You’ve just adopted a rabbit from your local rescue/shelter and you’re excited to bring bunny home! Here are some tips for a smooth transition to home living.
Set Up Bunny’s Living Quarters Ahead Of Time, If Possible.
Bunny will need spacious housing – at least 6 times its out-stretched length and twice as tall in height, to hop about and live in. The more space the better! I recommend a condo or x-pen for rabbits which affords several advantages over other types of housing sold in pet stores. X-pens are spacious, sturdy, available in several heights and are cheaper. They are also portable, can be covered with binder-clipped sheets on top, and the 8 panels can be configured into whatever shape required.
Homemade custom-built condos made from wire shelving units also work well as housing.
You can learn how to build your very own rabbit condo here.
What I don’t recommend are most store bought rabbit cages which are far too small. Inside the x-pen or condo, place a litterbox with wood-stove pellets or other rabbit-safe litter as well as a large pile of hay to eat, a sturdy cardboard ‘hidey’ box with two openings and two heavy ceramic crocks: a smaller one for food and a larger one for fresh water. Provide sturdy, flooring such as vinyl/laminate flooring, foam or seagrass mats, fleece blankets/quilts/towels/rugs for traction. Toss in some toys for recreation and rotate chew toys frequently.
For more great and creative housing ideas make sure to check out our Facebook Album: House Rabbit Housing!
Don’t Fuss Over Bunny.
It’s tempting to hold and play with your new bunny straight away, but what it really needs is to be left alone for a while upon arrival. This will give it time to chin/scent and leave some territorial droppings in its new abode. This will make bunny feel more comfortable in your home, where nothing yet smells familiar. Try to leave bunny in its area without immediately forcing your attention on it. Sitting on the floor near the rabbit’s pen and quietly reading/ working is ideal. This allows your rabbit to observe you from a safe distance and encourages its natural sense of curiosity to investigate you and its new surroundings. Always allow your rabbit to exit/enter the pen on its own, rather than lifting/carrying the rabbit out of/into its enclosure.
Building trust with your rabbit may take some time. As prey animals, rabbits are wary of anything larger than them,including people. Once bunny learns to associate you with positive things like food, toys, treats and playtime, bunny should gradually let down its guard. Every rabbit is unique, and has experienced different things during the course of its lifetime. Some may be quite confident, and some may be extremely fearful due to their nature and experience. However, even the most skittish rabbit can be made to feel more comfortable over time with patience and understanding on your part. Try placing a healthy treat just outside bunny’s enclosure to start, and then have it investigate a treat held in your hand or lap. Take it slowly at the bunny’s pace, and revel in the small successes when bunny approaches. You can learn more about taming your rabbit here.
Always Allow Bunny To Emerge From & Re-Enter Into Its Pen On Its Own.
Rabbits don’t like being handled as a general rule. Daily exercise time is very important and you want to aim for at least three hours of free run time daily. Be sure to rabbit-proof your home by hiding/blocking access to electrical cords and phone/computer rechargers etc., as bunny’s roaming space is enlarged. Anything left on the floor or elsewhere that your rabbit can reach may be nibbled. This includes clothing, shoes, briefcases/purses, books and furniture. Loud noises and quick movements will generally frighten your rabbit, so avoid them. If you have other animals at home, don’t introduce bunny to them right away. After bunny is feeling a bit more comfortable at home you can try meet and greets for short periods of time, slowly over a number of days/weeks — and always under close supervision. Always provide your rabbit with a designated space of its own and always remember that its safety and well-being is most important.
If Bunny Is Extremely Shy And Won’t Leave Its Pen, Try This:
‘Play dead’ on the floor near the rabbit by lying motionless until bunny approaches you. Expect bunny to nudge you
and perhaps even to hop up onto your back or stomach out of curiosity. When bunny is comfortable doing this, try to speak softly to your bunny and/or reward it with a healthy treat afterward. Positive reinforcement will help bunny associate you with good things!
Using these tips, even a very shy bunny should eventually feel more comfortable at home. Every rabbit is different, however, and some may take months to ‘settle in’ rather than a few days or weeks. Don’t give up on your rabbit! Be patient and bunny will reward your efforts. Feeling at an impasse in your relationship with bunny? Consult budgetbunny.ca and rabbit.org for ideas or ask to speak with a rabbit specialist from your local rabbit rescue organization/shelter. They’re happy to help!
Written By: The Bunderful Iris – Guest Blogger