Before getting a pet rabbit, it is of the utmost importance to research what they’ll need in their cage. While some items are optional, others are truly essential to ensure both health and comfort.
If you’re new to the bunny world and are considering adopting a furry best friend – but don’t know what you’ll need exactly – you’ve certainly come to the best place! We’ll set you off on the right foot with the following list, so you’ll have a proper cage set-up for your new family addition.
Start with the Right Cage Size
First, I’d like to add a quick note on cage size. If you’re not an experienced bunny owner, you may find yourself walking out of the store with a cage that’s way too small – and not even know it. Unfortunately, this happens often. That’s because the cages at the pet store that are labelled for rabbits are usually not big enough. Sadly, this is the case with most pet cages.
Whether it’s a marketing ploy or simply lack of expertise on the part of the manufacturers, the reason is unclear. Nonetheless, a rabbit should be able to make at least 3-4 full hops from one end of the enclosure to another. An enclosure bigger than that is always better.
Hideout or Hut
As animals who are typically preyed upon in the wild, rabbits need the ability to hide. If they feel threatened by potential prey species, they require a safe, secure place to scurry off to.
Bunnies will also want to hide if they’re stressed, afraid, not feeling well, or just want time away from their companions or humans.
When considering which hut(s) to purchase:
- Keep in mind how many furry friends you have. You’ll need at least one per rabbit. If you have more than one bunny, you may also want to add a large communal hut so they can all hide together.
- Think about how safe the structure is. Two exits/entrances allow your pet to leave freely, just in case they get stuck somehow. Also, if you have several rabbits, extra exits prevent dominant pets from blocking others inside.
Believe it or not, your rabbit’s health and happiness is directly linked to having access to shelter. They need a spot that they can run to when they want to sleep in peace-and-quiet or just get away from it all.
Truthfully, bunnies don’t need bedding such as shavings or paper pellets in their cages. In fact, with some rabbits, it may confuse them to have bedding everywhere, thus leading them to believe they’re living in a giant litter box. The result is, unsurprisingly, they treat it as such and poop everywhere.
Instead of traditional bedding, you can use fleece bedding, bath mats, splat mats or some other option (see them here) to cover the bottom of their enclosure.
Bedding types you should never use:
- Non kiln-dried pine shavings
- Cedar shavings
Due to documented links to cancer risk and enzyme alteration, cedar and untreated pine wood shavings should not be used.
If you’ve already bought safe bedding such as aspen shavings, paper bedding or paper pellets, you can use that in your rabbit’s litter box instead of lining the bottom of the cage.
Rabbits need continuous access to fresh, quality hay – lots and lots and LOTS of hay.
Intestinal muscles stay in good health when your pets eat hay due to its long fibers. These fibers keeping the intestinal contents moving by pushing everything through the gut at a proper, natural rate. Additionally, hay prevents blockages in the intestinal tract caused by indigestible items and ingested hair.
Dry Food Pellets and Bowl
Rabbits need more than just hay and veggies to get proper nutrition, and that’s where dry pellets come in. High-grade rabbit pellets provide your pets with the extra minerals, vitamins, and nutrients they need to remain healthy.
While it’s recommended to feed rabbits ¼ cup of pellets per 6 lbs. of their body weight, you should discuss your pet’s dry food intake with your veterinarian in case they need a different amount.
Ingredients to avoid in pellets:
- Dried fruit
- Honey or other sweet substances
- Starchy or fatty additives
- Crunchy, colored bits and pieces
The best pellets for rabbits have a minimum of 18% crude fiber, a maximum of 14% protein, approximately 1% of calcium, and 2.4-5% fat. Before you buy anything, read the labels to make sure you’re purchasing a good, quality product.
When selecting a bowl for pellets, opt for something that’s not plastic. Bunnies love to chew, chew, chew on everything because of their ever-growing teeth. Ingesting plastic mistakenly is definitely not a good thing – and can lead to a whole lot of health problems. For safety’s sake, go with a container that is lead-free.
Did you know rabbits need fresh vegetables for optimum health? Indeed, they can’t get everything they need from just hay, water, and pellets. A variety of rabbit-safe veggies are needed everyday, though quantities will vary depending on the type and number of animals.
Fresh greens ensure the gastrointestinal tract runs smoothly, but they also keep your pets well-hydrated too. In turn, this also allows your rabbits to pass their poop easily.
Fruits and herbs are also a nice addition to their meals, though again, you’ll need to learn about proper quantities.
Constant access to fresh, clean water is an absolute necessity for your bunnies. If your pets don’t get enough water intake, they’ll slowly begin to suffer desiccation of the intestinal contents. That means your rabbit’s intestines will not be able to function properly, resulting in various health and digestive issues.
A water bowl is a much better choice than a bottle as it allows your pet to drink in a natural position while providing unobstructed access to water. Water bottles only release one drop at a time, which can prevent your rabbit from getting enough water.
Things to keep in mind:
- The material of the bowl should be lead-free and heavy enough so it can’t be tipped over.
- Change the water daily.
- Wash the bowl thoroughly with hot water and detergent to prevent bacterial growth.
- Add several sources of water if you have more than one pet.
Hay Rack or Tray (Optional)
A hay rack or tray isn’t a necessary product. However, it does keep the cage neat and the hay fresher for a longer period of time.
If you don’t want to use something to hold the hay, you can always pile it up in a corner of the habitat. Your rabbit can hop over to the pile and nibble on it. A pile works quite well, but it’s often a messy solution – most especially if your rabbits aren’t litter trained.
So, if you’re looking to keep things tidy and avoid constant clean-ups, you may indeed want to consider getting a hay rack or a tray for hay. Just make sure the hay rack has a large opening so your rabbit can’t get their head stuck in there.
Natural Wood Toys or Nibble Sticks
Wood sticks and toys are definitely essentials for bunnies. Why? Well, basically, they are the key to three fundamental aspects of life with a pet bunny: mental stimulation, physical exercise, and a distraction from destruction.
- Mental stimulation – Bunnies can get bored if they’re not actively challenged, particularly if they’re solo pets. Often, boredom leads to feeling isolated, which in turn can lead to destructiveness and/or depression. All rabbits, regardless of advanced age or disability, need an atmosphere that provides some form of entertainment, aside from just sleeping and eating.
- Physical exercise – Access to safe forms of physical activity keeps your rabbits healthy – and out of trouble. They need to be able to chew on, dig into, run around, hop on top of or under, and crawl around bunny-friendly stuff. Without any physical stimulation, rabbits can get depressed or become overweight. Also, this can lead them to create their own physical entertainment, though in a dangerous, negative manner.
- Distraction from destruction – While toys are certainly for your pets, they also keep your home safe by bunny-proofing it. With a collection of wood sticks and toys at their disposal – rabbit-safe objects that are specifically for their age, sex, and temperament – you’ll keep your house from getting destroyed by adorable, floppy-eared bunnies who are merely bored.
Every bunny is different, and thus, have different tastes. So, you’ll need to try various items to see which ones they like best. Having said that, please keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to spend money on toys. While some are costly, others can be made at home and are perfectly safe and fun.
Litter and Litter Box
Litter boxes sure do keep a cage and your home clean! It’s actually quite easy to litter-train bunnies because they normally choose a corner for their ‘business.’ And so, for the most part, you just need to get a litter box with litter and place it where they prefer to ‘go.’
According to the vets associated with the House Rabbit Society, some materials have been linked to liver damage in rabbits so make sure to use a safe type of litter material.
Safe litter options are:
- Paper bedding
- Paper pellets
- Aspen shavings
Litters to avoid:
- Softwood shavings, like pine (non-kiln-dried) or cedar
Litter made of softwood shavings or chips, like pine or cedar, should be avoided. These materials are thought to be linked to liver damage in bunnies who use them.
Play tunnels are an excellent addition to your rabbit’s enclosure. They provide a way to expend physical energy, but they also allow rabbits to give in to their natural burrowing urges.
Check out several tunnels before you choose one and avoid anything that looks potentially dangerous, such as:
- Materials that can break off easily, leading them to cause injury or be swallowed
- Sharp edges
- Wood that splinters easily
- Open-bottomed structures where your pet can get stuck
In the wild, rabbits tunnel all the time. They feel the most secure when nestled inside of one. Allowing your pet to fulfill this need is a great way to build a bond and keep them mentally happy and physically fit.
Bunnies are social creatures. They’re used to living in large groups – known as colonies or nests – never completely in solitude. These adorable, doe-eyed creatures enjoy companionship, preferring to live in pairs or compatible groups. In fact, when observing rabbits, their behavior will indeed reflect this preference.
Solitude in rabbits can lead to:
Therefore, before acquiring a pet bunny, do consider the repercussions of having a solo rabbit. They’re meant to live in a community – some of which can contain hundreds of rabbits – not alone. So, think about getting a companion – or two – for your new furry addition. In the end, the costs of having another rabbit are truly minimal.
Must-have or Non-essential?
Without a doubt, your rabbit companions will settle into their new home quickly and easily with our helpful advice. Plus, you’ll also be able to understand the essentials versus the non-essentials. And, as such, you can avoid purchasing needless products pet store staff may insist are a must-have for bunnies.