Rabbits can be great housepets! However, they require a lot of care and training. It may include preventing them from accidentally injuring themselves, ruining your possessions and training them to keep clean and build a healthy bond. This snippet of rabbit care will help prepare you for bringing home a new rabbit.
First things, first! You need to make sure your home is prepared for a curious rabbit. Rabbits love to eat things like electrical cords, plants, wooden furniture, baseboards, drapes and rugs. The potential of injuries from eating these items make relying on training alone very risky. Make sure you secure, raise or wrap electrical cords with something to prevent the rabbit from electrocution and or burns.
Bunnies are very sensitive, and it does not take a high voltage to harm them. Many houseplants are poisonous to rabbits and should be kept completely out of reach from them. Some plants are safe for rabbits, but until you know for sure, you should assume it is not safe for them. As for the furniture, the majority of rabbits love to burrow, and a perfect place to build one is in the bottom of your couch and chairs. An idea to prevent your rabbit from doing this is to block off furniture (and baseboards too!) with wooden planks or small boxes underneath.
House bunnies often have free run of the house when their owners are around. It is best when you bring your bunny home for the first time to keep them confined in a smaller area until you get to know each other. It can be a large crate, a rabbit-proofed room or a large cage/condo. Make sure they have a dark spot to hide, either an overturned box or a towel draped over one side of a cage with help with this. Offering a litter box in the area your rabbit uses as a bathroom can also encourage litter box training. Once you have the rabbit roaming the house, they will find a litter box to use. When training your rabbit in good and bad behaviours, it is always best to use positive reinforcement. Praise them when chewing on things you want them to and when they try to chew on other things redirecting them to something you want them to chew on.
There are some health problems that can arise seemingly suddenly. It is a great idea to find out which of your local veterinarians see rabbits before you experience any medical concerns. Here are a few major issues that as a rabbit owner, you should be aware of:
- Gastrointestinal Blockages – This can be wood or plastic pieces they chewed, hairballs from grooming themselves. Rabbits cannot vomit, so once something gets in the only way out is through the intestines. If the blockage is severe enough, they can develop what we call GI stasis which can be fatal.
- Infections – These can be seen as sneezing, coughing, diarrhea, eye goop or redness, swollen or hot wounds. It is important to take your bunny to a vet if you notice any of these signs as they can indicate an array of diseases/infections. Rabbits are very sensitive to infection, and it does not take long to make them feel down.
- Gastrointestinal Bacterial Imbalance – When a rabbit experiences any diseases, GI upset, stress or partial blockages, it gives an opportunity for one type of bacteria to take over and causes a worse upset.
It is extremely important not to force rabbits to interact with people and take your time to get to know your rabbit. Rabbits are naturally shy but curious animals but still need the patience to build a strong relationship with them. While you have them in a smaller area, this is a great time to sit back and observe your bunny. Watch and learn their behaviours and personality; in the meantime, they will get used to you being around. Eventually, they may come over to check you out and if they had been handled previously then may even nuzzle your hand. Offering treats and goodies during this time will also help reinforce them not to be afraid of you. It helps to be quiet during the first little while, but you may also speak quietly once the bunny is less shy of you.
If you have any questions, give us a call at 780.539.0636.
Written by: Bailey Nadeau, RVT