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What You Need to Know Before Getting a Pet Rabbit

A woman holding a fluffy brownish-orange bunny in her hands.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

It’s that time of year again, when bunnies are the hot pet. However, before you commit to becoming an Easter bunny steward, there are some things you should know. Rabbits make great pets, but they’re not like cats and dogs.

The average life of a rabbit is 7-10 years, so you want to make sure you’re ready for a decade-long commitment to this small fuzzy creature. It will also require a veterinarian that works specifically with rabbits.

There are also health issues for both does and bucks, so getting your bunny fixed should be a priority, as it will give them a longer happier life. Rabbits also need regular nail trims, lots of room to hop around, and a safe space to relax and sleep.

Rabbits as Pets

Rabbits make wonderful pets if you’re ready for the commitment. While they’re a shorter lifespan pet than dogs and cats, they still require lots of food and care. From finding a veterinarian who specializes in these fluffy little hoppers to making sure your bunny has a safe and secure home, you’ll want to know what you’re getting into before you make that purchase.

Not all veterinarians deal with small animals like rabbits, so be sure to find one who does. You will want to get your rabbit fixed, even if you only plan on having one and never having them around other rabbits. It’s good for the bunny’s health.

Rabbits are chewers, and they don’t discriminate on what they’ll chew on—which means shoes, plastic bags, and anything else within a bunny’s reach are fair game. While bunnies enjoy even the bitterest Granny Smith apples, an extra-bitter spray may help protect your cable cords and other things you don’t want your free-roaming rabbit to chew on. Bunny’s also pee and poop wherever they want—male rabbits mark territory until they’re neutered. You can litter train your free-range house bunny.

Rabbits are prey animals. They startle easily. If you have other pets in the home, you will need to do careful introductions—cats and dogs have lived as mutual pets in households, but it takes work to ensure your rabbit feels safe and comfortable around other pets.

One other quirk that frustrates and confuses new rabbit owners is that these cute fluffy critters eat their own poop. Please don’t try to stop your bunny from doing this—they’re supposed to. Poop is part of your bunny’s diet; you will have to learn to deal with it.

If you’re ready to invest in a rabbit as a pet, load up on the supplies below to get exactly what your new friend will need for a healthy life.

Bunny Housing

First, you have to make sure your bunny has enough space to hop around. Like all creatures, they need regular exercise.

Below are some options for housing your bunny indoors:

Basic starter cage: This basic bunny starter cage should be used for transport only or for small stays away from their larger living space. It comes with all the goodies you need as a first-time rabbit parent, but it doesn’t give your pet enough space to move around. Once it reaches adulthood, it will need a bigger home. However, this option makes a good carrier your rabbit won’t be able to chew through.

Rabbit cage with water dispenser, hay feeder, and food dish.
Living World

 

A hutch: These make ideal living quarters if your rabbit isn’t going to have free reign over your home. But you’ll want one without an open bottom. Even with a two-story hutch like this one, your bunny will still need to get some exercise and snuggle time outside of it. The more entry points on a hutch, the easier it is to clean and get your bunny in and out.

A two-story rabbit hutch.
My Pet Companion

A baby or pet gate: If your rabbit is going to have the freedom to roam your home, you’ll still probably be better off confining him to one room. This especially helps when potty training, because you’ll always know where the messes will be and what furniture might get chewed up. Pick baby or pet gates that don’t have big enough spaces for your bunny to slip through.

Expandable pet gate blocking of a living room.
MyPet

Fencing: Puppy fences are ideal for giving your bunny a safe space to run and hop indoors or out. It’s especially useful if your bunny isn’t allowed to roam the entire house. Be sure to invest in one that is three-feet or taller to prevent your rabbit from jumping out.

Foldable pet pen with opening door.
Amazon

Bedding and Litter

Hutch bunnies will generally do their “business” in one area of the hutch, but your free-range bunny will need to be potty trained to use a litter box, much like a cat. Unlike cats, though, you want to be extra picky about the litter you choose for your rabbit.

We like the options below:

Bedding: This gives your bunny a spot in their hutch to “do their business,” and it’s the safest litter choice for rabbits. It makes things smell better, and it makes cleanup easier. Don’t worry; your bunny will pick which spot is a bathroom and which spot is a bedroom in their hutch, and this bedding works well in the litter box for bunnies who have the freedom to roam the house.

A rabbit spending time in a litter box filled with bedding.
Small Pet Select

A litter box: Another must for bunnies who spend time out of their hutch. You want a box that’s easy for your bunny to get in and out of without lots of hopping and kicking. High sides on all but the entry, like with this box from Cosweet, help keep your bunny from making a big mess if they decide to do some digging in the litter box.

Rabbit using a bunny litter box.
Cosweet

Food and Water

Bunnies need a steady diet of hay, rabbit pellets, water, and fresh veggies. For pellets, pick a well-known brand, like Oxford. If your yard isn’t treated, you can also pick dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, and clover to feed your rabbit.

Below are some of our faves:

A food dish: You want something your bunny won’t be able to chew up that’s also heavy enough to keep them from flipping it over. Rabbits love to play with the stuff they have in their hutch or living area, which includes dumping food dishes. You can get a ceramic dish or something that attaches right to their cage.

A rabbit eating food and hay from a hanging feeder.
Kaytee

A hay feeder: The more stuff you can hang, the more space your bunny has in their hutch, and while the feeder above has space for hay, your bunny should be eating lots of it daily. That means a separate hay feeder is a good investment. The Rollin’ the Hay feeder from Kaytee can hang or be used as a free-standing feeder.

Kaytee rolling hay feeder for rabbits and other small animals.
Kaytee

A water dispenser: Rabbits are rough on their water dispensers, and there’s a good chance your bunny will go through a few of them over their lifetime. You want to make sure your bunny always has fresh water available. You can sometimes find bigger mounted water dispensers, so you won’t have to refill as often.

 

No-Drip small animal water bottle on a cage.
Choco Nose

Snacks and toys: Rabbits like to chew—they can eat things like your leftover cardboard from paper towels. They’ll chew on any toys you give them, so opt for edible ones like grass hay balls and anything you find with a bunny picture on it in the pet department. Branches and other hard snacks to chew on are good for your rabbit’s dental health.

Bunnies enjoying natural bunny treats and toys.
Generic

Grooming

Rabbits do a lot of self-grooming, but there are some things that they can’t do. When the seasons change, you can expect your rabbit to do some shedding, so you’ll want a brush. They also cannot clip their own toenails, and those things grow like weeds.

A brush: You’ll want to brush your bunny to help with shedding fur. Pick a soft-bristled brush for keeping your bunny safe from scratches. Grooming gloves also come in handy.

Cute bunny next to a grooming glove and brush.
Dasksha

Nail clippers: Rabbits’ nails keep growing and growing, so they need regular trimming. You can use the same clippers you’d use for a cat or small dog, but be careful not to cut too short. If you’re nervous about cutting your bunny’s nails, you can take them to the vet to get them done every month.

Small animal nail clippers being used to trim cat's nails.
SHINY PET

Bunnies make wonderful pets, and they’ll love cuddling if you start handling them when they’re young. Some are even willing to walk with a harness and leash. However, rabbits need just as much care and attention as other pets, so keep that in mind before you get one of these cute fluffy animals.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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