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Taking Care of Your New Mini Rex Rabbit

A rabbit is one of the easiest pets to care for properly.  Sure a fish, reptile, or hermit crab might be a little easier, but can you cuddle with a fish?  Can you develop a bond with a hermit crab?  In other words, almost no other pet gives you so much in return for such easy care.  That being said a rabbit definitely needs a certain amount of care to keep it healthy and happy.  So keep reading for our recommendations and please visit the links at the end of the page for more information.

Things to have ready before you bring your new rabbit home:

Large Cage
Water bottle
Food Crock
Hay Rack
Salt/Mineral Lick
Chew Toys
Play toys
Rabbit Pellets
Timothy, Bermuda, or other grass Hay
Bedding (rabbit safe non-aromatic)
Litter Box
Litter (non-clumping)
Toe Nail Clippers

Feeding:

Pellets: Your rabbit is making many changes right now.  He needs time to get comfortable with his new surroundings before you change his diet.  Once he/she has had at least 24 hours to adjust you may begin switching to the pellets you plan to feed.  This needs to be a very gradual change or it can upset his digestive system and lead to major problems.  Begin by substituting the new pellets in for 1/8th of his normal ration, then several days later 1/4th, then 1/2 and so on.  Mixing in a small amount of Old Fashioned Quaker Oats will also help your rabbit digestive system make the transition smoothly.  A young rabbit has a very sensitive digestive system as they have recently been weaned off mother's milk and is still getting used to their new diet.  Gradual changes are okay, sudden changes could cause diarrhea, which can be fatal.  Always feed a measured amount of pellets each day so you can make sure your rabbit is eating regularly.  From 6 to 12 weeks a baby rabbit should be fed an adult ration twice a day.  Then at twelve weeks gradually scale down to one adult ration once a day.  An adult ration should be one ounce of food per pound of body weight per day.  For a four pound adult Mini Rex rabbit this would be approximately half a cup per day.

Hay: Always feed your rabbit clean dry timothy or bermuda grass hay.  Moldy wet hay can kill a rabbit.  Alfalfa is too "hot" or high in calcium and protein and can cause health problems if fed with a pellet.  Hay should be available for your rabbit at all times to keep his digestive system healthy and to prevent boredom.

Water:  Fresh clean water must be available at all times!  It may sound silly but please give your rabbit the same kind of water all the time.  That means if you normally give him bottled water, don't suddenly switch to tap water.  Most likely it won't cause a problem, but if the chemical makeup of the water is drastically different it could upset his stomach.

Treats:  Baby rabbits should not have any treats until they are at least three months old.  At that time you may start introducing up to one new vegetable every two weeks.  During this time pay close attention to make sure your rabbit does not develop diarrhea, act lethargic, or have any other changes in health or behavior.  If he does stop feeding the new treat immediately and call a veterinarian if his condition does not improve immediately. Check here for a suggested list of veges that are safe for your rabbit.  http://www.rabbit.org/care/veggies.html No iceberg lettuce or celery EVER!!  Fruit should only ever be given in very small amounts as it is high in natural sugar.

Salt/Mineral Licks: Rabbits need more salt and minerals than is normally contained in some hay and pellets.  If you provide a mineral lick the rabbits body will let it know when it needs to get more minerals to stay balanced and you will have a healthier rabbit.

Chew Toys:  Your rabbit needs to chew to keep his teeth a healthy length and it gives him something to help pass the time when you can't play.  Many chew toys are available at pet stores.  Please only buy toys that are labeled for rabbits.  You can also make you own chew toys out of non-chemically treated wood.  This can be as simple as a 1x2 or 2x2 board cut to lengths easy for your rabbit to handle (4"-8")  Sticks from non-poisonous rabbit-friendly trees that have not been sprayed with pesticides also make good chew toys.

Play Toys:  Rabbits are smart creatures and love toys that can move.  These can be commercially made rabbit friendly toys found in stores or homemade toys.  Our rabbits enjoy playing with empty paper or paper towel  rolls stuffed with hay and wiffle balls stuffed with hay. 

Litter box:  Once your rabbit is used to his new surroundings he will begin using the same corner of his cage to relieve himself almost every time he needs to go.  If you'd like to put a litter box in that corner, chances are he'll use it.  Be sure to never use "clumping" or scented litter as it could be hazardous to your bunny, rabbit safe litter is best.

Grooming: Rabbit need their nails clipped regularly or they will grow long and sharp becoming a unhealthy nuisance to your rabbit and a hazard to you.  It is very simple to do yourself with an inexpensive pair of dog nail clippers.  If your rabbit has clear nails you will be able to see the quic, or growing part of the nail which is filled with blood.  If your rabbits nail are dark clip a little at a time and try to stop before hitting the quick.  Do not clip the quick of the nail or your rabbit will bleed.  Always have blood stop on hand just in case even experienced caretakers will sometimes hit the quick.  Start by gently restraining your rabbit (it helps to have an assistant) and pulling up one paw.  Then examine nails to determine where the the quick ends.  Isolate one nail and clip. Repeat until you've clipped every nail.  This is really simpler than it sounds.  It is easiest if you can have the breeder you buy your rabbit from show you how to clip nails or if you take the rabbit to a groomer or your veterinarian they can do it for you or show you how it's done.

Cleaning the cage:  You must only use very gentle natural cleaners to clean a rabbits cage.  Rabbits are very chemical sensitive and should never be exposed to harsh household cleaners or the residue they leave behind.  We recommend cleaning with white vinegar and rinsing thoroughly.

Handling your bunny:  The way you pick up and hold your new rabbit can instill trust and comfort in your new friend or startle and disturb your bunny.  Ask for a demonstration of how to pick up and hold your bunny when you pick them up from the breeder, then practice, practice, practice.  You will get to know your bunny and it's favorite positions the more time you spend together.

Spaying or Neutering:  The choice to spay or neuter your bunny is always entirely yours.  There are certain benefits, but some people never experience the the downside when they don't spay or neuter.  Rabbits have a very strong drive to breed thus the saying, "reproduce like rabbits".  If left unchecked one breeding pair and their offspring can produce around 72 rabbits the first year alone.  If continued this grows to 2600 rabbits the following year!!  If the breeding drive is not fulfilled or removed by spaying or neutering it can cause unwanted behaviors like spraying, excessive chewing, fighting with other rabbits, becoming aggressive, or other negative behaviors.  Often spaying or neutering can reduce or eliminate these behaviors.  Obviously the other option is breeding your rabbit, however, this is not as simple as it sounds.  In order to be a responsible rabbit breeder you must invest countless hours learning about rabbit husbandry and management or risk the heartbreak your rabbit or it's babies dying. In addition, you must buy an assortment of new cages, nest boxes, and equipment.  Then you must always keep your rabbits separated unless it's time for a scheduled breeding.  Finally, you must be willing to spend countless hours finding good homes or if none are available you must be willing to keep and house the new babies which quickly becomes a very expensive prospect.  Breeding rabbits is not as simple as it seems and if your rabbit is experiencing frustration from an unfulfilled breeding drive  it is often much simpler to have it spayed or neutered.  *Only allow a vet who regularly spays/neuters RABBITS to perform the surgery on your rabbit*


Please see these links for more info on your new bunny:

http://www.rabbit.org/index.html

http://www.arba.net/faq.htm

Last but not least, don't hesitate to contact us with any questions or contact your veterinarian if you suspect a problem.