By Lisa Carroll, Shelter Coordinator - Georgia Avenue Adoption Center
With spring comes one of my favorite holidays, Easter - egg decorating, peeps, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. Sometimes, Easter enthusiasts want to make those chocolate bunnies real, but many don’t realize the investment they’re making when they adopt fuzzy little Peter Cottontail. My hope, as someone who’s seen dozens of rabbits come through the Washington Humane Society’s (WHS) adoption centers, is that this will help you find the right rabbit companion for you.
Rabbits can live between eight and 12 years old, so having a rabbit companion is a long term commitment that the whole family should be in agreement with before bringing one home. A rabbit can be a fun and entertaining companion for both adults and children, but before you step foot on that bunny trail, there are a few questions you may want to ask yourself.
- Will the rabbit live inside or outside your home?
- Are you in a crowded congested city or the wooded suburbs?
- Do you live in an apartment or a house?
- How much does a small animal vet cost?
- How many rabbits should you adopt?
- Is your child or are your children ready for a bunny?
We will answer many
of these questions in our Bunny Care Tips blogs this week, starting here with important
information about bunny diets, grooming, and proper veterinary care.
Rabbit diets should consist of a high fiber quality pellet, an array of fresh vegetables - dark leafy greens, root vegetables – fruits, and hay.
- Vegetables like alfalfa, kale, collard mustard, dandelion greens, carrots, celery, and cilantro are high in vitamins and minerals.
- Fruits like apples (without the seeds), bananas (without the peal), pears, and berries make great treats, but they should be given in small quantities, because rabbits do not metabolize starches and sugars very well. Over indulging in sweet treats can lead to health problems, so the bulk of your rabbit’s diet should consist of pellets and hay.
- Hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet, providing roughage that prevents hairballs and other intestinal blockages. Hay also aids in keeping their teeth from overgrowing. If you decide to adopt a young rabbit, they will need hay that is rich in vitamins A and D, calcium, protein, and other nutrients. Alfalfa hay is great for very young rabbits, because it’s high in calories and proteins. Grass hay is healthier for an adult rabbit.
Tip: Be sure to talk to your vet about the proper weight-to-age ratio for feeding guidelines concerning pellets and vegetables. Generally, rabbits should be getting one half cup of pellets per six pounds of body weight, about a cup of vegetables throughout the day, and a small amount of fruit as a treat or training tool.
Tooth and Nail Care
Rabbits don’t brush twice a day like we do, but their teeth continuously grow, and tooth maintenance is a must. There are many things you can do to aid in the natural wearing down of your rabbit friend’s teeth. Hay and apple tree twigs can be provided to chew, but if their teeth are misaligned, you may need to take them to the vet and have them clipped.
Tip: A sign of bad misalignment is a wet chin from drooling.
Your companion rabbit will need their nails trimmed. Like our canine and feline friends, rabbit’s nails will keep growing, and if they get too long, they will curl in on themselves and cause abnormalities that make it difficult and painful to walk. Ask your vet or adoptions counselor to give you a nail trimming demonstration.
Rabbits, like cats and dogs, will need annual checkups from a vet who specializes in small or exotic animals. Rabbits are considered exotic pets, and they will require annual wellness exams.
There are a few medical concerns to look out for when looking for a companion rabbit.
- Have your bunny spayed or neutered. Neutering will significantly reduce aggression and marking in males, and spaying will greatly decrease your female’s chances of developing reproductive cancer. The current cancer rate in un-spayed female rabbits is 85%.
- Watch out for digestive issues. Diarrhea, tummy growling, small and/or misshapen droppings, or no droppings at all are signs that your rabbit needs to go to the vet.
- Some other signs that your bunny friend may feel under the weather are a runny eye or nose with a high temperature, straining to urinate, loss of appetite, or a low temperature.
If you have any questions or concerns about adopting bunnies, please call 202-723-5730.
Some-Bunny is Waiting For You!
For one week only (March 25-31, 2013), WHS is offering 50% off ALL adoption fees for ALL animals.
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