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Rabbits are intelligent, affectionate and social animals that need daily interaction with humans or other rabbits. Spayed or neutered rabbits tend to be healthier, live longer and are better companions.
The majority of a rabbit's diet should be composed of grass hay (any variety), which is rich in vitamins A & D as well as calcium, protein and other nutrients. Eating hay promotes health and should be available at all times. Avoid the use of alfalfa after a rabbit has reached approximately 7 months of age as it is very high in calcium and protein and more than a rabbit needs. Feeding quality pellets along with hay and other green leafy vegetables is important to add the nutrients not readily available in hay. A well balanced rabbit diet consists of:
- High-quality rabbit food, Timothy hay and limited amounts of fruits and vegetables.
- Clean, fresh, filtered, chlorine-free water, changed daily.
- Do not feed chocolate, caffeine or alcohol as these can cause serious medical conditions. Avoid sugar and high fat treats.
Things to remember when feeding your rabbit:
- Fresh food, timothy hay and water should always be available.
- Vegetables and fruits not eaten within 24 hours should be discarded.
- Fruits and vegetables should not exceed 10% of their total diet.
- Many house plants are toxic and a rabbit should not eat grass treated with pesticides or any other chemicals.
- It is normal for rabbits to eat cecotropes—soft black feces filled with minerals and nutrients (coprophagy). This practice generally happens early in the morning which is why pet parents rarely notice.
- Rabbits acclimate well to average household temperatures, not to exceed 80°F. Be cautious of extreme temperature changes. The habitat should never be in direct sunlight or in a drafty area.
- Habitat should be at least four times the size of the rabbit and escape-proof with an area that has a solid surface and plenty of room for exercise and play. It is best to provide the largest habitat possible.
- 1 to 2" of bedding should be placed in the habitat. Proper bedding includes high-quality paper bedding, crumbled paper bedding or hardwood shavings. Cedarbased products are not recommended.
- Rabbits may be kept in mixed-sex pairs if spayed or neutered, or same-sex pairs if they are raised together. Otherwise, keep rabbits housed separately. Different types of small animals should not be housed together.
- When handling a rabbit, ensure you are fully supporting the body, especially the hind legs. Never pick up a rabbit by its ears or try to hold it on its back.
- Rabbits can be litter boxtrained.
- Rabbits chew on objects to maintain all their teeth, which grow continuously. Ensure your rabbit has plenty of chew sticks or mineral chews available.
- Rabbits can chew on apples, willow, aspen branches, pine firewood, untreated freshpine lumber attached to habitat or a basket with hay inside (let the rabbit chew the basket as well as the hay).
- Not all wood can be given to rabbits. Do not give rabbits apricot or peach fruit tree branches.
- Clean and disinfect thehabitat and its contents at least once a week with 3% bleach solution. Rinse and allow to dry completely before placing the rabbit back into the habitat.
- Remove wet spots daily; change bedding at least once a week, or more often as necessary.
- Scoop litter pan daily.
Grooming & Hygiene
- Rabbits stay clean and rarely need baths, but may be bathed using shampoo designed for rabbits or kittens, if necessary. Frequently clean areas of the ear you can see without going into the ear canal using a cotton ball.
- It is good to brush rabbits regularly to remove hair that is shedding, help prevent hairballs and keep longhaired rabbits from matting. Short-haired rabbits should be brushed once a week and long-haired rabbits should be brushed twice a week.
- Consult your veterinarian if a rabbit's teeth or nails seem too long. Nails should be clipped often so they don't become curled.
Signs of a Healthy Animal
- Active, alert, and sociable
- Eats and drinks regularly
- Healthy fur and clear eyes
- Breathing is unlabored
- Walks normally
- Communicates by making soft noises
- weight loss
- abnormal hair loss
- diarrhea or dirty bottom
- distressed breathing
- eye or nasal discharge
- skin lesions
- overgrown teeth
If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.
Common Health Issues
|Health Issue||Symptoms or Causes||Suggested Action|
|Health Issue Diarrhea||Symptoms or Causes Loose stool caused by poor diet, stress, internal parasites, unclean housing, or other illness.||Suggested Action Consult with a veterinarian to determine cause and treatment.|
|Health Issue Heat Stroke||Symptoms or Causes Emergency condition; can occur if rabbit is left in a hot room. Symptoms include heavy panting, seizures and loss of consciousness.||Suggested Action Can be fatal; consult with your veterinarian immediately.|
|Health Issue Malocclusion||Symptoms or Causes Overgrown teeth.||Suggested Action Consult with a veterinarian to have teeth trimmed regularly.|
|Health Issue Mites||Symptoms or Causes External parasites that cause rabbits to lose patches of hair.||Suggested Action Consult a veterinarian for treatment.|
|Health Issue Tumors||Symptoms or Causes Abnormal lumps.||Suggested Action Consult a veterinarian.|
Ask a store partner about Petco's selection of books on rabbits and the variety of private brand products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All private brand products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.
Because all small animals are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis, Rat Bite Fever and Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your small animal or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.
Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for small animals and should consider not having a small animal as a pet.
Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about small animals and disease.
Note: The information in this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please refer to the sources on the following page or contact your veterinarian as appropriate.
Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.