All About Bunnies: A Guide to Your Pet's Habitat, Nutrition and Well-Being

All About Bunnies: A Guide to Your Pet's Habitat, Nutrition and Well-Being

Vanessa LeRoux


Experience Level: Intermediate level, having some pet care experience. Best for kids over ten, but they'll need daily adult supervision and a strong investment in the bunny's long-term care.
Size: Bunnies come in all shapes and sizes, the average size being 40 cm, and dwarf bunnies grow up to 20 cm.
Lifespan: These cuties accompany you for a hearty 8 to 12 years and, therefore, are a serious commitment.
Behaviour: Bunnies are nocturnal and crepuscular, meaning they are most active at night and in the morning and evening. Read on for fun and interesting facts about your new bunny.
Diet: As herbivores, bunnies love grasses and fresh greens. Remember: An adult needs extra fibre in their diet.
Social Life: They're happiest when they have a buddy or two. Stick to sterilised or same-gender pairs and groups for the best results.





Shopping Checklist: What will I Need for my Bunny?






  • Habitat Size: A minimum of 120 x 60 cm or a spacious wooden hutch with a run area and a ladder is ideal. Bunnies thrive when they spend most of their time outside the cage in a safe space.




  • Hay Rack & Food Ball: Attach a hay feeder and hang a food ball; keep it filled with fresh hay all day, every day. (Bunnies never stop eating.)




  • Food: Include fortified bunny pellets rich in fibre as well as fruit, veggies and grass. See the bunny food menu below.




  • Food Dish: Choose an attachable or heavy ceramic dish, as bunnies have a playful habit of tossing their bowls around.




  • Water Supply: Whether you choose a bottle or bowl, securely attach it to the cage. A quick note: bowls can get dirty with bedding or food, so clean them daily. Place them on an accessible shelf or platform.




  • Comfortable Bedding: Choose from paper bedding, straw, or wood pellets for a comfortable home.




  • Fun Toys: Find a spot for the exercise wheel. Tunnels, Timothy balls and hay mats to chew on. Wooden parrot toys also make great bunny toys in addition to their regular toys. Egg cartons and cardboard tubing are a hit with bunnies. Our bunny friends also enjoy shredded paper and a digging box.




  • Cosy House: Ensure it's spacious enough for all your bunnies at once; they love group naps.




  • Tasty Treats: Every now and then, treat your bunny to something special. Use a carrot holder for carrot treats. See the bunny menu below.




  • Dental Maintenance: Bunny teeth are constantly growing. Gnaw stones and chew sticks, wooden blocks or natural loofahs are essential to keep them in check. But the best cure? Fresh grass daily. See the bunny menu below for further information. Add a healthy vitamin and mineral block.




  • Litter Solutions: A litter box keeps your bunny's living space clean and smelling better.




  • Grooming Essentials: Gentle brushing is essential for long-haired (daily) and short-haired bunnies to keep them tangle-free and stop them from ingesting the fur which becomes tangled up in their digestive system. Pop on some rubber gloves and smooth them over the coat to pick up loose fur. Use a very small brush designed for bunnies.




  • Nail Trims: Keep an eye on your bunny’s nails; they will need cutting. Let the professionals do the nail trimming.




  • Outdoor Playpen or Rabbit Run: Consider dog playpens and rabbit runs for exciting outdoor playing and fun. Both allow for vital access to fresh grass to munch on. Daily activity outside their cage is crucial to their physical and mental health and should never be neglected. Don’t forget to provide shade and fresh water when they are in the pen. Supervision of your bunny is required for all activities.




  • Harness & Leash Set: A comfy harness and leash set for outside adventures is a must.





How Do I Set up a Bunny Habitat?






  • Ideal Location: Position the habitat in a low-humidity area with temperatures ranging from 18-24 degrees, away from direct sunlight. 26 degrees or more is dangerous for a bunny. Bunnies should be kept inside or safely under a porch protected from the elements.




  • Bedding Basics: Use comfortable bedding about five cm+ deep in the habitat, spot-cleaning as necessary and changing it according to the product's guidelines.




  • Litter Training: Add a litter box in a corner of the habitat to train your bunny.




  • Fun Toys: Put in the full range of toys or rotate their toys to keep them interested.




  • Cosy Corner: Place a house inside for your bunny, offering a comfy place for relaxation, snuggles and occasional snacking.




  • Feeding Station: Ensure your bunny's space has easily accessible food and water dishes and bottles. Position them in a spot that's easy for you to clean and refill, too.




  • Hay Essentials: Don't forget to add the hay feeder and food ball for ongoing access to hay.




  • Chewables: Include edible nests and hay mats, which entertain and promote chewing. Remember to clean them regularly.




  • Dental Essentials: Incorporate a gnaw stone and chew sticks, wooden blocks or natural loofahs into their cage to ensure those teeth stay short and healthy. Add mineral block.




  • Cleaning Routine: Dedicate time once a week to clean the cage thoroughly using mild, unscented dishwashing liquid and hutch cleaner or a safe disinfectant for small animals like F10SC.





The Bunny's Menu: What, When, and How Much to Feed





It's important to note that bunnies eat 24/7. It can be dangerous to their health for them to stop eating.





Main Course: 80% hay or oat grass: Your bunny's everyday main meal and always needs to be consistently available. Ensure your bunny eats at least its body size in the hay before introducing the pellets.





Pellets: Provide two tablespoons of pellets per day per bunny. Lower the number of pelletsif your bunny is overweight. Plain pellet formulas are best for your bunny.





Fresh Grass: Munching on fresh grass daily is the most effective way to stop a bunny's teeth from overgrowing, making it essential for dental health. When they eat grass, they grind their teeth as opposed to chewing, thus wearing their teeth down.





Mowed grass clippings from a lawnmower are unacceptable as they ferment and rot quickly in your bunny’s stomach, which can cause bloat. If outside access to grass is limited, the best way to do it is to cut grass with scissors and give it to your bunny.





Alternatively, growing cat grass in a pot or removing a patch of lawn and putting it on a tray for your bunny to munch on works just as well. Be sure to avoid pesticides and chemicals on the grass.





Veggie and Fruit Fest: 1-2 cups vegetables: Fresh vegetables like kale, red and green leaf lettuce, pumpkin, baby marrow and peppers, served daily. (No iceberg lettuce.) One teaspoon of fruit and treats: Offer treats like apples (without the seeds and core), bananas, pineapple, mango and blueberries twice a week. Note: Be sure to remove uneaten veggies and fruit after a few hours.





Treats: Give your bunny delicious treats once or twice a week - Burgess Excel Forage and Feast bar and Friendly Farm Crunchers treat for bunnies. They can have fun and enjoy a Timothy ball anytime.





Hydration Station: A water bottle or a bowl of fresh, clean water daily. Pay special attention to cleanliness. Wash the bowl daily and scrub the bottle weekly with animal-safe disinfectant.





Switching Brands: When changing to a different food, it is important to ‘wean’ your bunny onto it by mixing old with new and gradually decreasing the old brand in order to avoid upsetting the tummy with food he has not had before. Introduce new foods one at a time to see if your bunny's system tolerates it.





Food Storage: Store food in a tightly sealed container in your fridge or freezer to maintain freshness for a lot longer.





Main Course: 80% hay or oat grass Refresh daily 24hr Availability: Every day, all day
Pellets Refresh daily 2 Tablespoons per day/more for babies
Fresh Grass Eat daily At bunny's discretion
Fresh Veggies Refresh daily 1-2 cups vegetables
Fruit Feast and Treats Twice a week 1 Teaspoon
Water Refresh daily 24hr Availability, check regularly




Safety First for You and Your Bunny





Remember always to wash your hands with warm, soapy water and dry them thoroughly before and after cuddling or tending to your bunny or its living space to prevent the spread of potential germs.





Approach your bunny cautiously, as they can bite or scratch if they feel threatened or stressed. If a bunny thumps their back feet, it's a sign they would prefer not to be touched or picked up at that moment. Children should only handle a bunny with direct adult supervision.





Bunnies are sensitive to prolonged sun exposure and can suffer from heatstroke, so it's essential to provide shaded areas, especially during sunny days, and ensure they have access to fresh water at all times.





Be sure to keep house plants away from your bunny-proofed area, as many are poisonous to bunnies.





From First Touch to Daily Play: Bunny Safe Handling 101






  • Settling In: Initially, allow your bunny several days to adjust to its new home before attempting to handle it.




  • Gentle Approach: Before opening the cage, let your bunny get accustomed to your smell and voice by moving slowly and speaking in soft tones.




  • Safe Handling: When picking them up, always scoop from below using both hands and support their backs as well as their legs. Avoid any sudden grabs from above to minimise stress.




  • Secure Hold: Handle your bunny close to a low surface to avoid potential injuries from falls, and always keep them snug against your body. If they start to wriggle or show signs of wanting to jump, it's an indication they'd prefer to be back in their habitat or on solid ground.




  • Daily Exploration: Ensure your bunny gets time outside their cage every day, but always in a controlled, bunny-safe space. Feed them veggies, treats or hay to enhance the positive interaction.





Bunny Care Essentials: Training, Play and Daily Care Routines





Litter Training: Just like cats, bunnies can be trained to use a litter box. They often prefer to 'go' in the same spot in their cage, so place their litter box there. Routinely put their poop into the litter box. Take some toilet paper with their pee on it and place it in the litter box. This will further reinforce that they are supposed to relieve themselves there. It's best to start this training when they're young. When trained, they can live in the house in bunny-proofed areas. Clean the box with white vinegar and dishwashing liquid.
Playtime Essentials: For a happy and active bunny, ensure their environment is filled with toys, hideouts, and chewable items to keep them both entertained and physically fit. Bunnies need to be able to run full tilt to stay strong and healthy.
Grooming Tips: Bunnies pride themselves on their grooming habits and should generally stay dry. Never submerge a bunny in water. If needed, you can spot-wash them. When brushing, always be gentle to avoid hurting their delicate skin.
Nail Care: Their nails grow quickly! It's advisable to have a professional trim them monthly, starting when they're three months old.
Treat Time: Everyone loves a treat now and then, and bunnies are no exception. Offering treats (in moderation) can be a great way to bond. Handfeeding them can significantly help in building trust.
Outdoor Adventures: Bunnies love a bit of fresh air and greenery. Just remember, no direct sunlight.
Sleep Quirks: Don't be surprised if you catch your bunny napping often, sometimes even with their eyes open. It's just one of their adorable habits!
Weather Waves: If you have a long-haired bunny, they can be shaved down to be cooler in the summer.





Binky Delights: Fun Facts About Our Bunny Friends





Hop to It! Rabbits are renowned for their hopping abilities, using their powerful hind legs to make leaps up to 90 cm high and 2.7 m long in one bound!
Binky Bliss! When rabbits are extremely happy and content, they perform joyful, acrobatic leaps known as "binkies," where they jump, twist, and flick their feet.
Nose Knows! A rabbit’s nose is a marvel, twitching rapidly to pick up scents, and it can twitch about 20 to 120 times per minute, helping them explore their environment effectively.
Selective Eaters! Rabbits practice coprophagy, selectively re-eating certain faeces to absorb nutrients better, a unique dietary habit essential for their health.
Ear-resistible! Bunnies have incredibly versatile ears, which can turn in any direction and can be as long as 10 cm, helping them detect predators from far away.





Let these facts bring a smile to bunny enthusiasts and offer delightful insights into the charming world of bunnies.





When Should I Contact a Vet?





A good rule of thumb is to be aware of changes in your bunny's condition or behaviour. Without question, bunnies need to be sterilised as this reduces the chance of cancer and reduces aggressive and territorial behaviour. Bunnies must be checked annually by a small animal vet. If you see your bunny struggling in these areas, act quickly and take them to your bunny-savvy vet.






  • Loud teeth grinding




  • Overgrown teeth




  • Pressing tummy against the floor in a way that looks uncomfortable




  • Bloated tummy




  • Not eating, refusing treats or favourite foods




  • Not drinking




  • Acting lethargic




  • Not pooping or diarrhoea




  • Ear infections causing loss of balance, head tilting, discharge and odour, redness or swelling and scratching the ear. Lethargy and loss of appetite occur as well.




  • Any sudden, odd behaviour that’s out of character (antisocial/aggressive)*





Bunny Bliss: Balancing Joy and Commitment in Rabbit Care





Caring for a bunny is a journey filled with joy and learning, requiring a commitment to their long-term well-being and happiness. The delightful quirks and playful antics of these adorable creatures bring immense joy to a household, making the meticulous care and attention they require well worth the effort. A crucial aspect of bunny care is maintaining their dental health, ensuring they have appropriate items to gnaw on to prevent overgrowth of their teeth. This, coupled with a balanced diet rich in fibre, keeps them physically healthy and content.





Being a responsible bunny parent means embracing the commitment to provide them with a loving and safe environment, proper nutrition, and regular veterinary checkups. It’s about understanding their unique needs, behaviours, and communication cues to foster a deep and lasting bond. The joy and companionship that bunnies offer enriches the lives of both the bunny and the parent with unconditional love and mutual respect.





Sources





http://bunny-huggers.co.za/when-does-my-rabbit-need-a-vet/