Welcome to this page about pet rabbits.
I'll be a while finishing this page, but here's what
I hope to offer you once soon:
What to expect when you go to the vet
Recipes (just kidding)
Rabbits are fairly nice pets. My wife, who is a weaver, takes our Angora pet rabbit, along with a lamb to elementary schools where she demonstrates the various stages of working with wool ...starting with raw wool from the animal to cleaning, carding, dying, and spinning, up to the woven finished product. The hit of the demonstration, of course, are usually the animals themselves. The rabbit, who seems to really enjoy these visits, is a special hit because my wife spins yarns directly from his coat while he sits in her lap chewing away on a treat (he loves dried fruit).
The good things I have to say about rabbits as pets include:
Relatively easy to care for and fairly clean.
They can be litter trained and allowed to run around the house which is kind of fun...although you have to rabbit proof the area to prevent chewed electrical cords etc.
They’re inexpensive and if you enjoy showing or getting involved in clubs, there are rabbit associations and clubs and shows everywhere. Breeding rabbits for show and different coats and so forth is quite a hobby for many people.
There are all kinds of different breeds, including those used for wool like the kind we have as well as dwarf breeds that are awfully cute.
The negative things I have to say about rabbits as pets include:
They’re pretty vulnerable as prey if you have other pets in the house ... this may or may not be a problem but you need to be realistic.
If you’re not going to allow your rabbit to run around in the house and be a “family member” with you, either because you also have dogs that might hurt it or you have the type of household where doors are always being left open allowing escape, or you simply don’t want a rabbit running around loose causing minor mayhem and inconvenience ... well then that means putting your rabbit in a cage. No big deal, but so often, even with frequent cleaning, in a cage situation, rabbits are smelly and messy enough that most people end up delegating the poor rabbit to the basement, garage, laundry room, or backyard where I think they often lead a fairly lonely and forgotten existence.
And that brings up another problem; rabbits sometimes don’t do very well when caged together: one often bullies the other. It’s hard to teach the Golden Rule to Rabbits!
Rabbits, just so you know, are also fairly fragile patients. If they get sick or need surgery, they often respond well, but on the other hand, are much more likely than cats, for example, of having complications from anesthesia, secondary diarrhea from medications, of having heart attacks from the general stress of a hospital setting, illness etc, and simply don’t seem to “fight” very hard to get better. Like other prey animals, they seem to just give up and die.
Life spans are reportedly up to 15 years, but in my experience, most pet rabbits seem to die between 3 and 5 years of age.
I mention all these negative things mostly to caution you not to take on a rabbit as a pet simply because they’re cute as an impulse buy while window shopping at the pet store. Bringing any type of pet home should involve some responsible thinking and planning. I don’t know quite why I bother with this message, though; in my experience the “good” people don’t need me to lecture them and the “irresponsible” people don’t seem to heed any reasonable cautions in life whether it be “just say no to drugs” to picking a suitable mate. I might as well be pis...make that blowing in the wind.
Okay: Basic Rabbit information
Rabbit's ears are highly vascular and help regulate heat, as well as sensing sound. They are fragile and sensitive and should not be used for restraint.
The rabbit skeleton is also fragile, comprising only 8% of the animals body weight, compared with 13% in the cat. However, the rear leg and back muscles are extremely strong and if you restrain them by simply forcing their backs down without preventing them from using their powerful rear legs, they can potentially fracture their spine trying to get away. Be Careful !
Rabbit teeth continuously grow throughout their lives and frequently end up causing trouble, cheek abscesses, and discomfort. Simple trimming of the teeth solves the problem. I compare this chore to trimming hooves on horses ... it’s simply something that nature doesn’t always take care of very well.
Okay, here’s an intriguing thing about rabbit health: POOP
Rabbits poop out fairly dry little poop pellets during the day after eating and you’re all used to seeing these.
But in addition, some of the pellets are more mucoid ... they come from the cecum where they’ve been fermenting away, and these are usually produced in the night or very early morning (about 8 hours after eating) and the rabbit usually eats these pellets directly from the anus. Most people never see this happen.
Apparently this redigestion of mucoid pellets is a good source of amino acids, fatty acids, and B vitamins.
More Basic info:
The males are called bucks and can weight up to 15 lbs depending on the breed and so forth. Females are called does and are often larger than the males. And just in case you didn’t know, baby rabbits are called BUNNIES!
Respiratory rates range from 30-60
Heart rate ranges from 120-350
Rectal body temperature ranges from 101-104 F
Males reach puberty between 6 months and a year. Females can go into heat as early as 4 months of age and can have a couple of litters a year for several years before “wearing out”. Gestation is only a month long (28-35 days).
Litter sizes range from 1 - 10, and like kittens and puppies, are usually weaned by 6 weeks old.
Feed extra pellets during pregnancy and nursing
Like cats, rabbits keep going into heat unless bred.
Rabbits have a lot of potential digestive problems that are best prevented by feeding a commercial rabbit pellet supplemented free choice hay (not alfalfa except for young growing rabbits), and greens such as kale and mustard greens, fresh vegetables such as carrots, and broccoli. Rabbits love fruit, but don’t feed too much or they’ll get diarrhea.
Like horses, rabbits have a large cecum where they digest hay and grasses, and like horses, rabbits are prone to impactions of the bowel, and life threatening colic.
Also like a horse, rabbits can’t vomit, and that’s too bad, because rabbits are prone to getting hairballs. Not only can’t rabbits upchuck their hairballs like a cat, it’s somewhat difficult to give rabbits oral hairball lubricants like we do for cats. Nor are they very effective in rabbits. Enemas often work, but are very dangerous in rabbits as the added pressure to the already expanded bowel can cause sudden death. (see treatment of hairballs in rabbit article below)
The best way to prevent hairballs is by feeding high fiber diets (commercial rabbit pellets), keeping the skin and coat healthy and well groomed, and by minimizing stress and boredom.
Speaking of boredom, rabbits will chew on stuff when bored, so avoid wood chips and carpets as bedding. Straw or grass hay is okay. Avoid alfalfa hay has it’s too rich and is likely to cause colic. It seems to me that rabbits like music. Take that bit of info or leave it...I’m not sure. I do know, though, that rabbits stress out easily in hot, humid weather if not given shade, or if penned too close to your dog kennels.
In your rabbit hutches and cages, you need to provide a solid flat area where they can rest without getting wire cuts and infections on their pads, but you also need to provide a wired area for stool and urine to go through or else they end up getting skin disease from sitting in their own wastes.
Vaccines: none recommended or available in the United States, but this is not true in other countries. I'm sorry, I don't know much about this subject.
Parasite control if needed: Revolution seems to be safe and effective for fleas, ear mites and intestinal worms (with the exception of tape worms) in rabbits.
I recommend spaying females by 6 months of age unless you really want to breed. The surgery is fairly safe and reduces the problems of burrowing, and going into heat all the time as well as all the potential problems of uterine cancer, breast cancer, uterine infections, and unwanted pregnancies.
For males I recommend castration by 6 months of age to prevent urine spraying and aggression. Every once in a while the stress of the hospital visit and the anesthesia causes deadly post-op complications, but usually everything goes well.
Your vet will know this, but rabbits are very sensitive to many antibiotics, especially those that kill gram positive gut bacteria.
What to expect when you go to the vet
Recipes (just kidding)
Health Problems in Rabbits:
Hairballs: My treatment for suspected hairballs in rabbits including combining any of the following techniques as needed:
1. Cat hairball laxatives. This is safe and fairly effective, but some bunnies are pretty difficult to medicate. You need to get down a lot more than the amount it says on the tube (this is true for cats too) An effective amount is about 1/3rd tube (about 1 ounce) daily til better. If this is going to work, you should be all better in 12-48 hours.
2. Enzymes. Giving various types of enyzmes that dissolve hair are often successful. Options include fresh, non pasteurized pineapple juice (about 10 ml daily for 3-5 days) (pineapple juice contains bromelin and papain), or bromelin and papain tablets which are available in health food stores.
3. Enemas. Often successful but you need to be very careful
4. Surgery only as a high risk last choice alternative.
Rabbit Links (Contributed by Clemson prevet student Rachel Wessel)
This site give valueable information about rabbits including their normal body temperature, life span and breeding information.
This website is dedicated to the adoption of rescued house rabbits and their care.
This site discusses rabbits diets, health and behavior as well as how to rabbit proof your house.