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June 2024

Rabbit Care Guide


Rabbits are delightful pets, but they have specific needs that must be met to ensure they thrive. Caring for your rabbit correctly is essential for its health and happiness. In consultation with the Petstock vet team, this article will cover everything you need to know about feeding your rabbit, providing proper housing, and taking care of their health and wellbeing. Whether you are a new rabbit owner or looking to improve your rabbit care routine, these tips will help you keep your rabbit healthy and happy.

Rabbit House

Rabbits have specific housing requirements that need to be set up before bringing one home.
A well-designed rabbit house provides a secure environment where they can eat, sleep, and play. Without a proper enclosure, rabbits are at risk of escaping, getting injured, or facing predators. Moreover, rabbits need a space that mimics their natural habitat, offering space to move around and quiet corners to retreat to.

Rabbit Hutch

Rabbits generally need a hardy structure called a hutch, with two sections:
• A fully enclosed area for protection from the elements and for sleeping.
• An 'activities' section that is high enough to prevent escaping and fenced in to the ground to prevent digging underneath.
When selecting or building a hutch, you should consider several factors to ensure it meets your rabbit's needs.

1. Size
A hutch should be spacious enough to allow your rabbit to hop around comfortably, stretch out, and stand on its hind legs without bumping its head. A good rule of thumb is to have a hutch at least four times the size of your rabbit. They should be able to complete a minimum of three hops (approx. 1.5-2m) and the hutch should be high enough to allow them to stand upright on their back legs.
Additionally, the hutch should have separate areas for sleeping, eating, and playing. Rabbits are clean animals that prefer to keep their living spaces organised. A designated sleeping area filled with soft bedding can offer a cosy retreat for rest. Food and water should be kept in a clean, dry area away from drafts and away from the sleeping quarters.

2. Material and Composition
The hutch should be sturdy, to withstand the elements if placed outdoors. Be aware that galvanised metal contains zinc, which is toxic. Rabbits will chew sides of the enclosure so make sure it is made of non-toxic materials. The floor should be solid rather than wire mesh, as wire can hurt your rabbit's feet. You should add a layer of bedding (such as hay or straw) to provide comfort and insulation.

Hot Tip

Be mindful that hay bedding will be eaten and will need replenishing. Timothy, Oaten, Wheaten, Pasture, Paddock, Meadow, or Ryegrass hays are all good choices. Lucerne or Alfalfa hay is high in calcium, protein and calories so it should only be offered as a treat for adult rabbits with lower energy requirements.

Sawdust should be avoided as it is too fine and can irritate your rabbit's eyes, nose and ears. Neither sawdust nor straw is absorbent enough to prevent urine-related issues. Small animal recycled newspaper bedding is absorbent, soft on feet, non-toxic and biodegradable.

3. Ventilation
While the hutch should be secure and weatherproof, it needs adequate airflow to prevent the buildup of ammonia from urine, which can be harmful to your rabbit’s respiratory system. Airflow also helps avoid overheating. Ensure there are windows or mesh panels that allow for proper ventilation while keeping the hutch safe from predators. Bedding needs to be changed frequently to remove ammonia and faecal waste and keep your rabbit clean and healthy.

4. Placement
It’s also important avoid placing the hutch in an area that gets too much direct sunlight, as this can also lead to overheating and heatstroke. If indoors, rabbits just need a secure cage to restrain them at night or when you are not present. Rabbits love to chew so make sure your house is as rabbit proofed as you can make it. Take care to keep toxic materials and electric cables out of reach. Litter trays can be provided as rabbits can be trained to use these. Recycled-newspaper-based litter is best.

Mosquito Proof Rabbit Hutch

Ensure your rabbit is kept in a mosquito-proof enclosure if you live in an area where Myxomatosis is present (your local vet clinic will be able to inform you). Myxomatosis is very contagious and there is no treatment or vaccination to protect against it in Australia. Talk to your veterinarian about the Calicivirus vaccination.

To mosquito proof your hutch:
  1. Use Fine Mesh Screens: Cover openings of the hutch with fine mesh that will prevent mosquitos from entering. Ensure the mesh is securely attached with no gaps.

  2. Drape mosquito nets over the hutch – particularly during the evening.
    If your rabbit is free roaming, try to keep them away from water where mosquitos are likely to be breeding and limit their access outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

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What Do Rabbits Eat?

Rabbits spend up to 8 hours grazing. Rabbit teeth grow continuously and a high fibre diet ensures that the teeth wear appropriately. Rabbits also chew in a circular motion, making sure teeth surfaces wear evenly and in the correct shape. Feeding too many pellets, chaff or rabbit ‘muesli’ encourages rabbits to chew more like people, leading to bad dental health. These foods are often also too high in calories, leading to obesity. Rabbits have sensitive stomachs, and their diet must be carefully managed to ensure they stay healthy. They require a balanced diet that mimics their natural foraging habits. This includes a combination of hay, fresh vegetables, fresh greens, and pellets. Their diet should be roughly 80% hay, 15% vegetables and greens and 5% pellets. Fruit can be given very occasionally as a treat.

Rabbit Food

Rabbits should have unlimited access to fresh hay, which is the cornerstone of their diet. Hay provides essential fibre that aids digestion and helps prevent dental issues by wearing down their constantly growing teeth. Timothy hay, meadow hay, and orchard grass are excellent choices.
Pellets can also be included in a rabbit’s diet, but in moderation. Choose high-quality pellets that are high in fibre and low in protein and calcium. A small amount per day or every other day is usually sufficient for most rabbits.

What Vegetables Can Rabbits Eat?

In addition to hay, fresh vegetables should be offered daily. Rabbits love to graze on grass but be careful of any sprays and never give grass clippings. Leafy greens like romaine lettuce, spinach, dandelion, watercress, Bok choy, basil, mint, kale, and parsley are ideal. However, avoid giving them iceberg lettuce, as it has little nutritional value and can cause digestive problems. Carrots and bell peppers can be given as occasional treats, but they are high in sugar and should not be a staple. Other rabbit-friendly veggies include broccoli, cucumber, zucchini, capsicum, celery, pumpkin, Swiss chard and Brussels sprouts.

What Fruit Can Rabbits Eat?

Fruit can be offered as a treat but should be limited due to its high sugar content. Small pieces of apple (without seed), banana (skinned), or berries can be given occasionally. It's important to introduce any new foods gradually and monitor your rabbit for any signs of digestive upset.

Hot Tip

If you're unsure if your rabbit can eat a certain food, always check first. Rabbits should not be fed cabbage, cauliflower, raw beans, lettuce or rhubarb for example.

Rabbit Water Feeder

Rabbits need a constant supply of fresh, clean water. Hydration is vital for their overall health, helping with digestion and temperature regulation. A water bottle or bowl can be used, but it must be cleaned and refilled daily.

A water feeder is a convenient option, especially if you have multiple rabbits. It ensures that your pets always have access to water without the risk of contamination from bedding, food or droppings. Water dispensers also prevent rabbits from kicking over their water source and becoming dehydrated. Place the feeder at an accessible height and regularly check that it is functioning correctly.

Rabbit Toys and Rabbit Enrichment

Mental stimulation is crucial for your rabbit’s well-being. Boredom can lead to destructive behaviours and health problems. Providing a variety of toys and activities keeps your rabbit engaged and happy.

Different types of rabbit toys include chew toys (makes sure they are appropriate in size and materials), tunnels, and puzzle feeders. Chew toys help wear down their teeth and satisfy their natural gnawing instincts. Tunnels offer a fun place to explore and hide, while puzzle feeders provide mental challenges and mimic foraging behaviour.

Here are some enrichment ideas:

  1. Cardboard Boxes: Simple and effective, they offer endless entertainment.
  2. Digging Boxes: Fill a box with shredded paper or safe soil for digging.
  3. Foraging Toys: Hide treats in hay or use puzzle feeders.
  4. Playtime Outside the Hutch: Supervised play in a safe area. Play pens and exercise pens are available from Petstock.
  5. Interactive Time: Spend time playing and bonding with your rabbit.

Rabbit Grooming

Regular grooming is essential for maintaining your rabbit’s health. Long-haired breeds require frequent brushing to prevent matting and hairballs. Even short-haired rabbits benefit from regular grooming to remove loose fur and reduce shedding.

Failure to groom your rabbit can lead to serious health issues. Matted fur can cause skin infections, while ingested hair can result in gastrointestinal blockages. Regular grooming sessions also allow you to check for signs of parasites or skin problems. During your frequent grooming sessions, make sure to check that the rear end is clean, and the bottoms of feet are clean and free of prickles.

Rabbit Grooming Brush

Brushing your rabbit at least once a week is recommended, though long-haired breeds may need daily grooming. A good rabbit grooming brush helps remove loose fur and reduces the risk of hairballs. It also provides an opportunity to bond with your pet.

Pet Rabbit Health

Rabbits are prone to certain health issues, and preventive care is crucial. Regular vet check-ups can help catch problems early. Parasite prevention, such as regular treatments for fleas and mites, is essential. Common illnesses include dental problems, gastrointestinal stasis, and respiratory infections.
Watch for signs of illness, such as changes in characteristics of poo pellets, appetite, lethargy, or unusual behaviour. Prompt veterinary care can make a significant difference in your rabbit’s recovery. Weigh your rabbit regularly. Sometimes the first subtle sign that something is wrong is weight loss.

In terms of your rabbit’s mental wellbeing, it is highly advised to get rabbits in pairs. They are sociable animals and ideally should live with another rabbit. Be sure to desex your rabbits. Female rabbits (does) that are not desexed have 80% chance of uterine cancer after two years old. Desexing may reduce or eliminate marking and certain hormone-related behaviours. Also remember that rabbits breed like... rabbits. Rabbits can become pregnant at 14 to 16 weeks of age!

Rabbit Mosquito Disease

In Australia, rabbits can contract several diseases from mosquito bites, which can be serious and often fatal. The two most notable diseases are Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD). Vaccination against RHDV1 and RHDV2 are available and highly recommended. There is no cure for either disease, and limiting exposure to mosquitos as much as possible is important.

Rabbit Checklist


✓ Hay (bedding and food)/straw for bedding & hay for food

✓ Shredded newspaper


✓ Food pellets

Water bottle/bowl

✓ Food bowl


✓ Toys to chew

✓ Secure carrier

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Rabbit Care FAQs

How much water should a rabbit drink a day?

Rabbits should drink about 50-150 ml of water per kilogram of body weight each day. Always ensure they have access to fresh water. We recommend using a rabbit water feeder.

How to hold a rabbit?

Support their hindquarters and chest gently but securely. Never hold them by the ears or scruff, as this can cause injury.

Where do rabbits live?

Domestic rabbits live in hutches or indoor enclosures that provide safety, comfort, and space to move.

How long does a rabbit live?

Rabbits typically live between 8 to 12 years, depending on their breed and care.

What are baby rabbits called?

Baby rabbits are called kits or kittens.

Are rabbits nocturnal?

Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are at their most active during dawn and dusk.

Various sizes available