Dwarf rabbits are super cute. The smallest breeds max out at around two pounds, while the larger mini breeds can reach around four pounds. They are a type of pet that truly stays tiny forever.
In general, dwarf rabbit care is the same as it is for larger rabbits. There are some common health concerns with mini rabbits that you want to look out for, including dental problems and overheating. They also tend to be more active than larger breeds of rabbits.
This article will go over some of the subtle differences you can expect from dwarf rabbit ownership versus their larger counterparts. If you’ve never cared for a rabbit before, I highly recommend checking out my overall care guide which can be applied to all rabbit breeds.
Important: This post contains affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and Chewy.com, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.
Is dwarf rabbit care any different than for larger rabbits?
For the most part, dwarf and mini rabbits don’t require significantly different care than medium and large breeds. You still feed them the same types of food, make sure they have plenty of space to exercise, and give them lots of attention.
The main differences in dwarf rabbit care include:
- The amount that you feed your rabbit. It’s very easy to accidentally give your rabbit too much, causing obesity and GI issues.
- Behavior expectations. Dwarf rabbits tend to be much more active and a little more assertive than larger rabbits.
- Health issues. Dwarf and mini rabbits are somewhat more likely to experience dental issues, and develop heat-related illnesses more easily.
Be careful how much you feed your dwarf or mini rabbit
As you might expect, dwarf and mini rabbits should be fed a smaller amount than other rabbits. The reality is that many people feed their rabbits too much regardless of the rabbit’s size. In general, rabbits should never be given a whole bowl full of pellets.
Generally, a full-grown small rabbit (less than 4 pounds) only needs about ⅛ cup of pellets per day (that’s 2 tablespoons).
Otherwise, you want to make sure your rabbit has constant access to timothy hay (orchard hay and oat hay are also good for rabbits), and they get a small handful of fresh leafy greens every day (about 1 cup of greens).
Treats, including store-bought treats, fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables (carrots too), should be given in very small amounts. Avoid giving these to your rabbit on an everyday basis so you don’t feed them too much.
How much space do mini rabbits need?
You may think that because mini rabbits are so small, they need a lot less space. However, that is usually not the case. Overall, small rabbits tend to be more energetic and active than larger breeds, so giving them space to zoom around is essential for helping them stay healthy.
Just like with average-sized rabbit breeds, I recommend using a pet playpen for your dwarf rabbit’s habitat. Cages that are sold and marketed as ‘rabbit cages’ tend to be much too small, even for dwarf rabbits, so I do not recommend them.
The main difference for small rabbits is that you can usually provide more vertical space. Smaller bunnies tend to hop up on top of platforms, couches, cat towers, cardboard boxes, or anything they can reach. If you don’t have quite as large a space to give your mini rabbit, you can play with vertical space to make sure your rabbit gets enough playtime and exercise.
Your dwarf rabbit will also need time outside of the enclosure to zoom around, explore, and get some real exercise. The more time you can give your rabbit outside of an enclosure, the better. It’s even becoming more common to keep rabbits as free-roam pets (similar to cats and dogs). You just need to make sure your rabbit is litter-trained and your home is bunny-proofed first.
Behavioral expectations for mini rabbits
All rabbits are individuals with their own unique personalities. You won’t be able to judge this based solely on your rabbit’s size. However, it is much more common for small rabbits to be more hyper and energetic than larger rabbits even after they reach adulthood and lose their ‘baby energy.’
Some behavioral differences you might expect from dwarf rabbits include:
- Generally, they are more active. It may seem as if they have more anxious energy or they are just more active throughout the day.
- Mini rabbits breathe a bit faster. Since these rabbits are so tiny, it may seem as if they are overexerting themselves because their breathing is causing their body to shake. However, in most cases, this is normal for small rabbits.
- Small rabbits are more assertive and aggressive. These rabbits will be more likely to do what they want and find a way to go wherever they want to go. Dwarf rabbits also tend to set their boundaries more firmly, willing to tell you when they are unhappy or don’t want to be touched or picked up.
- Mini rabbits are more likely to use their teeth instead of their claws as a defense. Rabbit bites are more damaging than their claws, so this is something you should be aware of, especially if you have a somewhat aggressive rabbit.
What this means for you is that you need to be prepared for you rabbit to be a little troublemaker. You’ll need to be very thorough when rabbit proofing your home, to keep the little bunny from chewing and digging things they shouldn’t (learn more about rabbit proofing).
You also want to make sure you spend a few hours every day giving your rabbit time to exercise and socialize. If you can give them a few hours in the morning, and a few hours in the evening (when rabbits are most active) that would be ideal. Treat them as a companion animal, so they can roam around, explore and interact with you and the family as much as they want.
Dwarf rabbits are usually bad pets for children
Because smaller rabbits tend to be more active and assertive of their boundaries, they are also not great pets for children. The chance of injury for both the rabbit and the child is too great for me to recommend this match in most cases.
Since small rabbits tend to be quicker to assert themselves by biting or swiping with their claws, there is a real risk that a child could be hurt by a rabbit if they chase the bunny or try to touch or pick up the bunny.
On the other hand, rabbits, especially small rabbits, have delicate bone structures. If they are held incorrectly or hugged too tightly, they can easily be injured by an overeager child.
Common health problems for dwarf and mini rabbits
Dwarf rabbits can have any of the same health problems that affect other breeds of rabbits. In particular, it’s important to be aware of GI Stasis. This is when a rabbit’s digestive system slows down or stops. It’s potentially deadly but is treatable if you catch the symptoms on time. If your rabbit ever stops eating or pooping for more than 10 hours, they require emergency care.
The following two types of illnesses can affect all types of rabbits as well, but they tend to be more common among dwarf rabbits due to their unique anatomy.
1. Dwarf rabbits can overheat more easily than other rabbits
One of the main ways that rabbits help maintain their body temperature and prevent overheating is through their ears. The veins that run along the surface of their ears allow for an easy transfer of heat (fun fact: this is also why elephants have big ears).
Many dwarf rabbit breeds have comparatively smaller ears than larger breeds. Netherland Dwarfs and Dwarf Hotots, in particular, have short ears. This means that their ability to cool themselves down on hot days is somewhat limited.
All rabbits run the risk of heat stroke in temperatures above 80ºF, but you’ll want to be even more careful with dwarf rabbits. Make sure to keep your rabbit in a cool place and monitor them for any signs of heat stroke. Symptoms include:
- Not eating
- Low energy or confused movement
- Panting or drooling
- Very fast breathing
- Head thrown back or up
- Red or very hot ears
- Shaking or trembling
2. Dwarf rabbits are more likely to have dental problems
Many dwarf and mini rabbit breeds have been bred to have shorter faces. Compared to other, larger rabbit breeds, many mini rabbits look like they have squished faces. While this does not tend to cause respiratory problems, as it does in some dog breeds, it does frequently cause dental issues with rabbits.
The problem with the shorter rabbit skulls is that sometimes the rabbit’s teeth don’t line up correctly. You see, rabbits have teeth that keep growing (kind of like fingernails). They wear their teeth down by eating their rough, fiber-heavy diet. However, if the teeth don’t grind against each other correctly, they can end up overgrown, causing a myriad of dental issues that require veterinary care.
Not all dwarf rabbits experience this, but it’s common enough that you’ll want to keep an eye out for problems with your rabbit’s teeth. Make sure to take your rabbit in for annual vet checkups, and watch for signs that your rabbit isn’t eating correctly. For example, they constantly drop food out of their mouth while trying to eat, or they drool.
How long do dwarf and mini rabbits live?
Most mini rabbits can live an average of 8 to 12 years. Of course, this depends on the quality of care the rabbit receives (including diet, exercise, and socialization), and luck of genetics. Some rabbits are simply more prone to health complications than others due to no fault of your own.
Recognized breeds of dwarf rabbits
There are currently 11 breeds of rabbits recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association that stay under 5 pounds even as adult rabbits. These breeds include:
- American Fuzzy Lop
- Britannia Petite
- Dwarf Hotot
- Holland Lop
- Jersey wooly
- Mini Rex
- Mini Satin
- Netherland Dwarf
Don’t forget, you don’t need a purebred rabbit. I come across so many dwarf and mini rabbits of unknown pedigree all the time when I work with rescue rabbits. Be sure to check with your local animal shelters to see what rabbits are available.
- Brown, Susan DVM. “Small Animal Nutrition.” House Rabbit Society. Jun. 10, 2012. rabbit.org/small-animal-nutrition.
- “Heatstroke in Rabbits.” PDSA, www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/rabbits/rabbit-heatstroke.
- Somjen, Kim, DVM. “Rabbit teeth malocclusion – detection and treatment.” Bell Mead Animal Hospital, Feb. 3, 2016, www.bellemeadanimalhospital.com/blog/rabbit-teeth-malocclusion-detection-and-treatment.
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Recommended Products and Brands
Important: These are Affiliate links. As an associate to Amazon, Small Pet Select, and Chewy.com, 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.
- Hay: Second Cutting Timothy Hay from Small Pet Select
- Pellets: Oxbow Garden Select Food for Rabbits
- Treats: Oxbow Simple Rewards
- Toys: Small Pet Select Natural Toys
- Enclosure/cage: A rabbit exercise pen
- Rabbit carrier: SleepyPod Mobile Pet Bed