Are Rabbits Difficult to Take Care of?

are rabbits difficult to care for?

You may have heard that rabbits are low-maintenance pets, perfect for busy people or as a starter pet. So many of the rabbits that I see during my time volunteering at animal shelter are there as a result of this misconception. They are good rabbits, but people just don’t realize how mischievous rabbits can be and the difficult care they require.

My hope is that by giving people the information they need to care for happy pet rabbits will lead to fewer bunnies being abandoned at shelters. Because, rabbits are good pets, they just tend to be more work than people expect. 

So my goal with this article isn’t to discourage you from getting a rabbit, but instead to make sure you’re ready for them.

Important: This post contains affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

Are rabbits difficult to care for?

While I wouldn’t say that rabbits are the most difficult pet to care for, they do tend to be more difficult than people expect. Most people expect bunnies to be easy starter pets, when in reality they take almost as much care as a dog (and much more than a cat).

So if you’re used to taking care of a truly high maintenance pet (like a horse), rabbits will be easy for you, but if you’re expecting a pet that you can just feed every day and be done with, then rabbits are going to be a lot more work than you’re expecting.

The main reasons I classify rabbits as difficult to care for include:

  1. They have a specialized diet
  2. Rabbits need a lot of socialization
  3. Rabbits need a lot of space
  4. You need to rabbit proof your home
  5. Rabbits can make a big mess
  6. It’s difficult to tell when rabbits are sick

In my opinion, none of these aspects are so difficult that they make caring for a rabbit overwhelming, but they can be a lot for someone who is not expecting it. I’ll go over each of these areas of bunny care to help you get a better understanding of the kind of care that rabbits need. This way, you can make an informed decision before you decide to bring a bunny home.

rabbit food
You may need to adjust your rabbit’s diet as they get older, but they will always need access to all the basics: hay, leafy greens, water, and some pellets.

1. Rabbits need a balanced diet

When you decide to care for a rabbit, understanding their dietary needs is crucial. Rabbits require a fine-tuned diet rich in fiber, low in fat, and with the right balance of vitamins and minerals. Giving them just a bowl full of dry food every day is likely to lead to obesity and significant health issues.

A balanced diet will help maintain your rabbit’s health and prevent GI stasis, a potentially life-threatening condition.

  1. Hay should be the staple of your rabbit’s diet. It should be available to your rabbit 24/7 to keep their digestion healthy and moving. High-quality grass hay, like timothy hay, is best because it has high fiber content. 
  2. Rabbits should also get a handful or two of leafy greens every day. Things like leafy lettuce (avoid iceberg lettuce), kale, cilantro, parsley, and spring green mixes are great for rabbits, providing variety and nutrition to their diet. (always introduce any new foods little by little to avoid upsetting your rabbits digestion)
  3. Dry food pellets are actually not 100% necessary to a rabbit’s diet. However, they can add some vitamins and nutrients. Only give your rabbit pellets in small amounts (usually about ¼ cup per day or less), because too much will lead to excessive weight gain.
  4. Sweet Fruits and vegetables (including carrots) are high in sugar and should be given sparingly. Think of fruits like strawberries, apples (no seeds), and blueberries as occasional sweet treats.

For a more detailed guide on rabbit nutrition and lists of rabbit safe food, visit my comprehensive article on a healthy rabbit diet

2. Rabbits get lonely easily

Rabbits are inherently social creatures, and in the wild, they live in complex social structures, often forming large, interactive colonies. This instinctual need for company carries over to domestic rabbits, who can become lonely and depressed without social interaction. If you don’t have more than one rabbit, this means you will need to spend a lot of time with your bunny.

Regular playtime, gentle petting sessions, and even simple companionship—such as sitting together while reading or watching TV—can make a significant difference in a rabbit’s happiness. When rabbits don’t receive enough socialization, they may exhibit signs of loneliness, such as lethargy, aggression, or over-grooming. 

It’s not just about the quantity of time spent together, but also the quality. Interactive toys and games that encourage a rabbit’s natural foraging and problem-solving behaviors can be particularly beneficial. Activities that stimulate a rabbit’s curiosity and intellect can keep them engaged and content. For instance, teaching your rabbit to navigate a simple obstacle course or to respond to their name can provide mental stimulation and strengthen the bond between you and your rabbit.

Visual example of the square footage of a rabbit enclosure
The minimum size of a rabbits enclosure should be 3 times their length and 1.5 to 2 times their size in width.

3. Rabbits need a lot of space

Rabbits also need a lot of space. Unlike smaller pets that can thrive in compact cages, rabbits require ample room to move around. They were literally made to run, so confining them to small spaces is detrimental to their physical health, as well as their mental health.

Not only does this mean they need a large enclosure, but they also need several hours every day to get out and exercise in a larger space. To make sure your rabbit has enough time to exercise (and socialize with you), I always recommend keeping the habitat door open whenever you’re home to give a basic level of supervision.

Unfortunately, many cages that are sold as ‘rabbit cages’ are much too small. Instead I recommend getting a pet exercise pen and setting it up as your rabbit’s habitat. You can also take steps to thoroughly rabbit proof your home and allow your rabbit to free-roam, similar to the way cats and dogs have free access to homes without being kept in cages.

4. You need to bunny proof your rabbit’s area

Rabbits are naturally curious and love to chew and dig. Electrical wires, toxic plants, and small, swallowable objects are hazards. Your rabbit can also inadvertently damage areas of the house (especially furniture legs, carpets, and baseboards).

To prevent mischievous rabbits from destroying your home or getting into dangerous situations, you need to take the time to rabbit proof any areas they have access to. 

The main areas that you’ll need to pay attention to include: 

  1. Cover Wires: Use cord protectors or flexible tubing.
  2. Block Off Areas: Ensure small spaces and dangerous areas are inaccessible. Using a pet gate or linked-together fencing is useful here
  3. Remove Toxic Plants: Some common houseplants are harmful to rabbits (learn more)
  4. Furniture: Remove wooden furniture if you don’t want your rabbit chewing on it.
  5. Flooring: Protect carpets and rugs with mats or tiles, especially in the corners of the rooms
  6. Baseboards: lay fencing (or flattened cardboard boxes) against the walls to prevent your rabbit from chewing on the baseboards.

Ensuring your rabbit’s environment is safe will prevent many common issues and accidents, but it demands time and attention. Bunny proofing is an ongoing process. You’ll need to stay vigilant and adjust your strategy as your rabbit grows and explores new ways to get into trouble.

rabbit eating hay from the box
Ellie likes eating hay so much, she breaks through the side of the box and makes a big mess.

5. Rabbits can make a big mess

While rabbits like to keep themselves quite clean, self grooming frequently throughout the day, they do have a tendency to make a mess. This is particularly the case when it comes to hay. 

Rabbits often pull hay out of their feeders, scattering it around their living area as they search for the tastiest pieces. This can result in a significant amount of hay mess around their enclosure. To make it even worse, hay is notoriously difficult to clean. It has the tendency to clog up vacuum cleaners and drains. I only use vacuums that have removable tubes that I can more easily unclog, and never clean anything in a way that puts hay down the drain.

In addition to hay, rabbits also have a habit of scattering their poop. While rabbits can be litter trained, they still often drop fecal pellets while they eat or as they hop around their enclosure. These hard, round pellets are not a significant health risk, as rabbit droppings are generally dry and odorless, but they can be a nuisance to keep picking up. 

6. It’s difficult to tell when rabbits are sick

Unlike other pets that might whine or limp, bunnies are prey animals, so they’re pretty sneaky about hiding any symptoms of illness. This behavior stems from the wild, where any sign of weakness can attract predators.

Unfortunately for us, this means that it’s not obvious that a rabbit is sick until they are really sick. Learning to spot small changes in your rabbit’s behavior to catch their illness early can make a big difference in whether or not they are able to recover. 

There are many subtle symptoms of illness in rabbits (I made a list of what to look for here), but the two main areas that you should pay attention to on a daily basis are your rabbit’s poop and your rabbit’s appetite. 

Any change in the consistency or frequency of your rabbit’s poop is a potential warning sign, as is a noticeably reduced appetite. If your rabbit isn’t pooping or eating for more than 10 hours, it’s an emergency situation and they need to be brought to a rabbit-vet ASAP.


  1. Cotter, Mary. “Help! My Rabbit Is Sick And I Can’t Reach My Vet!”
  2. Parson, Paige. “Food and Diet.”

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Recommended Products and Brands

Important: These are Affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and, I may receive a small commission from qualifying purchases.

The two brands that I use when buying food for my rabbit are Oxbow and Small Pet Select. These both have high quality rabbit products and are companies that care about the health of our small animals. If you are purchasing anything from Small Pet Select use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout to get 15% off your first order.

Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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