bringing home bunny


You've decided that a bunny is the perfect pet for you!  You've found your perfect bunny and can't wait to bring him or her home!  But what are some of the items you should have on hand when bringing home bunny?

That's where we come in!  We want your bunny experience to be as fun and seamless as possible so we've created a list of items that you should have ready for your new bun :)

Cage/Bunny Living Area

This is, of course, one of the most important items to start with!  Your bunny is going to need a safe and quiet space to hang out in (when not cuddling with you of course!).  There are lots of great cages and bunny play areas out there for you to choose from!  Some people choose to go for a cage and others prefer an open-concept living space comprised of a playpen as a barrier and a few cozy nooks and crannies for bunny to hide and play in.  There are lots of great ideas available; a simple internet search will provide you with quite a few choices :)  Above all, make sure that your bunny's living area is easy to clean!  This will ensure that maintaining a clean environment is really easy and doesn't become an unwelcome and cumbersome task!

Have you decided to pick out that special cage for your new bun?  If so, you are going to need shavings!  Wood shavings are great (pine shavings are best; avoid cedar shavings as the oils in them can be toxic to animals) and so is paper pulp.  Your local pet store will have lots of healthy choices for your bunny :)


Play Pen

If you choose to go with a cage for bunny then you might also want to purchase a small-animal play pen for bunny to run around and play in!  This is a foldable fenced area that can be set up in your living room, tv room or kitchen (or just about anywhere you spend most of your time!).  This allows your bunny to play and explore while staying out of the way of your other pets who may also want to "play" with your sweet bun; it also keeps bunny away from electrical wires that might look tempting to chew on.  And the best part is that play pens are movable and you can set it up outside in the summer so that bunny can romp in the grass and sunshine :)


Food and Water

Your darling new bunny is going to need high quality food and lots of fresh water in order to stay happy and healthy :)  We feed our rabbits a 16% protein rabbit pellet from Masterfeeds.  We purchase our pellets at our local feed store in 50 pound bags (which is no doubt way more than you will need!) but you can find other brands of rabbit pellets at your local pet store that are just as good and come in much smaller amounts!  We recommend feeding a pelleted feed that is just pellets (no nuts or seeds) as this is what bunnies like the most!  You will also need to pick up a bag of hay for your bunny as, even more than pellets, bunnies love hay!  We feed our bunnies a mixture of Timothy and Alfalfa hay which we grow here on our farm but either hay is just fine on its own!  Most pet stores carry bags of Timothy hay which your bunny will very much thank you for :)

Fresh water is just as important as fresh food!  We refresh our bunnies' water dishes each morning and this keeps them perfectly happy and healthy :)  We give our bunnies their pellets and water in dishes, or crocks, as opposed to water bottles.  We have found that crocks are much easier to keep clean and there are no small parts to break!  When you bring your bunny home he/she will be used to eating and drinking out of a dish so we definitely recommend that you also provide dishes for your buns to eat and drink from :)


Treats

As tempting as it might be to shower your bunny with treats, you must be careful!  Bunnies have sensitive tummies and too many treats can upset their delicate digestive system.  We generally recommend avoiding treats until your bun is around 6 months old.  Once your sweetheart is old enough, however, there are lots of healthy and yummy treats you can reward your bunny with :) 

Here are a few examples, all of which are really fun and easy to grow in your own garden!

  • Parsley 
  • Kale
  • Dark leafy lettuces
  • Dandelion leaves (ok, no one really "grows" these in a garden but you can pick them right from your lawn (making sure that you don't spray your lawn with chemicals of course!)
  • Comfrey (our buns go crazy for the comfrey that we grow in our garden!)
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Carrots (they prefer the leafy carrot tops as opposed to the root of the vegetable)
  • Mint (your bunny and home with both smell amazing!)
  • Chamomile
  • Pumpkins (the seeds and the flesh of the pumpkin are both favourites and contain natural deworming properties!  We feed pumpkins to all of our animals!)
  • Bananas (yep, they love a few slices of banana!)

We suggest keeping treats to a minimum, be careful not to over do it!  Your bunny's diet should consist mainly of pellets and hay with a few greens a couple of times a week as a little bit extra :)


Toys

Who doesn't love to spoil their favourite pet with toys every now and then?  And I have some great news for you: put down your wallet and car keys, you won't be needing to make a trip to the pet store to stock up on bunny toys! They are all free!!  Well, sort of free...more like recycled ;)  All those toilet paper and paper towel rolls you lovingly throw away: perfect bunny chew toys!  That empty granola bar box: bunny toy!  Your empty cereal boxes?  Bunny toys too!  Basically anything cardboard will do!  Bunnies love to chew and they need to chew!  Their teeth are constantly (but very slowly of course!) growing and they need to keep them filed down by chewing.  Their favourite way to do this is by eating hay!  The coarse hay makes a great tooth file!  But so do all those recycled boxes you give bun!  The best part is that they are free and, in most homes, plentiful :)

Special note: never give your sweet bun any plastic!  They will chew that too and no creature's body was designed to digest plastic!


Litter Box Training

Yes, bunnies can be litter box trained, just like a cat!  And it's really easy as bunnies are very smart and catch on quite quickly :)  Your local pet store should have special rabbit litter boxes that fit nicely into your bunny's cage, or you can always opt for a cat litter box if you choose to house your bunny in a larger enclosure.  Rabbits are very neat and tidy and will choose one specific corner in which to do their "bunny business".  If you place your bunny's litter box in the corner it chooses to use then your bun will understand that this is its bathroom box!  It usually only takes a week or two to fully train your bunny :)


Likes and Dislikes

Bunnies are such fun, furry friends to have in our homes!  They love to play and cuddle and they crave our attention, but, along with everything bunnies do like, there are a few things that they don’t like.  Here is a list of bunny likes and dislikes:

LIKES

  • Hopping around on the floor while you sit with them.  Bunnies love it when you come down to their level!
  • Being cuddled in your lap as you stroke their head and back.
  • Calm and gentle movements.
  • Quiet spaces and areas to play in.
  • Being rewarded for good behaviour!  Once bunny is old enough for treats they are a great way to reward good behaviour!
  • Playtime!  Bunnies love to get out of their cage or living quarters and play!  Let bunny explore a secure area like your living room or TV room and stretch his/her legs!
  • Social interaction!  Bunnies are social animals and love our attention!  Be sure to shower your bunny with lots of love and affection and your darling bunny will be sure to return the love!
  • Adding a second bunny to your home at a later date may also be a great way to provide social interaction!  If you do plan on adding another bunny to the mix at a later date then it is recommended to have both rabbits spayed/neutered once they reach maturity as their raging hormones can create competition between your grown rabbits to determine who the alpha male/female is.  Having your furry friends fixed can calm these tendencies and create a calmer environment.

DISLIKES

  • Being picked up too much.  Bunnies feel most secure with all four paws on the ground or on a solid surface, like your lap!
  • Being held on their back with their tummies facing up.  This position is the most stressful way for a bunny to be held as they feel the most vulnerable when on their backs.
  • Sudden movement, especially when near them.  Sudden movements can frighten your bunny.
  • A noisy environment – bunnies are quiet animals and like their surroundings to reflect this.  Loud noises frighten bunnies.
  • Being punished for bad behavior.  Bunnies don’t understand why they are being punished as they are not able to associate punishment with bad behaviour.  Punishing a bunny if it displays bad behaviour only creates distrust and a fear of you.  Avoid bad behaviour (nipping, biting, scratching etc) by following the tips in the LIKES column!
  • Too much playtime.  Bunnies love to play but they also need to rest.  Make sure your bunny gets lots of down time in his/her own space to recharge their battery for more playtime tomorrow!
  • Interacting with other animals, such as dogs and cats. Rabbits are naturally prey animals and are very wary of other animals.  Please be sure that your bunny is housed in a quiet space that your other pets don’t have access to.  This goes for playtime too – make sure that your bunny has a quiet area to play in and explore where he/she won’t be disturbed by your other furry friends.
  • If you would like to eventually introduce your bunny to your other pets then be sure to do it slowly and carefully!  If at any point your bunny displays signs of stress then stop; see below for a list of signs of stress.  Make sure your other pets understand that they need to be quiet and calm around your bunny and that your bunny is not a play toy or play mate – your bunny is a member of the family who needs to be respected and left alone. 
  • Cats are pretty good at being quiet and minding their own business so the onus here is on the family pooch!  If your dog barks a lot or is very hyper then it is not a good idea to introduce him/her to your bunny at all.  If you have a very quiet and calm breed of dog then an introduction may be possible once your bunny has adjusted to his/her new home and family :)


Signs and Causes of Stress and What To Do

Rabbits are hands down one of the loveliest pets to welcome into your life!  They are playful and enjoy your company, but they are not perfect!  They are living, breathing beings and need to be treated with the utmost respect and kindness.  They are not dogs and they are not dolls!  Rabbits don't want to be treated like a puppy or like a play time dress up doll.  They want and need to be treated like rabbits.  If you follow all of the tips on our RABBIT LIKES list then you should be good to go!  If however, your bunny does not feel comfortable with the way it is being handled or treated then they may start to display signs of stress.  Below is a list of those signs and their causes and what you can do if your bunny starts to show any of them:

Signs of Stress:

  • nipping
  • biting
  • scratching
  • unwillingness to be touched or held
  • intense grooming or fur pulling
  • excessive chewing and destroying of items in their living quarters
  • an overall nervousness (ears held back against his/her body, crouching or being balled up in a corner)
  • constantly hiding (your bunny will want some down time but if this down time turns into a constant need to hide then your bunny is likely feeling uncomfortable and scared)

Causes of Stress:

  • Being constantly confined to a cage - if your bunny never gets to run around and play then this can cause excess energy to build up and this will show itself in unpleasant ways. 
  • A sudden change of environment - bunnies, like us, are creatures of habit and like their surroundings to remain constant and familiar.  Suddenly changing the environment they are used to can cause them to feel uncertain and stressed.  This is obviously something that can't be avoided when bringing your new bunny home but we will discuss how to deal with this below!
  • Sudden movements and loud noises - rabbits are always on the alert!  And they have big ears to help them hear and sense everything!  Any sudden movements or loud noises can frighten your bunny and make them feel uneasy.
  • Rough handling - this can cause bunnies the most stress!  Your bunny needs to feel safe and secure not only when in your company but also when in your hands!  A bunny who is being handled roughly or incorrectly will not be a happy bunny.
  • New smells and noises - again, this can't be avoided when bringing your bunny home, but we will discuss ways to make your bunny feel calm and comfortable in their new surroundings!

What To Do:

  • Let your bunny play!  Your sweet little bunny is a bundle of energy!  Give your new bun the opportunity (daily!) to run around and play and engage with his/her surroundings!  Make sure your bunny is being stimulated and not getting bored!  A bored bunny is a mischievous bunny!  Give your bun lots of fun toys to play with and places to explore :)  Sit on the floor and play with your bunny too!  Your new friend loves that cardboard box you gave them to play with but nothing beats getting the chance to play with you!  Your bunny will develop a strong bond with you if you put in the time to allow that bond to blossom :)
  • Give your bunny a calm and quiet environment!  As we discussed above in the LIKES and DISLIKES, your bunny needs and will thrive in a relaxed environment.  Rabbits are quiet and gentle animals and their environment needs to reflect this!  Keep noisy pets, loud music and rambunctious children away from your bunny and your bunny will thank you ten fold!
  • Please, please, please be very gentle when handling your bunny!  Rabbits are delicate creatures and any rough or uncomfortable handling will cause them much undue stress.  Rabbits do not like to be picked up by their ears or by the scruff of the neck.  They do not like to be held on their backs or in any position where they don't feel secure.  Picking your bunny up by supporting his/her paws and bum is the best way to make them feel secure.  Holding your bunny on your lap or a solid surface where all four of his/her paws are touching a solid surface is the best way to let your bunny know that they are safe!  Let your bunny know that your lap is a place that they can hop on/hop off whenever they want, not a place where they have to feel confined!  Let them explore while also letting them know that whenever they feel like snuggling, your lap is available!
  • A new environment and new smells and noises are an inevitable part of new bunny ownership!  But they don't have to be a stressful part!  You can accustom your new friend to his/her new environment nicely by doing it slowly (slow and steady wins the race a wise turtle once taught us!).  Let your new bunny get used to his/her new home bit by bit.  Start by putting your bunny in their new living quarters and leaving them there for a while (a day or so).  Let them get used to their new personal space!  Then you can slowly start introducing your bunny to the rest of your home by letting your bunny come out of their personal space and explore a small area.  If at any time they want to run back to their home then let them.  Don't overstimulate your bunny!  A little more play time each day is a great way to help your bunny adjust to your home.  In no time at all they will feel calm and happy in their new home!  If your bunny is showing signs of stress then slow down! Maybe your bunny needs more time to adjust; every rabbit is different - some may adjust quickly and others may need a bit more time :)
  • As with any pet, you have to go at their pace.  If you try to force them to adjust at your pace then it will only lead to disaster!  Remember, this is your home, you already feel comfortable there, you already know where everything is and you are already familiar with all the sounds, smells and noises.  Your bunny isn't!  Everything that you are exposing your bunny to is completely new!  Some things may be fun but others may feel scary at first.  Don't expect your bunny to feel safe and secure right away.  You are going to have to show your bunny that they are in a safe space and you will have to earn their trust.  Trust is something that is earned, not blindly given.  If you are calm and patient with your bunny and read their body language then you and your bunny will bond nicely!  Although animals cannot speak using words they do speak using body language.  The sooner your learn to read what they are saying, the sooner you will become best friends :)