Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bath for Bunny?

Full baths are never recommended for rabbits unless they are caked with mud or a dangerous substance like gasoline. It is very rare that a bunny will need a bath. Bathing your bunny is sometimes very dangerous.

Rabbits clean themselves very well and they will take care of small spots of dirt in their own time. I've had some white bucks that don't clean their face very well and occasionally I will have to give them a spot bath. I use a spray bath made for bunnies. You can also use a powder bath.

PLEASE do not get your bunny completely wet unless they have rolled in the mud or it would be dangerous for bunny if you do not clean him. A rabbit's fur takes a long time to get soaked in the wild and takes just as long to get dry. They are not made for getting soaking wet. Rabbits get too stressed when they are wet and can go into shock, have a heart attack or die from illness after getting cold/wet if not thoroughly dried.

If you bunny has a poopy butt (usually younger rabbits), you can either cut the fur around the anus or if that isn't enough then clean the area with a warm wet sponge. Be sure to always dry wet areas quickly with a hairdryer on low.

If your bunny is constantly getting dirty, you might need to look at his cage. If you are using a solid bottom, you may need to switch to a wire bottom to keep bunny clean. The litter box might need to be changed more often. You might need to clean the urine guards or feeder more often.

"But my bunny likes to get a bath." Did your bunny tell you that? Remember bunnies usually get very still when they are nervous. Just because he is not protesting it does not mean that he is enjoying it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Litter Box Training

Rabbits are usually surprisingly easy to litter box train.

Rabbits can be litter box trained at any age, but it is generally easier to train them once they are older.

Step 1: Wait until you can determine which area the bunny uses as his/her "potty". If you can't determine this yet, the bunny is too young.

Step 2: Place a litter box in that corner of the cage and fill it with bedding. I recommend wood pellet bedding. Add some of the droppings to the litter.

Step 3: Move the box if the bunny changes his/her potty corner. Usually they start using it right away.

It is pretty simple. The biggest mistake people make is putting the litter box in too soon and then it is usually used as a bed instead. If this happens, it is probably best to turn that litter box into a bed and buy a different one to be used as the potty. I've never had a bunny I couldn't train.

Not all litter boxes work for all bunnies. Some litter boxes are too shallow. If you find that there is urine close to the box but outside of it, then you may need to buy a box with higher sides. The bunny might he half in and half out of the box while eliminating.

As I said, I recommend wood pellet bedding to be placed inside the litter box. Cat litter is not safe if eaten and I've tried the scoopable litter designed for rabbits and it does not work well. The scoop does not catch the small pellets, so it has to be changed very often and it is very expensive.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet Bunny

If you are contemplating the need to spay or neuter your bunny, you are not alone. This is one my most often asked questions.

These procedures are not necessary. However, they can be very helpful in prolonging your pets life and eliminating bad bunny behaviors as well. It will also allow you to bond 2 rabbits. Un-altered rabbits will not usually bond, unless they are 2 does from the same litter.

If cost is not an issue, I would tell you to make the appointment today. Not only will you reduce the chances of cancer, you will also more than likely calm your rabbit down and make him/her a more enjoyable pet. Unfortunately, the cost of a spay/neuter in this area is a bit high and it usually has to be considered.

Neutering Your Buck

Neutering is usually a good bit cheaper and a less risky procedure. It can be done once the rabbit is mature at around 3.5 to 4 months of age. Some un-altered bucks do end up spraying urine. I have noticed it in around 10% of my bucks. Others tend to want to breed and that drive can lead to unwanted behaviors, such as mounting. These behaviors can be reduced or eliminated by neutering.

It usually costs between $100-$140 to have a rabbit neutered. Some vets require an overnight stay, but I would try to avoid that if at all possible, due to noises of dogs barking, etc (unless the vet only treats small animals). Rabbits are very nervous creatures and the combination of stress, medication, lack of appetite, etc can cause digestive distress which is a leading cause of death among dwarf rabbits. It would be much better to have the bunny recover in the comfort of your home where he is less stressed.

Spaying Your Doe

Spaying is usually done to reduce the risk of cancer in does. Most vets will not spay a doe until she is full grown at 6 months of age. Unspayed female rabbits have a very high risk of uterine and mammary cancers. They can also get irritable once they are mature and ready to be bred. They tend to be more territorial and hormonal than the bucks and spaying helps calm them down.

It usually costs between $150-$250 to have a rabbit spayed. It will require an overnight stay, but they should be released within 24 hours. A rabbit should NEVER fast, so be weary if a vet tells you to do this prior to the procedure. It can throw the rabbit into digestive distress. Do not have a rabbit spayed at a clinic that treats large animals, unless they are kept overnight in an area with no noise from dogs barking. You should also visit your bunny after the procedure to show her that she has not been abandoned. Some rabbits will get very depressed and it will slow recovery or lead to other problems.

Take a bag of bunny food with you to the appointment and a toy that he/she likes. You might also want to take a small blanket with your scent on it, so they feel more at ease in their surroundings. I take a small baggie of oatmeal and parsley, since it is good for stress. If you have well water and the clinic has city water, you might want to take a bottle of water with you. Some rabbits won't like the taste and can get dehydrated.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cages, Cages, Cages!!

There are so many cages to choose from. It can be hard to decide what to buy for your bunny. There are some questions you need to ask yourself before you go out and buy your cage.

Are you keeping the bunny outside or indoors?
Is the bunny a buck or doe?
If you are a breeder, how much space do you have?

Indoor Pet Bunnies

There are a lot of nice pet bunny cages at your local pet store. Some have solid bottoms and wire sides/top. Others have a wire bottom with a pan to pull out and clean. Both are fairly easy to clean, however I don't recommend them for all rabbits.

Bucks should definitely have urine guards. If you have a buck with short hair, I'd recommend a solid bottom cage. It is also a good idea to purchase a litter box for solid bottom cages. If your rabbit has longer hair, you should definitely get a wire bottom cage to keep the bunny clean. You can then buy urine guards to attach to the inside of the cage.

Does don't necessarily need urine guards, so I recommend buying a wire bottom cage with tray. You can then determine if urine guards may be needed in the one corner they use as their potty.

Outdoor Pet Bunnies

There is really only one type of outdoor hutch that I recommend. The hutch should have two compartments with a doorway in between. One side should be protected from the weather with wood sides and door. There should be a roof and wire bottom on both sides. There should also be a piece of wood cut to place in the enclosed side in cold weather which is able to be moved to the other side as a resting board in the summer.

Breeders or owners of multiple rabbits
(meant for those who keep them in a building)

When I first got into breeding, I had a hard time deciding what cages I should buy or make.

If you have plenty of space and dirt floors, you might prefer hanging cages. They are cheaper to make and easy to shovel out and clean.

If you are like most of us, space is an issue and we have to get stackable cages. I use mostly Havahart cages, but I also really like Bass Cages. It is more difficult and costly to make your own stackable cages. I haven't been able to come up with a plan to make them that actually saves enough money to be worth it. The Tractor Supply Company will give you a discount if you are buying a bunch of them, so it's around $50.00 for one cage with water bottle, feeder and stackable hutch kit (legs). I've ordered cages from Bass Equipment that are just as nice or nicer for my bucks at around the same price. There are a lot of companies that make nice ones, though. You can also purchase them and pick them up at rabbit shows to save on shipping.

The one mistake I made from the beginning was that I didn't buy urine guards. You should definitely have urine guards for any stacking cages that you buy. It will keep the cage nice much longer and give you extra years before needing to buy new ones. Plus it will keep your floors dry.