Before you decide to get a rabbit, be sure you've done your homework and learned what sort of care it needs to be healthy and happy. Please also be sure you understand that rabbits act like rabbits - they don't act like dogs, cats or people. Rabbits are prey animals and they know it so they're easily frightened by sudden movements and loud noises. This would keep them alive if they were still outside living wild.
They will urinate to mark their territory. They will very often act aggressively toward other rabbits. Some will act aggressively toward you sometimes, especially if they are feeling territorial about their cage or protective of their babies. (I have a 2 lb. blue lionhead doe that will growl at me when she's tired of having her cage messed with. I'd probably feel the same way if she wanted to rearrange my bedroom). They will attempt to chew about anything they can get their teeth around. This is not a "bad" rabbit; it's just a rabbit being a rabbit.
They're also fascinating creatures. There's nothing funnier than a happy rabbit "binkying/doing binkies" - it's what a rabbit does, tearing wildly through the house, leaping up in mid-tear and twitching its head and ears and zipping off in the opposite direction, just because its in a great bunny mood! If you're willing to accept it as it naturally is, you'll have a great rabbit owner experience. Please be careful when bringing new babies home. You have to remember they are young, and stressed from leaving and going to a new home. No added stress is good and can actually kill a bunny. He needs quiet time to learn his new home and family, for at least a month.
Caging rabbits separately is STRONGLY recommended. They often become territorial about their cage and will fight, causing injury and possibly death. Even if they do happen to tolerate a cage mate, you could end up with unplanned babies. Young rabbits are notoriously difficult to sex; even experienced breeders make mistakes. Do not believe the online info that rabbits prefer the company of other rabbits; they're perfectly happy being solitary critters.
A cage roughly 4x the size of the rabbit is minimum - larger is better, of course. Indoor "pet" type cages that have a deep plastic bottom tray are easiest to keep clean. The depth of the tray helps contain the bedding inside the cage. I use corner litter pans (intended for ferrets and other small animals) filled with ASPEN SHAVINGS. (Please don't use cat litter! Rabbits will try to chew or eat everything in their cage....). Aspen shavings don't have the aromatic oils in them that pine or cedar shavings do, which are suspected to cause illness and death in many small animals. Rabbits tend to pick one corner for elimination and usually will readily use the litter pan. Soak the pan with vinegar to remove the rabbit urine scale-like build-up. Normal rabbit urine has a high concentration of calcium in it and is a chalky yellow color. It's also normal for the urine to appear an orange, red or rust color at times. If the cage starts to smell like ammonia, it's past time to clean the cage. The ammonia fumes (from the build-up of urine) are bad for the rabbit's respiratory system and can cause illness.
Outdoor cages have wire bottoms for the rabbit's droppings to fall through. The wire can make the rabbit's feet sore, though; they need a board over part of the wire so they can get off the wire sometimes. Keep in mind when choosing an outdoor cage that all sorts of predators, including dogs, cats, raccoons, weasels and neighbor's kids, need to be kept out, as well as keeping the bunny securely in. Outdoor cages should be in a sheltered area, with some shade in the summer. Rabbits are much less tolerant of heat than cold. When outside make sure the bunny has plenty of cold water. It may not seem so hot for us, but they feel the heat more than we do. They can die from heat stroke.
Rabbits have extremely sensitive digestive systems. They need rabbit pellets, clean water and timothy hay (not alfalfa, too rich in calcium) daily. This provides the high fiber diet they require. Small amounts of fresh veggies are ok but NO iceberg lettuce. Digestive problems and diarrhea can prove fatal quickly so make changes in their diet cautiously. Using a water bottle keeps their water clean and stops them from dumping it out.
Rabbits also pass two different kinds of droppings. There are regular, round, dry balls of feces and there are also cecotropes (clumps of softer poop that can be mucousy and look like bunches of grapes). It is normal for the rabbit to eat the cecotropes; they contain bacteria necessary for the proper functioning of their gut.
Lionheads' coats are easy to maintain. Combing out once or twice a week is usually sufficient. Baby lions need more monitoring. They're shedding out their baby wool and growing out their adult coat so check them often for mats and for poop stuck to their fuzzy bottoms. If this occurs, just rinse their bottom with warm running water and work the poop out of the fur. Avoid giving a full bath, just spot clean the bunny. Lionheads can also suffer from wool block - loose hair that's been swallowed by the rabbit and clogs up its digestive system. It's much easier to prevent this than to treat it and it can be fatal.
When I first kept rabbits, I was always walking around with scratches up and down both arms. I picked them up by the scruff of their neck and supported their bottoms but somehow still always got kicked and scratched up. Then I stumbled across a video on youtube, which showed me that the best way to pick up and put down a rabbit was BUTT FIRST. If you take the bunny out of his cage or put him back in, always do it butt first. They don't see where they're going and don't scratch you from eyebrows to elbows that way. Try it. It works.
And, please, handle with care. It's very easy for a rabbit to break its back, twisting and struggling to be free. You can also tuck them under your arm once picked up, in a "football carry", covering their eyes so they stay calm. Supervise kids with rabbits. You don't want either party to injure the other one. A pet can be a great learning experience for a child, teaching them that other living things have feelings, too. If your child isn't old enough to handle your bunny gently and carefully, please stick to stuffed bunnies until they are.
Rabbits enjoy stuff in their cage that they can chew, pick up and throw around. Suggestions are:
- Plastic shower curtain rings (can also be strung together or hung from the cage bars)
- Empty soda bottles
- Cat toy balls (with bells in them)
- Larger parrot toys, the ones strung on a chain with pieces of wood to chew
- Toilet paper or paper towel cores can be stuffed with hay
- Hay huts available in pet stores that will be demolished with much bunny glee.
A bunny-proofed area (protect electric cords) for occasional romps out of the cage is greatly enjoyed, too (always with supervision).
My rabbits play with all of this stuff and my does put their toys in their nest boxes ??? Don't know why! lol