05 April 2016

A Quick Guide to Having A Pet Rabbit

A Quick Guide to Having A Pet RabbitAwhile ago a friend asked me if I could share some information in regards to having a bunny as a pet. After a lot of messages sent back and forth I came to the conclusion that I really needed to write a blog post about this, because like my friend said, it can be a little difficult finding information on bunnies as pets.

As most of you know, I have a pet bunny named Olive. She's an English Spot/dwarf mix and I absolutely love that little bun with all my heart. When I first decided that I wanted a rabbit as a pet I did A LOT of research online and no matter how much I read, I wasn't all that knowledgeable until having Olive for a little while. I figured I'd share what I learned with all of you!

So, you're thinking about getting a pet rabbit.
Having a rabbit as a pet is NOT like having a cat or a dog - they need supervision too. In my opinion, having a pet rabbit is actually a lot better and I've had both cats and dogs in the past. Rabbits are skittish by nature, I mean wouldn't you if you were not even six pounds? Besides they are prey animals. By default, they are ready to move at the slightest sign of danger. You have to be gentle with them, they are keen on doing things on THEIR terms. Sometimes rabbits nip. Olive only does it when you are in her way and she's exhausted all other avenues of moving you. It's never a hard nip, but when she first did it was unexpected. Oh, and they shed too, which is always fun if you have a white rabbit and wear mostly black like I do.

Rabbits need hay and A LOT of it. Depending on their size, rabbits will need different amounts of pellets and fresh veggies. The list of veggies and fruits that rabbits can eat is rather long so I won't list it here, but you can check out an awesome list over at Rabbit House Society.

I'm really picky about the pellets that I give Olive. I've found the best one to be Sunseed Vita Sunscription. These pellets have no added sugar, nuts, or seeds. They are also made from Timothy Hay so it's perfect. They sell them at Pet Supermarket and Amazon.

They should consume hay daily (typically the size of their body). However, the type of hay you give them depends on their age. Baby bunnies need Alfalfa Hay, whereas adult rabbits need Timothy Hay. If you find that you are allergic to Timothy Hay, Orchard Hay is a great option.

As for the amounts, it varies by how big your rabbit is. For every two pounds of bunny weight, they should get a cup of mixed, approved veggies. Since Olive is 4lbs I give her around 2 cups of fresh veggies for dinner. As for pellets, I give her 1/8 cup of pellets for her breakfast and half of that for her afternoon snack. Keep in mind that 70% of their diet should be made up of good quality hay. Bunnies love to graze, so if it takes them a little time to finish their food, don't worry. For more information, head over to House Rabbit Society's Diet page.

Fresh fruits are a great way to reward your bunny. Dried chamomile flowers are awesome as well - Olive loves the Badia ones.Olive's favourite special treat is bananas (in very small amounts). - we will give her banana strings or a little tip of the banana. She goes crazy for them. Just remember that too much sugar can cause GI stasis, which can be deadly.

Also, NEVER give your rabbit chocolate, yogurt drops or pellets with seeds or nuts mixed in. Try to stay away from pellets with added sugar. You can see some more information here.

Use a ceramic bowl instead of a water feed, it's easier for them to drink water. Always make sure they have fresh water and wash the bowl frequently. I always use filtered water for Olive - we have a PUR water filter attachment on our kitchen sink, so it makes it a lot easier and less wasteful than buying water bottles. Plus you get filtered water on tap too!

A large, rectangular cat size litter box is perfect. I keep Olive's in one corner of her cage. But you have to be careful what you fill the litter box with. Stay away from litters made from wood shavings or chips. CatWorks litter isn't safe either.

I use Tractor Supply store brand equine pine pellets. They are wood stove pellets that are actually for horses, but they are great for rabbits too. Best of all, it's only $5 for a 40lb bag. Which lasts a LONG time for Olive.

For their litter box, all you need to do is add in their litter and top it with fresh hay. Rabbits love to eat hay while their pooping. And yes, they will also eat their own poop. This is normal and HEALTHY. Rabbits go through their food so quickly that most of their poop is just half-digested food still full of nutrients. Also, you need to make sure that you change their litter box often.

This graphic from Rabbit House Society is great...

When I adopted Olive she was already litter box trained. But I've heard that it isn't that hard to train them to use a litter box. Rabbits like to keep their areas very clean so having a designated area for them is right up their alley. I've heard of people taking three separate litter boxes and lining their cage with them. They then remove one litter box, then the second litter box leaving the third litter box on either the left or right side of the cage. Just whatever you do, make sure the litter box isn't in the middle of the cage... bunnies need a lot of space to stretch out and be lazy

A pet rabbit, in my opinion, should always be kept indoors. As for the cage size, you have to remember that once the litter box is in there, there needs to be enough room for their water bowl and area for the bunny to sprawl out and hang out comfortably. For Olive, I originally purchased this cage. Olive isn't a large rabbit, maybe 41/2 pounds, so I thought this cage was perfect for her. Sadly, it wasn't. Plus those plastic surfaces can cause sore hocks - which can become very serious. We have since made Olive a rabbit-tat, thanks to this amazing metal x-pen. You can go here for even more info.

Picking up your rabbit and other things to consider.
Most rabbits don't enjoy being picked up. Simply consider that you tower over them, they feel safe being low to the ground and picking them up could signal danger. Olive will only let me pick her up on rare occasions. One way to see if your rabbit will even allow you to pick them up is to test the situation. Usually what I do is start by getting down on the ground next to her, I let her sniff me and then I will start petting her. I'll then move my hand towards her side, in between her feet, and if she doesn't bolt  I know that she's cool with letting me pick her up.

How to hold a rabbit - lots of bunny butt support.
When holding your rabbit make sure their paws are pressed to your chest with one hand supporting their butt. Bunnies have very delicate spines and supporting them in that way and location helps them feel safe in the "cuddle position" as I like to call it.

Listen closely, rabbits DO make noises.
Olive loves to grunt if she doesn't like what I am doing. This usually occurs if I have to pick her up and she doesn't want anything to do with it. She'll also grunt if I have to rearrange her set up in her cage while she is still in it. Bunnies can be a little OCD with their habitats and if they set up their stuff a certain way, they don't like to see it altered.

P.S. If you ever hear a rabbit making a grinding noise while you're petting them, it means that they are content. It's the bunny's equivalent of purring.

Honestly, rabbits make great pets,  they can live up to ten years (sometimes more - like 13 years) so it is a big decision that requires commitment. They need love and attention just like any other animal. And please, if you are thinking about getting a rabbit, check out local shelters near you. There are so many bunnies in need of adoption.

You can check out Olive's adventures here.


  1. Great information! Since I've met Olive and got to hold her, I know how sweet she is!!

    1. She loved you. Seriously, I haven't seen her stay that long in someone's arms besides mine!