Top Do’s and Don’ts for Pet Rabbits

top do's and don'ts of rabbit care

Bringing a rabbit into your life can be a joyful and rewarding experience. They all have their own unique personalities and quirks, making them delightful companion pets. But before you start outfitting your space with all things bunny, it’s important to recognize that they have their own specific needs. 

Rabbits are notoriously delicate creatures with a propensity for both affection and mischief. Getting ahead with the right knowledge can make all the difference in keeping your rabbit safe and helping you form a bond of friendship with your rabbit.

There are a lot of misconceptions about rabbit care. From their diet to their living space, rabbits require attention and detailed care that go beyond common pet care knowledge. I’ve compiled a list of the top five things that you want to avoid when caring for a rabbit and five things to do instead. 

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

rabbit staring at delicious berries
Rabbits love sweet fruit, like raspberries and strawberries. Don’t give them too much though, since that could upset their sensitive stomachs.

DON’T give your rabbit unlimited treats

Rabbits have a gigantic sweet tooth and will always be begging you for treats. Unfortunately, they also have a sensitive digestive system that is easily knocked out of balance. Even though it’s so hard to resist the cute face of your rabbit asking for more treats, you really do need to feed them in moderation.

Treats can be a nice way to bond with your pet rabbit and to provide some variety in their diet. However, giving your rabbit unlimited treats can lead to serious health issues. Rabbits have delicate digestive systems, and their diet should consist mainly of hay, fresh vegetables, and a limited amount of pellets. Treats should only be given in moderation.

One of the most significant risks of overfeeding treats is the development of Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis. This condition is a common disorder in rabbits that occurs when the digestive system slows down or stops completely. This leads to a build-up of gas and potentially harmful bacteria, and can be life-threatening for rabbits if it’s not treated promptly.

Treats for rabbits include both the bags of treats you can get at a pet store and sweet fruits and vegetables. Carrots, strawberries, blueberries, bell peppers, and similar fruits and veggies are high in sugar for a rabbit, and should only be given in small amounts every day. Generally 1 teaspoon or less of treats is safe, but it depends on your rabbit’s weight and digestion.

Graph: What to feed your rabbit? 80% hay, 15% leafy greens, 4% pellets, 1% treats
A healthy rabbit diet is made up of mainly grass based hay with some leafy greens and a small amount of pellets. Treats should only be given in very small amount.

DO give your rabbit unlimited hay

On the other hand, an unlimited supply of hay is crucial for a rabbit’s health and well-being. Hay provides the essential fiber necessary to maintain a rabbit’s digestive system, which needs to be constantly moving. Without a high-fiber diet, rabbits can develop serious gastrointestinal issues.

By ‘unlimited hay’ I just mean that your rabbit should have access to it at all times of the day. Usually a couple of large handfuls of hay per day will be enough, but it obviously depends on the size and appetite of your rabbit.

Timothy hay is generally considered the best for rabbits, since it’s a high fiber variety. However, orchard hay, and meadow hay are also excellent choices. These hays support digestive health and help to prevent obesity, a common issue in domestic rabbits.

In addition to the physical benefits, hay also serves an important role in dental care. Other than digestive problems, dental issues are the second most common health concerns that domestic rabbits face since rabbit teeth are constantly growing.  Encouraging the natural grinding action, hay helps prevent dental problems like malocclusion, where teeth misalign and overgrow.

DON’T leave your rabbit unsupervised in new places

Rabbits have a tendency to get into trouble, and a new space is like an amusement park to them: so many things to see, chew, and hop into. Rabbits have the natural instincts to chew and dig, so if the area has not been effectively rabbit-proofed, you could end up with damaged belongings or an upset bunny tummy.

Your bunny could nibble on something harmful, like electrical cords or toxic houseplants. Small and curious rabbits can also squeeze into tight spots or bolt if frightened, potentially causing injury.

Until you get to know your rabbit’s habits, hiding spacing, and preferred chewing objects, you’ll need to keep a very close eye on them as they explore.

If you can’t supervise directly in a new space, consider a secure playpen while you work to  rabbit-proof the room.

bunny proof your home
Rabbits love to chew on wires, so make sure yours are covered or blocked off.

DO thoroughly bunny proof your home

While you always want to be careful when you first bring a rabbit into a new environment, you can work to make changes to your home that will allow you to give your rabbit more freedom. Think of your rabbit like a little toddler. Just like you would need to child-proof your home for kids, you need to bunny-proof your home for rabbits.

I have a whole article going over this aspect of bunny care in detail, to help you pinpoint everything that could be dangerous to bunnies. But these are the most common areas that need attention in bunny proofing:

  • Cover Electrical Cords: Use cord protectors or flex tubing to shield wires. Rabbits can’t resist chewing, and exposed cables pose a serious risk of electrocution.
  • Under sofas or beds: Place plastic mats (or flattened cardboard) on the ground to protect the floor, or block off access completely.
  • Cover carpet corners: rabbits usually dig into corners more than other areas, cover the carpet or block the area off.
  • Off-Limits Areas: Use baby gates or penned areas to restrict access to rooms or spaces that haven’t been bunny proofed.
  • Cover baseboards: place barriers in front of baseboards to prevent your rabbit from chewing. This could be flattened cardboard boxes leaned up against the walls, fencing put up around the perimeter of the room, or even furniture placed in front of the baseboards.

It’s also a good idea to incorporate safe hideouts and tunnels in your bunny proofing plan. These give your rabbit a sense of security and a place to retreat.

Thorough bunny proofing not only protects your rabbit but it also gives your rabbit the freedom to explore and exercise in a safe, loving environment.

DON’T hold your rabbit all the time

Rabbits, though cuddly and adorable, have their own preferences when it comes to affection. It’s important to understand that most rabbits hate being held. Unlike other pets that may enjoy a good cuddle, rabbits are prey animals by nature, making them instinctively more skittish and valuing their freedom and autonomy.

Picking up a rabbit too often can lead to a sense of vulnerability and discomfort, disrupting the trust-building process. When your rabbit feels threatened by frequent handling, they might respond with fear or aggression leading them to lash out or run away whenever you come near.

If you want to have a friendly bond with your pet rabbit, you need to learn how to respect their boundaries and interact with them on their own terms.

read with your rabbit
Rabbits are easily scared of loud sounds. Try reading a book or some other quiet activity while you sit on the floor with your rabbit.

DO socialize with your rabbit

Just because you shouldn’t hold your rabbit all the time doesn’t mean that you can’t cuddle or pet your rabbit at all. You just have to learn how to do it on their terms. 

Rabbits are social animals and, much like dogs or cats, they crave company and engagement. By treating your furry friend as a companion animal, you’ll be nurturing a deep bond that is rewarding for both of you.

It helps your bunny feel safe and comfortable if you sit on the floor to interact. This approach minimizes intimidation and encourages them to come to you out of their natural sense of curiosity.

Remember to be patient. Rabbits can be shy at first, so give them time to warm up to you. It may just take a couple of days or it may take a couple of months, but over time you will have a close bond with your rabbit.

Remember, every rabbit is unique, so tailoring your approach to their individual personality is key to a happy relationship. Learn more about some of the ways you can bond with your bunny.

rabbit in a small cage
Rabbits can get bored and grumpy if they’re left in a small cage all day with nothing to do.

DON’T leave your rabbit in a small cage

Rabbits are active and social animals that require ample space to move around and express natural behaviors. A small cage can severely restrict a rabbit’s movement and lead to a range of physical and psychological problems.

Without adequate space, rabbits can develop musculoskeletal problems due to a lack of exercise. They may also suffer from sore hocks, a condition where the fur and skin on the bottom of their feet become inflamed and ulcerated from constant contact with the hard cage floor.

Moreover, confining rabbits to a small space can lead to frustration and boredom. Without room to explore and engage in stimulating activities, rabbits can become anxious and depressed. They may exhibit destructive behaviors, such as chewing on the cage bars or over-grooming themselves. Mental stimulation is as important as physical exercise, and rabbits need an environment that provides both.

Most cages that are sold as ‘rabbit cages’ are actually much too small even for the tiniest breeds. If your rabbit cannot stand up fully or move three full hop lengths across the enclosure, then it’s too small.

DO give your rabbit plenty of space and exercise

When considering living quarters for your bunny, remember that larger is always better. A pet exercise pen (something like this) is usually an ideal type of habitat because it offers the necessary space for hopping, stretching, and playing even when they cannot be supervised.

It might be tempting to settle for smaller, ‘deluxe’ marketed cages, but keep in mind that rabbits need more space than those options typically provide. Investing in an appropriately sized exercise pen and allowing for ample free-range time will contribute significantly to your rabbit’s happiness and health.

While exercise pens are great for housing, rabbits also need to roam freely in a safe, rabbit-proofed area to get exercise for several hours a day. In addition to giving the rabbit a more active and healthy lifestyle, this encourages them to perform natural behaviors and provides the stimulation they need from their environment.

Ensure the free-roam area is secure and free of hazards, such as exposed wires or toxic plants (as I mentioned earlier). Provide them with items to jump on or hide in, as this mimics the natural structures they would encounter in the wild. Including toys and tunnels in their exercise area can enhance your rabbit’s activity level and pleasure.

DON’T leave the rabbit care up to your child

While rabbits are adorable, they are often mistakenly seen as an ideal first pet for a child. Rabbits are not easy beginner pets, and they require consistent, attentive, and specialized care.

It’s crucial that an adult be the primary caretaker, ensuring that the pet’s complex needs are met. This includes a balanced diet, regular habitat cleaning, and health checks.

It’s okay to teach your child about a rabbit’s needs and allow them to help in their care. This fosters responsibility while making it clear that you, as the adult, are the main provider of care.

Understanding the intricacies of rabbit care is essential. Recognize that they are complex animals needing a level of care that usually goes beyond a child’s capability to provide consistently.

bunny sitting by a couch
Spend time with your rabbit and they will become a part of your family. Just like a cat or a dog!

DO care for your rabbit as if they’re part of the family

Rabbits are not just pets; they are sentient beings with their own needs, personalities, and the ability to form deep bonds with their human caretakers. Treating your rabbit as a valued member of the family involves more than just providing the basics of food, water, and shelter. It’s about creating a nurturing environment that caters to their physical, emotional, and social needs.

While they do need a place to call their own, such as a large pen or roomy enclosure, rabbits also thrive on social interaction and should have the opportunity to roam freely in a rabbit-proofed area of your home whenever possible. 

This integration into your daily life allows them to interact with the family and become familiar with the household’s sights, sounds, and routines, which can significantly enrich their lives and reduce stress.

Moreover, understanding and respecting your rabbit’s unique personality and preferences is key. Some rabbits may enjoy being held and cuddled, while others prefer to play and interact in other ways. Pay attention to their body language and behavior to learn how they like to be treated and what makes them feel loved and secure.

In essence, caring for your rabbit as if they’re part of the family means integrating them into your life with love, respect, and attentiveness to their needs. It’s about building a relationship that enhances both your lives, providing them with the care and companionship they deserve, and recognizing them as a true member of your family circle.

Tips and Tricks Newsletter

If you are new to caring for rabbits, check out the Bunny Lady bimonthly newsletter. Right after you sign up, you’ll receive a FREE pdf rabbit care guidebook. I put together a guide that goes over all the basics of rabbit care so you have it all in one place. Then you will receive tips and tricks about rabbit care straight to your inbox so that you know you’ll be taking excellent care of your new rabbit.

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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