I’ve had rabbits for almost 20 years, and I can honestly say that they are some of the best pets I’ve had. They’re incredibly entertaining, loving, and way more intelligent than most will give them credit for!

That said, rabbits aren’t starter pets. Caring for them is almost as much work as a dog. But don’t worry. I’m here to take you through my comprehensive guide to rabbit care so you can give your rabbit its best life.

Let’s hop to it!

Things to Know About Rabbits

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of caring for a rabbit, let’s go through some basic rabbit facts you should know.

Rabbits Are Crepuscular

Despite popular belief, rabbits are not nocturnal. They’re crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. They sleep at different times throughout the day and night, including a cluster of small naps and one longer deep sleep.

Rabbits Can Live Over a Decade

The average lifespan for a domestic rabbit is around 8-12 years. So, be ready for that kind of commitment.

Rabbits Shouldn’t Be In Cages 24/7

Most cages recommended by pet stores aren’t big enough for rabbits. However, rabbits shouldn’t spend all day in a large enclosure either. They need room to get out, run, and play. Their physical and mental health is dependent on exercise and exploration.

Rabbits need at least 3 hours of exercise or playtime in a space of at least 24 square feet. That said, I believe rabbits do much better when they have free run of an entire house.

Rabbits Have Very Sensitive Digestive Systems

A rabbit’s gut is a well-oiled machine that never stops. There is a delicate balance of bacteria that keeps everything working. Rabbits need a well-balanced diet for their gut health intact (which we’ll get into later).

There could be disastrous consequences if your rabbit’s gut balance is thrown off. GI Stasis can happen quickly and can get fatal even quicker. Plus, rabbits can’t throw up, so the only way for anything to go out is through the entire digestive tract.

Rabbits Do Better with Friends

When it comes to rabbits, two is always better than one. And that’s not because it means twice as much “cute.” It’s because rabbits aren’t solitary critters. They are psychologically and emotionally dependent on social stimulation. And you can only give so much.

Rabbits are what you would call “herd” or “pack” animals, except groups of rabbits are called colonies or “fluffles.” In the wild, rabbits can live in colonies of up to 50 rabbits, but you certainly don’t need that many to make sure your rabbit isn’t lonely.

It’s always best to adopt a bonded pair. But if not, male and female pairings are usually the most successful (when they’re both fixed, of course).

Two rabbits cuddling

Rabbits Don’t Just Like to Chew, They Need to

A rabbit’s teeth are ever-growing. They need to chew constantly, or their teeth will grow too long, and if they do, this can affect eating habits. Their teeth can even lock up. Plus, if they can’t find something to chew, they’ll likely go after your furniture and anything else they find appetizing.

Dry rabbit food isn’t enough to file down your rabbit’s teeth. They also need bunny-approved chew toys or small branches from rabbit-safe trees, like apple or willow trees.

Rabbits Aren’t Overly Cuddly

Rabbits may look like expert cuddlers. But looks can be deceiving. Truthfully, most rabbits aren’t all that cuddly. And the ones that are don’t cuddle like you would imagine.

First, rabbits will only cuddle with something they share a tight bond with. If you do have a good bond with your rabbit, you may get them to sit on your lap or beside you, but that’s as close to cuddling as rabbits really get.

Where to Get a Rabbit

There are over 50 officially recognized breeds and tons of registered breeders worldwide, but it’s much better to adopt a rabbit instead of buying one from a breeder.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Adopting from shelters and rescues gives a home to an abandoned animal.
  • Adoption fees often cost less than getting from a breeder.
  • Rabbits from a shelter are usually already vet-checked, fixed, and litter-trained.

Costs of Getting a Rabbit

The upfront costs of getting a rabbit will likely be around $500-600, which includes adoption or breeder fees, vet costs, and all the starting supplies you’ll need. After that, owning your rabbit will likely cost upwards of $170 a month for the remainder of your rabbit’s life, around 10 years.

Why You Need to Get Your Rabbit Fixed

If not done already, you’ll need to get your rabbit fixed as soon as it reaches sexual maturity (around 6-8 months), especially if you have a bonded pair.

And this doesn’t just prevent unwanted pregnancies. Even in same-sex pairs or single rabbits, spaying and neutering can prevent a long list of health issues like cancer and unwanted negative behaviors like territorial aggression and spraying.

Where to House Your Rabbits

Rabbits are much better off when they have free roam of the house, but it isn’t necessary if you provide an adequate amount of space. But I’ll tell you one thing. The cages you find in pet stores ARE NOT good enough for rabbits to actually live in.

Rabbit Space Requirements

Rabbits need an enclosure with at least 4.5-6 feet of room to hop around.Plus, the space should be wide enough for a rabbit to stretch out in.

On top of that, they need exercise space. If you can’t let them run around the room or house, they’ll need at least 24 square feet of exercise space.

Best Indoor Rabbit Enclosures

Here are some of the best rabbit enclosures you can get:

  • Puppy Playpen
  • Extra-Large Dog Crate
  • DIY C&C Grid Cage

Do Rabbit Enclosures Need Bedding?

Rabbits don’t actually need bedding if they’re litter-trained.In fact, it can just be a waste. You can line the floor of your rabbit cage with something much better, like vinyl flooring or a splat mat for comfortable and easy-to-clean flooring.

What Does a Rabbit Enclosure Need?

Here’s what every rabbit enclosure needs:

  • Bed
  • Litterbox
  • Food & water dishes
  • Hay feeder
  • Toys, things to chew, puzzles

Litter Box Setup and Training

Now, we’re going to get into litter boxes, like training, what type of boxes to get, and more.

Best Rabbit Litter Boxes

Your rabbit’s litter box must be big enough for your rabbit to comfortably sit on, with tall sides to prevent spills and other messes.

Here are my top 3 recommendations:

  1. Hi-Corner litter pan (large)
  2. Compact storage container
  3. Cat litter box

Now, you need to know what to put in your litter box.Here are some suggestions:

  • Paper pellets
  • Newspaper shreds
  • Aspen shavings
  • Kiln-dried pine pellets
Rabbit litter box setup

Litter Box Setup

The best place to put your rabbit’s litter boxes is where you’ve noticed him already going. Wherever you’ve found the most poops or where you see your rabbit spend a lot of time, that’s the best spot for it!

Rabbits are very territorial. So, if you have more than one rabbit, you’ll need one litter box for each of them and in every room they have access to.

Litter Training Your Rabbit

Believe it or not, litter training your rabbit is relatively easy. Some rabbits catch on quickly, and it happens within a week. Others may take up to a month. Consistency and patience are the keys to successful training.

Here are the steps:

  1. Placement: Put your rabbit’s litter box in a familiar place (AKA where you’re rabbit’s already going).
  2. Enticement: Lure your rabbit to the box by using scent (placing some old litter/poops) in the litter box, using treats.
  3. Reinforcement: After your rabbit successfully uses the litterbox, reward him with a treat or some playtime.

Enrichment

Enrichment means improving your rabbit’s quality of life, and it’s absolutely essential to keeping your rabbit happy and healthy. That means more than just proper diet and housing. It also means mental and social stimulation to keep your rabbit from getting bored.

Rabbits can become quite destructive or even depressed if they’re constantly bored. So, on top of space and time to run around, you’ll also need to provide things to stimulate your rabbit’s mind and keep him entertained.

Here are some great ideas for ways to occupy your rabbit’s mind.

Healthy Rabbit Diet

A healthy rabbit diet consists of:

  • unlimited hay
  • a mix of leafy greens and vegetables
  • a small amount of dry food
  • some fruits as treats

The most important factors to watch in your rabbit’s diet are the protein, calcium, and fiber content. A rabbit’s diet needs low protein and calcium levels and high fiber levels.

Unlimited Hay

Hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet. It fuels the digestive tract and should be at least 70% of your rabbit’s diet. There are multiple types of hay, but the most popular are timothy hay and orchard grass.

Rabbit feeding guide

Just note that alfalfa hay is not suitable for adult rabbits. It is much too high in protein and fat. You can give it to young rabbits, but only in limited quantities.

Leafy Greens

Your rabbit should also have a variety of fresh leafy greens. The recommended daily serving size depends on weight, usually around ½ cup per pound. So, if your rabbit weighs 5 lbs, feed 2 ½ cups of leafy greens.

Rabbit-safe leafy greens include:

  • Lettuce (red and green leaf, butterhead, romaine)
  • Arugula
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Turnip greens
  • Mint
  • Kale
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Bok choy
  • Dill leaves
  • Carrot tops
  • Clover
Rabbits eating lettuce

Limit or avoid feeding your rabbit things with high-protein, high-calcium, and high-oxalate levels. You can find the safest ones on this chart.

Vegetables

As with leafy greens, you’ll want to avoid vegetables with high protein, calcium, and oxalate levels.

Here are some bunny-approved vegetables:

  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini
  • Radish tops
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cucumber
  • Summer squash

Fruits

Because of sugar levels, fruits should really only be given as a treat.

Here are some fruits your rabbit can safely enjoy:

  • Apples
  • Mango (without pit)
  • Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries)
  • Grapes
  • Banana
  • Kiwi
  • Peach (without the pit)
  • Watermelon (without seeds)

High-Quality Pellets

Dry food actually represents a very small part of your rabbit’s diet.

Some rabbit parents don’t feed their rabbits dry food at all, making it up with other foods. But high-quality dry rabbit food can offer your rabbit a lot of good vitamins and minerals, so I think it’s best to have it in there.

The recommended daily amount of dry food is also based on weight. You should give 1 TBSP of pellets for every pound your rabbit weighs. So, if your rabbit weighs 4 pounds, give him 4 TBSP (¼ cup).

Constant Water Supply

Rabbits should always have access to fresh, clean water. As with any living thing, a rabbit needs to stay properly hydrated. Also, choose a water bowl over a water bottle feeder.

What Not to Feed Your Rabbit

Here’s a list of things your rabbit should NEVER eat.

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Sugar
  • Beans, seeds, nuts
  • Rhubarb
  • House plants
  • Potatoes
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Carb-based foods (crackers, bread, pasta, etc.)
  • Mushrooms

Free Roaming and Exercise

Rabbits really do much better with access to a whole room. Or even better, a whole house. Also, if you’re wondering, rabbits are clean enough to live outside a cage, but only when litter-trained and given things to distract them from chewing all your furniture.

Benefits of Giving Your Rabbits Free Roam

Here are some great benefits to free-roaming your indoor rabbits:

  • Improved mental health through freedom and space, more exercise, and social stimulation.
  • Better weight management and bone/joint health provided by more exercise.
  • Increased exercise has also been shown to help rabbits get rid of bladder sludge, improving kidney and bladder function.
  • Lower maintenance (cleaning litterboxes instead of cages).

Of course, some situations aren’t ideal for free-roam rabbits. If that’s the case, our rabbit should be let out of its cage for at least three hours a day to run around the room or in an exercise pen of at least 24 square feet.

Bunny enjoying free roam of the house

Creating a Free Roam Rabbit Setup

Here’s what you need for a free-roam rabbit setup:

  • Bed
  • Litterbox
  • Food & water dishes
  • Hay feeder
  • Hiding house

Set up the supplies where your rabbit already goes, near the litterbox, or where the enclosure used to be.

Bunny-Proofing Your Home

Bunny-proofing your house is relatively easy. Here are my tips:

  • Block off restricted areas (under beds, furniture).
  • Protect electrical cords with wire covers.
  • Keep toxic plants either up high or out of the house (most houseplants are toxic to rabbits).
  • If your rabbit is a problem chewer, you may need to cover your table/chair legs with PVC pipe.
  • Make sure there is one litter box per room per rabbit.

How to Groom Rabbits

Most rabbits need to be brushed at least once a week, especially during heavy shedding seasons (spring and fall), but it helps them shed loose hairs and dander, too. Longer and thicker coated rabbits, like Lionheads, need more grooming to prevent mattes and tangles.

Fortunately, rabbits never need baths. But you will need to clip your rabbit’s nails every few weeks. Or, you can take him to a vet who will do it for you.

Bonding

Bonding is extremely important in getting your rabbit’s trust. Your rabbit needs to feel safe and comfortable around you, so be sure to spend lots of time with him, and learn how to make him feel safe when you have to hold him.

How to Properly Handle Your Rabbit

Proper handling isn’t just important for bonding but for grooming as well. And really, for your rabbit’s safety.

Here’s how to pick up and hold your rabbit:

  • Place one hand under your rabbit, on his chest
  • With the other hand, scoop up your rabbit, holding the bottom
  • Slowly lift your rabbit to your chest
  • Hold while sitting on the ground or the couch
Bonding and holding a rabbits

How to Make Your Rabbit Trust You

Again, your rabbit needs to feel safe and comfortable with you to be able to trust and bond with you. So, spending time with him is the best way to make him trust you. Always remember to remain quiet and still. Sit on the ground to make yourself less of a threat to your rabbit.

Entice him to come to you by offering his favorite treats. Hang around while he eats them. Spend at least an hour a day playing and bonding with your rabbit. Grooming is also a great bonding exercise.

Bonding New Rabbits

When bonding two new rabbits, male-female pairings do best. It’s also best if you’re introducing a female to a male’s territory. Believe it or not, a male is way less territorial than a female who’s been living on her own for a while.

Step One

Start by putting their enclosures together. If they’re both free roam, you’ll have to partition the room or use separate rooms and put a baby gate or long window screen in the doorframe to block it.

It’ll be a few days before everything settles and they get used to each other. You’ll likely see some circling and honking on either side of the barrier. That’s completely normal.

A good sign to move on to the next step is when both rabbits lay down together on either side of the barrier. Do not move on if there are any signs of aggression, like grunting or growling.

Step Two

Once everything settles down from step one, you’ll need to find a neutral spot in your home (a room neither rabbit has claimed) and use that room for your first face-to-face meeting. Make sure the room is clear of anything your rabbits can hurt themselves on, and provide a hiding house in case one of your rabbits needs to take a break.

When it’s safe, release both rabbits and get on their level by sitting on the floor. Now, one of three reactions will happen:

  1. Fighting: This is rare, but it happens. Rabbits will immediately start fighting each other. If this happens, start again at step one.
  2. Curious: Most commonly, rabbits will sniff each other, circle around one another, and just check each other out. There may be a few nips or scares, but for the most part, it’s safe. Sometimes, rabbits will mount each other, but this is more to establish dominance than mating.
  3. Love At First Sight: This is also rare, but sometimes, rabbits will immediately click and be best friends right away.

Continue this step daily for 10-40 minutes until there are no signs of aggression. If there are, go back to step one. A good sign that they’re ready to go free is when they lie down together.

Learning Bunny Body Language

Learning bunny body language can give you insight into your rabbit’s feelings, which vastly improves how you care for your bunny.

  • Inquisitive: If your rabbit is exploring or feeling inquisitive about something, his ears will be up, facing forward. Your rabbit will likely periscope, which is when a rabbit stands up on his hind legs and sniffs or looks around to sense any threats.
  • Happy: A happy rabbit’s ears will also be up but slightly sticking out in a V shape. If they’re excited, you’ll notice some butt twitching, binkies, or circling. My rabbit loves to circle my feet when it’s treat time. And, when they’re feeling a little spry, they’ll get the zoomies and run back and forth in a room (or between two rooms).
  • Scared: When rabbits are scared, they flatten out. Their ears go back, and they flatten themselves on the ground as a way of hiding.
  • Angry: Angry rabbits never have a problem showing it. Their ears will be back, and they will take to vocal threats like grunting, growling, and thumping before stooping to violence. If you push too far, an angry rabbit will likely lash out by boxing its front feet or kicking up at you with its back legs.
  • Relaxed: A relaxed rabbit will look like a happy rabbit, with their ears in the same V formation. You’ll commonly find them in load position, just chilling out. But if your rabbit trusts you, you’ll get the pleasure of seeing him flop right over and sprawl out for a good nap. (It’ll probably scare you the first time you see it, but it’s totally normal).

Common Health Issues In Rabbits

Rabbits are sensitive little creatures that can become ill quite quickly. Here are some of the most common health issues found in pet rabbits.

  • Snuffles: Snuffles is an upper respiratory tract infection that produces symptoms including red and puffy eyes, discharge from eyes and nose, and sneezing. The bacteria that causes snuffles can spread to other parts of the body, so it’s imperative to get treatment as soon as possible.
  • GI Stasis: Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis happens when a rabbit hasn’t eaten, the balance of bacteria in his gut is thrown off, which can cause GI stasis. This can be painful and needs treatment from a vet soon, or it can turn fatal.
  • Parasitic Infections: Parasites commonly found in rabbits include coccidia, pinworms, ear mites, fur mites, fleas, and ticks. Most of these can be prevented and treated by regular vet checks.
  • Overgrown Teeth: When rabbits don’t chew enough, their teeth can grow too long, affecting how (or if) your rabbit eats. And not eating will cause long-term issues. You’ll know if there’s a problem if you notice your rabbit isn’t eating or if it’s drooling.
  • Uterine Issues: Unspayed females are prone to uterine infections and cancer. Preventing these issues is one of the biggest benefits of spaying your rabbit. Symptoms will include lumps, behavior changes, and blood in the urine.
  • Sore Hocks: Rabbits living in wire-bottom cages or hard floors can develop sore hocks (ankles). That’s one of the many reasons rabbits shouldn’t be in enclosures like that.
  • Bladder Infections and Sludge: Rabbits can develop bladder sludge, which is basically a buildup of calcium that can cause infections. You can prevent this with a low-calcium diet, lots of water, and lots of exercise.

Signs Your Rabbit Is Sick

Here are some tell-tale signs your rabbit is sick:

  • Not eating (especially treats)
  • Has no energy
  • Abnormal behavioral
  • Drooling
  • Head tilting
  • Not pooping, weird poops, or diarrhea
  • Changes in urine color or odor
  • Inflamed ears
  • Snotty nose
  • Bloating
  • Lethargy
  • Labored breathing
Bunny laying on the floor

Giving your rabbit the care he deserves isn’t all that hard once you get a good routine flowing. And, when you put in all the work, you gain a friend for life. So, it’s definitely worth it! I hope this rabbit care guide helped you learn more about the unique needs and behaviors of these adorable critters.