Bunny Basics: Shopping List
When a rabbit becomes a member of your household, it is an exciting time. Here are Red Door's guidelines for things you need to give your rabbit a good start in their new life—and things you don't need to waste your money on.
Elliot wants you to go shopping for the right things!
THINGS YOU NEED:
Rabbits should never live in cages because they are naturally very active, gregarious animals and love to run, leap, and explore. Also, when confined, rabbits sink into a depression. Cage-living is unhealthy-rabbits can't move around, which leads to obesity, boredom, and illness. (Wire-floored cages are very hard on rabbits' feet and can cause a painful medical problem called "sore hocks.")
All cages sold in pet stores are far too confining for any rabbit-small Dwarf rabbits need just as much space to run as larger rabbits, if not more because they are so energetic. If your rabbit must spend any time in a cage, Red Door recommends the two-tier or three-tier rabbit condos made by www.leithpetwerks.com.
Instead of a cage, we recommend "bunny-proofing" a room, or part of your home, where the rabbit can live and move around freely-a kitchen, spare bedroom, or family room works well. See "Bunny-proofed Areas" below.
Another good option is to purchase dog/puppy exercise pens for the rabbit. The pens should be at least 32 inches to 36 inches tall (anything shorter and a rabbit can jump right over it). These can be purchased at pet supply stores like PETCO, Petsmart, Pets Supplies Plus, or online at Petedge. The price is approximately $69-$79 each. However, rabbits should not spend all of their time in a pen, so you will still need to bunny proof an area of your house where the rabbit can roam freely.
If space is not an issue, putting two or more exercise pens together is ideal. Another possibility is to use an exercise pen attached to the sides of a Leithpetwerks condo, thus giving the rabbit a protected "front yard" inside your home.
Roomy litter box
...the bigger the better, because rabbits like to hang out in their litter boxes and eat hay.
Eli in his litter box The smaller, triangular-shaped boxes are not popular with rabbits because those boxes don't offer enough room. If your rabbit is going to have lots of running space, or access to a large part of your living quarters, you might to have a second litter box for the rooms he's in when running free. If your rabbit is a Dutch or a Dutch mix, you will probably want to use a litter box with an attached rim to the upper edge (this is a popular kind of cat litter box). That is because Dutch rabbits need a deeper box with a rim so that they don't pee outside the box.
Some people use deep plastic storage containers (minus the lids) as litter boxes; also, restaurant busing bins (available at restaurant supply stores or discount warehouses like Sam's or Costco) work well. Both of these oversized boxes work well when you are dealing with a bonded pair of rabbits who want to be in the litter box at the same time.
The best kind of litter is made from recycled newspapers or paper products. Brands include Yesterday's News & Carefresh. Feline Pine is also acceptable (it is the only pine product that is OK for rabbits). Do not use clay cat litter—this can cause problems for rabbits. Some people simply line the litter box with newspaper, shredded or flat, and put hay on top of that.
Heavy water crock or water bottle
We find that rabbits drink more water out of a bowl or crock. Also, water crocks are easier to keep clean. If you do use a water bottle, you must check carefully every day that the bottle is working and not clogged. And the bottle must be emptied and refilled every day, not just refilled when the bottle gets low.
The main part of a rabbit's diet should be timothy hay and/or grass hay. You can facilitate your rabbit's use of his litter box by putting hay in the box. Do not feed your rabbit alfalfa hay unless specifically advised to do so by a veterinarian; alfalfa hay is too caloric for adult rabbits. Red Door can recommend several places to buy hay in the city and in the suburbs. Red Door highly recommends buying hay from Oxbow Hay Company because of its high quality.
Pellets should only be a very small part of a rabbit's diet, if used at all. The only kind of acceptable pellets are timothy hay-based pellets, like Oxbow's Bunny Basics/T. Do not use alfalfa-based pellets; they are too fattening for rabbits 4 months old or older. Rabbits with long fur, like angoras or Jersey Wooleys, burn up energy growing their fur, so they can need more pellets than other rabbits. Sometimes senior rabbits can use an increase in pellets; check with your rabbit-savvy vet for advice.
Avoid all pellets that are mixed with dried fruit, corn, seeds; avoid all "fiesta" or "gourmet" style pellets. While these might look appealing to humans, they cause many GI problems-some of them fatal-for rabbits. Rabbits should never eat birdseed.
The best pellets have a high fiber content of 17% or more. You can find this information on the back of the bag. Again: Only feed a rabbit pellets under guidance from a rabbit-savvy veterinarian.
Roger catches a nap on his blanket A rabbit needs to spend a minimum of 4-to-6 hours a day out of a Leith condo or single pen. The best way to spend time with your rabbit is to have at least one bunny-proofed area (kitchen or family room, for example) where you and the rabbit can relax and play together. Your main consideration should be hiding or protecting electrical cords and phone lines with plastic "cord cover" tubing purchased from a hardware store. Also, keep all house plants, which can be toxic, out of reach.
As you get to know your rabbit, you will learn what toys he likes. Most rabbits like both chew toys and toss toys. A simple one can be made from a cardboard roll from the middle of a paper towel roll. You can stuff hay into it. Also rabbits like to chew on cardboard boxes. You can cut 2 "doors" and a "window" in the box and the rabbit will decorate it from there. For more ideas on rabbit toys, see Red Door's web article "Bunny Basics: Playing Around."
The best bunny treats are fresh produce, fresh herbs or Critter Carrots and Critter Berries from Oxbow Hay Company.
You will want to get a sturdy carrier, not a cardboard one, for your rabbit. The easiest style is one that opens both on the side and on the top.
The best cleaning solution for anything around rabbits is white vinegar. Combined with water, white vinegar is the perfect thing to clean your rabbit's litter box, cage, and any accidents on the floor and carpeting. Do not use packaged "rabbit cleaning" products or sprays.
Rabbits need their nails trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Buy a pair of small cat nail trimmers and a container of stypic powder (brand name "Quik Stop") to stop the bleeding if you accidentally cut into the quick of the nail. Use a fine tooth comb or nylon bristle/wire slicker cat brush to remove loose fur gently. Red Door has Rabbit Spa Days 4 times a year if you need assistance with nail trims and grooming (we request a small donation for spa services). Never give your rabbit a bath, use shampoo on a rabbit or send your rabbit to a groomer.
THINGS YOU DON'T NEED:
Don't waste your money or endanger your rabbit's health by buying any of the following items:
- Vitamins or vitamin supplements
- Salt lick
- Pine or cedar shavings for litter (These can be harmful to rabbits, causing respiratory problems. The one exception: Feline Pine litter.)
- Bunny treats like yogurt drops, granola-type bars, anything with birdseed. Rabbits cannot digest seeds, granola or any dairy product like yogurt.
- Rabbit shampoo
- Cleaning products labeled for rabbits and for rabbits' litter boxes and cages.