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I’ve always loved bunnies but never owned one in my life, so it’s been a learning curve, that’s for sure! A rabbit has very different needs than a dog or a cat, so I’ve been doing tons of research over the past few months as I get a crash course in Rabbit 101. So I thought it would be fun to share my setup with you, go over what I’ve learned about the basics that rabbits need, and give you an idea of what’s involved if you’ve been considering adding a rabbit to your life!
Since Honey Buns showed up out of the blue, we had to improvise and temporarily put her in one of Bob’s old dog crates. Jai built four custom hutches for the rabbits using recovered and scrap lumber, parts from two dog crates, and 6-Gauge Galvanized Wire Fence – you can read more about our hutches here. Our situation is unique, because since we are rescuing four rabbits at the same time, they all need to be fixed and (hopefully) bonded before they can safely live together, so separate cages are a necessity at this point. I would advise reading through some sites such as TheRabbitHouse.com to learn more about the different housing options for rabbits, as there is a lot to consider.
Litter & Cleaning
One of the most perplexing things I had to figure out was how to keep the rabbits’ hutches clean. Rabbits can be litter box trained, and while our buns are fairly good about this, they have not been fixed yet and thus will “Mark” their territory and leave more of a mess than they will after we get them spay/neutered. And even with a litter box trained rabbit, droppings are just a fact of life and their cages will get messy pretty quickly!
Since Jai custom built our hutches, he designed them with two levels: The top level is open and provides a nice area for the bunnies to sit, hang out and eat. The bottom level is an enclosed, private “Hidey hole” that also contains their litter boxes and has a bunny-safe mesh floor that allows droppings to fall down onto a removable tray below. Emptying a giant tray of waste without spilling it all over the floor was proving to be pretty tricky, but I’ve figured out a system that makes it a lot more managable!
The Ware Rabbit Pan Liner makes cleaning the trays under the hutches SO MUCH EASIER!! It’s essentially a large trash bag that lays flat in the tray. When you’re ready to empty it, you lift up the four corners that hang over the tray, and it pulls the liner up into what is effectively a trash bag that you can easily pull out and throw away. A 4-pack retails for $3.99 on Chewy.com and is worth every penny to not have rabbit poop rolling all over your floor!
When filling your rabbit’s litter box, be aware that you must be careful to use a rabbit-safe litter. We really like Kaytee Clean and Cozy Small Animal Bedding, which retails for $13.86 on Chewy.com. You can also put this litter in the tray to absorb urine and reduce odor.
Rabbits love to toss over food bowls, so you’ll need to get one that attaches to the cage to stop them from throwing their food everywhere! The Ware Slide-N-Lock Small Animal Bowl shown here in Bab’s cage retails for $8.42 on Chewy.com. These are also excellent for water – ironically, we are using both our locking food bowls for water at the moment, because every time I get one with the intention of using it for food, another bunny shows up. I’m not even kidding! A few days after Honey Buns arrived, I went to the store to buy a locking food bowl that was in my purse when I arrived home and found Bunsen shivering in front of my door. So it became his water bowl! Then, on the day that my Kaytee water bottle and Ware bowl arrived from Chewy.com, Buster and Babs moved into our workshop – so once again, my planned food bowls became water bowls! So I’m putting their food straight on to the hutch floor for now and will pick up four more locking bowls when we get home from England. 😉
Another tip: Rabbits find drinking out of bottles to be too difficult when they are ill, so be prepared to provide a bowl of fresh water when this happens.
One fact of life for a rabbit owner is hay…everywhere. To reduce this mess, what I tend to do is load the lower, enclosed part of their hutches with hay – which is necessary, because their potty is in the lower level and they need to have hay when they go to the bathroom – and then use a feeder to keep a contained amount of hay in the top level, so that less of it gets kicked outside the hutch. The Kaytee Hay Buffet is $6.66 on Chewy.com and can hold hay as well as veggies; I also use the Kaytee Rollin’ The Hay Feeder in Honey Buns and Bunsen’s hutches.
Rabbits have much more complex dietary needs than a dog or cat, and their sensitive stomachs are prone to sickness. Therefore, it’s super important to be aware of what a healthy diet looks like – I recommend visiting Rabbit.org as a starting point to learn about rabbit feeding, and consult with your vet. Generally speaking, a rabbit’s diet consists of unlimited hay, veggies, pellets, and a sparing amount of fruit/treats.
The Oxbow Timothy Club Carrot Small Animal Treat is a great healthy treat made from 100% Timothy Hay. It also provides a little activity for your rabbit as they figure out how to pull it down and tear off the hay – kind of like an edible toy! You can get one for $3.59 at Chewy.com.
Our bunnies also love the wonderful handmade treats from Happy Manes Rabbitry, a small rabbitry in upstate New York. These treats are made with ingredients like real fruit, rabbit pellets, whole oats and fresh local honey, and come in tasty varieties such as Apple Madness Cookies and Banana-Carrot Crunchies – each bag retails for $4.99.
For timothy hay, I highly recommend checking with a local farm supply store – we live in a rural area, and are able to get entire bales of hay for $17 or less. If this isn’t possible in your area, you can order hay in bulk on Amazon.
Fun & Games
Rabbits are intelligent animals and need mental stimulation. They love little “Hidey holes” and tunnels, so the Kaytee Tropical Fiddle Sticks Small Animal Flexible Hideout, $7.99 on Chewy.com, is a fun little hideout that can flex into different shapes. It’s also safe for bunnies to chew on, which is one of their very favorite pastimes. 😉
Not everybunny likes to dress up, but if yours does, Zoo Snoods make an adorable line of knitted hats for pets! Honey Buns wore the Deer Zoo Snood, $16.99, for Christmas, and Buster became a rare bunny indeed with his Unicorn Zoo Snood, $17.99.
So there you have it: These are the products that have been my staples over the last two months of sudden bunny ownership! Fellow rabbit owners, I’d love to hear some of your favorite things!