Enjoying Rabbits as Pets...
My first experience of having pet bunnies was when my grandson found a tame rabbit outside, caught it and brought it home. It had been abandoned by its first family. This happens all too often, as people will buy them but not know how to care for them.
Bunnies are also often given to children as gifts because they are so extremely adorable. However, the gift-giver fails to take into consideration the long-term care that is needed by these little creatures.
Character Traits of Bunnies
Rabbits are not fond of being picked up and held the way cats and dogs enjoy being picked up. So what makes having rabbits so inviting? They are very playful and entertaining to watch. During their active time, which is usually in the early morning and early evening, they love to run and jump. Then they love to stretch out during the day and take bunny naps.
Bunnies are very social and, with gentle handling, are generally quite tame. Being social animals, they need a great deal of interaction with their owners and/or other bunnies in order to be happy. When they want to socialize with you they will get close to you, put their head on the floor, and will want you to rub their head. Instead of purring like a cat, they will chatter with their teeth just to let you know they really like you and the petting they are receiving from you.
Play and Exercise
Daily exercise and play time are also socializing times for your bunny. You will be surprised to find out how playful they really are. Toys for bunnies can be as simple as a grocery bag or toilet paper roll.
These items may not be sold as rabbit toys but here are a few things that bunnies love to play with:
Toys will give your rabbit exercise but will also help prevent them from getting bored ad start looking for things to get into. Without toys, bunnies tend to turn to chewing on electrical cords, bottom of drapes, and furniture. When they lose interest in a toy, put it up for awhile and give them new ones to play with. Change for bunnies is always good; they are very curious and love to explore new toys and new hiding places. The important thing about toys is to make sure they are safe for them to play with.
Feeding Your Rabbit
Most people think that all you need to feed bunnies is pellets. Feeding these animals a diet consisting mainly of pellets may result in obesity, not to mention adding the likelihood of digestive problems. They are voracious eaters, and as much as they love to eat, they also love to forage. This is built into their survival instincts. There is more than fulfilling their nutritional requirements when it comes to feeding your bunny. Try hiding a few high-bulk low-calorie treats around the house for them to find. Your bunny will love hunting for them.
Fiber is very important to the normal function of their digestive system. Fresh Timothy hay and fresh vegetables should make up most of the diet for house rabbits. While there may be some fiber in pellets, it is finely ground and does not appear to stimulate intestinal function as well as fiber found in grass hays. Roughage is also necessary for the prevention of hair balls. When pellets are added to the hay and vegetables, it will add to the overall balance of the diet.
Foods other than hay, vegetables, and pellets should be considered as treats and should be fed in moderation. The rabbit’s digestive system is very delicate and susceptible to serious upsets if the diet is not correct. When rabbits become overweight the amount of pellets should be limited, but any reduction in pellets should be made up with a variety of fresh vegetables and an unlimited access to hay.
Hay: Hay such as Oat or Timothy hayshould be available at all times for the bunnies to nibble on. While rabbits may not eat much hay at first, they will soon eat it once the amount of pellets is reduced. The House Rabbit Society recommends starting baby bunnies on alfalfa hay and introducing grass hays by 5-7 months, slowly reducing the alfalfa until the rabbit is solely on grass hays by 1 year. Alfalfa hay is higher in calcium and protein and lower in fiber than the grass hays, and many rabbits prefer alfalfa hays as it is more of a treat to them. Other hays and grains suitable for rabbits include barley grain, barley hay, Bermuda grass hay, clover hay red and white, oat grain, oat hay, orchard grass, prairie grass hay, ryegrass hay, sunflower seeds and wheat straw.
Vegetables: Vegetables should make up a large portion of the diet. Depending on it's, 2-4 cups of fresh veggies should be given per day. A variety must be fed daily to ensure a balanced diet. If they are used to eating mainly pellets, the change must be made gradually to allow their digestive system time to adjust. So that you are able to better track of how your bunny reacts, you should only add one new vegetable at a time. This way if the bunny has diarrhea or other problems, it will be possible to tell which vegetable is causing the problem and you can reduce the amount that they are getting.
Here is a list of vegetables that are good for them: Carrots, carrot tops, broccoli, celery, dandelion greens, parsley, cilantro, endive, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, kale and spinach. However, kale, spinach, and mustard greens are high in oxalates and should be fed no more than 3 meals per week.
Never give your bunny any beans, cauliflower, cabbage, and potatoes, potato peels, rhubarb, or chocolate. Iceberg lettuce has almost no nutritional value so should be avoided. Wash vegetables well and only feed dandelions that are known to be pesticide free. Try a health food store for organically grown dandelion greens.
Vegetables should be introduced to bunnies at around 12 weeks of age, in small quantities and one at a time. As more vegetable are added, watch for signs of diarrhea, and if this occurs, discontinue the most recently added vegetable. Over time the amount of vegetables fed is increased and the amount of pellets is decreased, so that by 1 year of age the adult feeding recommendations are followed.
Pellets: Pellets are basically designed for commercial rabbit production and are quite high in calories. As a result, house rabbits fed unlimited pellets may end up with obesity and related health problems as well as an excess of other nutrients. Pellets do have a place in their nutrition, as they are rich and balanced in nutrients. However, experts recommend restricting the amount of pellets fed and compensating with fresh vegetables.
Choose a fresh, good quality pellet. The House Rabbit Society recommends a minimum of 20-25% fiber, around 14% protein (with no animal protein), and less than 1% calcium for most house rabbits (spayed/neutered). For adults, the amount should be carefully regulated, depending on the size (weight) of the rabbit. As a rule, give about 1/4 cup for rabbits 4-6 lb, 1/2 cup for 7-9 lb. rabbits, and 3/4 cup for 10-15 lb. rabbits. Baby rabbits can be fed pellets free choice (available at all times), decreasing to 1/2 cup per 6 lb. of body weight by around six months.
Treats: The House Rabbit Society recommends 1-2 tablespoons of fresh fruits be given daily as a treat. Treats sold in pet stores marketed for rabbits are generally unnecessary and in some cases could cause digestive problems due to their high carbohydrate or sugar content. Instead of food treats, consider offering twigs from apple trees or willow trees. They also love Cheerios, raisins, oatmeal, banana chips, and dried papaya.
So....finally, once you have a bunny take the time to learn how to care for it. Provide it with a good safe home and give your bunny the proper care, diet, and exercise, and you will develop a wonderful companion and friend to watch and play with for years to come. As with any pet, please have it spayed or neutered. If, however, you should decide that caring for your new pet bunny is more work than you had expected, do not turn it loose outside; it will never survive the outdoors because of predators and not being able to find proper nutrition.
For More Information Please Visit The House Rabbit Society
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