Category Archives: Rabbit Care

Fluffy Bunnies & Fuzzy Chicks: Kingsbrook Animal Hospital’s Advice on Easter Pets

It’s easy to tell that Easter is approaching by the amount of advertisements containing cute bunny rabbits and fuzzy little chicks!  Often, parents looking for a first pet are inspired by these ideas, and will surprise children with a baby chick or a bunny in an Easter basket. While both species can be very rewarding pets, there is a lot more to them than meets the eye!

Rabbits can make wonderful pets, but they require more work than a dog or a cat!

Below, Kingsbrook Animal Hospital reveals some facts about rabbit and chicken care.

  1. Rabbits need to be spayed and neutered, just like dogs and cats. Intact male rabbits often

    This bunny is a lop! Lops have very long ears.

    become aggressive, and over 80% of intact female rabbits will develop invasive and fatal reproductive cancers before 5 years of age. Healthy, well-cared-for rabbits will live for 10-12 years!

  2. Bunnies require very specific housing conditions. They need solid-floor housing–wire-bottom cages and shelves can cause a condition known as “bumblefoot,” which is a painful infection and swelling of the feet. Rabbits cannot have wood shavings of any kind, and cages should be in a well-ventilated area to minimize the risk of

    Rabbits, just like cats and dogs, need to be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year.

    respiratory problems.

  3. There are “good” and “bad” veggies when it comes to rabbits.  It is important not to feed sweet or starchy fruits and veggies such as apples, sweet potatoes, or carrots, because they can actually slow down a bunny’s digestive tract and cause life-threatening GI stasis.

    Baby chicks require lots of specialized care until they are old enough to live outdoors.

    Rabbits like romaine, Swiss chard, endive, and red- or green-leaf lettuce. Even more important is a constant supply of fresh timothy hay.

  4. Baby chicks need to be kept inside until they are fully feathered–this can take around 5 months for some breeds. Chicks need a very temperature-controlled environment

    Chickens are birds, which means they will make noise and can be fairly messy!

    (~95 degrees is ideal) which means a heat lamp is a requirement. Also, chicken feces contain salmonella bacteria, so baby chicks need lots of clean-up to keep the bacterial populations to a minimum.

  5. Chickens are birds, which means they can fly (to an extent)! This sounds obvious, but it means that either the chickens will need a very tall fence, at least 7 feet, to prevent escape– or they will

    If a chicken is going to be a good pet, it needs to be handled from a young age.

    require regular wing trims to prevent flight. Keep in mind that if a chicken can’t fly, it can’t escape from a fox or raccoon!

  6. Many city ordnances and homeowners’ associations (HOAs) prevent owning chickens or any “farm” animals.  Be sure to research all laws and by-laws thoroughly!

Easter and Rabbits Do Not Mix

House Rabbit Society strongly urges parents not to buy their children live “Easter bunnies” unless they are willing to make a 10-year commitment to properly care for the animals. Each year, thousands of baby rabbits, chicks, and ducks are purchased as Easter gifts only to be abandoned or left at shelters in the days, weeks and months that follow Easter.

Margo DeMello, president of HRS, encourages rabbit lovers to support the “Make Mine Chocolate” ™ campaign created by the Columbus, Ohio, chapter of HRS .“Rabbits are not ‘low maintenance’ pets,” says DeMello; they require at least the same amount of work as a cat or dog, and often more. Chocolate rabbits are a great alternative; kids can enjoy them for 10 minutes, and they won’t have to take care of them for the next 10 years.”

Mary Cotter, vice-president of HRS, says that many of the rabbits purchased as Easter pets will never live to see their first birthday. Some will die from neglect, while others will be abandoned in local parks or left at animal shelters. “It is irresponsible for pet stores to push rabbits and other so-called Easter animals during the holiday,” says Cotter. “Unless parents are willing to take full responsibility for the possible 10-year lifepan of a live rabbit, they should buy their children chocolate rabbits instead.”

Most children want a companion they can hold, carry and cuddle, but rabbits are fragile, ground-loving creatures who break easily when dropped. Additionally, rabbits are easily frightened by loud noises. It is unreasonable to expect a small child to make a 10-year commitment to taking care of a rabbit. All too often, the child loses interest, and the rabbit ends up neglected or abandoned.

Does this mean no families with children should never have pet rabbits? “Not at all!” says DeMello. “But what it does mean is that parents must be actively involved on a daily basis, and willing to supervise any interactions between rabbits and children. Otherwise, chocolate is the way to go!”

For families willing to make the long-term commitment, here are a few points to consider before acquiring a rabbit:
**Housing: For rabbits who use a cage, the cage needs to be at least six times the size of the adult rabbit. It should not have a wire bottom, as the wire can cause sores on the rabbit’s feet. There should be room for a litterbox, toys, food and water bowls. Others may choose to forgo a cage entirely, using instead a pen for the rabbit’s home base.
**Playtime: Rabbits need plenty of exercise and should be allowed at least 30 hours out-of-cage or pen running time in a rabbit-proofed area of the home per week.

**Outdoors: Rabbits should never be left outdoors unsupervised. They can, literally, be frightened to death when approached by predators such as dogs, cats, raccoons and owls. They can also dig under fences to escape.
**Litter Box: Rabbits, once spayed or neutered, will readily use litterboxes that are place in one corner of the rabbit’s space; the rabbit’s running space should contain at least one additional box. Use dust-free, natural litter–not the clumping kind, and no softwood shavings.

**Diet: Rabbits need fresh water, unlimited fresh, grass hay, 1-2 cups of fresh vegetables, and a small serving (1/4 c per 5 lb. rabbit) of plain rabbit pellets each day.
** Health: Like dogs and cats, rabbits should be spayed or neutered. The risk of uterine cancer in unspayed female rabbits is alarmingly high, and unneutered males are likely to spray.
**Grooming: Rabbits shed their coat 3-4 times per year; use a flea comb and brush away excess fur.

A person who chooses a baby rabbit as a companion must:
**Have lots of time, a household that can withstand some chewing, and a stable residence.
**Expect an unneutered/unspayed baby will spray urine. Know that neutering/spaying (at four to six months) will stop the problem.
**Expect accidents when baby forgets the location of the litterbox.
**Allow the energetic young rabbit at least 30 hours a week of free time outside her pen, habitat, or cage.
**Know the cute baby will soon be an adult rabbit and may have a different personality.
If you think you would enjoy sharing your home with a rabbit, please contact HRS, your local animal shelter, humane society or rabbit rescue group for information about adopting a rabbit. No matter where you live, you are probably within 10 miles of a rabbit who desperately needs a safe, indoor home. If you are not sure you can make this kind of commitment, please consider buying your child a chocolate bunny this Easter instead.

www.rabbit.org

Rabbit Husbandry


Rabbit Husbandry and Care

Housing

The physical environment inside the cage housing rabbits can be quite different from the environment in the surrounding room. Temperature, humidity and concentrations of gases and particulate matter are often higher in the animal’s cage. Because these conditions can predispose rabbits to disease, ventilation and cleanliness of the cage and the room it is housed in, is very important.

Bedding

The purpose of bedding is to keep the animal clean and dry. We recommend Tek- Fresh or Care-Fresh bedding. This is a substrate that is made from recycled newspaper. It is non-toxic and has a large water holding capacity. Wood-based substrates (cedar and pine shavings) are not recommended because the natural oils in the wood shavings can cause upper respiratory and skin problems in rabbits.

Cage Set-up

Rabbits were not designed to live on wire floors. Living on wire floors can cause a condition known as sore hock to develop on their feet. Cages with wire floors must have a piece of plywood, plexiglass or carpet that the rabbit can sit and lay on. If you try carpet and the rabbit chews it, immediately replace it with something else.

The best cages are made of a material that will be easy to clean and deodorize and is indestructible to chewing or digging. The cage floor should be solid, but should also be waterproof and easy to clean, so wood is not recommended. Any cage should provide a secure environment that does not allow escape. It should be free of sharp edges or projections that could cause injury.

The cage size for a small breed rabbit should be a minimum of 2 feet by 3 feet (864 square inches)
and for a large breed rabbit a minimum of 3 feet by 4 feet (1728 square inches).

Enrichment devices

Manufacturers have developed many enrichment items such as tinted polycarbonate (plastic) tunnels and igloos that allow the owner to see the pet, but give the pet privacy and a sense of security. Other items include: nontoxic Gumbabones and Nylabones that rabbits love to gnaw and sturdy, hollow plastic balls with holes around the outside and a stainless steel rattle inside. Untreated straw baskets (no stain or laquer) or natural wood blocks also allow the rabbit to express natural chewing behavior. Enrichment toys should be rotated every 3-4 days so that the rabbit does not get bored. You can find suitable toys at local pet stores. But if you can’t find a good variety, try www.thatpetplace.com, www.busybunny.com, or www.petdiscounters.com.

Nutrition

Grasses and hay are important in the rabbit’s diet, and we recommend a high fiber diet for oral and gastrointestinal health. A good quality timothy hay should be clean and available at all times. This can make up the bulk of the diet and provide roughage. Pelleted feed can be offered in small amounts, no more than 1 Tablespoon per pound daily. We recommend a high fiber pellet, such as Bunny Basics, made by Oxbow (http://www.oxbowanimalhealth.com). This diet is available for purchase from PetSmart. If pellets are given too freely, it may result in obesity. Clean water must be available at all times.

It is recommended that rabbits be fed plenty of fresh vegetables from the time they start eating and throughout life. Feed vegetables 1 packed cup per 5 pounds daily. Some good choices are:
red and green leaf lettuce, escarole, watercress, Swiss chard, bok choy, endive, and romaine lettuce. Dandelion, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale and parsley should be avoided due to their high calcium content.

Spaying/Neutering

Why spay or neuter? 80-95% of unspayed female rabbits will get uterine or ovarian cancer between two and five years of age, and a very high rate of males will get testicular cancer. Spaying or neutering your rabbit will give him/her the potential life span of eight to twelve (or more) years of age. Also, upon reaching sexual maturity, rabbits will also display such undesirable behavior as spraying urine, chewing inappropriate objects, fighting with other rabbits, etc. In most cases, spaying or neutering totally eliminates this behavior.

Recognizing Signs of Illness

Rabbits are prey species in the wild so they tend to hide illness to prevent being eaten by predators. If your pet rabbit shows any unusual signs (ex. anorexia, drooling, grinding teeth, reduction is stool production, etc.)it is best to get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.