Focus On: Bunny Keeping Q&A
So you’re thinking about adding a new furry friend to your family and are wondering if a bunny is right for you. It may be overwhelming trying to find all the information you need to properly care for your rabbit, which is where we come in. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about bunny keeping, with answers and explanations that are sure to set you on the right track.
Q: How long do bunnies live?
A: The average lifespan of a pet rabbit is around 8 to 14 years, depending on the breed. Miniature or dwarf breeds of rabbits tend to live longer than giant breeds, possibly reaching double digit years. This means that buying a rabbit can turn into a decade-long commitment, so you will want to ensure that you are financially and intellectually prepared to own a bunny.
Q: What structures do pet bunnies live in?
A: There are many options regarding homes for your bunny. Most owners keep their bunnies in a large cage or pen about the size of a twin bed inside their house. It is not recommended to keep bunnies outside, as they are more susceptible to animal attacks or inclement weather. Some bunny owners devote an entire room of their house for their furry friend or allow the bunny free range of the house, after it has been adequately bunny-proofed (see the question below for how to bunny proof your house). Whether you get a cage or a pen (similar to a cage but without a roof), you’ll want to make sure it is tall enough that your bunny cannot hop out, since they are very fast and quite difficult to catch. Thirty-six inches should be tall enough to keep the bunny from escaping if you choose to go with a roofless pen.
Q: How do I bunny-proof my house?
A: The most important protection to obtain is wire covers, since bunnies will use their sharp teeth to nibble through electrical wires, which can be very harmful for your devices and especially for your rabbit. Any hardware, home improvement, or electronics store should carry hard plastic sleeves or flex tubing to cover your wires. Bunnies might also chew on baseboards and moldings, but plastic guards should do the trick at protecting these. In addition, you can block off any areas you don’t want your bunny exploring with baby gates or puppy pens; however, make sure these barriers are made of metal and do not contain large gaps, or else your rabbit will chew or squeeze his way through them. Lastly, many common houseplants can be dangerous to bunnies, so make sure you don’t have any flora around that could harm your furry friend. A complete list of plants that are poisonous to rabbits can be found here.
Q: What materials do I need to raise a bunny?
A: In addition to the aforementioned structures and bunny-proofing items, there are several other products you will need for your pet, such as:
- A medium-sized cat litter box or a shallow storage container for your bunny to do his business in
- Rabbit safe litter, such as newspaper pellet litter
- Ceramic food and water bowls that your pesky friend won’t tip over
- A hay feeder (explained in a later question)
- Rabbit food (hay, pellets, vegetables) and water
- Nail clippers to regularly trim your rabbit’s nails
- Chew toys
- Optional: cut doorways and windows in a cardboard box to give your rabbit another structure to explore.
Q: What is a hay feeder?
A: Hay feeders are simple containers, usually box-shaped with slats, that hold your rabbit’s hay. They prevent your bunny from spilling and spreading the hay everywhere in his enclosure (which can happen if you just put the hay in a dish), which, in turn, leads to cleaner hay for your bunny to munch on. Many hay feeders on the market also have a lower compartment that acts as a food bowl to hold your bunny’s pellets.
Q: What do bunnies eat?
A: Hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s daily meals, and should make up the majority of your pet’s diet. Growing rabbits can typically eat any type of hay, but adult rabbits should be limited to grass hay, since it is high in fiber and is beneficial to your bunny’s digestive system. Grass hay is simply just normal grass that has been left to dry out, and different types of grass hay like meadow hay, orchard grass, and timothy hay can be found at most pet stores. Rabbits can also be fed a small amount of timothy pellets, but be careful–too many pellets can lead to obesity and gastrointestinal issues for rabbits. Contrary to public opinion, carrots should not be a routine snack for rabbits–they are very high in carbohydrates which can cause digestive issues for rabbits. Still, rabbits require a healthy dose of vegetables each day, specifically leafy greens that are low in carbs. These options include romaine lettuce, bok choy, mustard greens, carrot tops, cilantro, watercress, basil, cilantro, and broccoli greens. Introducing a variety of low-carb vegetables into your rabbits diet, along with the staple of hay and the occasional pellets, is the key to raising a happy and healthy bunny.
Q: How often should I feed my rabbit?
A: Rabbits should always have fresh hay available, since this is the main part of their diet; fresh water should also be provided every day. Since bunnies love to nibble, you should also keep those low-carb, leafy greens in their habitat as well.
Q: What breed of bunny is best?
A: The breed of bunny you get is mainly based on your personal desires for a pet rabbit. Some breeds, like the Holland lop and lionhead, are highly energetic and friendly. Others, such as the Netherland dwarf and mini satin, are rather shy and skittish. And finally, rabbit breeds like the havana and standard chinchilla are calm and cuddly. Of course, this varies from bunny to bunny, but breed is still a solid indicator of your rabbit’s potential personality.