Rabbits are so cute and quirky, so it’s no surprise that they’ve grown in popularity in the Oakland area. These days, instead of seeing them as a low-maintenance critter that hangs out in a cage, we've realized that rabbits are affectionate and curious. They need enrichment and interaction to live their best lives! There are tons of resources online that can help you take the best care of your rabbit. We’re compiling some top tips here as well as specific resources for rabbit care in Oakland, CA!
If you’re new to rabbits, or you're thinking about getting a rabbit, we’re here to help get you started on the right track. We’ll go over basic care, like diet, as well as some interesting rabbit facts you need to know as a rabbit owner (remember the word coprophagic). Ready to learn some more? Let's get to it!
rabbit care basics
Rabbits Are Sensitive
Before you introduce a rabbit into your home, you should know that rabbits are more sensitive than they appear. As prey animals out of instinct, they are always on alert, so they are easily startled. This means that a loud or active environment isn’t the best fit for them. At the very least, their habitat should be in a quiet area so they can be relaxed instead of stressed and on high alert.
Handle With Care
Rabbits need to be handled very carefully. Poor handling can scare them into kicking and scratching and can even cause them injury. Rabbits have a very delicate spine, so when being picked up, their rear legs need full support. Rabbits can develop weakness in their limbs and even full paralysis if not carried properly.
Exercise Is Important
Make sure your rabbit gets exercise. Rabbits need to burn off some energy just like any other pet. It’s not uncommon for a rabbit to get the zoomies and take a few laps around the room. House rabbits can get in the habit of being a little bit lazy, and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to boredom, obesity, and even depression so it’s important to encourage them to get some activity.
You can exercise your rabbit in a huge variety of ways. Which is great… since they need a whopping 3 hours of exercise a day! These are just a few ideas to get you started:
Set up an enclosed pen, or X-pen, in your yard with toys and ramps. Make sure it’s not too hot out since rabbits don’t handle heat well. And of course, make sure that you are supervising your rabbit while they are outside to keep them out of harm’s way!
Keep a “rabbit room” so your rabbit can roam. You can use the same X-pen setup you put outside to provide a rabbit-safe space for your bunny to explore. Set up places to hide, tunnels, ramps, and plenty of toys to chew to provide enrichment activities.
Leash walks! This depends on the temperament of your rabbit, but some rabbits can be trained to wear a harness and hop at the end of a leash. Make sure that you’re walking your rabbit in a very calm environment so as to not stress them out.
Train your rabbit. Rabbit intelligence does not get enough credit. Training is great because it provides enrichment as well as exercise and bonding time with you.
Rabbits Have Unique GI Systems
Remember that word from earlier? Coprophagic? That word refers to animals that eat their own feces. Rabbits fall into this category. In the evenings, they produce a special kind of feces called cecotropes or “night feces”. These actually play a vital role in a rabbit's digestive health. To simplify it, cecotropes have vitamins, bacteria, fiber, and other nutrients that your rabbit needs to ingest a second time.
Rabbits also require a great deal of fiber in their diets. Without it, they are prone to a condition called GI Stasis.
Gastrointestinal (GI) Stasis is a dangerous condition that essentially means that their digestive system has slowed or completely stopped. GI Stasis can be caused by stress, dehydration, anorexia, or a gastrointestinal blockage. But one of the more common causes is a lack of fiber in the diet.
It’s important to look for signs of GI Stasis regularly. These may include:
Lack of stool
Soft stool or diarrhea
This condition can be reversed with proper medication and fluids, but it takes swift action to identify it and get your rabbit treatment.
housing your rabbit
A rabbit can’t exist happily in a tiny cage. Make sure you invest in a habitat for your rabbit that gives them room to move. They should have enough room for exercise as well as a sturdy box or hiding nook and their litter box.
Rabbits need to chew, so a wire pen is best. Be sure to provide your rabbit with plenty of toys to chew. You can find rabbit safe chew toys online and at most pet supply stores. Toys help keep your rabbit's teeth worn down to a comfortable length and help provide mental stimulation.
Do not house your rabbit with cedar or pine, and avoid clay cat litter in their litter box. Use a pellet litter that is designed to be ingestible, and line your rabbit's litter box with plenty of hay or plain, shredded paper.
Timothy hay or Orchard Grass hay should be available at all times, and look for water containers that can’t be easily knocked down. This will prevent water from spilling and their cage lining from molding.
rabbit proofing your house
We’ve already talked about rabbits requiring exercise. Even if you have a designated rabbit area, you might want to let your rabbit roam around. Make sure you take steps to keep your rabbit, and your house, safe.
Have we mentioned rabbits love to chew? Keep anything you don’t want nibbled on off of the floor.
Cover your wires with protective tubing.
Cover your baseboards because rabbits will nibble on them
Make sure any areas that are off limits are blocked.
If you have house plants, make sure any plants that are not rabbit safe are fully out of reach.
feeding your rabbit
Feeding your rabbit a healthy diet is actually very easy. Think, hay, hay, and more hay. Since rabbits require a high fiber diet in order to prevent GI Stasis, hay should be the absolute foundation of their diet and made available to them at all times. Timothy hay or Orchard Grass hay are the best hays to feed your rabbit.
Your rabbit also needs a daily serving of leafy greens. Parsley, romaine lettuce, carrot tops, cilantro, and dandelion greens are great additions to their food bowl. It’s important to introduce new veggies slowly to avoid digestive upset. Avoid giving your rabbit vegetables that are high in starch, like carrots, as too much starch can cause GI Stasis.
Rabbit food pellets are commonly seen in pet stores. Since rabbits thrive on tons of fiber, we suggest prioritizing hay and leafy greens in their diet. If you want to add some pellets into their daily feeding routine, just 1/4 cup a day is all they need!
vaccines for your rabbit
It is very important to vaccinate your rabbit against the virus Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2). This virus is incredibly deadly and very easy to spread. Even if your bunny never ventures outside, wild rabbits can shed the disease, which can then be tracked in on your shoes or clothes.
The vaccine has only recently been approved for use in rabbits in the US, although it has been approved in the UK and other countries for years. Check with your vet to find out if they offer the vaccine. If you have difficulty finding a vet who can provide the vaccine, here is a list of providers who are currently offering the RHDV2.
what to do if you need a bunny sitter here in oakland
Since rabbits are considered an exotic pet, it can be hard to find a pet sitter that is experienced and knowledgeable. That’s where Fur and Feather Pet Care comes in! Exotic pets are our thing!
Rest assured knowing that your bunny is safe in the hands of an experienced veterinary technician who knows about rabbits and their unique needs.
It’s a fine line with bunnies. We know how to interact with your rabbit to prevent boredom… without causing them stress.
Hiring a professional pet sitter that specializes in rabbits ensures that your bunny is being monitored for serious conditions like GI Stasis while you’re away.
Since safety is our top priority, Fur and Feather Pet Care only accepts rabbit clients who have been vaccinated for RHDV2.
Curious about booking Fur and Feather?
We take care of what needs to be done while you’re away:
Cleaning their box
Providing fresh water in clean bowls
Keeping their area clean
And of course… play time and snuggles (if they like them)
If you’re in the Oakland area, don’t be afraid to reach out with any questions. We’re glad to answer them!
bunny resources in the oakland area
And as always, you can visit our Community page to find the best, most up-to-date resources for exotic pets of all kinds!