New Rabbits

Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Now that you have welcomed your small friend into your family, let us help you with some basic information so you can be the best parent to your hopping small friend!

What should I be feeding my rabbit?
Great question! One of the biggest favours you can do for your bunny is by feeding it the right diet. Rabbits, like people, need to have a healthy diet to live a fit and long life. Ideally, your bunny should be fed a diet consisting primarily of grass hay and fresh leafy vegetables with a small amount of quality pellets.

1. Pellets:
Unfortunately, most of the commercial rabbit pellets on the market were originally formulated for rabbits in the meat, fur and laboratory animal industry and as such are unsuitable for our pet bunnies. These pellets are highly concentrated in energy to maximise weight gain but inadequate nutritionally. Feeding your bunny commercial pellets all its life is like you or I eating fast food at every meal everyday. You can appreciate how such a diet will contribute to obesity problems, medical diseases and ultimately shorten your pet bunny’s life.

An ideal pellet for a bunny should ideally consist of at least:

  • 18% or higher fibre content
  • 2.5% or lower fat content
  • 16% or less protein content and
  • 1.0% or less in calcium content

You should not leave it up to your bunny to decide how much to eat each day. A rough rule of thumb is that for every 2kg of your bunny, ¼ cup of pellets should be offered daily.

2. Grass Hay:
Grass hay (also known as meadow or timothy hay) is part of the natural diet for a rabbit and is instrumental in rabbit health. Grass hay is rich in nutrients such as protein, minerals and vitamins. It is also high in fibre which makes your bunny feel fuller for longer and promotes bowel movements. Grass hay promotes the growth of ‘good bugs’ in your rabbit’s intestines to aid in digestion. It also encourages chewing which allows your bunny to wear down its teeth and promotes mental stimulation.

Grass hay should be available to your bunny 24/7 in unlimited amounts. A good place to source your grass hay is from stock feed stores. Avoid legume hays such as lucerne (alfalfa) and clover. Legume hays are too rich in calories, calcium and protein and can lead to obesity and tummy upsets.

3. Fresh Greens:
Like us, your rabbit needs to have a daily supply of fresh greens to stay healthy. Fresh greens are as important as grass hay to your bunny’s health. They provide important micronutrients and act as a source of palatable water. In the case of rabbits, variety is the spice of life: feed at least three different green veges to your bunny daily.  Some good leafy greens are: Chinese greens, spinach, cauliflower and broccoli leaves. Avoid iceberg and cos lettuces as they are mostly water and have little nutritional value. Always wash your greens before giving them to your bunny.

4. Treat and Supplements:
If fed an appropriate diet with small amounts of good quality pellets with unlimited supply of grass hay and green veges, a rabbit does not require any other supplementation. Small amounts of fruits may be given once or twice a week as special treats. You must remember fruits are strictly treat foods and should not be offered to your bunny daily as they are not part of the natural diet of a wild rabbit.

5. The Big ‘No-Nos’: 
Any food that is rich in starch and fat is a big ‘no-no’ for your pet bunny, when fed in large enough amounts, these foods cause tummy upsets and predispose your rabbit to disease and obesity.

Some ‘no-no’ foods include beans, bread, peas, cereals, oats, corn, nuts, seeds, wheat, grains, dried fruits (such as raisins or apricots), sugar or molasses. Unfortunately, many of these foods are fed to rabbits by well-meaning owners as treats or as part of the commercial rabbit mix but they are unsafe for your rabbit to consume.

6. Water:
Fresh water should be available to your bunny at all times. You may find a sipper bottle is handier and less mess than a water bowl.

By following the guidelines set out above you can offer your rabbit a diverse range of food that will keep them mentally stimulated and happy.

Do I need to vaccinate my bunny?
Yes! It is recommended that all rabbits in Australia are vaccinated against Rabbit Calicivirus. Rabbit Calicivirus is a fatal disease that can result in sudden death without any apparent signs of ill health. For more information on Vaccinations please see our Vaccination Information Page.

How should I pick up and hold my rabbit?
Your bunny needs to feel nice and secure when it is handled. For the safety of your bunny and yourself, always hold a rabbit firmly and close to your body while supporting its hindquarters. A panicked rabbit kicking out with its back legs can do serious damage to its spine. As a result, always make sure you have firm support of your bunny’s back and that your bunny is nice and calm before picking it up.

Where should my bunny sleep?
The ideal rabbit hutch should be as large as possible but the minimum space requirement for a single bunny should about 1.0 m X 1.5 m (provided that your bunny is let out everyday for some play). Your hutch should protect your rabbit from the extremes of weather, be mosquito proof and be well-ventilated. It should have at least one retreat or bedroom area and an outside run to allow your bunny to stretch its legs and enjoy the sunshine. It is important your hutch has solid flooring (i.e. no wire floors!) to protect their feet and should have sufficient hay/straw as bedding. Your small friend needs to have a litter tray, or specific toilet area in their hutch so they can answer the call of nature and the design of your hutch should be such so it is easily cleaned. It is best to clean out your hutch everyday to maintain good hygiene. Bunnies are very fastidious animals and enjoy living in a neat and clean environment.

Does my rabbit need a litter tray?
Rabbits are fastidious animals and prefer to eliminate their waste in an allocated area. It is important that this is easily cleaned. A shallow tray with shredded paper or paper kitty litter is usually adequate.

Does my bunny need time outside of its hutch? 
Rabbits need plenty of exercise. Ideally, a bunny should get at least four hours of play time outside of its hutch everyday. Play time allows your bunny to stretch its furry legs, munch on grass, explore its environment, relax in the sunshine and generally appreciate the wide open space! You may consider letting your bunny roam free in a fenced off part of your garden or cordon off an area in your backyard with a child playpen.

Does my bunny need toys?
It is great if you can provide your rabbit with an enriching environment. This does not necessarily mean expensive toys. Simple things such as providing more than one hidey hole for your bunny, cardboard boxes with various exit holes cut into them and plastic PVC pipes as tunnels are all good fun for your bunny. Some suitable toys for your rabbit include flavoured wooden chews and vitamin bricks.

Plenty of exercise and play means a healthier, happier and well adjusted bunny at the end of the day.

Do I need to desex my rabbit?
We advise desexing your male rabbit to reduce unwanted sexual and dominance behaviours. We strongly recommended that you desex your female rabbit as up to 80% of female bunnies will get cancer of the uterus if not spayed. We also advise desexing all animals to avoid any unwanted pregnancies. Desexing rabbits is a routine surgery and your bunny will only need to stay the day at Small Friends Veterinary Hospital. For more information regarding desexing your rabbit please see our Desexing Information Page.

Does my bunny need a friend?
Rabbits are gentle creatures and bond well to humans. While it is not cruel to keep a single bunny to itself, your bunny will definitely appreciate having its own furry friend. This is especially so if you have a busy lifestyle and have little time to interact with your bunny. Having a friend means your bunny is less likely to be bored, is better socially adjusted and a lot less lonely! Like people, bunnies appreciate having a good friend by their side. It is important to be 100% certain of the sex of your rabbits and to have them desexed to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

If you have any other queries about raising your new rabbit, our staff at Small Friends Veterinary Hospital will be able to assist you. Please call Small Friends Veterinary Hospital on 02 6262 2233.