LEARNING TIME!

RABBIT ADOPTION GUIDE

Our how-to guide to ensure a smooth transition for your new best furry friend

Congratulations on your new friend!

Your decision to choose rescue will bring you so much joy, with an extra layer knowing you saved their life. Rabbits are wonderful creatures that make fabulous pets for both adults and kids alike. Their sweet little personalities will provide hours of entertainment. 

After rescue our rabbits go into foster care, where we assess their health and behaviour and ensure they get the necessary support to become adoption ready. However, after moving to your home, a new home to them, issues may arise that we were not aware of. If your rabbit at any time displays behaviour you don’t understand, or concerns you please contact us.

Many, but not all, of our rabbits have come from homes where they haven’t been properly cared for. This guide is to ensure you have all the information about habitat, diet, and behaviour to ensure your new rabbit friend is a happy little bun bun.

BUNNY’S FIRST DAY

Bringing your new rabbit home is an exciting moment, but it’s essential to ensure a smooth transition for your furry friend. It’s a whole new world for them, and as a prey animal, they can get stressed. Give them some time to adjust without handling them for at least a week. During this period, focus on providing fresh water, hay, and a balanced diet to keep them healthy. If you have more than one rabbit, keep in mind that they might need a bit of time to figure out their social dynamics and establish a hierarchy. Be patient, watch their interactions, and ensure there’s no aggression. As they settle in and grow more comfortable, gradually introduce gentle interactions to build trust, nurturing a happy and harmonious bond with your new furry companions.

Below is a list of recommendations of things to keep in mind when creating a happy life for your new bestie!

HANDLING

Rabbits are prey animals, meaning they can get nervous and scared when being handled. They do, however, adapt very quickly and, with lots of snacks and love, can become incredibly social creatures.

Always ensure your rabbit feels supported and safe. Using a towel underneath when holding them can really help. When small children are interacting with rabbits, it’s important to supervise closely and teach them to sit on the floor with the rabbit, ensuring a calm and controlled environment where the rabbit cannot fall or get hurt.

HOUSING

Rabbits should always be housed indoors in a generous and safe enclosure. Indoor housing is preferred for several important reasons:

  1. Safety from Predators: Keeping rabbits indoors protects them from potential predators such as foxes, birds of prey, and even neighbourhood cats and dogs. This greatly reduces the risk of harm and stress.

  2. Temperature Control: Rabbits are sensitive to extreme temperatures. Indoors, you can maintain a stable, comfortable environment, protecting them from the dangers of both excessive heat and cold. On days over 30 degrees Celsius, rabbits can easily overheat, but indoors, you can provide a cool, controlled climate.
  3. Disease Prevention: Indoor rabbits are less exposed to diseases carried by wild animals, insects, and other outdoor hazards. This helps in maintaining their overall health and well-being.
  4. Protection from Elements: Indoors, rabbits are shielded from adverse weather conditions such as rain, snow, and strong winds, ensuring they stay dry and comfortable.

Ensure they have a secure, comfortable enclosure with sufficient space. Remember, when it comes to enclosure size, bigger is better, and the more rabbits you have together, the more space they need. They need to be able to stretch their backs, so ensure enclosures have a minimum 1m height.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

Rabbits love to hide and should be provided with lots of ‘caves’ and ‘tunnel’ items. Cardboard boxes can be used to create elaborate setups, and PVC pipes are reusable and easy to clean. Most owners will line their enclosure with newspapers as well as a more absorptive substrate such as paper kitty litter or hay (or both!). Sawdust is not an appropriate substrate as it can cause respiratory irritation. Similarly, wire and hard flooring can lead to painful sores developing on their feet. Rabbits love to poop, and their space requires regular cleaning to keep it sanitary and safe. You can find guides about toilet training online, and some levels of training can be achieved with patience!

Exercise and Enrichment

Sunshine and exercise time are important, and rabbits should be allowed to spend some time out of their enclosure. A supervised grassy area outside with a secure enclosure is an excellent option, ensuring they get fresh air and exercise while staying safe. Always supervise your rabbit during outdoor time to prevent escapes and protect them from potential hazards.

By keeping your rabbits indoors and providing supervised outdoor time, you ensure their safety, health, and happiness.

BEHAVIOUR

Rabbits are expressive little critters, and as you get to know them, you will start to understand their various behaviours and body language. They are social creatures who may be nervous and skittish at first. However, with gentle handling and bribery in the form of delicious snacks, they will become an interactive and social part of the family.

Rabbits communicate through a range of behaviours:

Thumping: This is a sign of alarm or annoyance.
Binkying: When a rabbit leaps and twists in the air, it’s a sign of joy and excitement.
Nudging: They may nudge you with their nose to get your attention or to investigate.
Chinning: Rabbits have scent glands under their chins and will rub them on objects to mark their territory.

Building trust with your rabbit is crucial. Spend time sitting quietly near them, allowing them to come to you on their own terms. Gradually introduce gentle petting and handling, always supporting their body properly to make them feel secure. Over time, with patience and lots of tasty treats, your rabbit will become a beloved and sociable member of the family.

FRIENDS

Rabbits should be kept in pairs or groups as they are very sociable, friendly creatures. The ideal combination is a male and female desexed pair (or more), as this helps prevent aggressive behaviours and unwanted breeding. Undesexed males can become aggressive toward each other and may exhibit mounting behaviour, which can cause stress and injury.

It is crucial not to house rabbits with guinea pigs. They have differing dietary requirements, and rabbits have powerful back legs that can easily cause trauma to a guinea pig. Additionally, their communication styles and social needs are different, leading to potential conflicts.

While rabbits can live in a house with other animals such as cats and dogs, it depends on the characteristics of your other pets. Always supervise interactions between your rabbit and other animals, especially during the initial stages of introduction. Ensure that all animals are comfortable and safe, and be prepared to separate them if necessary to prevent stress or injury.

DIET

A rabbit’s diet primarily revolves around high-quality hay to maintain proper digestive health and overall well-being. Ensuring they receive a balanced diet is essential for their health and longevity.

Hay

Hay serves as the cornerstone of your rabbit’s diet, providing essential fibre to assist with dental wear and gut health. Timothy or Oaten hay are two great options, comprising approximately 80% of their diet. Purchase hay in bales and store it in a breathable container such as ‘bale bags’ or a plastic box with air holes drilled within it. Fresh, green-smelling hay is more appealing to your rabbit and ensures they receive essential nutrients.

Fresh Vegetables and Herbs

In addition to hay, fresh vegetables and herbs should be a part of your rabbit’s diet, making up about 15% of their intake. Offer a variety of vegetables such as carrots, capsicum (bell peppers), broccoli, and herbs like parsley and coriander. These provide essential vitamins and minerals and add variety to their diet.

Pellets

Pellets can be offered as a small part of your rabbit’s diet, comprising no more than 5%. Choose high-quality pellets specifically formulated for rabbits, and provide them sparingly to avoid overfeeding.

Foods to Avoid

While rabbits have a diverse diet, there are some foods they should avoid:

Seeds and Grains: Seeds, nuts, and grains are unnecessary and not part of a rabbit’s natural diet. Avoid feeding these as they can lead to digestive issues.

High-Sugar Foods: Avoid feeding too many starchy vegetables or fruits due to their high sugar content. Treat fruits like apples, bananas, and grapes as occasional snacks.

Junk Food: Avoid giving your rabbit processed foods, sugary treats, or foods high in salt or additives.

Toxic Plants: Some plants and vegetables are toxic to rabbits and should be avoided. These include avocado, chocolate, onions, garlic, and rhubarb.

Water

Water is essential and should be provided in a bottle, bowl, or both. It’s recommended to have two water sources as rabbits may soil their water, and bottles can get blocked. Ensure water is changed regularly to keep it clean and fresh.

HEALTH & VACCINATIONS

In Australia, rabbits may receive an annual calicivirus vaccination for added protection if they’re exposed to outdoor environments where the disease is prevalent. Alongside, regular health checks are recommended to monitor your rabbit’s overall well-being, with annual check-ups with your veterinarian being important to assess your rabbit’s health and discuss any concerns you may have. Be vigilant for signs of illness in your rabbit, including decreased appetite, lethargy, abnormal discharge, or changes in behaviour, and seek veterinary care promptly if you notice any of these signs. By staying proactive with vaccinations, regular health checks, and vigilant monitoring, you can help protect your rabbit’s health and well-being.

Now, Have fun!

Rabbits are fantastic companions and have quirky little personalities. They make fabulous pets and make the most beloved companions.

Please contact us if you have any further questions, and be sure to send us updates on how your new pals are getting on!

Thank you again for saving a life.