By now, you would have made some important decisions regarding your future rabbit, such as where the bunny will live, whether you intend to adopt or buy a rabbit and how many you intend to keep. But before you can bring a bunny or two home, it is a good idea to have all the necessary equipment prepared. Here is a checklist of the things you really ought to have and what they are for.
□ Cage/Hutch/Housing – by now you’ve probably sorted this one out but I’ve placed it here all the same. See Rabbit Indoor Housing and Rabbit Outdoor Housing for details.
□ Water bottle/bowl – to provide water for your rabbit. Which one works is really personal preference. I have one rabbit who insists on drinking out of a bowl and another who does not really mind. Just be aware that a bowl can spill.
□ Food bowls – you can have two of these, one for rabbit food pellets and the other for fresh food. Of course, you can choose not to use a bowl and hide your bunny’s food in its hay. This makes your rabbit actively work for its food, however, I like to have a bowl or two just in case. Heavy bowls are better as plastic ones tend to be thrown around a lot.
□ Hay rack – to keep hay off the floor. These can either be hung outside of a cage or hutch to preserve space or placed inside.
□ Litter tray – rabbits are litter trainable so I urge you to get a litter tray. A small cat’s tray works although you can also get corner trays but those are a bit small. I suggest a tray big enough for your rabbit to sit in. Some people use washing up bowls as those have sides high enough to prevent flicking of litter everywhere.
□ Litter – this is to use with the litter tray. There are many different types of litter available but you must make sure that the type you use is safe if ingested. Bunnies will probably have a nibble of the litter so it cannot be clumping litter that cats use. Wood or paper base cat litter can be used and there is also litter designed for rabbits. If you want more info on litter, see my litter training post!
□ Hay – this is something that you must have at the beginning, even if you do not have litter trays or food bowls, you must ensure you have plenty of hay. This will be your rabbit’s staple diet.
□ Rabbit pellets – this is the concentrated feed you will give your rabbits to ensure they have the right amount of nutrients. You will only be giving your pet a limited amount of this type of feed per day as too much rabbit pellets would be unhealthy.
□ Rabbit Carry Case – cat basket will also do. This will be useful in transporting your rabbit to the vets. It is also a good idea to bring this with you to pick up your pet from wherever you are getting the bunny from. Pet shops usually put rabbits in flimsy cardboard boxes and some places require you to bring something to transport your rabbit in. Using a case like this means you are less likely to lose your bunny before you’ve even brought it home!
Other Rabbit Accessories
This second list contains equipment and items that are not immediately necessary but it would be a good idea to have these items in the future. You do not have to buy everything in one go, you can slowly add things from this list to your collection.
□ Rabbit toys – the best part of having a rabbit is watching them play. There are a large number of toys available on the market, plastic toys, willow toys etc. You can also make toys for your rabbit to play with using simple things like the cardboard toilet roll and unwanted boxes. There are toys they can throw, toys they can chew and toys they can push. You need not use rabbit toys only, if you look in the cat toy section, you will come across some hard plastic toys. Some places do a cheap bag of plastic toys for a pound and you get around 4-5 small toys. My rabbits love to throw and push these around. If you do use plastic toys, please make sure it is hard plastic as you do not want them eating it.
□ Grooming brushes – this is more of a concern if your rabbits have medium to long hair. They would need brushing fairly regularly to prevent knots. You will still need a brush for short hair rabbits but you may only need to brush them every few days and more often if they are moulting. There are brushes designed for rabbits although cat brushes can also be used. Combs will help reduce knots and a slicker brush will remove dead hair. I make use of a slicker brush when my rabbits are moulting. If you are using a slicker brush made for cats (and some of those made for rabbits), you will notice that the metal ends can be a bit scratchy so do not use a lot of pressure when brushing your rabbit as you do not want to scrape their skin off instead! I also own a massage brush made of rubber. It massages my rabbits and dead hair sticks to it too which is a bonus. I like to use it after the slicker brush. Because it is made of rubber, I tend not to keep it where rabbits can reach as they like to bite it.
□ Panacur Worming paste – you can buy this from veterinary clinics and some pet stores. Rabbits can have parasites called Encephalitozoon Cuniculi (E. Cuniculi). This is a parasite that lives in the cells of animals, not just rabbits. A human who is immune-compromised may run the risk of being infected. Understanding E. Cuniculi and Panacur can be rather confusing at times but this is the gist of it:
o Rabbits can be carriers of E. Cuniculi without any outward symptoms. It is when the parasite reproduces that symptoms may occur, such as head tilt, paralysis, incontinence, cataracts and renal failure.
o Parasites that reach the kidney can spread through the urine as spores and these can be released in the urine for up to 3 months. The spores can then survive in the environment for a month. This means any other rabbit living or using the same area as an infected rabbit can become infected too. Mothers who are carriers can also give their babies the parasite through the placenta. E. Cuniculi can also travel through the blood to reach the brain and cause neural symptoms to emerge.
o Panacur is a type of preventative treatment to help control E. Cuniculi which many vets claim to be prevalent across the whole of the UK. It contains a type of medicine called Fenbendazole. Panacur claims that there is a wide safety margin when using this on rabbits, which means your rabbit, is unlikely to gain a reaction from taking the wormer.
o It is recommended that a 9 day dose of Panacur is sufficient to prevent E. Cuniculi when used twice yearly or when they move to a new home or are about to get neutered.
o If the rabbit is displaying symptoms of E. Cuniculi or has been diagnosed with it, Panacur recommends a 28 day treatment however many experienced rabbit owners claim a 6 week treatment is more effective. Be sure to consult a vet before treatment as I am not experienced in animal medicine so cannot make any claims.
While you do not need this straightaway, I would put it quite high up on the priority list as the parasite can seriously hinder a rabbit’s lifestyle.
□ Flystrike Protector Spray – Flystrike is a condition caused by flies laying eggs on a rabbit. The maggots will eat the rabbit’s flesh and if not treated, will lead to a rabbit’s death. This is a very serious condition as hot weather and unclean hutches tend to attract flies. Bunnies with dirty bottoms are more likely to have this problem. You can protect your rabbit from flystrike by using a spray. Many pet shops sell this kind of spray. I use Johnson’s Flystrike Protector. I have not tried any other so cannot make a recommendation but so far I have not found any problems with this one. Always ask a vet if unsure but it is definitely a good idea to use a spray during the summer months. Some sprays also help against fleas.
□ Microwaveable Heat Pad – if your rabbits live outdoors or the house is particularly cold, then you can purchase a heat pad. Do not use water bottles as they may chew through the rubber and scold themselves. Always follow instructions carefully as the heat pad will be quite hot when heated. You should not use it with ill rabbits, rabbits with trouble moving and in cramped conditions as your bunny will need to be able to move away if they are too warm. The heat pad should not be a plugged in one in case your rabbit chews through a wire. The SnuggleSafe Microwavable Wireless heat pad is an ideal choice as it has no wires; it’s a hard material that is safe from chewing, contains a fleece cover and is used by many rabbit (and pet) owners.
□ Ice Pack for Hot Weather – there are products available on the market that you pop in the freezer and when it’s hot you can pop it in the hutch or cage. Rabbits can become too hot and suffer from heat stroke so it’s a good idea to have something in the freezer ready. You can buy an ice pack or you can pop some bottles of water in the freezer and when those have frozen, you can pop that in the hutch/cage. I have only used this method and have found that condensation does make a mess in the cage but that is easily mopped up. As I have not used a particular product, I cannot say if they work better or not.
□ Nail Clippers – rabbit nails grow continuously and unless they are given plenty of hard surfaces to run on, they will need clipping. You will need to find a pair that feel comfortable in your hands and there is a large variety of clippers available, some work quite differently from others. You will need to clip regularly and as long as you do that, you will only need to clip a small amount at a time. Go here for clipping help.