EU law (“Balai”). Click here for Balai Registration of Dog Premises - Application Form.

You will also need to contact your local RVO to arrange for a TRACES certificate to be completed.

How to choose the right pet rabbit

Bringing a pet rabbit into your home is exciting, but careful thought must be given to ensure they're the right pet for you.

Choosing to give a home to a pet rabbit and bring one into your family is not a decision that should be taken lightly.

Rabbits are complex animals and have specific needs with regards to feeding, housing, health care and company. You must ensure you are able to meet all of these for the lifespan of the rabbits, which could be ten or more years.

They will need your time, care and love for their entire life – and rabbits are not cheap to keep. They do not make suitable pets for young children. They do not like being handled and can easily injure themselves and become stressed when placed into situations they find uncomfortable.

But as family pets, with the responsibility of their care placed onto the adults in the house, they can make fantastic additions to the household.

Beginner’s Guide to Pet Rabbit Care

Rabbits are becoming more popular as house pets. However, many adopt new pet rabbits without first researching the proper way to take care of them, and because of that they end up with various health issues that could have been prevented. Here are all of the things you need to know if you want to bring a new pet bunny into your home.

Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they eat plants. They’re built for a diet consisting of mainly large amounts of grass and leaves, as well as some flowers and fruits. GRASS HAY is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet. Examples of grass hay include timothy hay, meadow, oat, rye, barley and Bermuda grasses. Rabbits should have grass hay available to them at all times. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins and encourages healthy GI motility and the appropriate wearing down of teeth through chewing, and also decreases inappropriate chewing of other objects. Furthermore, grass hay helps create a full feeling in the rabbit’s stomach to prevent overeating and obesity. It’s proper for all ages. It’s suggested to feed a variety of two or more different types of grass hay. It is also better to feed sun dried hay over commercially dried hay because it retains more of its nutrients.

Another type of hay available is legume hay, such as alfalfa and clover. Legume hays aren’t recommended because they have more calories, calcium and protein than a regular pet rabbit requires and may lead to GI disorders and obesity. It isn’t even recommended to mix grass hay and legume hay because the rabbit may pick out only the legume hay and overload on calories. It is also important not to feed straw because it’s nutrient-free and will cause severe nutritional deficiencies if it is a key part of their diet.

Another important part of a bunny’s diet is GREEN FOODS. Green foods include dandelion greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts, celery and parsley. Green foods have all the same nutritional benefits as hay, but contain a broader selection of nutrients and also provide water to the diet. This is very important because rabbits don’t always drink as much as they should. If you feed the bunny a lot of greens, it is normal for them to drink less water. Green foods are great for the kidneys, bladder, and gastrointestinal tract. The diet shouldn’t consist of primarily green foods since they don’t have enough calories to sustain a rabbit’s normal body weight. Green foods are appropriate for all ages of rabbit. If it’s possible, you should buy organic or grow your own green foods, and make sure to wash all greens first. It is recommended to feed at least 3 varieties of greens daily.

You should also include FRUITS AND VEGETABLES in your rabbit’s daily diet as treats. They can be used as a reward during training as well. Fruits and veggies are much healthier and cost less than commercial rabbit treats, which should be avoided because most are high in starch and fat and can cause serious health concerns. Examples of natural treats you can give to your bunny include apples, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries, carrots, green or red bell peppers, mango, peach, pineapple and squash. You can also feed dried fruits, but should reduce to one third of the normal amount because they are so concentrated. Bananas and grapes are not recommended because rabbits can get hooked on these foods and may not want to eat anything else.

COMMERCIAL PELLETS should only be fed as a small portion of a rabbit’s diet. It is easy to overfeed pellets because they don’t cause the feeling of fullness they get from eating hay, and the high level of calories can lead to obesity. Pellets also do not promote normal tooth wear, and the lack of chewing may lead to behavioural problems. The lack of water content could also result in urinary tract disease. Ideally, commercial pellets should only be 10% of a rabbit’s diet.

Foods that you should completely AVOID FEEDING rabbits include high starch and fatty foods, like beans, bread, cereals, chocolate, corn, nuts, oats, peas, refined sugar, seeds, wheat, or any other grains. It is also not necessary to feed a healthy rabbit vitamins or other nutritional supplements because they will consume it in their diets, if fed properly. Misuse of these supplements can lead to severe medical issues.

WATER should be available at all times for your bunny and changed daily. A dirty water container can be a breeding ground for bacteria. You can use either a water bottle or a heavy bowl secured to the side of the cage to avoid tipping.


A rabbit’s CAGE should allow them to stand on their hind legs without hitting their heads on the top of the cage, have space for a litter box and a resting area, be easy to clean, and be made of metal or another indestructible material. Cages should be kept in a cool and well-ventilated area. It’s not recommended to place your rabbit’s cage in the basement because it is usually too damp and could cause respiratory disease. If the area is too hot, the rabbit can potentially suffer from fatal heat stroke.

Rabbits can be caged outdoors, although it is not ideal. If they are going to be outside, they will require shelter from precipitation and extreme temperatures.В They should be safe from predators like dogs, coyotes and raccoons. The cage should be kept clean to not attract parasitic insects. In the winter, straw bedding can be used as insulation. The water bowl should be changed daily, especially in the winter when it can freeze.

Pet rabbits should never be kept in a cage at all times. They need daily exercise to stay healthy, and to prevent physical or behavioural disorders. Rabbits should be let out into a larger EXERCISE AREA to run, jump and move around for at least a few hours every day. If you don’t want to give your bunny free access to the home, you can buy a pen or make one with exercise fencing panels for dogs, which are found at most pet stores. The pen should be at least 3 feet tall. This will keep the rabbit away from furniture, electrical cords and toxic materials around the house. You can also place a pen outside to allow the rabbit access to grassy areas, but never leave them outside unsupervised.

If you do allow the bunny to freely roam the house, you should first rabbit-proof the area. Block all escape routes out of the home, and cover or block all electrical cords. You can also cover your furniture to protect it from teeth or claws. Remove all toxic plants, rodenticides, insecticides and other toxins from your rabbit’s reach.

Rabbits can be LITTER BOX trained very easily. Restrict the rabbit to a small area and place a litter box in the corner, preferably where the rabbit has already chosen to go to the bathroom. Sides should be low enough so the rabbit can get in and out without difficulty. You can place some droppings in the litter box to encourage the bunny to use it, as well as some hay. Rabbits tend to pass stools while eating. There should be one more litter box provided than the number of rabbits in the home.

The best bedding to use in the litter box is pelleted litter. It is non-toxic and if eaten, it is digestible. It also draws moisture away from the surface, keeping it drier and controlling odor well. Do not use clay or clumping kitty litter because if the rabbit ingests it, it could cause a potentially fatal intestinal blockage.

Rabbits also need a RESTING/HIDING AREA in their environment. A box full of hay is enough for some rabbits, while others prefer an enclosed box to hide in. You can use an untreated wicker or straw basket, litter pan, or a cardboard box with an entrance hole and bottom removed. If the cage has a wire floor, they should also be provided with a solid area they can rest, with washable or disposable material. Don’t use carpet squares because they are not absorbent, are abrasive to their little feet, and they can’t be cleaned. They can also be easily eaten and are the #1 cause of obstruction in rabbits.

Lastly, they should be provided with plenty of toys for mental stimulation and to help wear down the teeth. Dry branches from untreated trees, wooden chew toys for birds, and unfinished, unpainted wicker or straw baskets are perfect chewing toys for rabbits. They also like things that can move, such as toilet paper rolls, small empty cardboard cartons, and small piles of shredded paper, or air filled balls. You can hide treats in their toys to encourage foraging behaviour.

Your rabbit’s backbone is fragile and can fracture very easily if the rabbit gives a strong kick, so it is always important to support the hind end. Never pick a bunny up by the ears because it’s painful for them and simply not necessary. It’s better to grasp the loose skin over the shoulders and scoop the rabbit up under the chest. Then, place the other hand under the back legs to lift from the floor. When you’re first learning how to handle a rabbit, it’s better to practice close to the floor so that if the rabbit jumps out of your arms, it won’t be a big fall.


Spaying and neutering your cat or dog is a very important and beneficial decision to make, and that is no different when it comes to your pet rabbit. The best age to spay/neuter a rabbit is between 4-6 months of age, which is just before they reach sexual maturity. A rabbit should always be examined by a veterinarian prior to anesthesia to ensure it is healthy enough for surgery.

Spaying is the surgical removal of uterus and ovaries, and is especially important because it prevents a very common malignant cancer in rabbits called UTERINE ADENOCARCINOMA, occurring in approximately 80% of unspayed females over the age of 2. This cancer spreads rapidly to other organs and is not treatable once it does so.В Spaying would also be crucial in a home with males and females living together to prevent a PREGNANCY from occurring. Other uterine diseases you would avoid include pyometra (when the uterus gets infected and fills with pus), uterine aneurism (blood clot in the uterus), and endometritis (inflamed uterine lining).

There aren’t many common reproductive diseases in male rabbits, however some potential issues include testicular abscesses from bites, hematomas, and testicular cancer. Male rabbits also have a tendency to have AGGRESSION issues around 8-18 months of age, and can also start spraying to mark territory. All of these issues can be prevented by getting your rabbit neutered, which means surgically removing the testicles. The aggression can only be controlled if the neuter occurs before the behavior begins or shortly thereafter.

Written byВ VetCare Pet Hospital

Watch the video: BASIC INDOOR RABBIT CARE. Rabbits for beginner

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