Some tips, tricks, and other helpful information on taking care of your new rabbit!
Feeding Your Rabbit
Rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems, so it is vital that you are ALWAYS careful what your bunny is fed. A bunny given too many and the wrong kind of treats WILL DIE!
Bunny Pellets: We feed our Holland Lops 1/4 cup of pellets and you can sprinkle on a few oats. If your bunny has eaten his/her feed by the end of the day, offer up to 1/4 cup more feed. Babies under 6 months can have more than 1/2 cup a day if needed, unless they become overweight.
Fresh Water: A constant supply of fresh water is very important! Always check your bunny’s crock or water bottle daily and keep it clean and filled.
Timothy Hay: Since bunnies cannot vomit hairballs, fiber in their food and hay helps to keep things going towards the “exit.” Timothy hay is high in fiber and low in protein, calcium, and calories, so it is the most recommended hay for rabbits. But always check it for mold and freshness. We always keep fresh timothy hay in our bunnies’ cages, either in a toilet paper tube or hay rack.
Treats: You can offer a bunny that is older than 6 months about 1/2 to 1 cup of greens daily. However, greens aren’t necessary if providing fresh hay and a quality pellets.
This is greens only (leaf lettuce, kale, romaine, parsley, cilantro, dandelion, plantain herb), NOT rich treats like carrot chunks, banana slices, or berries, which are off-limits until around 6 months and only once or twice a week. Definitely slow down or stop leafy greens if your bunny develops mushy stool or other bowel/digestive changes. Too much of “wet and green” foods can be dangerous, so please research bunny-safe treats online and discuss this with your veterinarian.
Fine for bunnies: Asparagus, Broccoli, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, swiss greens, turnips, basil, radish tops, beet greens, mint, chicory, cucumber leaves, carrot tops, watercress, bok choy, dill leaves, dandelion, frisee lettuce, wheatgrass, endive, cilantro and kale.
Feed these in limited quantities because of the other nutrients that your rabbit can get from it: Spinach, Mustard greens, Parsely, Carrots
Nails: Bunnies’ nails need trimmed about every month to six weeks. Cheap cat nail trimmers work fine. The only important instruction is to find the pink “quick” in the nail, and don’t trim too close. Cornstarch, flour, or styptic powder can help if you accidentally nick the quick.
Brushing: Your bunny will need brushed every few weeks. When molting (hair is being shed everywhere), brush your bunny daily until the molt is finished. This helps to prevent your bunny from ingesting too much hair.
Other Helpful Tips
Litter Training: Yes, bunnies can be litter-trained, usually in a few weeks. Rogue poo balls will still be present, but most messes should be in the litter box after some time, persistence, and patience. Litter boxes with a wire grate over the absorbent bedding keep your bunny up out of the mess and prevent digging, which is so tempting to them.
Interaction: When your bunny first arrives at your home, make sure it is eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, and kept in a relatively quiet environment for the first day. After your bunny calms down, carefully and firmly lift it from its cage and hold it in your lap on the floor or allow it to play in a small area with you. Keep your bunny’s world small at first, and supervise young children carefully when they play with the bunny. Remember that rabbits are scared of being lifted and carried, so please learn how to carefully carry him/her and demonstrate this to your children.
Spaying/Neutering: It is a good idea to find a rabbit-savvy veterinarian in your area where you can take your bunny in case of an illness or if you decide to spay/neuter. We HIGHLY recommend spaying/neutering if the bunny is to be an inside pet. Hormones can make your bunny do crazy and unpleasant things such as digging, becoming more distant, spraying, mounting, and being a big old grump. DON’T GIVE UP – spay or neuter your bunny around 5/6 months! It is well worth it for everyone’s sanity, and your bunny will be more lovable and stop pooping/peeing to mark his/her territory. It usually takes 3-6 weeks for the hormones to subside, so have patience.
Litter Box or Cage Tray Bedding
- Compressed pine pellets
- Pine or aspen shavings (not cedar!)
A common misunderstanding is to place bedding all over the solid floor of the cage. This will confuse the bunny. Bedding/litter should only be placed in the litter box or the slide-out tray of a wire floor cage.
Clean the box every few days or even daily. Even if you potty train your bunny, you can expect to find “bunny chocolate chips” dropped here and there, but about 95% of the urine should be in the litter pan. Spaying/neutering can help bunnies who continue to drop poo balls to mark their territory. 🙂
Toilet paper tubes stuffed with hay, plastic whiffle balls, hardwood toys (no oily woods such as pine/cedar), small pieces of fleece fabric, grass tunnels, grass mats, willow wreathes and willow balls, and BOXES (bunnies LoVe boxes, so grab some on your way out of Costco) are all great bunny toys. Be creative with your toys and have fun!
Toys keep your bunny entertained, and wood toys help your bunny trim his/her teeth. We use fresh apple tree branches (which are also pain relievers for bunnies) as well as willow tree branches (which can be shaped into fun willow twig toys).
A simple metal exercise pen can also be a great cage idea for an indoor bunny that you will litter train, and as a bonus, the pen can be used for outdoor playtime too. Or you can attach it to your cage set up for extra space. Placing the pen on an easy-to-clean surface such as vinyl, tile, or a scrap of linoleum is a good idea, but make sure to provide some washable rugs so the bunny doesn’t slip and slide all over.
Below are some excellent websites focusing on bunny care and/or Holland lops:
- The Nature Trail – This is like an encyclopedia for bunny owners!
- Hickory Ridge Hollands – Excellent blog articles about bunny behavior!
- Holly’s Hollands – Awesome articles written by a young lady who raises Hollands out west.
- Always monitor small children with your bunny. Baby bunnies are very fragile and can be overstimulated!
- Make sure your bunny gets a small amounts of treats only.
- If your bunny becomes grumpy around 5-6 months of age, spaying/neutering can help.
- Rabbits can be litter trained!
- Switching food brands? Gradually begin to mix in the new brand of feed over the next two weeks. If your bunny has any signs of diarrhea, your bunny needs to see a veterinarian immediately.
REMEMBER: If your bunny ever stops eating, it is imperative that you get them eating again ASAP. Try hay, treats like oats, parsley, or small pieces of a banana, apple, blueberries, or even a few Cheerios. A gentle tummy massage while holding your bunny on his/her stomach on your lap with the bottom slightly elevated can help to loosen gas bubbles. Then let bunny hop around. Hopping and eating are excellent signs, but you still should seek a veterinarian immediately.