This post is going to be about what I wish I had known when I got my rabbit, Piko. A lot of pet stores sell rabbits, but I recommend that you check out your local SPCA or animal shelter because lots of rabbits are abandoned all the time, especially black ones and white ones with “red” eyes. Not a lot of people like those ones for some reason and a lot of rabbits are given as gifts for Christmas or Easter and then dumped. I recently saw a photo of a rabbit that was given as a Christmas gift that ended up outside in its cage only to die in the cold. Anyway, I don’t want this post to be depressing, so let’s get to it, shall we? First off, the most important thing is to DO RESEARCH. Don’t buy them as gifts and don’t get them on a whim or spur of the moment without doing research first. A rabbit is completely different from a dog or cat.
I Wish I Had Known…
When you go to the pet store, they will give you a bunch of recommendations (most of them aren’t good suggestions and I’ll tell you why.)
They recommend to buy a hutch. This is insane! Would you like to be trapped inside a tiny cage all day long? Nope! Hutches are NOT good for a rabbit to live in. They are not big enough for a rabbit to get the exercise they need to burn off some extra energy they have after napping. They need room to run, hop, and binky. What’s a binky? A binky is a jump in the air and a twist and flick of the feet. Rabbits will do this when they are happy. Please do not get a hutch. Instead, buy an x-pen. An x-pen is an exercise pen that people use for dogs to keep them contained in one area, mainly for training purposes. You can even buy two and connect them together. You could also make a bunny condo for your bun, which I didn’t have the patience or space to do when I adopted my rabbit.
They tell you to buy a really dinky litter box. Honestly, when your rabbit is a baby, it makes sense (at the time), but don’t do it! They are these tiny little triangular shaped litter pans that fit into the corner and when your bun needs to use the washroom, it’s completely useless. Buy a litter box from the cat section. The cat ones are larger and provide more space for your bun to do their business as well as much on some hay while they’re at it.
They want you to buy treats for the rabbit that contain sugar (example: yogurt drops). Don’t do it! Those yogurt drops contain a lot of sugar and it’s actually bad for their teeth. Opt for something that doesn’t have added sugar, but natural sugar in it like Oxbow’s banana treats, strawberry treats, or any oven baked treat or timothy squares.
They want you to buy a cheap brand of food that sometimes comes in bulk. I don’t recommend this, because after checking the ingredients, I found that there was corn and other things inside of the pellets that aren’t actually that great for rabbits to eat on a daily basis and not good for their stomachs. Rabbits have sensitive tummies, but they will not throw up.
They recommend buying an expensive blanket for the hutch. While it’s a fantastic idea to have padding for your rabbit in their x-pen, I don’t recommend getting it from the pet store. There are a lot of cheaper options out there. For example, I went to the thrift store/salvation army and bought some baby blankets and sheets for my rabbit. He likes to chew everything, so I’d rather spend $3 on a blanket than the $30 something I spent to buy a blanket that he chewed to shreds after a year. Also, please do not use wire for the bottom of your x-pen as your rabbit might develop sore hocks (sore feet) if you do this. It’s best to use carpet or blankets (if you have hardwood/vinyl floors). I even used blankets on the carpet because my rabbit has a bad habit of ripping up the carpet.
They might forget to mention that you will eventually need a proper carrier/travel crate for your rabbit. Or, if they do mention it, they’ll lead you to really cheap ones that are made of material. While this may seem like a good idea, if your rabbit likes to bite stuff like mine does, it’ll get ripped and shredded to bits in no time. Opt for the ones they use for smaller dogs or even cats. Even better, find one that fits your litter box. I still have my material one. I’m going to buy a new one, eventually. At the moment, it’s still useable.
They will recommend you get salt lick to encourage drinking. If you’re worried your rabbit might stop drinking while its getting used to the new environment, then by all means, get it. However, it’s not actually necessary. My rabbit ignored the salt lick for almost a year, and even after that, he barely licks it at all. In fact, he likes to push it with his nose when it’s in his way. Kind of a waste of money for me.
Hidey-holes. They recommended this to me when I adopted my rabbit, but since my hutch had come with one, I didn’t need to buy another. However, after a few months of owning my rabbit, I realized the hutch was a mistake. (I’ll get to that in a bit). You really do need a hidey-hole OR you can DIY with any old cardboard box.
They might recommend toys, they might not. However, your rabbit DOES need some toys. Every rabbit has a different personality and playing style. Mine likes to chew things to bits, dig, and throw things up in the air. Start off with a couple different toys, some to chew, some to toss (like rings or a baby rings-plastic). My rabbit LOVES those willow balls, cubes, and willow circles. If you live in Canada, I highly recommend getting a Buns Box from Buns Boutique (http://www.bunsbox.com) Janine is an incredible lady that has her own bunny business in her house. I had a subscription up until last year when the pricing changed. The only reason I’m not still subscribed is because I bought a house and have a lot of bills, plus I was laid off from my job (temporarily). With one rabbit there are too many treats and toys in the package now for Piko to use up before the next shipment arrives. However, it’s a fantastic buy if you are a new bun-mommy or bun-daddy. Piko is even featured on their page. All of the toys and treats provided in the Buns Box are approved for bunnies and safe for their consumption. If you want more variety of treats or toys for your bun than what pet stores in your area has to offer, I highly recommend Napoleon Bunnyparte (http://www.napoleonbunnyparte.com). Another fantastic store that offers neat toys for rabbits that are safe. I believe they are also Canadian and in the Vancouver/Burnaby area. Buns Boutique is located in Victoria.
Litter. They recommended “Yesterday’s News” to me, which is a cat litter and made from recycled newspapers. This is bunny safe! Clumping cat litter or other cat litter is NOT bunny safe as it is easily ingested or breathed in and can cause problems with your rabbit’s respiratory system.
They did not recommend a litter scoop. Trust me, you’ll need it. It makes cleaning the litter pan a lot easier than using the garbage bag or your hand to do it. You can also buy one from the Dollarstore if you’ve got one close by.
They will recommend hay and you WILL need it. If you have a baby, they might recommend Alfalfa Hay (babies ONLY), or if they are already eating Timothy Hay, you can get Timothy. Some rabbits are really picky and mine didn’t prefer the Oxbow Timothy Hay that the girl recommended to me. I had to try a variety of different brands before I found one that he ate 90% of. So don’t worry if it looks like your bunny is not eating all of their hay or turning their nose up at it, it might be they aren’t used to that brand or don’t like it! Take it back and get an exchange. Piko LOVES the All Living Things Timothy Hay and I like to mix it in with Orchard Grass Hay (Vitakraft, not all Petsmart stores carry it, however so check with your pet store). At the moment, I’m using Orchard Grass from Oxbow because the Petsmart I used to live near stopped carrying the Vitakraft one.
Hay Rack. My hutch came with one, so I didn’t buy one. However, the one it came with left a huge mess all over my floor, so eventually, I bought a different one from Petsmart. It’s by Kaytee.
Water dish or some sort of water-related item for your rabbit! Mine came with one, so I forgot to mention it the first time I posted this. I tried using those bottles with a roller on the bottom but every one I bought leaked or didn’t work properly, so I eventually just went back to the store and bought a small little bowl to hang on the cage/pen bars.
With the exception of #6, these are the ESSENTIALS that you WILL need to buy either BEFORE you get your rabbit or AT THE SAME TIME you adopt your new fur baby. I went to Petsmart to get everything and spent $369.72 (CAD) on October 4th, 2014. This amount includes the overpriced blanket at $40.97! I did some research on rabbits and found that they are high maintenance, slow to trust, and cost more than dogs/cats. However, my monthly bills for my rabbit cost LESS than when I had a dog. Granted, my bills for my rabbit will not be the same for everyone else. Sometimes I like to splurge and buy Piko a lot of fun stuff from the pet stores. Yes, he’s very spoiled. I call him “His Royal Fluffiness, Piko” because he’s basically a spoiled little prince.
Eren Wiebe is a blogger at sakuradaisuki, writer, editor, figure skater, amateur photographer, and mom to her fur baby, Piko.