Caring for a pet is never cheap. This is especially true if you want to get your rabbit high quality products that will keep them healthy and entertained. The cost of rabbit food and replacing their toys can add up, making a hefty monthly bill.
To save money on rabbit care you have to consider where you are getting your rabbit’s food and toys. Often you can get better quality products for a much cheaper price if you avoid the pet store and go directly to the source. You can also make or grow a lot of your rabbit’s food and toys on your own.
As long as your rabbit does not experience any major health problems, they can actually be much cheaper to keep than many other more popular pets. Even so, their upkeep can end up putting a strain on your monthly budget. The good news is that toys can often be created for pretty much no cost, and rabbit food can be grown or purchased cheaply if you know where to look. Check out my top tips for how to save money while still giving your rabbit excellent care.
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1. Grow your own rabbit food
Unlike other common household pets, rabbits are herbivores. Their whole diet is plant based. This means that rabbits need to eat a lot of fresh leafy greens as part of their daily diet. Of course, this is the part of a rabbit’s dietary needs that end up costing the most in the long run. Running to the store or your local farmer’s market every week to pick up more fresh greens will easily start to add up.
The good thing about plants is you can grow them yourself. If you are lucky enough to have a yard, you might be able to grow all of your rabbit’s food, at least during the spring and summer. Even if you don’t, you can easily grow herbs in a planter on your window sill. You might not be able to grow all of your rabbit’s leafy greens, but you can at least slash the amount that you’re paying for their daily salad a little bit.
You can also get kits for growing grasses for rabbits (such as this kit from my friends a Small Pet Select). These grasses grow very quickly and don’t require any kind of green thumb. It was the first plant I managed to grow from little seeds. Kits like this won’t be able to replace all of your rabbit’s greens, but they can still reduce the amount that you’ll need to spend on a weekly basis. (You can also get 15% off your first purchase at Small Pet Select if you use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout!)
2. Repurpose cardboard boxes
Instead of immediately recycling all of your cardboard boxes after they are delivered, you can give them a second life with your rabbit. Cardboard boxes are one of the most versatile tools. They can be used for anything from toys, to hiding houses, and even for temporary rabbit proofing.
Most commonly I use cardboard boxes to create digging boxes for my rabbits. You can hide little treats inside to give your rabbit a fun digging and foraging activity. You can also use cardboard boxes as cheap hiding houses for rabbits. It’s always important to make sure your rabbit has places to hide so they can be more comfortable and confident in their environment. But you don’t have to get a fancy rabbit house. A cardboard box works just as well, and your rabbit doesn’t care about the difference.
If your rabbit is a baseboard chewer, you can flatten these cardboard boxes and line them against the wall to keep your rabbit away. They can also be used as floor mats to cover areas where your rabbit tries to dig into the carpet. It may not be pretty, but it gets the job done. I know there have been times when I was short on money, where these cardboard boxes were a lifesaver. They kept my little troublemaker rabbit from destroying my apartment and costing me the security deposit.
3. Don’t buy a cage
Rabbit cages are usually the most expensive part of getting a new rabbit. They can cost hundreds of dollars, especially if you are trying to find one that looks nice and is actually large enough for your rabbit. The good news is, you don’t need to get one of those!
Instead of buying one of these overly expensive rabbit cages, you can get your rabbit a playpen enclosure instead (such as this pet exercise pen). These give your rabbit a lot more space while also being less expensive. You’ll only need to spend half as much on your rabbit’s enclosure while also avoiding one of the major mistakes of new rabbit caretakers: getting a cage that’s too small.
If you want to take it even a step further, you can free roam your rabbit and skip the enclosure all together. This is when you allow your rabbit full access to your home, much like a companion cat or dog.
4. Use vegetable leftovers
Do you want to cut down on your leafy green and rabbit treat bill even more? A lot of the fruit and vegetable scraps that are leftover from cooking in the kitchen can actually be used as rabbit food. Think about the number of vegetables that you cut the leaves off of when you are preparing a meal. The leafy parts of broccoli, celery, carrots, strawberries and many more vegetables are actually safe for rabbits to eat (but not tomatoes, potatoes or anything in the onion family).
Your regular kitchen fruits and vegetables can also make great rabbit treats. Instead of going out and getting bags of treats specifically for your rabbit, you can give them little pieces of your own foods. If you’re eating an apple, you can cut off little pieces to give to your rabbit. Same goes for many other fruits and vegetables. Banana, bell pepper, strawberry, raspberry, and carrot tend to be big hits with my bunnies. And I don’t even need to spend any extra money to give them pieces of these yummy treats.
5. Buy in bulk
When it comes to your rabbit’s pellets and hay, you don’t need to worry about getting them to your rabbit fresh weekly. While you don’t want to get your rabbit old, dusty piles of hay, or stale pellets, you can still buy these quite a bit in advance without worry of them losing their freshness.
To really buy in bulk, you usually need to think beyond the pet store. Sure you can get a big bag of hay, but I’m talking about getting a whole bale at once. If you have any farms in the area, you can often get a very large amount at a time while supporting a local business too. If not, you can also turn to online stores.
At many of these online stores it may seem like the hay is more expensive because when purchasing smaller amounts the direct comparison to pet store prices might not work out. But when you choose to purchase a 10 or 20 pound box of hay, the price per pound is much cheaper than what you would get at a pet store.
What’s even better is that these online stores often work directly with farmers and will deliver hay that is much fresher than bags at the pet store, which have usually been sitting on the shelf for months. I personally purchase my hay in bulk from an online shop called Small Pet Select, and if you use the code BUNNYLADY, you can get 15% off of your first purchase.
6. Make your own toys
Rabbits can chew through toys pretty quickly. It’s no wonder that this can be a large ongoing cost of caring for a rabbit. But rabbit toys don’t all have to be expensive. Some of the toys that my rabbits have the most fun playing with are actually just made out of cardboard toilet paper rolls.
You can make a whole variety of toys with items like this just laying around the house. Try making hanging toys, toys for tossing around, and toys with little hidden treats inside. If you want some ideas to get you started, check out my guide to making a few DIY rabbit toys to give to your rabbit.
7. Make your own treats
Did you know you can actually make your own rabbit treats? It’s actually pretty easy and doesn’t require any special cooking skills. You can use your rabbit’s favorite fruits with your rabbit’s pellets to make a wide variety of cute little homemade treats for your rabbit. These are also excellent because you know exactly what’s going into all of your rabbit’s treats. No more unknown filler ingredients and preservatives to worry about. For some ideas, try these homemade rabbit treat recipes.
It does take a little bit of time to make them though, so you’ll want to make sure you have the afternoon free. You can make a large batch and freeze some of them. This will keep them fresh until your rabbit is ready to eat them. As always with treats, you don’t want to give your rabbit too much at a time, since that will be bad for their digestion.
8. Take your rabbit for annual checkups
While it may seem like an annual checkup is an added expense every year, in the long run this simple habit can save you thousands of dollars. Your regular vet will be able to check your rabbits vitals and make sure they are staying healthy. In many cases they’ll be able to catch the signs of an illness early, so you won’t have to bring your rabbit in for an expensive emergency appointment.
Annual checkups also give you the opportunity to form a relationship with a qualified rabbit veterinarian. They’ll be able to give you lots of advice to make sure you are able to keep your rabbit as healthy as possible. And when you do need urgent advice, it will be much easier to contact them by phone or sometimes even a private email address.
9. Buy treats at the supermarket
The cheapest place to buy rabbit treats is never going to be at a pet store. Instead get treats for your rabbit at your regular supermarket or farmer’s market. The best treats for rabbits are actually fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, both of which you can easily find at a human food store.
You can avoid buying bags of rabbit treats (that are probably not healthy for your rabbit anyway) and get them delicious fruits instead. Unsweetened raisins are an inexpensive option that has a very long shelf life. If you give your rabbit just a few raisins every day then they’ll be a cheap and yummy treat that will last you and your rabbit a long time.
10. Adopt your rabbit
Adopting a rabbit is almost always going to be cheaper than purchasing a new bunny. Most animal shelters do have some small fees for the adoption application, but they are almost always less than $100 and usually less than $50. Breeders, on the other hand, will usually end up charging a few hundred as an adoption fee.
What’s more, most of the time animals that are adopted from shelters have already been spayed or neutered. This is a pretty expensive medical procedure that you’ll want to get for a young rabbit in their first year. But by adopting your bunny, you can avoid this cost all together. You get to both rescue a rabbit in need and avoid that high medical bill at the same time!