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8 tips every rabbit owner needs to know

Bringing a bunny (or bunnies) into your home for the first time can be daunting. Rabbits are often misunderstood, leaving well-meaning bunny parents confused at times. But once you educate yourself about rabbits and their needs, it becomes routine and really easy (trust me, I did it too). And it is insanely rewarding to watch them play and lay like a loaf in your apartment.

If you’re thinking about adopting one of these furry lovebugs for the first time, here are eight bunny basics to keep in mind.

Rabbits do better in pairs

Bunnies who have a best friend tend to
Photo Credit: Alison Fox

Bunnies who have a best friend tend to be happier, which in turn leads to better eating and grooming habits. A common misconception is that two bunnies mean double the work. And, yes, while it does mean double the vet bills, it's actually about the same amount of day-to-day work for one rabbit as it is for two. Bonus: it's really sweet watching your bunnies groom each other (a sign of love) and jump around together. If you're adopting, look for an already bonded pair, which will make the transition to your home easier for everyone. If your lonely bunny is looking for a friend, many places offer bunny speed dating because -- like people -- not all rabbits like each other.

Rabbits can be litter box trained

And the best news is you barely have
Photo Credit: Alison Fox

And the best news is you barely have to do anything. Rabbits are naturally clean animals who want to go in a specific place away from the rest of their living area. All you have to do is provide the box in a corner, place some absorbent bedding down (rabbit-specific cotton bedding available in pet stores works great), and put their hay on top. They do the rest. If you have a bunny that takes a little while to get the hang of it, place the pills that got on the floor in the litter box to show them and give them treats whenever they do get it right.

And whether you have one or two bunnies (I have two), you only need to empty the litter box about once each week.

Rabbits don’t need to be in a cage

This is New York City, and space is

This is New York City, and space is at a premium. If you're not willing to share your entire apartment with a bunny (because free-roaming is certainly an option), try fencing off a corner of the room and securing it to the wall. Pet stores sell wire fences that are great for this purpose. This will allow your bunny to stretch up on its hind legs and be generally less confining than a cage. The House Rabbit Society recommends at least 8 square feet of living space.

Don't forget to give them a box to hide in where they can feel safe (an untreated cardboard box with two "doors" cut out on each side works perfectly for this. And they can chew it.).

Your bunny needs exercise

We all make excuses to skip the gym,
Photo Credit: Alison Fox

We all make excuses to skip the gym, but rabbits need exercise just as much as humans. Your bunny should have a few hours every day to run around a bit and stretch their bunny legs. Happy bunnies will jump up in the air and twist, a sign of pure joy called a binky. A good time is the morning and evenings, when rabbits are active (and you are home). A long hallway works perfectly for this. But if you have hardwood floors, try putting a low-pile carpet or rug down since bunny feet don't have any traction, and injuries can happen if they slam into the wall.

Rabbits' digestive systems are VERY delicate

A rabbit's health is very delicate and, unfortunately,
Photo Credit: iStock

A rabbit's health is very delicate and, unfortunately, it can go south very quickly. If a rabbit stops eating for even just 12 hours, it can develop gastrointestinal (GI) stasis, and it can be deadly. Therefore, keep a close eye on your rabbit and make it is eating and pooping as normal. If your bunny doesn't show interest in food or favorite treats, or stops pooping for 12 hours, then call the vet immediately. Similarly, if you are going away overnight, you need to have someone come check on your bunny, at least long enough to give them some more food and water and make sure they are eating and acting normally. If you are going away for an extended period of time, consider asking a friend to house sit for your bunny so his schedule remains as normal as possible.

Rabbits REQUIRE a rabbit-savvy vet

Not all vets have the ability to care
Photo Credit: Istock

Not all vets have the ability to care for rabbits, which are considered in the vet world to be exotic pets. And while a vet may say they take rabbits, if they aren't very experienced caring for rabbits, they could miss something. Rabbits need an annual checkup just like cats and dogs, so make sure you have a vet that you trust.

Some options in New York City are: The Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine on the Upper West Side and the Animal Medical Center on the east side.

Rabbit teeth never stop growing

Their front teeth, when healthy, will file themselves
Photo Credit: Alison Fox

Their front teeth, when healthy, will file themselves down. But in order to this, you need to encourage good eating and chewing habits. Rabbits should be eating hay, hay, and more hay. You can get different kinds of hay: Timothy, Orchard, etc. Alfalfa hay is good for baby bunnies, but it is very high in calories and should be avoided for adults. Place the fresh hay on top of their litter box about two or three times a day (it's that easy).

Rabbits are also very naturally curious and like to chew on EVERYTHING. Prevent your furniture and baseboards from becoming victims by providing them with plenty of rabbit-friendly chew toys and activities. This will help file their teeth down and keep them occupied.

Rabbits have a sweet tooth

We can't all live on candy alone, and
Photo Credit: Alison Fox

We can't all live on candy alone, and that's the same for your bunny. Rabbits should be offered unlimited hay at least twice a day, a portion of fresh greens each day (like romaine lettuce or basil but never iceberg lettuce), and about a quarter cup of pellets (no more than that). As an occasional treat, bunnies love fruit, and I've never met a bun that didn't like banana above all else. But be careful, if you offer them too many sweets or pellets, they will stop eating the food that is actually good for them.


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