We were in your shoes not so long ago. Excited about the prospect of getting our first bunny but not exactly sure what we needed to have prepared for this life-changing moment. Owning a bunny may seem like an easy pet to start with. However, having a bunny is a long term commitment and should be treated as such.
Most people generally know how to look after a cat or a dog. Feed them their cat or dog food, take them for walks, and that is pretty much all there is to it. With a bunny however, there is much more to learn as something as simple as feeding them the wrong kind of food can be fatal to your bunny. Before owning your first bunny, you need to know:
- Where to find your new bunny.
- If you should you get one or two bunnies (or more)?
- What you need to prepare for your bunny’s arrival.
- If you’re going to house them indoor or outdoor?
- How to bunny proof your home.
- When and what you should feed your bunny?
- When do you need to get your bunny fixed?
- Should your bunny be free roam or caged?
- How do you keep your bunny cool during hot weather?
This is a guide for anyone looking at getting their own bunny or for brand new bunny owners. As bunny owners ourselves, we did a lot of research with our first bunny and still made mistakes. We don’t want you to make any mistakes with your bunny so we are passing the knowledge on to you.
This will be a step-by-step guide from finding your bunny through to the adult stages of your bunny’s life.
Where To Find Your New Bunny
You have a few options when it comes to buying or adopting your new bunny and it may depend where you live. Your first option should be your local rescue shelter. Thousands of bunnies are rescued each year and have to be put down if they are not assigned an owner.
There is a great benefit for adopting through a rescue shelter. The rescue shelter can now become your primary contact when it comes to any problems you may face with your bunny such as health issues. They will likely also have their own vet contact that can spay or neuter your bunny at a cheaper price than you would usually find at a private vet.
If you don’t have a rescue shelter in your area, you can buy your bunny from a local pet store, a local breeder, or adopt online from an owner that needs to re home their bunny. If you’re buying from a pet store, you’ll likely need to take your bunny to a vet the following day for a general check-up so be sure to buy your bunny when you have the following morning free.
When adopting a bunny that is being re-homed, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask before taking your new bunny home.
- How old is the bunny?
- Has he/she been neutered or spayed?
- Has the bunny had any vaccinations?
- Have they had any health problems or needed any medical attention?
- Why are they re-homing their bunny?
This will give you the bigger picture if your potential new bunny is happy and healthy.
One or Two Bunnies (or more)?
Bunnies are social animals. They need plenty of social interaction to be happy, stave off boredom and keep away depression. Your choice of whether or not you should get more than one bunny will come down to a couple of different factors:
- Your financial situation – can you afford to take care of more than one bunny?
- The time you have to spend with your bunny – if you work from home or are able to spend a lot of time with your bunny at home, then one bunny is okay. If you spend all day at work, it is better to have two or more bunnies so they can socialize and play while you’re gone.
With regard to your financial situation, your on-going costs for your bunny are going to be for the next 5-10+ years. This includes your bunny’s housing, food, toys, litter, and vet appointments. It’s important that you know you can cover these expenses to give your bunny the best life possible.
With regards to having more than one bunny, it’s easier to buy two bunnies at the same time, from the same place than buying one bunny and adding a friend as they will already be bonded.
Related: The Ultimate Bunny Bonding Guide
What Do You Need Prepared For Your Bunny’s Arrival?
Before you take your new bunny home, you must make sure you have everything your bunny needs to be happy, healthy, and comfortable in their new environment. If you are adopting a bunny that is being re-homed, you may be given everything you need minus a few bits and pieces.
Here is a checklist of items your bunny will need on their arrival:
- A litter tray
- Litter substrate
- Water bowl (much better than a bottle)
- Chew toys
- An enclosed, safe area with some hiding places
Set up their “home” area in one of your rooms where there is no draft and natural light. Make sure the floor is not slippery where you set up. A baby bunny won’t walk on the slippery floor and can be dangerous in the beginning. Instead, set up on carpet or rubber matting.
Have the litter tray set up with litter substrate and hay on top at one end. They must have unlimited access to fresh hay as it is their staple food. You can also use a hay feeder but make sure it is big enough for your bunny to get a lot of hay. You can always have hay in multiple places around your home. For example, your hay feeder by the litter tray, in the litter tray, in a second litter tray in another room in your home.
Indoor or Outdoor Housing?
There are many things to consider when choosing between indoor and outdoor housing for your bunny. If you are not sure where you want to house your bunny, in our opinion, your bunny is better off being housed with you inside. They are a part of your family and will show you even more love than you show them.
If you are considering housing your bunny outside, you must have enough space for your bunny to play and stretch their legs. Keeping them in a small hutch is cruel and can lead to boredom and depression. A large enclosure with plenty of toys, rooms, and hay is a better option. Your bunny’s home must be slightly elevated as to keep them safe from predators.
If you have a very open yard you want to house your bunny in, it would be advisable to house them inside instead as your bunny just seeing a predator could put them in such great stress which can potentially be fatal.
The last thing to consider is the climate where you live. If it gets extremely cold or extremely hot, you need to have measures in place that will keep your bunny warm or cool. Ideally, you’d house your bunny inside if the weather is extremely hot or cold as they do best in mild temperatures.
Related: Can My Bunny Play In The Snow?
Bunny Proof Your Home
Being a new bunny owner, you may not be prepared for the kind of home destruction a bunny can cause. It is common knowledge bunnies like to chew cords so we were prepared for that. But not much else!
Your bunny will chew baseboards, your bed, wooden furniture, house plants, cords, the corners of your home and even doors!
Here are some items to have on hand for when your bunny starts chewing:
- Bitter apple spray (or water vinegar mix)
- Clear shipping tape
- Corner guards
- Wooden plank
- Cord protectors
Your bitter spray mix is for when your bunny starts chewing on something that they shouldn’t. Simply spray on that spot to deter them from chewing. The clear shipping tape can go on any corners of your home or even furniture to change the texture of the wall or furniture so it is less likely to be chewed.
Corner guards are a good option for walls as they blend in and offer extra protection over tape if your bunny does chew the wall. Corner guards can easily be replaced if they get damaged.
A wooden plank is something you can use to either block off certain areas of baseboards your bunny loves to chew or to place under your bed so your bunny doesn’t chew through your bed base. Last thing you want is your mattress to fall through while you are sleeping!
Finally, your cord protectors are a vital part of your bunny proofing arsenal. If you don’t want to be replacing chargers (or having your laptop turn off while working and wondering why your battery died when it’s plugged in…), then you must protect your cords. A simple cord cover does the trick. If you have a bunch of cords in the same place, you can also store them in a box to keep them away from your bunny.
In addition to protecting areas of your home that can be chewed, you’ll also want to block off certain areas or keep certain things out of reach. These might be house plants that you put on tables your bunny can’t reach or placing your shoes in a storage box your bunny can’t get into.
You may block off certain areas of your home that have valuable items such as books and expensive wooden furniture such as your home office. You can block the doorway entrance with a simple dog gate but make sure it’s made of metal, not wood. Anything wood will be chewed!
If you know you are getting a bunny in the future, it would be wise not to invest in any furniture that is made of wood but instead, opt for other material that can’t be chewed. If you do have wooden furniture, you can use the clear shipping tape or an old sock to cover the legs of the table or chairs.
When And What Should You Feed Your Bunny?
Depending on the age of your bunny, they will need varying amounts of food and different species of hay. However, all bunnies should have a diet mostly made up of hay. Following this, leafy green vegetables. Pellets should be fed morning and evening to supplement the hay and leafy greens. And finally, there’s some room for special treats such as berries, apples, and other safe fruits.
Young bunnies (<7 months old) should be fed Alfalfa hay for their high protein, fiber, and calcium content compared to other species of hay. The increased caloric density of this hay will help your bunny grow.
Related: Best Hay For Bunnies
Similarly, a greater volume of pellets should be fed to a young bunny. It has originally been advised to feed young bunnies an unlimited amount of pellets. In our experience, this is not a good idea. Our bunny became slightly overweight with us just feeding her a little over a ¼ – ½ cup of pellets every morning and evening. Now imagine if we let have free reign over her pellets!
Our advice would be to start with around ½ cup of pellets per 2.5 kg bodyweight morning and evening and monitor your bunny’s body shape. If your bunny starts to look a little chunky, decrease the amount of pellets.
After 2 months of age, start to introduce different vegetables one and a time. Vegetables will eventually make up a greater percentage of your bunny’s diet than pellets will so it is important to know which vegetables your bunny enjoys and which don’t agree with their stomach.
Once your bunny grows to be an adult, you can reduce their pellet feeding even further to approximately ¼ cup or less per 2.5 kg bodyweight in the morning and evening. If you were using junior pellets, make the switch to adult bunny pellets as they will have less calories and less calcium which is important for your bunny’s health as they age.
Now is also the time to swap your hay for another species. This can be anything from Timothy to Orchard hay. It’s important it has less calcium and calories than the Alfalfa variety to avoid weight gain and urinary tract infections. Our bunny LOVES her chamomile infused hay. If you have access to that variety, definitely consider feeding that hay to your fur friend.
Feeding your bunny fruit treats or starchier vegetables (e.g. carrots) shouldn’t be done regularly as the high sugar content can cause your bunny to gain weight.
When Do You Need To Get Your Bunny Fixed?
If you have a female bunny, they will need to get spayed. If you have a male bunny, they will need to get neutered. It’s important you don’t skip this procedure as getting your bunny fixed will reduce their risk of cancer, prevent unwanted litters, reduce aggressive behaviour, minimise destructive behaviour and help them live a longer, happier life.
It is sometimes believed that spaying or neutering a bunny will change their personality or make them become lazy. This is far from the truth. Often, the perceived change in personality is just your bunny transitioning from teenage to adulthood.
Bunnies will generally reach sexual maturity between 3-8 months of age . Female bunnies can get spayed as soon as they reach sexual maturity which is generally around 5 months of age. Our Grooty got spayed at 6 months of age. Males get neutered around 4-5 months of age when their testicles drop.
If you get a giant bunny breed, they will reach sexual maturity at an older age of 7-8 months. If you’re adopting an older bunny (6+ years), they should have a full blood panel done beforehand to make sure they can handle the anesthetic. Our vet was very good where we took Grooty.
They performed a full blood panel beforehand to make sure she was healthy and ready to be spayed. The blood test didn’t cost much extra and you should consider doing so regardless of the age of your bunny. The very small percentage of deaths that occur during these procedures is usually due to the bunny having a bad reaction to anesthetic so it is worth knowing beforehand if your bunny will be safe.
Free Roam or Caged?
We’ve likely known of family or friends that owned bunnies. We didn’t think anything of them being kept in their cage or hut at the time. Now that we own a bunny, we could NEVER think of caging our bunny Grooty.
Bunnies who stay caged have no social interaction or exercise time and subsequently develop depression and have a greater potential to become overweight causing many other health issues. If you must keep your bunny caged for whatever reason, please consider using a playpen instead of a cage.
Using a playpen at least gives your bunny some space to move around and stretch their legs. Even if you keep your bunny in a playpen, it’s important to let them out for extended periods of time so they can explore and play. If you have an outside area that is fenced off, this can make a perfect play area for your bunny.
How To Keep Your Bunny Cool During Hot Weather?
Bunnies don’t do well in heat. Their ideal temperature ranges from 55-72°F (12-23°C). If you live in a part of the world that is much warmer than these temperatures, there are a few things you can do to make sure your bunny doesn’t suffer from heatstroke.
You can wrap frozen water bottles in a thin towel that your bunny can lean against. Another great option is to buy a ceramic or marble tile which you can leave on the floor which your bunny can lie on and cool down. Placing ice cubes in your bunny’s water bowl is another way to help your bunny cool down.
Preparing to own your first bunny is an exciting time. To give your bunny the best life possible, it’s important to have everything prepared at home for a smooth arrival. Use this checklist to help guide you through the process of preparing for your first pet bunny.