Bloinks Blessed BunniesSarah Bloink          email: scbloink@gmail.com          Call: (970) 302-6232      Greeley, Coloado USA         

General Rabbit Care

By Corky's Cave

—Caring for Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)—

Rabbits are gregarious, generally mild-tempered, active, and curious. Rabbits are easily frightened, as they are prey animals, and will often flee when threatened, although a rabbit may aggressively defend its territory (e.g., a cage) against intruders. Rabbits can bite if threatened, uncomfortable, or hurt.  They also may kick, or try to get away if not held securely, inflicting scratches.

 —Biological Information—

Life span: 5–12 years
Body weight: 2–20 lbs; newborn 1–3 oz
Sexual maturity: Females: 4–6 months
Estrous cycle: No regular cycle; females usually receptive to breeding at 4–6 day intervals
Gestation: 29–35 days
Litter size: 1–14 kits
Weaning age: 6–8 weeks

 

—Home Sweet Home—

Rabbits should be housed in roomy wire cages with at least some solid floor area (e.g., covered with a Plexiglas™ sheet, washable towels, or plywood) to provide relief from the constant contact with the wire floor. Rabbits should never be allowed unsupervised freedom in a room because they love to chew and can injure themselves by biting electrical cords and other materials found in the classroom or the home.

Rabbits are adept at escaping from unsecured cages. If housed outside on the ground, the cage should have a secure flooring (e.g., wire mesh), else rabbits may quickly dig and tunnel out from the enclosure. Cages must be cleaned often, at least once every 2 weeks. Rabbit urine contains large amounts of minerals; dried urine forms deposits that can be removed with an acid solution before washing the
cage. Vinegar is a good acid to use for removing these urine deposits. Rabbits shed a lot and the hair should be removed often from the cage and the room where the animal is kept. Male rabbits may direct a stream of urine out of the cage through the wire mesh, which should be taken into consideration when determining the location of the cage.

 Rabbit urine appears milky and varies from white to yellowish white to clear red. Red-colored urine may be mistaken for blood and can create an incorrect impression that the animal has bled a lot inside its cage. Additionally, rabbits produce a special type of stool called “night feces” which is very soft and covered with a thick mucus. The animal eats this stool to recycle proteins, water, and B vitamins. Because this stool is consumed overnight, this behavior is seldom seen by caretakers but if observed should not cause concern. Rabbits are sensitive to high environmental temperatures; the optimal room temperature for rabbits is 61–85ºF.

Rabbits typically become bored in a simple caged environment lacking the opportunity for exercise, play, exploration, and interaction. Rabbits enjoy gnawing, so small dog chew bones  may be given. Other safe toys designed for rabbits are available from laboratory animal suppliers. To allow rabbits some options in how they use their cage space, cages can incorporate nest boxes for hiding, raised areas for climbing, and sufficient space to stretch out in recumbence and to hop about. Claws will require clipping periodically to prevent them from being torn when caught in fabric or wire mesh. Claw clipping should be done by a veterinarian or a person who has been trained in this procedure.

—Health Matters—

Rabbits can develop health problems that can be quite expensive to treat. Make sure you are ready to face these expenses before you choose a rabbit.

A well-cared-for rabbit can live 12 to 15 years. They're sexually mature at ten to twelve weeks and females can become pregnant at any time because they have no heat cycle.

Spaying and neutering your rabbit, not only helps reduce pet overpopulation, but also improves litter box habits, minimizes excessive chewing and decreases territorial aggression.

Rabbits have sensitive respiratory and digestive systems. Because they can't vomit and are susceptible to total blockage, it's essential that they receive a proper diet and are groomed regularly to prevent hairballs. Hay, exercise and hairball medicine like Laxatone and Petromalt are good preventatives.

Rabbits can suffer from heat stroke. Signs of heat stroke include panting, salivation, ear reddening, weakness, refusal to move, and convulsions. If heat stroke is suspected, the rabbit should be sprayed or gently bathed with cool (not cold) water. Consult a veterinarian immediately.

Because your rabbit's teeth grow continuously, it's essential that you provide it with hard things to gnaw on to prevent its teeth from growing too long. Hard wood, untreated wicker and hard bread crusts are some suggested items. It's also good to keep your rabbits nails trimmed to prevent scratches, and discomfort of the rabbit.
 

—Handling with Care—

Always let your rabbit know you're there by placing your fist on the ground and allowing it to sniff the back of your hand. To pick your rabbit up, gently slide your hand underneath its body behind its front legs, and with your other hand support its back end, scooping it up in one motion. Quickly bring it close to your body for added support. Rabbits will kick and squirm if they feel insecure, and can break their backs if handled incorrectly. Rabbits aren't very agile, so you'll need to hold your rabbit firmly to prevent it from falling or jumping out of your arms.

If you have children, be sure to supervise them whenever they handle your rabbit. Never allow them to pick the rabbit up by its ears or let its body hang. A rabbit's natural instinct is to be close to the ground, so its best to have the children sit on the floor until your rabbit becomes more comfortable being handled.
 

—Behavior Bits—

Rabbits are social creatures, and shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. Although one rabbit will be fine, if they have you as a friend, you just need to pay some attention to them.  They're curious and playful and enjoy having toys to entertain themselves. Some inexpensive suggestions are cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls, wire cat balls, plastic baby keys and Mason jar rings. If you'd like to get a friend for your rabbit, the best pairs are two females that were raised together or a female and a neutered male. Males generally don't get along unless they're neutered.