You’re bringing a new bunny home and you want to make sure you have everything your rabbit needs. You need to figure out what kind of enclosure to get your rabbit, and what your rabbit needs to feel safe and happy in their home base. The good news is, you don’t need a lot of stuff to get started with rabbit care.
You don’t need a whole lot of fancy supplies when it’s time to set up an enclosure for your new bunny. You’ll need to get an enclosure that is big enough for your rabbit, and have places for your rabbit to play, hide, eat, and poop. Many of the items to achieve this can even be made cheaply from home.
There are, of course, a lot of extra fun toys and accessories you can get for your rabbit, but not all of those expensive accessories are strictly necessary. It can be a lot of fun to give your rabbit new toys or watch them investigate their new piece of furniture, but as long as you have these basic supplies ready, then your rabbit will be set up for success in their new home.
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1. The enclosure itself
It is very important to make sure you have an appropriate enclosure for your pet rabbit. Many pet stores will market cages for rabbits that are actually much too small. Rabbits need a lot of space to hop around and sprawl out. They can’t be happy in the long term with only a couple of hours a day to get out and exercise, so it’s essential that you prepare their enclosure with enough space to let them hop around during the day.
A correctly sized rabbit enclosure will be at least 3-4 times the full length of your rabbit when your rabbit is sprawled out on the ground. The enclosure width should also be 1-2 times your rabbit’s length, and your rabbit should be able to stand all the way up on their hind legs without bumping their head against the top.
I always recommend using a pet exercise pen as your rabbit’s enclosure. This is what I use for my rabbits and find that it’s the best and most convenient way to make sure a rabbit has a large enough home base. It’s also incredibly easy to clean and transport since the gates can be easily folded and moved. What’s more, it’s quite a bit cheaper than most other options for a rabbit enclosure (check out the current price here).
If you’ve already bought a smaller cage for your rabbit, you can easily expand their area by using zip ties to attach an ex-pen to the entrance. This will automatically increase the amount of space your rabbit has.
2. Hiding house
Rabbits won’t feel comfortable in their home base unless they have someplace to hide. This is because rabbits are prey animals and as wild animals, their survival depends on their ability to run and hide. Even though our house rabbits will usually never have to face the same kinds of dangers as their wild counterparts, they have the instinct to find and plan out places to hide in the case of danger.
If a rabbit doesn’t have any kind of hiding house or tunnel they can dash to when they sense danger, they will typically be a lot more anxious and afraid. They’ll feel exposed and stressed out in their enclosure, instead of seeing it at a safe and comfortable home.
My preferred rabbit hiding house is the WARE Rabbit Den. This is a roomy and sturdy hiding place for rabbits that are made of a safe type of wood, so it’s safe for rabbits to chew on. If you’re looking for another hiding house, just be sure to avoid anything made of cedar, since that can cause health problems in rabbits.
You can also simply use a cardboard box as a hiding house. While some rabbits will dig and chew through a cardboard box in no time, it’s still a very cheap option that is easy to replace.
3. Heavy ceramic food dishes
Many rabbits are impatient and messy. They’ll end up flipping over their food and water bowls, getting food everywhere, and soaking their enclosure. That’s why it’s best to get heavy ceramic dishes to use for your rabbit’s food and water. Dog dishes are usually a better option than smaller dishes that are marketed for rabbits since they tend to be larger and more difficult to flip.
In most cases, you will want to have a bowl for your rabbit’s water instead of one of those upside-down bottles. Rabbits actually need to drink a lot of water, as much as a small dog. Drinking from a bowl is a lot more natural for them and encourages better hydration. The only time I would go for a bottle instead of a bowl, is if your rabbit manages to flip over the water bowl no matter what you do.
In addition to the food bowl, you’ll also want to make sure you get an appropriate type of pellet food for your rabbit. You’ll want to get a brand of pellets that is just the plain pellets and does not contain any of those extra fruity pieces.
The brand I recommend is Oxbow’s Garden Select Rabbit Food. Oxbow is a trusted and high-quality brand that really cares about the health of pet rabbits. You can even look at the ingredients in the Garden Select pellets and see how healthy they are.
Rabbit pellets should actually only make up a small portion of your rabbit’s diet. To learn more about how to make sure your rabbit is on a healthy diet, check out the Rabbit Diet 101 article!
4. Chew toys
It is absolutely essential that you make sure your rabbit has a variety of chew toys available to them in their enclosure. Rabbit teeth keep growing, just like fingernails, so they need to keep their teeth from overgrowing by chewing on objects. An important part of keeping your rabbit’s teeth trimmed down is by making sure they have a lot of hay in their diet, but chew toys also play a vital role.
The problem that many rabbit caretakers find is that rabbits don’t always like the chew toys we get them. Every rabbit has their own taste in chew toys, so it can be difficult to pick the right toys for your rabbit. That’s why it’s so important to give your rabbit a wide variety of toys. You want them to be able to pick out their favorites. After you know what your rabbit likes, it’ll be a lot easier to keep getting the same toys.
To solve this problem, I really recommend getting a sampling of toys from Small Pet Select. You can get a variety of toys that are natural and healthy for your rabbit to chew on (no added paint or treated woods). You can then offer the different toys to your rabbit to see what kind they like best. It’s how I learned my rabbit really likes to play with woven hay-based toys. (You can also get 15% off your first purchase if you use the code BUNNYLADY at checkout!)
5. Soft flooring
When setting up your rabbit’s enclosure, you’ll also want to make sure they have appropriate flooring. Rabbits don’t do well on slippery floors. They don’t have pads on their feet and can’t get a grip on the ground. Over the long term, a rabbit on a slippery floor can end up developing back problems. The plastic bottom of some enclosures as well as hardwood or tiled floors can cause this.
The wire flooring of some enclosures is also not good for rabbit feet. It causes your rabbit to distribute their weight in an unnatural way, eventually causing sores on the bottom of a rabbit’s feet (known as sore hocks).
To prevent both of these problems, all you have to do is make sure your rabbit has a soft floor in their enclosure. This means putting a soft mat or towel down in a rabbit enclosure with a slippery or wired floor. For enclosures with an open bottom, you can use an area rug to cover slippery floors underneath.
6. Litter box
Believe it or not, rabbits can be litter box trained! This, of course, means you want to have a litter box in your rabbit’s enclosure and related supplies. Rabbits should have a large litter box. You want to make sure that they can sit in the box completely. Unless you have a very small rabbit, those tiny corner litter boxes just won’t cut it.
Usually, you’ll want to get a standard litter box that is designed for a cat (such as this one), but you can technically use any type of large plastic box. I wouldn’t use a cardboard box for this though. The urine will eventually soak through it.
The part that you have to be a little more careful about is the type of litter that you use for your rabbit. Typical clay cat litter is not appropriate for rabbits. The dust from this kind of litter can end up causing respiratory irritation. Rabbits will also often eat some of their litter, and clay litter can clump up inside their stomach causing a blockage.
Instead, I recommend using a paper-based litter. There are a couple different brands that offer litter that has been made using recycled paper. I recommend Yesterday’s News litter. In addition to being safe for rabbits, this brand does a good job of neutralizing the odor of rabbit urine, keeping your house from smelling bad.
7. Hay trough
Whether you are using a traditional hay trough, or just a simple box, you’ll want a place in your rabbit’s enclosure to put handfuls of hay. Hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet. You want to make sure there is a place in their enclosure where they’ll have access to it 24/7.
Most caretakers will choose to get a hay trough to hold their rabbit’s daily hay, but it’s okay if you would rather use a cardboard box that your rabbit has access to. I will even put my rabbit’s hay directly into the litter box. This can encourage better hay-eating behavior because a lot of rabbits like to munch and poop at the same time.
If your rabbit is a picky eater who is refusing to eat their hay, then check out my article on picky eating in rabbits. I go over some techniques that can help to encourage a picky rabbit to eat more of that healthy hay.
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