Allergies- When it comes to rabbits, most people are allergic to a protein in their saliva or dander (skin cells)- not their fur! As the rabbit grooms itself, the saliva is spread over its body. Handling your rabbit and then touching your face will spread these proteins to sensitive areas such as your nose and eyes. If you do not have allergies, nothing will happen. But, if you’re allergic to a particular protein, your body will try to fight it off, which will make you feel as if you have a cold. You can also be allergic to the type of hay your rabbit needs to eat. Make sure you are aware of this before taking on a pet rabbit, there are many steps you can take to prevent the allergy from getting too harsh on you but you need to keep this in mind because its not fair for your rabbit to settle down into a new environment only to be re-homed again.
Feeding- Depending on where you live, and the stores around you, feeding a rabbit alone can be quite expensive. Your rabbit needs fresh unlimited hay all day. Timothy Hay is the most recommended hay for adult rabbits over 3 months and Alfalfa Hay is recommended for babies. You will also need to provide a variety of fresh greens everyday for your rabbit as well as a rationed portion of pellets.
Handling- As ground-loving creatures, rabbits are not fond of being held or carried as adults. They are not good pets for small children. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and need their quiet sleep time during the day. Instead of picking your rabbit up when you want to play with it try getting down to their level.
Housing- House your bunny in a cage at least six times the size of him as an adult (no fish tanks or cages too small where he cannot sit up and groom comfortably – 3 feet by 2 feet by 18 inches high is adequate). Choose a cage that doesnt have wire bottom flooring as that can cause sore hocks (blisters) on your rabbits sensitive feet. Put fleece, towels and mats down for you rabbit so that they will be comfortable. Provide a large litter box inside the cage with a good litter substrate.
Supervision- When your rabbits out playing make sure you are supervising them carefully. Rabbits are trouble makers when they are bored and most bunnies are diggers and chewers. A lot of rabbits like to chew through all electrical wires- which if plugged in can be deadly! Let your rabbit out in a bunny safe area where electric cords are out of sight and areas that they aren’t allowed in are blocked off.
Veterinarians- Have the names of several rabbit-savvy veterinarians by your phone. Rabbits will hide their symptoms for as long as possible. In the wild, looking sick is a bad idea as it means you will be the one picked on by any predators lurking around. However, as long as you get to know your rabbit properly, you can usually tell when something isn’t quite right. Some good indications are the number and size of their poop, and the amount of food or water they are consuming. If your rabbit is sat hunched up in the corner looking miserable and grinding his teeth, then get to a vet straight away!
Indoor Life is best- House your bunny indoors for ultimate safety. Many rabbits escape out of backyards, are stolen, or are killed by predators, even in their own cages. Illnesses often go unnoticed in outdoor rabbits until it is too late.
Environment- Be aware of temperature changes. When temperatures get too hot, outdoor rabbits and rabbits in homes without air conditioning need extra help. The rabbit’s body is designed to live outside in all weathers, so they have a very nicely insulating coat to keep them warm. In the summer months they can always escape down into their cool burrow. Unfortunately, pet rabbits don’t have that luxury, and can get very hot in the summer. You can help them keep cool in several ways: Have someone put on the fans, stop home to check on your bunny during the day, provide frozen water bottles in the cage and make sure your bunny is in the coolest part of your home.
Spaying/Neutering- Rabbits can live 10+ years if they are spayed and neutered after they reach sexual maturity. Unspayed females have a high risk of uterine cancer. Altering your rabbits will settle both males and females down and improve their health dramatically. It will also prevent contributing to pet overpopulation, saving many bunnies from certain death at the shelters.