Rabbits are friendly, intelligent, affectionate animals, who can live 7-10+ years with good care. Like cats, rabbits are self-grooming, immaculately clean animals that have no body odor. They appreciate clean litter boxes and living quarters. Their personality most closely resembles a dog’s and they require similar socialization. They greatly enjoy human companionship and are best suited for adult households. Rabbits have a very light skeleton in proportion to their body mass and are prone to an orthopedic injury, therefore, careful handling is essential. To maintain your rabbit’s physical and mental well-being, plenty of daily exercise is required.

It is recommended that your rabbit live indoors where he will become an integrated member of the family. Following are several reasons they should not be housed outdoors:

  • Exposure to extreme weather conditions is very dangerous; heat is of particular concern.
  • “Hutch” rabbits do not get the required exercise. Allowing a rabbit loose in a yard can result in him becoming lost or injured. Their main threats are from other animals, cars, and humans.
  • Outdoor rabbits are in danger of predator attack even if housed in a cage.
  • Rabbits are prey animals and are fearful of unfamiliar sounds, smells, and perceived threats.
  • Outdoor rabbits are often neglected; which results in their food, water, and living quarters becoming quickly soiled.
  • It is difficult to observe illness or injury to a rabbit living outdoors.
  • There is a high risk of chemical poisoning {pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) and contracting diseases carried by other animals such as raccoons.
  • Outdoor rabbits are prone to infestation by insects. Of particular concern is flystrike, which is very painful and often fatal.
  • It is difficult to interact with and form a relationship with an outdoor rabbit, which is unfair to both you and him.
  • You should never “release” your rabbit outdoors. Not only is it cruel, but it is illegal in the state of New York. The wild rabbit species, such as cottontails are instinctually adapted to survive outside, our domestic rabbits are not.
Spay and Neuter
  • It is recommended that your rabbit be spayed or neutered.
  • In females, there is a high incidence of uterine cancer that can exceed 50% as the rabbit ages. Intact males are at risk for testicular cancer and tend to spray urine.
  • Driven by hormonal behavior to breed, unaltered rabbits can be aggressive {lunging, biting, and mounting} and are generally miserable.
  • Spaying and neutering improves their litter box habits.
  • Male rabbits can be neutered as soon as their testicles are visible, generally after 3 months of age.
  • Female rabbits should not be spayed until they are at least 6 months of age.
  • Unaltered rabbits should never be housed together. Hormonal aggression can cause serious, even life-threatening injuries.
  • Female rabbits have a short gestation period of just 30 days. They can get pregnant minutes after giving birth and every 30 days thereafter.
  • “Baby” male rabbits can impregnate a female as soon as his testicles descend; even his mother or sibling.
  • “Baby” female rabbits can become pregnant as young as 4 months of age, even by their father or sibling.
  • If the age of your rabbit is unknown, a general health exam prior to spay/neuter surgery is a good idea. Be sure to have an experienced rabbit veterinarian perform the procedure.
Health Issues

Because they are prey animals, rabbits are adept at hiding illness. Therefore, it is extremely important to become very familiar with your rabbit’s routines, eating habits, and general behaviors. Observe him for any changes and be sure to see your veterinarian to avert a medical emergency. Following is a list of health concerns that require a visit to your rabbit savvy veterinarian:

One or more of the following: your rabbit has not eaten for 12 hours, refuses food including his favorite treat, has a bloated belly, is reluctant to move, is posturing like he is uncomfortable, is pushing his belly to the floor, or has decreased quantity or size of fecal droppings.

  • Abnormal chewing, drooling or pawing at his mouth.
  • Inability to harvest cecal pellets.
  • His hindquarters are soiled with urine or feces and he cannot clean it off.
  • He is lame or lacks balance.
  • Labored breathing.
  • Heatstroke
  • He is attempting to eat but drops the food from his mouth.
  • Spikes a sudden fever.
  • Is sneezing with discharge or has thick nasal discharge without sneezing.
  • Has eye discharge/is squinting/eye(s) is red or bulging.
  • Excessive ear scratching, head shaking, or excessive body scratching/baldness.
  • Presence of lumps, bumps, or swelling.
  • Is incontinent, straining to urinate, has thick sand-like urine, or is urinating inappropriately.
  • Has a bite wound or laceration.
  • Head tilt
  • His top or bottom incisors (front teeth) are protruding from his mouth.
  • Diarrhea
  • Your rabbit has come in contact with a predator, even if you don’t see an obvious injury.
  • Sudden behavior change.

The most important component of your rabbits diet is hay. An abundance of high-quality grass (not legume hay like alfalfa) such as timothy hay should be offered daily. Other hays can be fed such as oat mix, barley, rye, orchard grass, Bermuda grass, brome, and meadow hay. Buying in large quantities (25 lbs) can cost as little as $2.00 per lb. (see websites below for sources).

Hay should be kept in a cool well-ventilated area to prevent mold from forming. High-quality plain pellets. (no seeds, corn, or colored bits). Look for the highest fiber, lowest protein pellets available. They should not be kept in the freezer. Pellets should be fed in limited quantities; smaller rabbits can have ¼ cup per day and larger rabbits approximately 1/3 cup depending on size.

A good variety of fresh dark green leafy vegetables daily. Add new vegetables slowly, one at a time. Treats should be exclusively fruit (which includes carrots) given only in small quantities.

Do not feed corn, potatoes, legumes, seeds, nuts, cereal, garlic, onion, shallots, scallion, dairy products, cookies, cakes, candy, crackers, chocolate, or any other “human” snacks, or packaged treats marketed for rabbits.


For his safety, you should keep your bunny in an enclosed space when you are away from home. “Puppy” exercise pens (which come in various heights) are recommended. Typical “rabbit cages” are way too small, have wire bottoms, and are difficult to get your rabbit in and out of. They will likely refuse to go back into a cage when exercise time is over. If you must use a cage, dog crates work best; get the largest one you can accommodate.

Rabbits are instinctual chewers; all dangerous or valuable items should be kept out of their reach. Exercise pens also make great “fences” to block off or wrap around prohibited areas. Rabbits do not have traction pads on the bottom of their feet like cats and dogs do. Because of this, walking on slick surfaces (tile, hardwood, and linoleum) is difficult, uncomfortable, and dangerous. It also hinders the rabbit’s ability to run without risking injury. Carpeting provides excellent traction and will facilitate the running and other dance-like play. The lower the pile, the better. Be sure your rabbit is not eating the carpeting.

You must keep your rabbit away from all electrical cords. They cannot distinguish wires from tree roots and electrocution is a real hazard. Wires should be covered with heavy-duty cord covers or PVC tubing. Using a puppy pen to block access works well.

Your rabbit should have a litter box large enough for him to lie down in. Although you can use products such as Carefresh or Yesterdays News; thick sections of newspaper in a box filled with hay works best. This setup will cause him to eat more hay and will keep your rabbit’s feet and hindquarters clean and dry.

Your rabbit should have plenty of bunny-friendly toys (see websites at the end of this document). Clean cardboard is safe and appreciated for chewing, tearing, and digging on. Hard plastic (non-chewable) objects work well for flinging and tossing as do paper bags and paper towel rolls. Phonebooks are great for digging and shredding.

Fresh water is best offered in a bowl; because it is easier to use, your rabbit will drink more. Many plants are toxic to rabbits. To be on the safe side, do not allow your rabbit access to any houseplants.

Rabbits require plenty of exercise for their physical health, mental well being, and enjoyment. Be sure to bunny-proof his exercise area as well and be present to supervise so you can adjust any problem areas. A long carpeted hallway is a great place for a rabbit to kick up his heels.

Do Not…
  • Pick your rabbit up by his ears, or legs.
  • Ever “scruff” your rabbit.
  • Use a collar or leash, severe injury can result.
  • “Trance” or hold him on his back.
  • Allow children to handle or pick up your rabbit.
  • House your rabbit in an area where he cannot escape the sun.
  • Bathe your rabbit.
  • Ever punish or discipline your rabbit. Because their behavior is instinctual, they will not understand your attempts to punish or train them. This will only serve to frighten your rabbit causing him to defend himself (biting and lunging) and he will fear you.
  • Allow your rabbit to ingest anything other than the food items mentioned above.
  • Allow access to items you do not want to be damaged from chewing.
  • Ever use cat litter.
  • Use pine or cedar wood chip products.
  • Leave your rabbit alone for days at a time.
  • Allow a veterinarian to administer amoxicillin or any other ORAL penicillin drugs.
  • Chase your rabbit.
  • Use harsh cleaning products in his area, white vinegar works well to clean urine.
  • Allow him to climb onto high surfaces.
  • Ever leave your rabbit alone with a cat or dog. Although some dogs and cats are gentle and trustworthy enough to interact with your rabbit, you must proceed with extreme caution.
  • Only introduce spayed and neutered rabbits under controlled conditions.
  • Monitor your rabbits eating habits and behavior each day. Get to know his personality so you can detect any changes that could be a sign of illness.
  • Use a sturdy pet carrier for all travel (with a thick towel to prevent sliding).
  • Make sure your rabbit’s quarters are well ventilated.
  • Brush your rabbit often to lessen the amount of fur he will ingest.
  • Give him soft things to lie on. Cat beds work well, as long as your rabbit does not eat them. Even a soft folded towel provides comfort.
  • Use food or treats to get him from point A to point B or into his travel carrier. If you cannot handle your rabbit, don’t. Contact one of your local rabbit rescue groups or ask your veterinarian for help.
Rabbit Friendly Websites:

For hay, pellets, and toys:

Binkybunny.comAmericanpetdiner.com, Oxbowanimalhealth.com, Farmerdave.biz

For information: