Hi, I’m Dr. Mary Stauder at Manchester West Veterinary Hospital. I am here to talk about rabbit basics.
Rabbits, unfortunately, are a prey species and they don’t enjoy being handled as it is scary for them. We have to work gently and slowly with rabbits and some rabbits never do enjoy being picked up. When you do pick them up, use a scooping action, cradling their back legs and keep them tucked under your arms to make them feel safe. Another way is to gently pick them up and do a little hypnotizing, stroking her belly a little. This is a good way to examine her or cut her nails.
This is Beth, one of our technicians, maybe she can help me out with a nail trim. Some rabbits will go into a completely relaxed state, we’ve got Lilly just a little bit more comfortable. Alright, that’s probably pretty good for now [trimming nails], just wanted to show that. So, gently return them back. But most often rabbits would just as soon you get on the floor and play with them as be picked up. Also they do not like to have you reach into their cage. So when they are in the cage and you are reaching forward, they don’t see well to the front, they see better from the side. So always approach a rabbit from the side.
Rabbits can make very nice indoor pets, if we accommodate their diet of hay, they tend to be very clean and neat so they adapt to litter-boxing, using a litter box. We do need to realize they like to nibble, they like to burrow, they like to chew, so providing things like old newspapers, phone books, magazines for them to tear up, a nice cardboard box filled with strips of newspapers that they can burrow around in and chew on. Appropriate chew toys, putting their hay inside toys for them to play with and interact with.
Another way that we can keep our pets healthy is spaying and neutering. Spaying and neutering will reduce some of their odor, aggression, it helps with some of their indoor behavior.
So if we have do have our little pet running around we do need to protect table legs, wires, anything that we don’t want nibbled. Playpens, baby gates can confine the rabbits and help give them a nice play area where you can provide the appropriate toys. If they are getting into something that you don’t like, I’m going to try not to scare poor Lilly here, but you respond to the way the rabbit, rabbits understand signals for danger, they do not understand the discipline that we use for dogs and cats. So, say your rabbit is starting to chew on something inappropriate, yell a loud “no” and clap and stomp and startle them, they understand stomping, that is how they signal for danger, then you can move your rabbit to something more appropriate and give them something it’s allowed to chew on and that is how you can train them and adjust some of their behavior.
Rabbits will grind their teeth, a light grinding can actually be a sign of contentment, like purring, a very loud grinding sound with a hunched up posture indicates pain and that should to be taken seriously and probably seek some attention for that.
Rabbits will growl and lunge, again when you are trying to reach into their cage, if you are coming forward on them they can’t see, see right away she reached out to where I was and then she turned sideways to me so she could actually see my better. But if you need to get into the cage, sometimes just a nice firm hand, reach in and do what you need to do in their cage or kennel. If they are lunging or growling, often just backing off a little bit, talk to them, come at sideways, and you can calm them down and let them know what’s going on.
A relaxed bunny, now Lilly here is a little nervous so she is still in her hunched posture, but a relaxed bunny will actually just stretch out, just flop over, they will even do their happy jumps, where they jump in the air and twist about, and that is a good, happy bunny.
So these are just the basics, some things to keep your indoor rabbit happy and healthy, a lot of other hints are available from the Missouri House Rabbit’s Society, their link is on our website. Thank You.