Caring for rabbits

Q. Hi Dervaes, this is Lara at the LA Eco-Village. I am writing in hope that you will aid our community in addressing concerns about the adequacy of our standards of care for our two rabbits. What I would like is for you to review the attached document and let us know whether you think it is ok and if it is not what we need to do to make it better.


A. It isn’t easy to take care of a rabbit as they are complex creatures and need constant attention when in captivity by someone who can notice and sense the smallest of things.

Rabbits are difficult to deal with if unwell in some way. I find it hard because they exhibit signs of sickness when it’s too late. This is because they are prey animals and cannot show any weakness which would attract predators. And because their lifespans in the wild are traditionally short, a rabbit over 5-6 years usually faces constant surgeries and veterinary care.

I lost one of mine after a long and very emotional battle. She died in my arms. It has been difficult to recover from.

Her bonded partner has been grieving so she spends the evenings with me in the house. The one who died and the one I still have were approaching the aging mark of 5 years of age and needed more care than when they were young.

I had realized much too late that the one who died had been on antibotics when in the pet store and was never really well in the beginning.

As a matter of fact, I usually tell people not to get rabbits. They’re not like cats, chickens, dogs, etc, etc but are much more time consuming.

After observing my rabbits and learning more about their needs, care, and behavior, I’ve pretty much concluded that rabbits weren’t meant to be domesticated. They need their wild lifestyle for optimum health. While a dog and cat can thrive on domestication, a rabbit needs to obtain a lot of its undomesticated lifestyle for health.

However, there are those of us who rescue them, love them, enjoy their company and so we need to do all we can to give them the best we can do in domestication.

That said, let me respond to your email attachment.

Your rabbit care standards are quite complete and well thought out. You are correct in that neutering your male rabbit is not truly necessary. Spaying in females is important, but if your male is not aggressive or mean, then he’s just fine the way he is.

There are only a few things I would suggest to take into consideration. You may already know these suggestions, but I didn’t really see a clear reference to them so I’ll just let you know.

1.) Surpisingly, rabbits enjoy sun; especially in winter. One of mine used to run out of her hutch and find the sunniest spot in the morning to lay in and would move to follow the sun throughout the day.

2.) Often, on extremely hot days, I’d not only provide a bunny cooler, but would wet the back of the rabbits’ ears. This helps cool them fast.

3.) Hay or roughage is VERY important and should be provided at all times. Food needs to be watched to avoid overeating and obesity (rabbits often eat to keep from being bored) but hay needs to be available to rabbit constantly and is the most important part of their diet.

4.) I would suggest a “litterbox” of straw to be provided to the rabbits. This can be changed once a week in the winter and twice a week in the summer. You may have wire on the bottom of your rabbits’ hutches to deal with the droppings, but rabbits absolutely love to have a box of straw to lay in. I consider this a “must have” for rabbits after seeing the bliss my rabbits had whenever I’d put in a fresh box of straw. Hay can be substituted for straw. They will use this as a “litterbox”; which I encourage because it creates good housekeeping habits, allowing me to bring them in the house with their litterbox. Also, it concentrates the pellets and urine in one place so I can see the health of a rabbit but color, texture, etc, etc. It’s also very easy to clean…. dump out the box in the compost, rinse, dry and fill up with clean straw. This helps me keep the hutch so much cleaner.

5.) Chewing sticks for the rabbit is important, otherwise it’ll “crib” on the sides of the hutch and rabbit run. Not good if the hutch is made of cedar wood.

6.) It’s important the the rabbits get a “lookover” everyday. They are so good at hiding things such as wounds or illnesses. With your male rabbit, you said he doesn’t get as much exercise as he should. Be aware that a lazy bunny can lead to manure collecting around his anus area and scent glands which could lead to maggots. And rabbits are known to get maggots in wounds or in their scent glands. CC, your male bunny should also get his scent glands checked every once in awhile and cleaned if need be. Things such as a ripped toenail, ear mites and parasites are things that can be noticed simply by petting the rabbit and spending time with them.

I could write a lot about rabbits and health/observation, but this email is long enough and was written fast.

I hope this helps you all provide the best situation for your two rabbits.

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