Rabbit Care Guide
A rabbit’s diet should consist of 70-80% hay. Hay (not to be confused with straw which is yellowish in color) is dried grass, or a mixture of grasses or other plant matter and is essential to a rabbit’s diet. Hay should be available to your rabbit at all times as it provides roughage, important minerals, gives healthy digestion, and good dental health which is very important in avoiding discomfort and pain. The hay should be good quality grass hay, timothy hay, or meadow hay. Alfalfa and oat hay mixes are ok every now and then but they are very fattening and can be too much to give them at all times. You can purchase hay from pet stores or if you have the place to store a large amount of hay you can go to your local farmer and ask to buy a small bale (some will have signs out for hay for sale) they typically range from $5-$7 per small bale and weigh about 40 pounds. Another great option for hay is Oxbow Brand, I have been very impressed with the quality of their hay, although I have read reviews online that say not to buy this hay online because sometimes it arrives less than fresh.
Along with hay you should feed your rabbit a quality rabbit pellet, they are tasty and nutritious. Do not confuse pellets with rabbit mix (food with dried berries and other thing to make it look appealing to people) which is commonly available at pet stores. When feeding your rabbit a mixed food he becomes selective and picks out what food tastes good therefore not getting a balanced diet and becoming overweight. There may also be ingredients that don’t agree with its sensitive digestive system. I feed Blue Seal's Show Hutch Deluxe Rabbit Feed from Tractor supply. It comes in a 50 pound bag which costs roughly $20 per bag and lasts a long time.
It is completely up to you if you choose to feed another food, I will provide you a small bag of transitioning food to get you started, you can mix it in with the food of your choice and slowly wean them off of my food to avoid stomach discomfort and diarrhea.
Try not to vary a rabbit’s diet too much, again because of its sensitive digestive system. You can experiment by leaving a rabbit’s food bowl half full, allowing the rabbit to eat at his own free will. However, if you mind he is eating all of his food in a matter of hours and not eating hay you may want to restrict him a little more. It is typical for a Lionhead to eat about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of food per day. Please do not stress if there is some food left over the next day, this is perfectly normal for some rabbits. I have rabbits that will gobble all of their food down and some that will just pick at it, every one is different.
Empty the bowl daily, throwing away old, stale feed and clean the bowl regularly.
When buying a food bowl try to buy a heavy ceramic bowl. It is normal for a rabbit to use a plastic bowl as a toy chewing on it and throwing it around their pen for fun, wasting food and making a mess.
Below I will List food you should NEVER feed a rabbit… (not everything but more commonly encountered household foods)
Lettuce, it is generally said that rabbits love lettuce, and, well maybe they do. However, it can lead to severe forms of diarrhea and may lead to gut stasis a very painful form of gut distress that can be fatal. Beans, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale, Parsnips, Potato, Potato peelings, Rhubarb, Spinach, Swedes, Tomato Leaves, Breakfast Cereals, Bread, Cookies, Corn, Celery Stalks, or Nuts.
Below I will list safe snacks to feed a rabbit in Moderation (a snack every couple days). Please Never feed these foods to rabbits that are under 6 months of age as they are most susceptible to gut issues at that time. with will certainly develop Diarrhea which is a mess to clean off that wool!
Basil, Carrot, Carrot tops, Celery leaves, Dill, Mint, Parsley, Wheat grass, Apple, Bananas, Blueberries, Cranberries, Pears, Raspberries, and Strawberries (remember to remove the pit from apples and pears as they contain Cyanide which, harmless to people, can cause serious issues to rabbits).
Fresh water should be available at all times! You can choose to give them water by bowl or water bottle. My rabbits will leave water bottle trained (it’s a lot less messy that way)
It is Very important that lionheads are groomed completely at least every couple days!!!
When grooming a Lionhead it Is important to do an all over health check every couple of days to ensure that they don’t have any feces stuck to their behinds and stuff like that, for lionheads I prefer to use a sticker brush.
Lionhead rabbits as babies have a body entirely of fluffy wool as babies, this wool grows until they reach 10-12 weeks of age then they will shed this wool over certain parts of their body and start to look more like a typical Lionhead. It is Very important Never to get a Lionhead completely wet their body warmth coupled with all the wool is the perfect breeding ground for flys’ to lay their eggs in, then they fester into maggots and burrow into the live skin. If you ever suspect this is happening take your rabbit to the vet immediately, it is treatable once removing all the maggots and treating with antibiotics
A rabbits teeth never stop growing so it is important to have stuff for them to chew on in their cage. You can buy chewing treats at tractor supply or any pet store for that matter to avoid this becoming an issue. Nails need to be trimmed every couple of months being careful not to clip the quick which will bleed if cut open. If a rabbits nails are black you will just need to be extra careful because you won't be able to see the quick. If you happen to clip the quick just sprinkle some substitute sugar (the pink packet from a restaurant) and that will help it clot up.
You should never house opposite sex rabbits in the same hutch unless you want to have baby rabbits, and I mean a lot of baby rabbits, if a buck (male rabbit) and a doe (female rabbit) are in the same cage for 1 year, within 31 days the first litter will be born, the female can become pregnant almost immediately after that litter has been born (rabbits do not have a heat cycle as human do, they can become pregnant at any time) so a new litter can be born before she has even weaned her first litter! Then the father will try to breed all the female rabbits when they are just a few months old (which can cause birth defects), it would be next to impossible to stop the cycle unless all the rabbits would be spayed and neutered, which can cost a lot of money and is dangerous for a rabbit! That is why I recommend not housing rabbits together. You can house 2 does or 2 bucks together if they are raised from a young age but it is not certain that they will get along as they mature, they all have a personality of their own!
Rabbits are surprisingly very easy to train to litter box, you can buy a litter box that hooks onto the corner of your pen from any pet store just throw in some hay and they normally pick it up themselves.
Put your rabbit in a safe space and remove wet spots from their pen daily and change the bedding weekly. Proper bedding includes Paper Bedding, Crumbled Paper Bedding, or Hard wood Shavings. Cedar Shavings are Not Recommended they cause rabbits to get runny eyes and sneeze like they have a cold
Signs of a healthy animal include…
~Active alert and sociable
~Eats and drinks as well as passes urine and makes regular bowel movements
~Healthy fur and clear eyes
~Breathing is clear and walks normally
~Communicates by making soft noises
Reasons to take your rabbit to the vet…
Diarrhea~ loose stool caused by poor diet, stress, internal parasites, unclean housing, or other illness.
Heat stroke~ Emergency condition! Can occur if rabbit has been left in a hot room or outside on a hot day symptoms include heavy panting, seizures. (Rabbits prefer below freezing weather over hot weather)
Malocclusion~ Overgrown Teeth
Mites~ External Parasites
Tumors~ Abnormal Lumps