Considering getting a pet rabbit? If so, you’ve come to the right spot. Rabbits are adorable and fluffy animals that with their big ears, twitching noses, and hopping feet, bring joy to many people’s lives. Although often considered a childs’ pet, rabbits have relatively complex needs to ensure good welfare and health.
When it comes to caring for a rabbit, it’s important to understand their needs, such as how much sunlight they need. Yes, they need sunlight for up to an hour per day. It’s actually a key factor in keeping rabbits happy and healthy. Keep reading to learn more about their sunlight needs as well as their general care and maintenance requirements.
The Scoop on Owning and Caring for a Pet Rabbit
Caring for a pet rabbit takes time, patience and dedication, just like with cats and dogs. And before you take the plunge, here are a few things you should consider:
A Rabbit’s Sunlight Needs
Rabbits need about 30-60 minutes of sunlight a day. Domesticated rabbits (like wild rabbits) need sunlight on a day-to-day basis to stay healthy. Remember that rabbits typically live in the wild where they can get their daily dose of sunshine and, subsequently, vitamin D, and they can’t do this indoors, so you’ll have to assist them a bit.
You can do this by placing your rabbit in a room that has a window that receives sunlight during the day, (just make sure the sun is not too hot through the window) or you can simply take it out back for a bit of fun in the sun. It’s best to keep your rabbit in an enclosed area or on a harness and leash to prevent it from hopping away. Have you ever seen someone trying to catch a rabbit? It’s not easy.
Vitamin D is important for bone, neuromuscular and heart health among many other functions. Rabbits need vitamin D in their diet and UVB light from sunlight. Natural light is an ideal source of UVB light as the rabbits can combine their sunlight needs with their exercise needs. The ideal outdoor temperature for rabbits is 50-68℉ (10-20℃) so do be aware of this when putting them outside so that they don’t overheat or get too cold. However, if this is not possible then using a UVB lamp is advised.
A Rabbit’s Diet and Nutrition Needs
Rabbits are herbivores, meaning that their diet and nutrition needs are entirely plant based. They need a steady supply of hay, which should make up the bulk of their diet. Hay helps to keep their teeth ground down and provides necessary fiber for the health of their gastrointestinal tracts.
They also need fresh vegetables and fruits to supplement their diet. So dark leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach are all good choices, as are root vegetables, such as carrots and beets. Fruits should be given sparingly, as too much sugar can lead to health problems with these furry friends.
In addition to veggies and hay, bunnies also need a good quality pellet food for additional nutrients and vitamins. When choosing a pellet food, look for something that’s specifically designed for rabbits (not Guinea pigs or other mammals) and is high in fiber. Extruded pellet foods are recommended over muesli style foods so that rabbits can’t just pick out their favorite bits and eat those. It ensures a balanced diet.
Creating the Right Home Environment for Your Rabbit
Your rabbit needs a safe and comfortable environment in order to thrive – just like children do. Make sure to provide them with a cage or hutch that’s large enough for them to move around in and has plenty of ventilation. The floor of the cage should be lined with newspaper or bedding to provide a soft surface for them to rest on.
They also require proper exercise in order to stay happy and healthy. For a healthy and active rabbit, daily exercise is an absolute must. Note that rabbits should get at least 4 hours of exercise every day. This exercise should be spread out throughout the day so that they don’t get too tired in one setting.
Without providing rabbits with the physical activity they need, they can easily become overweight, unhealthy, bored and quite destructive. You can also buy your rabbit toys such as balls, tunnels, and chew toys to help keep them entertained and active.
Grooming Your Rabbit
Rabbits also need regular grooming and nail trimming to keep them healthy and comfortable. Let’s look at the most important aspects of keeping your rabbit clean and healthy.
You may be surprised to learn that rabbits actually don’t require routine bathing like dogs do. In fact, doing so can actually strip your rabbit’s fur of its natural oils, which can result in increased shedding and an unhealthy coat. Keep in mind that bathing your rabbit can actually stress it out, as they simply aren’t used to it.
So you may find that your rabbit is particularly agitated and a bit feisty if you try to give it a rub-a-dub in the tub. So be sure to keep your rabbit away from the soap bars, and trust its natural ability to clean itself.
Some rabbits with digestive problems do need bathing of their rear end to keep it clean.
Coat Brushing & Deshedding
Brushing your rabbit is an important part of grooming them. You should brush your rabbit at least once a week with a soft brush made for small animals. This helps to remove any loose fur and detangle their fur. It’s also a great way to bond with your rabbit and help them relax.
When it comes to tools, there are different types of brushes that you can use for your rabbit. You can use a slicker brush, rubber grooming mitt, or a deshedding brush like the FURminator. Make sure to brush in the direction of the fur and not against it – this is away and down from the top of the rabbit’s head and body and toward its belly and legs.
Rabbits have very fragile skin so be careful not to tug at the hair or you can cause wounds.
Trimming your rabbit’s nails is also important. If their nails get too long, it can be uncomfortable for them and can lead to infections. You can purchase a pair of pet nail trimmers (they cost around $10) and trim their nails yourself or take them to the vet or groomer.
The nails should be trimmed as needed, which is generally every 1 to 2 months. But if its toes have begun curling over, then it’s already been too long. You should clip them ASAP.
Like with humans, a rabbit’s body will naturally flush out ear wax from the inner to the outer ear where the rabbit can then get rid of it. But you should also check your bunny’s ears regularly for wax buildup and to make sure that they have no medical issues – this can assist you with spotting problems early. For example, rabbits are prone to ear mites and infections.
When you look in the rabbit ears, note that there should be no discharge or excessive wax. If there is excessive wax, you can clean it out with a cotton pad – do not let any water drip down the inside of the ears and dry them afterward to avoid infection. If you notice any discharge, it’s likely an infection, and you should reach out to your vet for advice.
Wrapping Things Up
Pets are a wonderful way to bring joy and companionship into your home, and rabbits are interesting and surprisingly intelligent pets to have. Owning them can be very rewarding and watching them play can be downright hilarious. With a little bit of preparation and due diligence about their habits and maintenance, you can ensure that your pet rabbit is safe, healthy, and happy in your home.
Featured Image Credit: Alexandr Opalat, Shutterstock