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Care of the pet bunny

 

Housing:

 

Your cage needs to be dog, cat, fox, etc proof.  You will also need to make sure it is fly, mosquito & flea proof.  As we cannot vaccinate for myxomatosis, you can help with insects by covering the cage with flyscreen wire. (Myxomatosis is transmitted chiefly by mosquitoes).  Vaccination against Calici virus should be done at 10 - 12 weeks.  Rabbits also need protection from the weather, especially damp and cold winds and also heat.  Metal cages suitable for rabbits can be bought commercially at pet shops and produce stores.  They are easier to keep clean than the wooden ones, but can be cold in winter so a good thick layer of newspaper should be put in the hutch area as well as bedding or straw.  You can make your own wooden cages, which should ideally be several inches or even a foot off the ground to prevent damp and to allow air to circulate.  Or you can convert a child's wooden playpen into a rabbit pen by attaching aviary wire to the inside of the bars (to prevent bunny from escaping between them) and on the base to prevent him/her from burrowing).  A plastic box with a lid purchasable from Clint's, Big W or K-Mart with a hole cut in one side and lined with newspaper and straw/hay can serve as a hutch and allow him/her to jump up and sit on it as bunnies like to roost.  Cover the pen with lattice or similar to keep out stray cats and put shade cloth over it to protect the bunny from the heat.  Flyscreen wire should be run around the outside of the pen to keep out insects.

 

For a Dwarf Lop a cage 110-120 cm long by 50 - 60 cm wide and 50 - 60 cm high is good.  A Satin should have one at least 120 by 60 by 60 and a Netherland about 90 by 50 by 50.

 

Rabbits can handle cold well but have problems with heat.  Therefore, ideally, the pen/cage should be able to be moved about the yard so that  in summer it can be put under shade and in winter moved to where there is sunshine.    Moving the cage benefits the lawn as the bunny can mow it while fertilising it.  In very hot weather make sure the bunny's water is cool as she/he will not drink it if it becomes hot and so can die of thirst.  Ice cubes help.  A bottle of water frozen in the freezer and placed next to the rabbit will give her/him something cool to lie against, simply with a wet or frozen towel or carpet.  If the rabbit is in a shed, soaker hose laid over the roof and turned on low will bring down the temperature inside.

 

Feeding

Rabbits should always have fresh water.  Young rabbits should be introduced gradually to greens as very young rabbits can suffer from tummy upsets when fed a lot of grass, lettuce, cabbage, etc.  However, they can be given Lucerne hay which is good for them when they are weaning.  Rabbit pellets combined with Lucerne chaff and seed mix is available from most pet shops and are ideal food for your rabbit.  Dwarf lops, Cashmeres and Dutch need about 112 grams, Netherland Dwarfs 56 grams.  Larger breeds need 168 grams.  Your rabbit may enjoy a piece of apple, carrot, mango, celery, Chinese vegetables, and so on.  Mine love some parsley which I grow for them. 

Potatoes are poisonous, so is oleander and all bulb plants (like onions, rhubarb, etc).

 

Ready-mixed goods like Peter's Mix are available from most supermarkets.  However, I recommend cutting them with Lucerne chaff as they need that too, as it is good for them.  You can either buy Lucerne chaff and mix it, or by a Lucerne chaff mix already made up.  Ask Jennifer here at the pet store and she can show you what I mean.  Besides the mix, they should have the rabbit pellets as these are their source of protein.  Additional things that can be mixed in their dinner are Economix, a dry preparation for horses which is very nutritious and they like it, or Manomix, which is another horse product, a very high protein pellet best given in small doses to growing bunnies and adults who have lost condition, unless you are raising meat rabbits. 

Beware of overfeeding your bunny.  Greed, thy name is Lop.  Lops in particular can get very heavy and fat which is not good for them and they are so good at pleading and looking cute to get what they want.  One scoop or 112 grams of good a day plus the odd bit or fruit or veg is enough - whatever they think. 

Clean cage, fresh food, hay (Lucerne or meadow hay) and water are all your rabbit needs in return for a lot of enjoyment and the affection she/he can give.

 

The House Rabbit

 

If you intend to keep your rabbit in the house, make sure you do not leave it unattended as they love to chew on telephone cords and any electrical cords.  Rabbit's teeth never stop growing so they like chewing on things (eg chair and table legs).

 

Frequent gentle handling of your rabbit will make it more friendly and of even disposition.

Toilet training your rabbit:  When you first have your rabbit, whether he is in the house or a cage, he will chose a place for his toilet.  Scoop up his soiled material and place it in a litter train.  Leave the tray in his chosen place and he should keep on using it.  You may be able to move the tray later on and he still should use it.

 

Rabbits should NEVER be left outside in the sun on very hot days.  You can provide your rabbit with a plastic bottle with frozen water in it to lie against to keep cool.  NEVER leave your rabbit without shelter in the rain as if he gets wet he will take a long time to dry.

Thank you to Nikki White for most of this text.