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Bunny Care 101

Posted December 16, 2014 in Small Animal Health & Care

Dr. Laurie Hess is our resident exotics expert and contributes regularly on the Pet Health Network. For more from Dr. Hess, find her on Facebook!

There's no doubt: bunnies are adorable. In fact, they are maybe one of the most adorable animals there are – so cute and fuzzy. Some of them actually look like toys, which is perhaps why so many people want them as pets. Rabbits can be super pets when taken care of properly, but they are not right for everyone. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned pet owners learn this after they adopt or purchase bunnies that turn out not to be what they expected.

Before you get a rabbit, there are a few very important facts you need to know:

1. Bunnies need an herbivorous (vegetarian) diet.
They eat a lot of hay, a little bit of pelleted rabbit food, and a small amount of fresh vegetables every day. They need a high fiber diet, and they don’t eat grains (like oatmeal) or nuts. Feeding them isn’t as simple as opening a can of food into a bowl, as you would for a cat or dog. If you’re going to own a bunny, you have to be prepared to keep your cupboard well-stocked with these items and to shell out some money each week for fresh produce.

2. Bunnies need attention to be well-socialized. 
People get rabbits to be able to hold and cuddle them, yet what they don’t realize is that rabbits are prey species and, as such, most are wired to be high-strung and skittish. With daily handling positively reinforced with food rewards, rabbits can get very used to being held, and many pet bunnies, in fact, come to enjoy it.

3. Bunnies poop a lot!
Rabbits have a high metabolism and are natural grazers. They don’t eat actual large meals but instead pick a little bit at a time over the course of a day. Since they are nearly always eating, they are also nearly always pooping. Rabbit owners have to expect that when their pets are out of the cage, they are going to poop, too. Making sure that bunnies are on a wipeable surface when they are out is important to prevent carpets and furniture from becoming soiled. Plus, since rabbits are constantly soiling their cages, their cage bedding (preferably paper-based and not wood shavings, corn cob, or other indigestible

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Laurie has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified bird specialist and exotic animal veterinarian as well as a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.