Frequently Asked Questions

I would like to know more about rabbits. Are there any good sources on the web?

Of course, these are some good starting points:

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How can I find a vet in my area that knows about rabbits?

If you live in Santa Barbara County CA, we maintain a list of Santa Barbara area vets on our Rabbit Care page. If you live outside of Santa Barbara County, try the House Rabbit Society Vet Index at http://www.rabbit.org/vets/vets.html.

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I am interested in adopting a rabbit, but I also have a cat and two other rabbits. Can they all get along?

Rabbits usually get along with cats. However, we do not usually know if the rabbit was used to cats and of course it might depend on the cat. Of more concern is how the rabbit would get along with your other rabbits. Rabbits are territorial. They are no more likely to welcome a newcomer than you would be if your rabbits brought home a strange human and announced that they were to live with you. Prior to adopting a rabbit to a rabbit household, we "introduce" the rabbits to each other to see how they get along. This can take several visits to the shelter before the rabbits are comfortable enough to take the newcomer home.

If you live in Santa Barbara or Ventura County, B.U.N.S. can help you find a companion for your bunny. You need an appointment to introduce your bunny to possible mates, please call 805 683-0521.

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I have noticed that a big bunny started living in my backyard. I noticed that he has sores on him. What could be wrong with him and what can I do?

We can only speculate about the cause of the "sores" on your bunny. We will go from least to most serious.

Rabbits shed 4 times a year; sometimes the shed can be heavy leaving a few bald patches. These would be un-scabbed, bare skin. So that is a possible cause.

Rabbits can get a skin parasite, fur mites, which if left untreated can cause loss of fur and scabby sores with lots of dandruff. A vet should see rabbits with fur mites.

Rabbits who live wild are at great risk of being attached by predators. So your bunny could have untreated wounds. A vet should see rabbits with wounds.

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I found a bunny in my backyard. Should I take him to a shelter so that he can get some tender loving care?

B.U.N.S. is the volunteer group for the Santa Barbara Stray Animal Shelter which serves the South coast of Santa Barbara County: Carpinteria, Summerland, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Isla Vista and Painted Cave. If you found the bunny in that area, it can be brought to the shelter at 5475 Overpass Rd. in Goleta. The hours are 9:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. Saturday the shelter is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

If you live outside of Santa Barbara County you must take the rabbit to a shelter nearer your home. If you are concerned for the rabbit’s welfare, you should call several shelters. Find out how long they keep pets prior to euthanization. Ask for their adoption rate for rabbits. Ask if they have any volunteers caring for rabbits. Visit the facility before leaving the rabbit there. Some shelters are wonderful. Other shelters have too few resources and too many animals. If you want to take the bunny to a shelter, look at the House Rabbit Society’s web page (http://www.rabbit.org) to locate a shelter near you.

You can also try to adopt the rabbit privately. If you can afford it, have the bunny spayed or neutered. Give it a litter box full of hay so that it can learn to use a box. Post photos of the bunny on bulletin boards. Take out an ad in the local paper. Be sure to charge at least $20 or $30 to discourage snake owners. Visit the home of prospective adopters to make sure the rabbit will have a safe place to live. If you don’t like it take the rabbit and leave.

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I found a possibly injured bunny in my backyard. I would like to take him to a vet, but how can I catch him? Every time I approach him, he runs away from me.

Patience is very important here. Find a location in the yard that is a corner or cul de sac. Start feeding the rabbit there. Wait until the rabbit is comfortable with the location. Then you can try catching the rabbit or penning the rabbit in the area. Catching the rabbit usually takes one or two friends to herd the rabbit into a corner. You can pick them up like a cat, scruffing the neck and supporting the rear-end with the other hand. If you are worried about bites (very rare) or scratches (a frightened rabbit will push off against your body, which can cause a scratch) wear garden gloves and long sleeves. A big towel can be helpful. Held touching the ground in front of the rabbit, it will be perceived as much more solid than it is and can stop a rabbit running toward you. It can also be tossed over the rabbit, just before you pounce on the rabbit.

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I saw a very cute bunny on your web site and would like to adopt her. I live out-of-state. Can you ship her to me?

We generally restrict our adoptions to the Santa Barbara County, Ventura County and occasionally to the LA area of California. There are two reasons: first, we do home visits prior to adoption. Second, air travel or any long travel is much too traumatic for a bunny. However, you are very likely to find a local rescue group in your town. Check the House Rabbit Society’s web page (http://www.rabbit.org) to locate a shelter near you. Click on "Chapters" and "Links" and you will find many of the society’s local chapters as well as independent rescue groups spread around the U.S.

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I have two bonded rabbits that I need to take to a shelter. I’d like to bring them to you but I don’t live in your area. Is that ok?

We restrict our rabbit rescue to the South Coast of Santa Barbara County. You could look at the House Rabbit Society’s web page (http://www.rabbit.org) to locate a shelter near you.

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My husband has allergies to rabbits. How can I keep my rabbits and my husband at the same time?

You don’t have to give up any of them. Check out the articles below:

http://www.rabbit.org/journal/3-12/allergies.html

Sleeping in a bedroom equipped with a HEPA filter really decreases an allergic person’s reactivity.

Using Allerpet C on your rabbit may also increase the time that your husband can handle their rabbit without a reaction. Allerpet C is available in pet stores and some veterinary offices.

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I heard that female rabbits live longer if they are spayed. Is this true?

Yes. After 3 years, non-spayed female rabbits have an 80 percent rate of uterine cancer. We spay a lot of rabbits, and it is not uncommon for the vet to report pre-cancerous conditions in some of the older females. So, for someone who loves his or her female rabbit, spaying could mean the difference between life and death.

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How much hay and pellets should I provide for my bunny?

Rabbits need to chew for about 4 hours per day to properly wear down their molars and premolars. Hay is the answer. An adult rabbit should eat a volume of hay roughly equal to his body size (!). At our shelter we offer large cat litter boxes filled with hay which we change daily. We feed a grass hay rather than alfalfa, as most of our rabbits are adults and spayed or neutered. Consequently alfalfa is too high in protein and calcium for them and can cause weight gain, kidney stones or bladder sludge.

Along with the need to increase chewing time is the need to decrease the amount of pellets. Pellets are rich and can fill a rabbit's nutritional needs very quickly with relatively little chewing. The fiber in pellets, while good, has been cut small pieces and does not clear the gut as well as fiber from hay. We recommend about 1/4 cup for a 5 lb rabbit. We also feed a cup or more of fresh vegetables per day - again we want the rabbit to chew for a long time in relation to the calorie intake and we want to see a lot of long fibers in the diet.

The amount of food may need to be adjusted depending on your rabbit’s activity level. If your rabbit is plump and inactive, reduce the pellets to 2 tablespoons.

You might enjoy reading a copy of "Rabbit Health 101" from the Missouri Chapter of the HRS. It is only $15. Here is the URL for ordering: http://members.aol.com/hrsoc/hrsmiss/book.html

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My rabbit needs surgery, but I can’t afford to get him to a vet. I hate to put him down because of financial difficulty. Is there any organization in the area that can help?

The first step in deciding if you can afford it is to see a vet and get an estimate. A sincere attitude and a willingness to make payments over time may help you convince a vet to do the surgery without full payment at the time of the procedure. People who want the vet to take financial responsibility for providing medical care often approach vets. Some veterinary clinics take volunteers, so perhaps you could offer to work off some of your bill. A friend of mine, who does cat rescue, cleans her vet's offices in exchange for some of her spay neuter costs. If you want the vet to give you special consideration on payments, then you need to be willing to give the vet special consideration in return. Good Luck.

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I have seen a very cute baby bunny at a local pet store that I am thinking of buying. What should I look out for?

Remember that there are rabbits needing homes in your local animal shelter. You can find truly wonderful bunnies at B.U.N.S., 5475 Overpass Rd in Goleta. Our rabbits are spayed or neutered and they are litter box trained. We know the personalities of all our bunnies and can help you find the one that is right for you

If you really want the bunny from the pet store here’s what to do. Look at the area where the babies are kept. If the food and water bowls are contaminated with feces and litter, the rabbits may not be well cared for. This is true if there are a lot of feces in the area. Look at all the bunnies in the same pen as the one you are interested in. Are their eyes clean and un-crusted? Are their noses dry and clean? Are their bottoms clean and dry? If not your prospective bunny may have been exposed to disease. Look at your bunny’s nose, eyes and bottoms. Look into its ears. Is the skin clean and healthy? Check its teeth by lifting up the lips. Are the teeth "Bugs Bunny" teeth – straight and even? If the teeth are crocked or broken you will have dental bills.

Watch you bunny interact with the other rabbits. Is it active and playful? Is it quiet and shy? Cup your hand, and place it palm down half an inch from your bunny’s nose. If it lowers its head, it is willing to be petted. If it runs away it may be afraid (or playing.) If it pounces your hand it may be aggressive (or playing). If it crouches with its ears flat it is frightened. Take some time here. Watch the bunny for a long time. Offer your hand several times. You need to see the bunny over a distance of ground before you can be sure of the personality. What would you like in a bunny personality?

Look in your heart. Bunnies live between 6 and 13 years. Bunnies can bond strongly with their human and become frightened and depressed when abandoned. Are you willing and able commit to caring for the bunny for its full life?

Baby bunnies turn into teen-age bunnies between the ages of 4 and six months. For the next 8 to 10 months they are as charming as teen-age people. Can you handle that? Between the ages of 4 to six months your bunny will need to be spayed or neutered which costs about $100. Can you afford that? Vet bills for a sick rabbit can run $400. Can you afford that?

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I have a litter of baby bunnies whose mother is not caring for them. What should I feed them?

Are you sure that the mother is not caring for the babies? Mother rabbits tend to avoid the nest and nurse for a very short time only once or twice a day. You may never see the mother nursing. You can help the mother produce milk by providing at least a cup of green leafy vegetables served dripping wet am and pm while she is nursing. Be sure to provide extra pellets too. You can offer some alfalfa hay to the mom and babies. If the babies are plump and unwrinkled, the mom is nursing. If the babies tummies are sunken and the skin is wrinkled mom is not nursing. Here are good references:

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I have found a wild baby rabbit, I need to know what and how to feed it. I think it is about two weeks old, but I'm not sure. It has its eyes open, but it is still very small.

Your wild rabbit needs to go to an experienced animal rehabilitator. In the mean time read this information: http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/orphan.html

In Santa Barbara you should contact the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network at http://www.sbwcn.org, or call them at 805.681.1080

Outside of Santa Barbara, the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association can also help you find a local wildlife rehabilitator at http://www.nwrawildlife.org/content/finding-rehabilitator.

While you are waiting for the rehabilitator you can set your wild bunny up in a box. Line the bottom with alfalfa hay. Find a heavy container that cannot be tipped over and fill it with water. Pick a selection of wild grasses and put your bouquet of wild grass in your heavy container. Make sure that the grass is within reach of the rabbit. Put the box in a quiet area of your house, put the rabbit and the container of grass in the box. If you have rabbit pellets you can put some of those in too.

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Are bunnies similar to cats in that they will take care of themselves and use a litter box?

Bunnies, like cats, naturally toilet in one area. If you place a litter box it the selected area your rabbit will use it. Some rabbits are meticulous in their litter box habits, others are less so. But all rabbits will urinate in the box. (Some rabbits scatter pellets here and there - it is a matter of personality.) Age and spay neuter status can also affect box training.  Baby rabbits may not have the bowel and bladder control to use the box consistently. Unneutered rabbits are hormonally driven to mark territory using feces and urine. We make the box an attractive place to be by filling it with a grass hay. You may also use paper or plant fiber litters. You may not use clay litters, cedar or pine chips, or clumping litters as they are all dangerous for your rabbit. Bunnies like cats are self grooming. 

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Does the litter box of a bunny have to be in a cage?

No.

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I don't mind and would like a bunny who could be in the house with just a litter box but do you need a cage?

Generally it is nice for the rabbit to have a space of his own. Having an area where you can confine the rabbit can be helpful for training (time outs), or when you have a lot of guests. The rabbit will appreciate it if he is feeling like a little privacy. You can provide this in a number of ways: a cage, an exercise pen, a room of his own. As you and the rabbit get to know one another, and the rabbit proves reliable in his habits and has earned your trust, you will probably live with the cage door open.

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What kind of habits do bunnies have? Do they like to be on a ...doggie bed?

Rabbits are most active in the early morning and in the evenings. They tend to sleep during the day, but will become accustomed to your schedule. Like cats they nap. Rabbits like to run, jump, go into tunnels, under beds and behind sofas. Rabbits chew and need baskets, branches and bird chew toys. Some rabbits like to dig and need a digging box or an outside area where they can dig. Some rabbits like to climb and need a climbing structure with ramps and levels. Other rabbits like to toss and want a toss toy.  Rabbits like routine and a stable environment.  Rabbits do like doggie beds, but as some rabbit chew fabric (a health risk).  I have not used them much. 

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What do you typically feed a bunny?

Adult rabbits need a high fiber, low calorie diet.  For proper dental health they need to chew for about 4 hours each day. Feed grass hays such as timothy and oat hay in unlimited quantities.  For a six lb rabbit, feed about a cup of mixed greens each day and up to 1/4 cup of plain green pellets.  DO NOT FEED the pellet mixes as seeds and fruit should be handled as treats and fed in very limited quantities.

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Will a bunny use a "doggie door" to go in and out?  Ideally I'd like to put the litter box and food box outside, perhaps in a cage.

Rabbits will use a doggie door but they cannot be left to run loose at night due to predators. Also, depending on where you live certain insects can cause life threatening conditions. So outdoor cages must be secure and should be screened against insects.

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If the bunny is truly litter trained, is that a guaranteed they will not poop in the house?

Some bunnies, like some children, are neat.  Others are not.  It depends on your rabbit.  At our shelter, one way to tell is to come early in the morning before we have cleaned.  Pull the metal pans under the cages and look.  Many rabbits have clean pans or a pan with one or two stray poops.  I will say that the longer they stay at the shelter and the longer it has been since the spay or neuter the better they do.  Also, some rabbits are particular and want certain litters or more than one box. They have opinions on these matters and a caretaker does best when they try to figure out what the rabbit wants.  In addition, some rabbits use poop to mark territory.  This behavior is reduced when they become more comfortable and relaxed in their new home.

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Do they adjust easily to a new environment?

Again it depends on the rabbit. Generally, the best plan is to take your new rabbit straight home and place it in an area that has been set up for it with a box, food, water, toys etc. Sit down and wait for the rabbit to become comfortable. If the family has children, after the rabbit is comfortable make a circle on the floor with the rabbit inside. Allow the bunny to come to each of you in turn. No grabbing no holding. Let the bunny explore the family. Carrot circles are OK for the children to give the bunny. Do this on several occasions until the rabbit becomes comfortable.

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How long does a bunny typically live?

The average life span of a rabbit is about 6 years, but generally most people take very poor care of bunnies in this country. For example, female rabbits after the age of 3 have an 80 percent chance of developing uterine cancer. Rabbits need a high fiber diet and generally do not get it. Rabbits need 4 or more hours of exercise daily and generally do not get it. So, with good genes and good care, your rabbit can live to be between 11 and 13.

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We brought a new bunny home.  She is fighting with our male rabbit. What can we do to get them to like each other?

First, spay your female and neuter your male. Then wait 4 to 6 weeks before re-introduction. Next read this pag about introducing rabbits: http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/introductions.html. Be patient, and persistent.

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Click on any of the questions below to see the answer.

I would like to know more about rabbits. Are there any good sources on the web?

How can I find a vet in my area that knows about rabbits?

I am interested in adopting a rabbit, but I also have a cat and two other rabbits. Can they all get along?

I have noticed that a big bunny started living in my backyard. I noticed that he has sores on him. What could be wrong with him and what can I do?

I found a bunny in my backyard. Should I take him to a shelter so that he can get some tender loving care?

I found a possibly injured bunny in my backyard. I would like to take him to a vet, but how can I catch him? Every time I approach him, he runs away from me.

I saw a very cute bunny on your web site and would like to adopt her. I live out-of-state. Can you ship her to me?

I have two bonded rabbits that I need to take to a shelter. I’d like to bring them to you but I don’t live in your area. Is that ok?

My husband has allergies to rabbits. How can I keep my rabbits and my husband at the same time?

I heard that female rabbits live longer if they are spayed. Is this true?

How much hay and pellets should I provide for my bunny?

My rabbit needs surgery, but I can’t afford to get him to a vet. I hate to put him down because of financial difficulty. Is there any organization in the ___ area that can help?

I have seen a very cute baby bunny at a local pet store that I am thinking of buying. What should I look out for?

I have a litter of baby bunnies whose mother is not caring for them. What should I feed them?

I have found a wild baby rabbit, I need to know what and how to feed it. I think it is about two weeks old, but I'm not sure. It has its eyes open, but it is still very small.

Are bunnies similar to cats in that they will take care of themselves and use a litter box?

Does the litter box of a bunny have to be in a cage?

I don't mind and would like a bunny who could be in the house with just a litter box but do you need a cage?

What kind of habits do bunnies have? Do they like to be on a say...doggie bed?

What do you typically feed a bunny?

Will a bunny use a "doggie door" to go in and out?  Ideally I'd like to put the litter box and food box outside.

If the bunny is truly litter trained, is that a guaranteed they will not poop in the house?

Do they adjust easily to a new environment?

How long does a bunny typically live?

We brought a new bunny home.  She is fighting with our male rabbit. What can we do to get them to like each other?