Bunnies Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM on Mar. 24, 2023
Baby rabbit eating

In This Article


Rabbit Species Overview

  • Rabbits can live for 10+ years with proper care, so keeping a rabbit as a pet is a long-term commitment 

  • Rabbits are not nocturnal—they are crepuscular, which means they are most active around sunrise and sunset. However, rabbits typically adjust to their pet parent’s schedule and behavior. 

  • Rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents 

  • As intelligent and social animals, rabbits need daily handling, playtime, and exercise outside their enclosed habitat.  

  • Rabbits must always be closely supervised when outside of their habitats. Pet parents should only allow their rabbits to access rabbit-proofed spaces that are free from wires, cables, and other objects they can chew. 

  • Rabbits often enjoy living with at least one other rabbit, especially if you raise them together. 

  • Rabbits can be territorial and may fight when they first meet another rabbit. When introducing rabbits to each other, pet owners should closely supervise the animals and introduce them in neutral territory. 

  • Although rabbits have powerful hind legs, their skeletons and backbones are incredibly fragile. They can break their backs if they give a strong kick. 

  • When handling a rabbit, pet parents should be sure to support the animal’s body fully, especially its hind end. Rabbits should never be held by their ears or on their back. 


Difficulty of Care 


Average Life Span 

10+ years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

12+ inches long, depending on breed 



Minimum Habitat Size 

24" L x 24" H for small to medium breeds; 36" W x 36" H for large to giant breeds (at least four times the size of the rabbit) 

Rabbit Supply Checklist

To keep their rabbit happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

  • Appropriately sized habitat (at least 24" L x 24" H for small to medium breeds; 36" W x 36" H for large to giant breeds) 

  • High-quality pelleted rabbit food 

  • Timothy hay 

  • Treats 

  • Bedding 

  • Food bowl and water bottle 

  • Hideaway/hiding house 

  • Hay rack 

  • Wood chews 

  • Litter pan 

  • Litter 

  • Indoor playpen 

  • Soft brush 

  • Nail clippers

  • Styptic powder 

  • Toys 

Rabbit Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure  

The ideal rabbit habitat should be at least four times the size of the rabbit, allowing the rabbit enough space to comfortably stretch in all directions. A habitat with minimum dimensions of 24" L x 24" H (or 4 sq. ft) is recommended for small- to medium-breed rabbits, while 36" W x 36" H (or 9-sq. ft.) is recommended for large- to giant-breed rabbits. Always provide the largest habitat possible. 

Habitats should also be well-ventilated, escape-proof, and lined with solid flooring to prevent pressure sores from forming on the soles of the rabbit's feet.  

Aside from indoor housing, if it’s practical, pet parents should supply a safe space outside for the rabbit to exercise, play, and explore. 

Recommended Products: 

Setting Up Your Habitat 

Rabbits are comfortable in average household temperatures and don’t thrive in temperatures greater than 80 degrees F. Because rabbits have very few sweat glands, they are prone to overheating at higher temperatures. Pet parents should be cautious of extreme temperature changes, and habitats should never be kept in direct sunlight or a drafty area. 

Rabbits can be kept in opposite-sex pairs if both animals are spayed or neutered, or they can be kept in same-sex pairs if the animals were reared together. Before deciding to house two rabbits in the same habitat, pet parents must introduce the two animals carefully. Introductions should be done slowly and under close supervision to ensure the rabbits are compatible. 

When selecting wooden products, keep in mind that not all wood is safe for rabbits. Cedar and fresh pine have oils (phenols) that are potentially toxic to rabbits. Rabbits should never be given apricot, cherry, plum, avocado, or peach fruit tree branches, as they all have stone fruits with pits that are toxic to rabbits. Chemically treated wood should also be avoided. 


1–2 inches of high-quality, paper-based bedding should be placed in the habitat; bedding can be made of either an absorbent shredded or pelleted paper material.

Paper-based bedding should be used instead of wood bedding, like cedar shavings, because paper is digestible and will not obstruct a rabbit’s gastrointestinal tract if ingested. Cedar bedding products also have oils that can irritate rabbits’ sensitive skin and respiratory system. 

Recommended Products: 

Décor & Accessories 

  • Hideout box: Pet parents should provide each rabbit in a habitat with at least one hideout box for privacy 

Cleaning & Maintenance for Rabbits

Pet parents should spot-clean their rabbit’s bedding and litter box daily, removing any soiled material and uneaten food. The entire habitat and its contents should be cleaned thoroughly at least once a week (or more often if more than one rabbit lives in the same habitat).  

To clean a rabbit’s habitat, take these steps: 

  1. Rabbits can get upset if they’re physically removed from their usual habitat, so it’s best to let the rabbit leave their enclosure on their own before cleaning it. If this is not an option, wait until the rabbit is calm and relaxed before moving it to a pet-safe, temporary enclosure. 

  1. Remove any old bedding or litter from the habitat. 

  1. Use a small-animal habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution to wash the habitat and any accessories. The dilute bleach solution should be left on the habitat for at least 10 minutes before being thoroughly rinsed off to ensure that the surfaces are properly disinfected. If using a commercially available habitat cleaner, such as the Kaytee Clean Cage Small Animal Habitat Deodorizer Spray, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

  1. Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells left by the cleaning agent or bleach solution. 

  1. Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing the new bedding, clean accessories, and your rabbit back into the habitat. 

  1. Return the rabbit to the clean habitat. 

Other Accessories 

A small-animal playpen can provide a safe, spacious area for rabbits to play and enjoy time outside of their enclosed habitat. 

Recommended Products: 

Rabbit Diet & Nutrition

Rabbits enjoy a range of foods, including timothy hay, food pellets, vegetables, fruits, and the occasional treat. Rabbits should always have access to fresh, clean water. 
A nutritious and well-balanced rabbit diet consists of: 

  • Unlimited amounts of timothy hay or another grass hay, such as orchard grass, oat, or meadow hay.

  • Alfalfa hay has higher levels of calcium, fat, and protein, making it a suitable choice for young rabbits and lactating or breeding rabbits. However, alfalfa hay should only be provided to adults as an occasional treat, as it can contribute to obesity and development of bladder stones.

Recommended Products: 

A high-quality pelleted food formulated for rabbits and fed in limited quantities; as a rule of thumb, rabbits should be offered about ¼-cup of pelleted food per 5 pounds of body weight each day.

Recommended Products: 

Treats, vegetables, and fruits offered in limited quantities (no more than 10% of the rabbit’s daily diet).

Leafy greens, herbs, carrot tops, and chopped vegetables (such as bell peppers, cucumber, squash, celery, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts) are fine for rabbits, as are high-fiber fruits like apples and pear. 

Because fruits are naturally high in carbohydrates, excess fruit in a rabbit's diet can upset their gastrointestinal tract, which can cause diarrhea, bloating, and decreased appetite. 

Do not allow rabbits to eat fruit seeds/pits or rhubarb. 

Fresh, clean water should be always available; water should be changed daily and offered in either a non-tippable water bowl or bottle, depending on the rabbit’s preference. 

Bunny Grooming & Care

Rabbits are clean animals and rarely need baths, but pet parents can spot-clean their little ones as needed with a mild, unmedicated soap or baby wipes. Rabbits should always be rinsed off thoroughly after being cleaned with soap. Care should be taken when spot-cleaning bunnies to always support their hind ends, so they don’t kick and become injured. 

Long-haired rabbits, like the Angora or Lionhead, should be brushed a few times each week to discourage hair ingestion and prevent matting. Pet parents should use a soft brush when grooming their rabbit. 

Recommended Products: 

Nail care: Rabbits’ nails should be trimmed at least once a month. If the pet parent accidentally clips into the rabbit’s quick and their nail begins to bleed, they can use a styptic powder to stop the bleeding quickly.

Cornstarch can be used in a pinch if styptic powder is not available. 

Pet parents should make sure that all bleeding has stopped before placing their rabbit back into their habitat.

Recommended Products: 

Dental care: Rabbits can chew on hay, wooden toys, mineral blocks, or other pet-safe chew items to help wear down their teeth.  

Consult a veterinarian if your rabbit's teeth seem too long, if they are drooling excessively, if they are dropping food when they eat, or if they are eating less. Their teeth may need to be professionally trimmed.  

Rabbit Veterinary Care

Rabbits should be seen by a veterinarian once a year. They can be transported using a cat carrier or a travel cage. It is recommended to take pictures of their enclosure, diet, hay, etc., so your veterinarian can assess their care as part of the exam.

Signs of a Healthy Rabbit

  • Clean ears

  • Clear eyes

  • Clean and dry nose

  • Clean, unmatted fur

  • Straight, aligned, not overgrown teeth

  • Clean feet

  • Formed stools

When to Call a Vet

  • Debris in ears

  • Head tilt

  • Eye discharge

  • Nasal discharge

  • Hair loss or excessive scratching

  • Visible ectoparasites

  • Uneven, maloccluded, or overgrown teeth

  • Limping

  • Foot sores

  • Soft stool

  • Inappetence

  • Passing less stool

  • Excessive hunching or stomach stretching

  • Inability to use hindlimbs or weak hindlimbs

  • Sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing

  • Lumps/bumps/growths

  • Discolored urine, vocalization during urination, accidents outside the litterbox

  • Panting

Common Illnesses in Rabbits

  • Gastrointestinal stasis

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction

  • Paralysis (hindlimbs) usually from spinal column disorders

  • Dental malocclusion/dental disease

  • Cancer

  • Mites

  • Fleas

  • Uterine disease

  • Bladder or other urinary stones and other urinary diseases

  • Pododermatitis (foot sores)

  • Ear infections

  • Respiratory infections

  • Heat stroke

  • Kidney disease

  • Skin fold dermatitis especially in the inguinal region


Rabbit FAQs

Are rabbits high or low maintenance?

Rabbits are typically low maintenance. If you give them a safe environment, the proper diet, and an outlet for their curiosity, they can live long, happy lives.

How do you take care of a rabbit for beginners?

For anyone just getting started with rabbit care, you want to first set up a safe environment for them, then be sure to provide a proper diet with an emphasis on providing enough fiber and avoiding obesity, and make sure to provide proper enrichment. If you can do these things, you’ll be raising a happy and healthy rabbit in no time.

Are rabbits good house pets?

They can be! Rabbits can be litter trained and, if given safe outlets for chewing and exploring, will often do little to no damage to property. With the right set-up rabbits can free-roam rooms, or floors of a house, the same as other more common house pets.

Featured Image: iStock.com/hirohito takada

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

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