Buying a bunny as a first time owner, there can be a lot of information to wrap your head around. Depending on where you buy your bunny, you’ll be told you need many different items to keep them healthy. However, that’s not actually the case!
Here are the 14 biggest mistakes you can make as a new bunny owner. We learned many of these as we raised Groot and want to pass these on to you so you don’t make the same mistakes with your new cute bun.
- Shopping at the pet store
- Buying a small cage (or any cage at all)
- Buying the wrong pellets
- Buying a small hay feeder
- Overfeeding pellets
- Buying processed treats
- Using a water bottle over a bowl
- Buying a small litter tray
- Not neutering your bunny
- Buying a bunny as a pet for children
- Bathing your bunny
- Housing your bunny outside
- Treating them like a dog
- Not bunny proofing your house
Shopping At the Pet Store
This doesn’t mean not to buy your bunny at a pet store. In some countries, that is your only option. We mean don’t buy your bunny supplies at the pet store if you have other options in your country or online.
The pet store carries supplies that may have a cute bunny face on the packaging, but in reality, the contents inside usually aren’t the best for your bunny’s health.
Be careful with what the pet store employee recommends for you to buy for your new bunny. We were sold on many things we did not need, use, or were just outright not healthy for our bun.
For example, we were sold on “mineral blocks” for her to lick and grind her teeth on. After some research, this is not even necessary if you are feeding your bunny a correct diet. Grooty hasn’t even touched her mineral block since we got her!
A lot of the food products are below average versions of what is required for your bunny to be at their healthiest. For example, pellets that have other coloured treats throughout the bag. You will likely pay a marked up price and you can’t even feed your bunny these pellets every day due to the high sugar content.
The moral of the story, do your shopping online or at local small businesses. If you need help selecting products online, check out our article “What Can Bunnies Eat and Not Eat” for information on how to pick the right pellets and hay for your bunny.
Now, this is another mistake we could place under the “don’t shop at the pet store.” We bought the biggest cage at the store for our bunny. Little did we know, the biggest cage you can buy is still far, far too small. We also realised that you don’t even need a cage! Your bunny will be much happier without one.
A cage is a cruel place to keep your bunny as the space is so small and there’s little to no space to free roam. The best alternative you can have is buying a dog playpen so it creates a little enclosure. You can check out our “Best Enclosures & Playpens For Bunnies” for the best one to suit your bunny and home.
We have a similar metal playpen which acts as Groot’s cage but we never close the pen gate. The enclosure just holds her litter box and hay and acts as her own space if she wants it.
While we bought a cage that was unnecessary, the bottom part of the cage served as the perfect litter box. If you’re at the pet store buying your bunny, then you can just buy the bottom part of the cage for your large litter box.
Pellets are an important part of a bunny’s diet at a young age. A pellet’s nutritional profile should consist of 22% fiber, no more than 14% protein, 1% fat, and 1% calcium. Some pellet brands contain pieces of flaked cereals and dried vegetables and fruit.
You do not want these in your pellets. It’s like feeding yourself sugary cereal with every meal you have throughout the day. Instead, opt for brands that are just pellets. The best adult pellets we would recommend are Oxbow Bunny Essentials (Link to Amazon) and baby pellets Oxbow Young Bunny Essentials (Link to Amazon).
Small Hay Feeder
Many commercial pet stores will sell you on additional pieces for your cage. One will be a hay feeder that attaches to the outside of the cage. This only allows a very small amount of hay to get through and only holds a handful or so.
You’re much better off ditching this item and placing the hay on one end of a large litter box. This way they can eat unlimited hay while they poop and pee.
If you find a hay feeder that is large and lets more hay come out, then there is no problem using that. It’s nice to have more the one place for your bunny to eat hay such as having a hay feeder and a pile of hay at the end of their litter box.
While young buns aged 7 weeks to 7 months can have unlimited pellets to help them grow, from 7 months onwards, pellet intake should gradually decrease as fresh vegetable intake increases.
Pellets don’t actually make up the bulk of a bunny’s diet. Hay actually makes up the majority of the diet, followed by fresh vegetables. Pellets fill the gap with nutrients that aren’t provided through vegetables and add extra calories for growth in young bunnies.
Furthermore, overfeeding pellets leads to under eating hay. Hay is essential for keeping a bunny’s GI tract healthy and keeping it moving. If a bunny starts reducing their hay consumption, the bunny will likely have health issues that will need to be seen by a vet.
Buying Processed Treats
Another mistake that is likely to be made at the pet store. Your bunny doesn’t need the fancy, colourful treats on the shelves at the pet store. They almost look enticing for humans! Well, that’s who they are really selling these “treats” to.
None of these are healthy for your bunny and funnily enough, fresh fruit and fresh non-leafy green vegetables act as tasty treats! All these companies want is to lighten your wallet.
Our “What Can Bunnies Eat and Not Eat” article lists all the vegetables and fruits your bunny can and can’t eat so make sure to check that out. A small serving of fruit makes the perfect treat. Making a salad for your bunny has the bonus of having vegetables stocked in your house and you can make a salad for yourself at the same time!
Using a Water Bottle over a Bowl
You’re likely to buy a sipper bottle when you first get your cute bunny. You see how cute they are in their little glass box in the pet store, licking the bottle to drink water.
You may think that’s how they are supposed to drink water. Well, after doing some research and going through this experience ourselves, water bowls are the best choice when it comes to providing unlimited water for your bunny.
There are some horror stories of bunnies getting their teeth stuck in sipper bottles floating around the internet. We haven’t experienced that but that is not something we want to encounter.
Further, your bunny is much more prone to dehydration sipping drops out of a bottle. A water bowl is much more natural for a bunny to drink out of and allows them to drink much more water than out of a bottle. Not to mention, bunnies can drink as much as a large dog!
Bunnies prefer open dishes compared to sipper bottles and drink 3-4x more from an open dish compared to a bottle . We noticed with our bunny the water bottle would barely get past ¾ full throughout a day. Now that we use a water bowl, that is almost empty by the end of the day.
Wrong Litter Box
You may be sold on the typical bunny litter box. The small corner box that fits in the corner of the cage. This thing is way too small for any bunny. Not to mention you can’t even fit hay in it it’s that small. A bunny should be able to do a full 360° turn in the litter box.
Here are some minimum guidelines for the sizing of a litter box taken from our article “How to Litter Train Your Bunny.”
Under 2.5kg (5 pounds approximately) – 40cm L x 30cm W x 10cm H
Under 5kg (10 pounds approximately) – 45cm L x 38cm W x 13cm H
Over 5kg (>10 pounds) or bonded pairs – 58cm L x 45cm W x 16cm H
The bigger the better! Our litter box is the bottom of a cage and serves dual purposes. Preferably, you have more than one litter tray around the house because as your bunny explores more and more areas, they may find a new favourite place to do their business.
Not Spaying or Neutering your Bunny
Make sure you do this! Neutering usually needs to be done when the bunny is 4-6 months old. Check with your vet when the best time to neuter your bunny is. If you don’t do this, your bunny is likely to develop some not so nice habits such as marking their territory around your house, being more aggressive, and excessive destructive chewing.
Spaying or neutering your bunny leads to:
- A healthier bunny that will live longer
- A calmer and more loving fur friend
- Less aggressiveness and less chewing on everything in your house
- Easier to litter train
- Can safely bond with another bunny
The cost of this procedure can range from $50usd to $300usd so be aware of the cost of this procedure before buying your bunny.
Buying Bunnies for Kids
Sadly, bunnies don’t make great pets for children. Kids want to follow, chase, pat, and grab pets all the time. It’s better to let bunnies come to you rather than go to them so this behaviour will stress the bunny.
The bunny may scratch and kick when the child goes to grab them potentially causing injury to the child.
A bunny’s spine is very weak compared to their powerful legs. It’s not uncommon to see bunnies with broken limbs or spines after kicking out from a child picking them up.
In any case, there are better pet options for young children. If your child is a litter older, it can be a good teaching lesson on how to be gentle with a pet and look after an animal.
Bunnies are awesome to have around the house and once they warm up to you, they can show so much love and affection.
Bathing Your Bunny
One thing we bought when we first got Groot was bunny shampoo. That bottle is still unopened to this day. Bathing your bunny is not necessary and should only be done if they have poopy butt or other soiled stains that won’t remove from self-cleaning.
However, always start with wipes or a dry bath before using the wet bath as a last resort. You can check out our bathing article HERE on how to bathe a bunny or if you even should.
Bunnies are very thorough self-cleaners and you should find your bunny always smells nice and is clean. If you bunny does experience poopy butt, there is something likely wrong with their diet. Remove anything new you’ve added and if that doesn’t work, make sure you see a vet.
Housing Your Bunny Outside
Outside hutches were actually invented to house meat bunnies. Not your cute little fur friend you have lying around your house. Your bunny should be an indoor pet. A bunny trapped in an outdoor hutch may encounter a predator on the outside. The stress of this can even be fatal.
A bunny is part of your family. Just like any other pet you would add to your daily life. Treat your bunny that way and leave them inside. Of course you can take them outside to explore and play. They’ll spend that time lounging around and eating grass! If you have enough bunnies maybe you won’t need a lawn mower?
Treating Them Like A Dog
When you get a new dog, you can pick them up and love and cuddle them from day one. With a bunny, it’s the opposite. Your bunny will be scared and likely hide in a little box.
You must give them time to warm up to their new environment and owners.
They may not even come to you for months!
A tip that we used when we first got Groot is to lie on the floor so you are at her level. She came to us relatively quickly as a baby because we let her free roam from the very beginning and would try to be on the floor as much as possible to have her come to us. Your bunny may never do this due to their personality type which is something you have to be okay with.
Not Bunny Proofing Your House
I don’t know how many things have been chewed on and destroyed in our house. When we first got Groot, she would free roam around the lounge with all our wires everywhere.
For the first month or so, she never touched the wires. We thought, “what is all this bunny proofing, hiding your wires nonsense that everyone always talks about?! Our little cute bunny doesn’t even want to eat ours.”
Next thing you know, I’m buying a new laptop charger for a laptop I need for work that doesn’t turn on without the charger plugged in. Don’t learn the lesson the hard way! Make sure your wires are out of the way. Or you can use wire covers to protect them like these Alex Tech Wire Covers (Link to Amazon).
Anything made of wood in your house is likely to also be destroyed. A simple solution is to buy a small spray bottle and fill it with vinegar and water. Whatever your bunny likes to chew on that you don’t want them to, just give it a little spray and that will deter your bunny from chewing again.
Having a loving bunny as part of the family is a wonderful thing. We love waking up to Groot every day. She comes and knocks on our bedroom door every morning to wake us up. Make sure they have plenty of things to chew on such as cardboard boxes and various toys.
We made some of these mistakes early on with our bunny. We wanted to share these with you so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.