1 July 2016

How to Care for Rabbits

How to Care for Rabbits


I know that this topic doesn’t really fit with the niche of our blog but it’s something that I really want to write about. When I was 8 we adopted two rabbits from a local shelter type place for bunnies who need a home. 10 years later we still have one of them, she’s called Lilly. I’ve learnt a lot about how to care for rabbits and how to keep them healthy along the way!


Cute Lion Head Rabbit


The key thing to keeping rabbits healthy is what you feed them. You may not know this (I certainly didn’t when we first got rabbits) but they have extremely sensitive guts. Unfortunately, we lost Snuffy (Lilly’s brother) after two years to a condition called ‘Gut Stasis.’ Gut stasis is a condition in which a rabbit’s digestive system slows down or stops, this in turn means bad bacteria increase in the gut and release gas which further decreases the rabbit’s appetite.

After we lost Snuffy, we took control of Lilly’s diet. When they were small we fed them standard rabbit feed from the pet shop. I cannot stress enough how bad this is for rabbits, the pellets expand in the rabbit’s digestive system meaning they full very quickly meaning and stop eating. However, the quantity of rabbit food they are eating is not enough to keep their gut working properly.

With Lilly, we stopped feeding her rabbit food straight away. Instead, we give her plenty of hay (we buy our hay fresh from a local farm as the hay you can buy in pet shops is not really good enough quality for food) and ‘treats/morning/bed time snacks’ of greens. You can buy greens in most local supermarkets, they’re similar to cabbage and are normally found in the same section as cabbage is. She also loves carrots, grass and green beans. Lilly tends to wee in her hay as well as eat it so we try and change it at least once a day. She honestly spends most of her time eating hay, she even smells of it!

Cute Lion Head Rabbit

 In terms of hydrating rabbits, I would suggest you use a bowl rather than one of those pet dropper bottles. Lilly and Snuffy (and I’m sure many other rabbits) found it really difficult to drink from the dropper bottles and definitely began to drink so much more once we gave them a bowl instead!

Before Snuffy died they lived in a rabbit hutch in the garden. The hutch had a run which they used during the day and a sheltered part on top which we locked them in at night (we covered the front of this so that the bunnies wouldn’t get scared if any foxes came in the garden – even the sight of a fox can give a rabbit a heart attack!) However, for the last eight years we have kept Lilly inside. She lives in our kitchen and dining room, she really enjoys this as she has plenty of room to run around and she also gets to spend a lot more time with us then she did when she was outside. If possible, I would highly recommend keeping rabbits inside as we have gotten to know Lilly’s personality so much more than before. Obviously, make sure that there are no wires they can nibble as they will chew anything they come into contact with! We don’t keep her locked inside all the time, when the weather is nice we take her out in the garden to nibble on some grass.

Cute Lion Head Rabbit

Lilly also suffers from gut stasis so I have learnt to spot signs that she is suffering and know how to get her eating again. Firstly, the biggest sign is that your rabbit is not eating as much as usual or is turning away their favourite foods. Another thing to look out for is if they are not twitching their nose as much as usual, we can always tell when Lilly is unwell as her nose stops twitching. Really you just need to look out for any unusual or out of character behaviour from your pet. Obviously, if you think something is wrong with your pet you should definitely take them to the vet to make sure you know what you are treating!


When it comes to treating Lilly’s gut stasis the most important thing I have learnt is persistence. She will not want to eat when she has an episode, but I sit with her, shoving food in her face until she finally starts to nibble a bit. When she is ill we always buy her favourite food to tempt her with. Lilly really loves dandelion leaves (you can most likely find these on your lawn) and pear. Lilly actually had an episode a couple of weeks ago and she was completely refusing to eat anything. I ended up feeding her individual pieces of hay at a time, I literally sat there waving the hay in her nose until she bit on it and ate it! This is honestly all you can do, as well as massaging their tummies gently. I could tell when she was feeling better because she started trying to bite me when I was trying to feed her hay (this is usual Lilly behaviour, she’s a bit of an aggressive bunny!)

Cute Lion Head Rabbit

I really hoped this blog post helped any of you thinking of getting a pet bunny or those of you who do have one (or a few) and are slightly unsure of how to look after them well!

I made a short video of Lilly that you can see below:



Katie
xx
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