Flopsy arrived in a pink basket on Easter Day. We keep her indoors in a cage most of the time and feed her lettuce leaves, carrots, and other fresh vegetables, but we need more information on how to take care of her. Can you help?
Rabbits, as you will find, can be delightful pets but they need attention and care. Let's start with housing. Depending on her size, the cage should be 4-9 square feet and 19-24 inches high. Wire flooring is okay, but a section should be covered with carpet, a towel, wood - anything solid that Flopsy can't chew. Enclosures with solid walls do not provide enough ventilation. Rabbits prefer low temperatures, 60-70 degrees. Temperatures over 80 degrees can lead to heatstroke and high humidity can predispose to respiratory infections. Some owners keep a gallon milk jug of frozen water in their pet's pen for cooling when their rabbit is outdoors in hot weather. Flopsy never should be left unattended with the family pets. Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box. Place it in the cage on a spot that she already uses as a bathroom. Fill it with pine shavings, and for starters, add some droppings. Both males and females mark their territory. Neutering early (5-6 months) will help litter training and help stop marking. A high fiber diet is essential. You can offer rabbit pellets containing 18% fiber. But be careful, overfeeding can cause diarrhea and liver disease. Young rabbits can have free access to food while they are growing. Adults food should be rationed according to weight, between 1/8 cup if 2 to 5 pounds to 1 cup for over 15 pounds. Fresh, dry hay promotes digestion. I recommend quality grass or timothy hay - not alfalfa. Flopsy also will enjoy carrots, collard greens, clover, parsley, romaine lettuce, beet greens, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, pea pods, celery tops, wild mustard, Swiss chard, and turnip greens. A tablespoon of fruit can be a treat. Make sure Flopsy always has fresh water. Do not be upset if she eats her droppings as this behavior is normal. There are several ways to hold a rabbit, but always support the hind legs as a hard kick can break its back. This also can happen if a toenail gets caught in carpet. It is painful for a rabbit to be picked up by its ears. Rabbits can become ill very quickly. It's time to see your veterinarian if you see signs of diarrhea, labored breathing, loss of appetite, distended abdomen, runny nose, a head tilt, or lumps.