How do I provide routine care for my rabbit?
Like all other creatures, rabbits require routine care and a supportive environment to remain physically and emotionally healthy. Your rabbit will need periodic grooming, a clean habitat area, your company, and toys for exercise and mental stimulation when you are not around.
A healthy rabbit usually does not require human intervention in his/her toilet. S/he will bathe him/herself. Even rabbits who have come from a neglect situation, where they could not keep themselves clean, will, over time, manage to get them selves well turned out again. However, if your rabbit is ill, especially with elimination difficulties, or gotten into something icky, you may have to clean him/her up a bit.Never submerge your rabbit in a bath.
Do only dry and/or spot cleaning:
- Use lukewarm water and a clean, damp cloth only.
- If soap is used, it should be mild (e.g. Ivory) or diluted bunny shampoo (these will be difficult to rinse out).
- Use pure cornstarch as powder to absorb moisture.
Rabbit Personal Care
Rabbits are fastidious about their personal appearance. They spend lots of
time grooming themselves and each other.
⇒ Read more about grooming.
You should routinely check your rabbit's ears to make sure that they are clean deep inside. An over the counter otic (ear) solution of chlorhexidine will dissolve waxy buildup.
Genital scent glands should also be cleaned if there is urine scalding to prevent infection of the gland.
Adult rabbits need routine brushing, especially during shedding (moulting). The amount of brushing needed varies with the breed of the rabbit. This is important because they can accumulate too much hair in their gastro-intestinal (GI) tract while grooming. Since rabbits cannot vomit, the hair can only be passed in the stool. If it is not passed in the stool, a blockage can occur. This is a medical emergency for a rabbit.
Coat delopment is influenced by nutrition, environmental factors, and hormones. Baby rabbits develop their first coat of guard hairs and undercoat in a few days. By age 5-6 weeks, the baby coat is replaced by the intermediate coat until the rabbit is 4-5 months old (this is when the fur industry kills and skins rabbits for their pelts). In the adult rabbit, shedding follows a seasonal pattern. There are usually two complete coat changes per year. During shedding, there are areas of fur in various stages of growth throughout the rabbits body so it's not uncommon for your rabbit to look "patchy" at these times. Hair loss usually begins at the head, works down the neck and back, and then to the stomach.
While you are brushing your rabbit, check his/her body for signs of physical problems, mites, and fleas. You'll have to use a grooming brush designed for other creatures. A rubber brush called a "ZOOM GROOM" made to help bathe a dog or cat or a rubber curry comb for a horse works well with rabbits. A flea comb seems to get much of the loose hair out. A sticky lint roller used for clothing and/or a wet paper towel can remove the hair that is flying around everywhere.
Since house rabbits can have a pretty cushy lifestyle, they do not wear their nails down like they would if they were in the wild. About every 1-2 months, you should clip your rabbit's nails.
- Wrap your rabbit in a towel (bunny burrito).
- Pull out and clip one paw at a time. Use a pet nail clipper.
- Observe where the vein in the nail stops and clip above it.
- Use a flashlight behind the nail to help you see inside the nail.
- If the nail bleeds, stop it with some styptic powder or flour.
Cassidy gets a nail trim
Watch a ⇒rabbit nail clipping video.Never declaw your rabbit.
See the article on ⇒"Declawing Rabbits, " by Joane Paul-Murphy, DVM.
Besides being your rabbit's personal manicurist, s/he will also expect maid service from you. His/her living quarters should be thoroughly cleaned with white vinegar diluted with water (about half and half) once per week. His/her litter box should be changed every one to two days depending on how many litter boxes there are available and their frequency of use.
Rabbits like to hang out in their litter boxes and munch hay while they are eliminating. This is probably the human equivalent of reading the paper while in the john.
Litter should be non-toxic. Yesterday's News and Care Fresh are good choices. NEVER USE PINE OR CEDAR LITTER BECAUSE THEY ARE TOXIC TO RABBITS. Clumping clays, if eaten by your rabbit, can cause problems in their caecum (lower intestine). Litter should cover the bottom of the pan. Litter boxes should be cleaned with white vinegar.
Read more at ⇒Lagomorphs.com: Select Basic Care, then Litterbox Training.
Grooming, of course, is perceived as a social activity by your rabbit. In addition s/he will want to be part of the family. Insatiably curious, they just have to know what's going on so they will come to check out the situation. Getting down on the floor is an invitation to most rabbits to come and walk on you to investigate.
Eeoyra and Megan
enjoying some cuddle time
Some rabbits will sit in their human's lap; others prefer to sit by their human's side. When you start to pet your rabbit, remember that your approaching hand can be perceived as a threat if is below eye level.
Your rabbit may play chase or other games with you. These activities should further increase your bond and provide regular exercise for you both.
It is important to keep your rabbit from getting bored. Without interesting activities to keep him/her occupied, your rabbit can become depressed or excessively destructive.
Toys keep your rabbit's focus off inappropriate objects like your house and on appropriate objects that are his/hers to manipulate as s/he sees fit.
Activity with toys not only keeps your rabbit mentally fit but physically fit as well. S/he'll get plenty of exercise if s/he has things to climb on, crawl under, hop on, dig into, and chew on.
Read more about toys and games
⇒Buy rabbit toys and support the work of RabbitWise!
Pet Health Insurance
What about it? Read ⇒"Ten Things You Should Know Before Buying Pet Health Insurance".
⇒How can I tell if my rabbit has a health problem?