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August 3, 2004         Issue #1
Rabbit Care Written by Dream Lopz

 

Guidelines for your Rabbit Feeding

There are many different diets and here are some guidelines. I have read many articles and tried many diets. I have found a suitable diet. Remember the guidelines I give are for rabbits weighing 4-6 pounds the links provide the amount for different weights for rabbits.

Pellets or mix?

No animal protein, salt wheels or vitamins. Really all rabbits need are pellets, veggies, fresh drinking, water and hay. Treats like bunny chocolate and yogert drops are bad for them. A rabbit mix is full of colourful rubbish! Pellets are very high in calories and arent that good for wearing down teeth. For that reason my rabbits are on a low pellet diet. Remember dry food must be given in a heavy food bowl. Pellets need to be high in crude fiber 16-17% and low in protein. The high fibre diet along with unlimited hay makes sure they have the nutrients they need. Good pellets from the U.S are oxbow and good pellets from the U.K are Supa Rabbit Excel.

Hay

Grass hay should make up most of the diet and there should be unlimited amounts. One type of hay is timothy hay. Alfalfa hay shouldnt be given to adult rabbits due to its high protein level. Hay needs to be in unlimited amounts. I like to give mine in a hayrack this is for hygiene because if it is on the floor then it is likely to be pooed/weed on. However they do still have hay on the floor soiled hay must be removed. Grass hay is good roughage for the teeth, low in calories and stops digestive problems such as GI stasis because hay is full of fibre. Hay can be bought from feed shops and farm shops along with pet shops. Other good roughage for the teeth is dried apple twigs and branches, unpeeled willow baskets and things like that. Remember rabbits teeth continually grow and need wearing down constantly. Long teeth can cause illness like snuffles. Sneezing and a coloured discharge from the nose and mattered insides of front paw are symptoms of snuffles. One of the main causes are overgrown teeth.

Veggies

Veggies are an important part however in limited amounts. Remember no veggies under 6 months old and introduce them one at a time a week in-between. This is because rabbits have very delicate digestive systems. The nutrients How much do I feed? I pretty much follow this diet as it was recommended by my vet http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/diet.html however I do feed slightly more pellets (as in ‚½ a cup) and slightly less veggies. Until 3 months old unlimited pellets. Then from 3-6 months that I gradually reduce it to ‚¾ of a cup to a cup a day (depending on the size of the rabbit. This encourages hay consumption a good habit a rabbit must learn and they wont put on unwanted weight! Now there are many recommended diets, and some disagree with the one I follow. But that is mine for those reasons. I changed after one of my rabbit had dental problems to a more teeth friendly diet.

Bonding

In my opinion rabbits are very happy when bonded. Especially if they are home alone a lot. This process can take as long as 6 months or as short as a few weeks. Great care must be taken. Remember rabbits are territorial and they do what they can to protect them selves. You must have a neutered/spayed rabbit and it to be at least a month or two after the operation. Babies bond the easiest however you must be careful when they hit puberty. Boys and girls generally bond the best. However it is possible to bond same sexes. There is hope in bonding all rabbits if done properly however you must be aware that they may never get on. Short positive sessions are much better than a big fight!!! First of all we need to make sure that you have your rabbits in a neutral territory. Preferably two people should be in the room. You need to make sure that you have toys in the room and nice things to eat for example veggies like a carrot or broccoli, veggies must only be given to rabbits 6 months or over and introduced one at a time a new one every 7-10 days. The idea of bonding is to make is a really positive experience. You also need a water spray to stop any fights that may brake out. Rabbits mostly communicate with each other through body language and soft teeth grinding (soft teeth grinding sign of happiness. If it is loud teeth grinding then the rabbit is in pain and you must see your vet ASAP). To find out more about rabbits body language and how they communicate go on http://www.muridae.com/rabbits/rabbittalk.html Now for the bonding. Put the cages next to each other. Swap where they are living every day so they get use to living in each others smell. On the first day put one rabbit in a carry cage and the hopping around it. Let them sniff it until they become indifferent. The open the cage and let the rabbit come out in its own time. Dont however let both rabbits at the same time in the carry cage, and other small confined areas as they are inaccessible and a fight could break out. One big mistake is that a lot of people make is not showing that you are the alpha rabbit!!! You must stop a rabbit biting another rabbit even before they bite them. This is because the rabbit needs to associate the other rabbit with good memories. Rabbits have good memories and will remember a fight they can then hole a grudge for weeks months or even years. If a fight break out you must spray then with the water and separate them at once. You must then put one in the carry cage and wait until they calm down (and become indifferent) before you can continue. To establish dominance rabbits will mount one another. You must let the dominant rabbit mount the other one for a few seconds only before the other rabbit runs away or retaliates. Head Humping is allowed but you need to be careful because the one rabbit could easily bite the other one and serious injuries could come of it. To live in peace your rabbits will have to establish the dominant bun however the intensity of it depends on the rabbit.

Good signs

  • Rabbits are lying down near or next to each other
  • Grooming each other
  • Being indifferent
  • Eating/drinking together

Bad signs

  • Fighting
  • Not being relaxed

Tricks of bonding is taking them in the car so they get scared and snuggle in with each other. Remember you definitely need two people in the car one to drive and the other to watch the rabbits. Mushing a bit of banana on ones fore head so the other licks it off. That way one is having a treat and the other is being groomed! Once bonded you will need a cage/hutch twice as big. For my bonded rabbits I have two hutches and I joined them together. The more space they have the better. My bonded pair have 22 square feet. It is better to have 2 water bottles 2 food bowls and 2 hay racks the minimise the possible outcome of a fight.

Spaying

Rabbits become sexually mature at around 4-5 months old however sometimes they can be late and when that is the case things trigger off hormonal behavior like recently getting a new rabbit. Or anyone living near you getting a new rabbit. Once 6 months old getting him neutered would be a good idea, it may reduce or stop hormonal behavior such as aggression, digging, eliminates reproductive cancers and humping. You may be able to litter train him easier. You also may be able to bond her. Vets usually take the rabbits in the morning and like to release them in the evening when they are suitably recovered from the operation. If your rabbit lives outside or in outdoor housing I suggest you bring them inside for the next few days. Primarily because their body temperature drops so they need to be kept in a quite warm room. Also you can keep a closer eye on your rabbit. When you bring your rabbit home he may be really sleepy and can hardly walk a few steps, dont worry this is normal and over the next few days your rabbit will start to hop around more. (It may take a month for your rabbit to be playing as normal) After about 3 maybe 4 days I would put your rabbit back in its original housing as when your rabbit is in familiar surroundings your rabbit is likely to recover quicker. Your rabbit may not want to eat or drink for a few days how ever you must encourage your rabbit to eat and drink as much as possible. You may do this by giving your rabbit washed parsley and a bit of banana. Remember that your rabbit should always have access to grass hay to nibble on this also keeps the teeth down and eliminates digestive problems. Veggies like cucumber are full of water so if you notice your rabbit not drinking then offering some cucumber and other such veggies will re-hydrate your rabbit. Remember under 6 months veggies should not be given to your rabbit and introduced a week 10 days in between every veggie. However after the opp you do need to make sure that your rabbit starts to eat properly so offering a VERY small amount would be okay. You vet is likely to use dissolvable stitches so you are unlikely to have to go back for them to be taken out. Remember that you mustn't starve your rabbit before the operation because they physically cant vomit. Words of encouragement though for most vets it is a routine thing and my rabbits have all recovered fast. If you are worried about the recovery of your rabbit then talk to you vet about it. If you dont think your rabbit is recovering at all then visit your vet, remember a few bites of hay is progress. In my opinion rabbits are very happy when bonded. Especially if they are home alone a lot.

Cutting Nails

A lot of people cut their rabbits nails every 6-8 weeks. However if they spend most of their time on hard surfaces then nails rarely need to be cut. This website gives a step-by-step guide with pictures on how to cut nails. http://www.livejournal.com/users/bellebun/2049.html It is 1/2 way down the page and entitled cutting the nails it goes through all aspects of cutting nails. Some times rabbits panic but remember cutting nails doesnt really hurt them. If they feel stressed then sometimes rabbits respond to being fed veggies like broccoli or a carrot. Remember veggies cant be fed to your rabbit less than 6 months of age. Also each veggie must be gradually introduced one a time 1-2 weeks in between each vegetable. If you accidentally cut the quick, you need cornstarch or flour to stop the bleeding or at least a clean towel to dab on if you dont have cornstarch handy. Tea tree oil is a good antiseptic so that it doesnt become infected. Also clean out the cage to stop infection. If you ever think it is infected then visit your vet. I would also recommend that you ask a vet or a breeder to show you them first hand if you are unsure for the first time.

What type of housing for your Rabbit?

Here is a guide to housing your rabbit whether it be kept inside or outside.

Outside

I dont know what country you live in so, if you are British this is a good hutch site http://www.happyhutch.com/ I think they ship abroad but this can be costly they do sell big hutches though. http://www.dummies.com/WileyCDA/DummiesArticle/id-1635.html this has good information about hutches except I disagree with this requirement 1sqft=1pound. The hutch should be at least 5ft by 2ft for a medium sized rabbit so as an adult it can do 4 hops. Out door housing is also a good place to put your rabbits especially if you have a lot mine live in the garage but they are still litter trained and come in the house. Here is where they live http://www.miss-eloise.co.uk click on bunnies. Remember outdoor rabbits can die of shock from cats or birds of pray or any other predators. Fly screen outdoor hutches, to protect against insects. They need to come inside when the temperature reaches 80 degrees or when it gets really cold (as in snow) in cold weather the rabbit will appreciate more hay.

Inside

Okay firstly have you considered housing your rabbit inside your house? They can make good house animals because they are litter trainable. Firstly you would need to get them spayed. Visit http://www.rabbit.org for more information about house rabbits. Remember I feel that the HRS feeds to many veggies and are to biased against breeders.

This article was written by Dream Lopz of our Forum board and may not be copied or reproduced without her consent. If you have any questions or comments for Dream Lopz, or would like permission to copy or reprint her article, please register at our forum board by clicking on the link below. It's free and fun!

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