How to welcome your rabbit
The rabbit is an increasingly popular pet and when you realize how adorable, intelligent and fun they are, you can easily understand why! But did you know that just like cats and dogs, he needs a lot of freedom?
Eh yes! Just like these, the rabbit can live freely in the house and can be taught not to chew and to be clean in the litter box. It is even possible to teach him tricks like bringing back a small stick or giving a paw. He is not a boring animal, he likes to play and have company.
Contrary to what one might believe, the rabbit is not part of the rodent order. As it has 6 incisors, and not just 2, it is rather part of the order of lagomorphs, just like hares and pikas.
FOOD, HABITAT AND CARE
Hay should be offered at all times and freely. Hay regulates the gastrointestinal system and improves normal tooth wear. Good quality hay must contain a high fiber content (> 30%). Timothy hay meets this criterion. Alfalfa hay should be avoided since it contains too high a level of calcium, which promotes the formation of sand and stones in the urinary system.
Feed is part of the rabbit's diet, but should always be offered in limited quantities (except for young animals under 6 months). A rabbit that eats too much feed will be more predisposed to becoming overweight. Most feeds sold in pet stores are based on alfalfa, which contains a lot of excess calcium. A feed based on timothy hay is preferable for an adult rabbit (over 6 months). It must be kept in mind that hay remains the primary food in the rabbit's diet.
Vegetables can be given in large quantities, but they must be introduced gradually to avoid digestive upset. The best vegetables are fibrous, dark-colored leafy ones.
example: carrot and celery with their foliage, endive, parsley, coriander, zucchini, snow peas, dandelion or clover leaves (be careful with insecticides), romaine lettuce, dark lettuce. Avoid iceberg lettuce, it is toxic.
Consult the list of vegetables that can be donated on the Marguerite & Cie website at the following address: http://www.margueritecie.com
If you want to offer fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, etc.), the quantity offered should not exceed 5% of the diet.
The water must be changed every day to provide fresh water to the rabbit.
Mixed seeds, nuts and dried fruits are NOT part of a good diet, they contain too much starch and not enough fiber. They predispose to obesity and harm the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal system. Also avoid sweet and salty treats, chocolate, legumes, pasta and cereals.
LIVING CONDITION AND HABITAT
The rabbit needs a lot of freedom and he is not happy if he is constantly left in his cage, you should consider it as his bedroom and not as his home.
Ideally, the rabbit should only be placed in its cage when there is no one at home and at night. Once trained not to break, your rabbit can easily live freely in the house. However, certain precautions should be taken, such as hiding electrical wires and ensuring that plants are out of reach. We can provide the rabbit with toys that it can chew on so that it does not damage our property. At the bottom of the rabbit's cage, you can place a mat, paper or towel to make it more comfortable. The rabbit's cage or enclosure should be located in a cool place, as rabbits are susceptible to heat stroke. Consult here a very complete section from our partner concerning the effects of the cage on the rabbit.
To complete the layout of the enclosure or cage, you can add a small bed like those for dogs and small suitable toys. Rabbits love hiding places. It is good to provide them with wood or hay which are safe if they want to chew them. Please note that adoption requests for a rabbit that will live in a cage will be automatically refused. We favor enclosure and freedom or semi-liberty.
Here are some good examples of enclosures:
Rabbits can be litter-trained. It is best to place the litter box in the corner where the rabbit is used to doing its business. Litter should not consist of cedar shavings (toxic to the liver) or pine or aspen. Wood shavings are often dusty and predispose to respiratory problems. A litter made from hardwood pellets and without resin is ideal.
Here are some examples of toys that your rabbit might like: cardboard boxes, paper bags filled with hay, natural wicker basket, old magazine to tear up, cat balls, children's play area with slide, maple logs or of apple tree, small branches of apple tree to chew. All Oxbow brand toys or similar are good for them.
During shedding, it is essential to provide rabbits with items to avoid swallowing hairballs and to brush them often.
Laxative pastes as well as papaya and pineapple enzyme treats are excellent choices to reduce the risk of impaction.
Regular brushing is necessary for long-haired species. Just like with cats, it is not necessary to bathe rabbits. In fact, it cleans itself by licking itself. Bathing is only recommended if it becomes dirty and fails to clean itself.
Apple tree branches (be careful of pesticides) should be offered to promote good dental wear, because the rabbit's teeth (incisors and molars) are perpetually lengthening. They wear out when the rabbit eats and gnaws.
Consumption of large fibers (dry hay) also plays an important role in tooth wear and health.
Calcium blocks sold in pet stores should be avoided, they predispose to urinary problems.
Teeth may lengthen abnormally. Be on the lookout for teeth that may become too long, as these can injure the rabbit and create complications such as infections, abscesses,
dehydration and even death.
Do not hesitate to consult a veterinarian if you notice any abnormalities related to your rabbit's teeth.
It's time to trim the claws when they are longer than the hair around them. An exception: the rex rabbit which has very short hair. We can then trust the transparency of the label if it is white. The vein is easily visible, it is necessary to cut a few millimeters in front of the pink part. For black claws, it is safe to pinch slowly before cutting. The rabbit reacts by withdrawing the paw if the claw trimming is done in the wrong place.
You can easily do this yourself with another person who can hold the rabbit while you trim its claws.
To increase the life expectancy of rabbits, it is recommended to sterilize them between the age of 6 months and 2 years. This helps prevent a tumor of the uterus (adenocarcinoma) which is one of the main causes of mortality. The incidence of this tumor varies from 50 to 80% in rabbits over 4 years old. The symptoms of the disease (blood in the urine, weight loss) appear around 5 to 7 years old while the normal longevity of rabbits (small and large breeds) is 10 to 15 years. When the disease is diagnosed, it is often generalized, making treatment very difficult.
We also recommend sterilizing males. Surgery is done after the age of 6 months.
Sterilizing the rabbit greatly reduces odors and territorial behavior. In addition, it improves cleanliness and reduces the rabbit's anxiety.
MOST COMMON HEALTH PROBLEMS
Rabbits can get fleas and moths. If your rabbit goes outside during the summer season, take the necessary precautions to avoid infestations. Talk to your veterinarian.
If the rabbit is colicky, stops eating, and produces few or no tiny stools, these are signs that suggest the rabbit's intestine has stopped contracting normally. This condition, which can be caused by stress, pain, a lack of fiber in the diet or an accumulation of hair in the digestive system, is very serious and can quickly lead to death. Treatments prescribed by the veterinarian are necessary.
Bacteria can cause respiratory infections in rabbits. These infections are contagious and the sick rabbit must be isolated from others. Antibiotics are needed to treat the infection.
Pododermatitis (bacterial infection of the skin) is also very common in rabbits, so it is necessary to provide them with a clean and comfortable environment for their paws, in order to limit the progression of the inflammation.
Adopting a rabbit represents a commitment of at least 10 years, and sometimes more!
An annual visit to the veterinarian is recommended to ensure the health of your rabbit.
In North America, vaccination of rabbits is not necessary.
Sources: Ormière Veterinary Hospital and Order of Veterinary Physicians of Quebec