Care for your Rabbit
The wild rabbit lives on a diet of grasses and leaves and has a specialized gut which is adapted for this. The large intestine contains bacteria which break down the grass to make it digestible.
The adult rabbit needs a high fibre, restricted carbohydrate, restricted protein and virtually no fat diet to stay healthy.
The most important thing in a rabbit’s diet is Timothy hay. Your rabbit must have 24 hour access to loose Timothy hay. Check that the hay is good quality; it should have a fresh sweet smell, not dusty or mouldy.
Young rabbits (less than 6 months of age) can also have alfalfa hay in addition to Timothy hay.
Healthy adult rabbits do not require pellets in their diet. Pellets have too many calories and not enough fiber. Additionally, they are very bad for their teeth. If you are going to give pellets, do not give more than one spoonful twice daily.
Fresh vegetables: These are an important source of vitamins. Around 1-2 rice bowls should be given every day. Good vegetables to feed you rabbit include Chinese lettuce, romaine lettuce, escarole, parsley, carrot tops and coriander.
Treats: As a treat, you can offer your rabbit a small piece (no larger than 1 cm) of carrot, celery, apple, bok choi and spinach. They should not receive more than one treat per week.
Inappropriate foods: You should NEVER offer your rabbit other treats such as seeds or biscuits. This are not appropriate and can upset their stomach
Remember that any diet changes MUST be made slowly. If it is too fast, this can upset the gut and cause bacterial imbalances and that can kill your rabbit. It may take up to 1 week to introduce a new vegetable, hay or brand of pellets.
24 hour access to fresh water is essential. The bowl or bottle should be scrubbed out with soap every other day to prevent mold and bacterial growth.
Size: A rabbit should be able to hop 3 times from 1 end of the cage to another.
Floor: The floor of the cage should be solid, not wire (this may cause ulceration of the feet).
If you have a cage with a wire floor, you can cover it with plastic or rubber. On the floor of the cage (over the plastic or rubber), a towel, a thick layer of hay or a vet bed should be placed. This will also help to protect your rabbit’s feet. Of course, you must keep the cage clean and dry and change the towels if they become soiled.
Litter pan: We recommend placing a low sided triangular shaped litter pan in the corner of the cage. This should be filled with hay, shredded newspaper or shredded paper towels. You should NOT use wood shavings or kitty litter as this can be very irritating to the respiratory tract.
The environmental temperature should be kept between 20 to 24 °C. Therefore, rabbits need to be kept in air-conditioned room most of the time.
Rabbits should be allowed out of the cage to exercise every day. You must ensure that the play area is “rabbit-proof” – make sure there are no electrical wires or wooden furniture that they can chew.
Rabbits should be brushed frequently when they are molting and daily if they are long haired rabbits.
We advise desexing of ALL female rabbits because they are prone to cancers of the uterus and mammary glands. A single male can be left entire, but if you have more than one male they may fight.
Check the teeth and the bottoms of the feet regularly. Contact your veterinarian if you notice that the feet are red, swollen, wet or painful. Contact your veterinarian if you notice that the teeth are crooked, too long, broken or discolored. Additionally, contact your veterinarian if you notice that your rabbit is drooling, has wetness around the mouth or front legs or is dropping food from its mouth.
It is very important that rabbits are always eating and always defecating. The feces should be the same amount, color, shape (round) and size every day. It is an emergency if your rabbit stops eating, stops defecating, produces small feces or develops diarrhea. Please contact your veterinarian immediately.
Rabbits are very good at hiding signs of being sick. Therefore take them to the vet quickly if your rabbit is acting abnormally at all – more sleepy, hiding, not playing, has droopy eyes, has watery eyes or seems to be too quite. They can become very sick very quickly so be vigilant!