The information presented here has been researched and gathered from both veterinary and rabbit breeders resources.

BVC - Owning a Pet Rabbit

Dominion Rabbit and Cavy Breeders Assoc.

American Rabbit Breeders Assoc.

Holland Lop Specialty Club

House Rabbit Society

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Please see links at the bottom of the page for more information from the BSAVA on Rabbit Husbandry


puceDownes Rabbitry Educational Information

Bonding Rabbits

Brought to you by:  British Small Animal Veterinary Association & Downes Rabbitry
Written in part by Richard Saunders

It is important that rabbits are introduced in a neutral area. Since rabbits are highly territorial they should meet in an environment such as a new pen or small room that neither animal has been in previously. However, using an area where a different rabbit has been may be successful in some cases, because each rabbit will be confused by the alien scents and the pair will bond together.
Fighting rabbits may be dangerous to separate, and hand protection is necessary.  The rabbits may injure each other severely, particularly if attempting to mount the head area and this must be prevented. There may be others than the 2 suggested here.

BONDING PROCESS: Method 1 Gradual Introduction

The idea is that they should be accustomed to each other’s smells slowly and become familiar with one another under controlled conditions. This is best done placing rabbits in nearby spaces, so that they can sniff each other and consequently be more familiar when they first meet. Exchange of litter trays may also help the rabbits to get used to each other’s scent. After a while, short and frequent meetings in a neutral territory and the rabbits are separated if there are any signs of tension between them. This is repeated until the rabbits accept each other. The rabbits are NEVER left alone before they are happy to groom each other. This process, depending on the individual rabbits, can take anything from hours to a couple of months.
This method may prolong the process unnecessarily, causing more frustration and stress in the long run to both rabbits and owner. The rabbits do not get the opportunity to establish their hierarchy when separated repeatedly and, owing to the importance of stability, this may be crucial.

BONDING PROCESS: Method 2 Simultaneous Introduction

Both rabbits are taken separately to a new neutral location and released simultaneously. It is normal for them to run after each other, chasing, nipping and perhaps tearing some fur from one another, and this is an important step in establishing the necessary rank order. Be aware that it will be normal to see mounting behaviour directed (head and back), this can continue for a period after the initial introduction in their shared enclosure at home. It may look dramatic, but as long as the rabbits do not actually bite each other, they should not need to be separated. After a while the rabbits might rest, eat or groom themselves near each other. This is a sign of progress, and the rabbits can be put together in their permanent shared enclosure.  This enclosure should be cleaned of all scents from with rabbit, similar to the original neutral area. There should be plenty of cardboard boxes or hiding places, and several feeding and drinking areas as well as a sufficiently large area. The rabbits should be supervised until they are eating and lying together with no signs of negative behaviour.

Positive Signs During Bonding:

  • Self-grooming
  • Mutual grooming
  • Lying alongside each other
  • Eating

Neutral Signs During Bonding:

  • Ignoring each other
  • Mounting each other
  • Chasing each other
  • Pulling fur and nipping but not breaking the skin

Negative Signs of Bonding:

  • Lunging at one another
  • Biting deeply, grabbing hold of skin and deeper tissues rather than fur only
  • Obsessive/excessive grooming of one rabbit by the other, which initially appears positive, but may be very likely eventually to result in severe fighting
  • Immediate fighting behaviour


Rabbit Health and Care

Brought to you by: Downes Rabbitry


Rabbits are nice alternatives to a pet dog or cat. They are usually not aggressive, do not require walking, and are easily litter trained. Their average life span is 5-10 years and reaches breeding age at 6 months. Early spaying or neutering at 4-6 months can reduce potential medical and behavioural problems.
     Proper handling of your bunny is very important. Rabbits have a light-weight skeleton with powerful hind legs that, when handled improperly, can kick cause the bunny to break its back resulting in paralysis and euthanasia. It is very important to support your bunnies’ hind legs, should your bunny struggle place them on the ground immediately and let them settle. Once they have settled carefully pick them back up again, never pick a rabbit up by its ears. Proper socialization and integration into your family makes for a curious, social, friendly, and docile pet bunny.


Rabbits are herbivores and are considered nibblers in that they eat continuously. They have a complex digestive system and can process food very quickly. Rabbits should have access to hay daily complimented with good quality pellets. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be included as a treat and be limited in their regular diets. Hay is very important in their diets, high quality grass hays such as timothy, orchard grass, and brome hay make up the bulk of their diet and should be offered to them at all times. Alfalfa hay is only a good choice in young rabbits that are growing and should not be fed after 4 months of age. The high protein and high calcium found in alfalfa hay can result in health problems.
Fresh vegetables include dark leafy greens like roman lettuce and bok choy can be safely fed daily. Carrots, broccoli, green peppers, wheat grass, squash, and fresh fruits such as apples and bananas can also be fed as treats occasionally. It’s important to limit the size and amount of treats fed to your bunny. These treats are high in sugar and can cause obesity and other health concerns. Vegetables with high water content such as iceberg lettuce and head lettuce should be avoided as it can cause diarrhea and has very little nutrient content. Carrot tops, dandelion greens, kale, and parsley contain high calcium and should be fed in moderation to adult bunnies, young bunnies under 6 months of age require more calcium and can be fed these more freely.
     Cookies, nuts, seeds, grains, and bread should never be fed to your bunny.


Rabbits like clean, well ventilated environments. Removing urine and feces on a regular basis will keep your bunny happy and healthy. Too much ammonia in their cage can cause respiratory problems. Rabbits generally like to maintain a clean house themselves and often you will find them using one corner as the bathroom. This is the perfect opportunity to put in a litter box for them to use as their bathroom, and makes your cleaning job a lot easier.

Litter Training

Rabbits are easy to litter train. As stated above they often times only use one corner of their cage to go to the bathroom. This is where you want to place your litter tray. They need to be kept in a small area while they are litter training and not allowed to free roam the house until they understand that the litterbox is where they "go". There are 2 different ways of litter training:

You can place the litter tray, containing different litter than what is in the rest of their cage, in the corner they are going to the bathroom in. They will learn over time that the box is where they are supposed to "go".

Or you can remove all the litter from the cage and only place it in the litter box until they learn to use that as their bathroom. Removing the litter from the cage is only temporary until they learn to use their box. If you do not keep some bedding in their cage once they are litter trained they can over time get sores on their hind feet from the hard plastic surface of the cage bottom. They can also learn to "litterbox nap" where they rest in their litter box because it is cushioned for them. This can result in stool matting on thier hind end and can cause stool blockages and/or diarrhea.


Rabbits do not require vaccines.

Diarrhea: Commonly seen in rabbits and can be life threatening. There are multiple causes to diarrhea including too high carbohydrates in the diet, too low in fibre, rapid diet changes, bacterial or viral infections, parasites or improper use of antibiotics (Antibiotics should ONLY be used according to the label or as specified by your veterinarian!).  Proper diet is key to preventing diarrhea in rabbit.
     Bladder Stones: This can happen in many pets, rabbits included. Signs to look for include anorexia, inappetence, lethargy, weight loss, teeth grinding, frequent urination, hunching to urinate, urine stains around the hind ends, and blood in the urine. Radiographs are required to confirm bladder stones which need to be surgically removed. Prevention of bladder stones includes low pellet and high fibre, from grass hay, diets.
     Nails: Rabbits nails grow like our own and do require trimming. Periodic nail trimming should occur, every bunny is different some need nail trims every 6-8 weeks, others can go longer in between trims. Rabbits should not be declawed!!
Heat Stroke: Rabbits can get heat stroke on hot days, it is important to keep your bunnies house in a well ventilated cool area. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and your rabbit should been by a veterinarian immediately.
     GI Stasis: commonly confused with hairballs. Rabbits that stop eating often go into Gastro-Intestinal Stasis. What happens is their intestines stop moving food through their intestinal tract. Rabbits like to groom themselves and eventually hair will build up in their intestinal tract causing an obstruction. Kale, parsley, mint leaves, and dandelion greens can entice your bunny to start eating and sometimes can get their intestinal tract working again. If this does not work you need to take your bunny to your veterinarian. If you suspect your bunny has ingested carpet, rugs, towel, or other non-digestible material you need to take your bunny to your veterinarian. Rabbits cannot vomit and can get obstructions in their intestinal tract which, if left untreated, will result in death.


  • Rabbits are not rodents they are in their own classification known as lagomorphs.
  • Rabbits have a digestive tract that is adapted for digesting large amounts of fibre required in their diets.
  • Rabbits pass large amounts of dry round fecal matter a day. They also pass “cecotropes”, usually at night, which are soft feces. These cecotropes contain a concentration of nutrients and proteins your bunnies needs, they consume these cecotropes to reabsorb these nutrients.
  • Rabbits teeth grow continuously and they may periodically need their teeth trimmed; you can ask your veterinarian to show you how.  You can provide blocks of wood to chew to help prevent overgrowth of their front incisors.
  • Rabbits rarely make any noises, they will occasionally grunt and if frightened or hurt they can make a high pitched scream.  Thumping their back feet is a warning signal.
  • Rabbits can tolerate cold much better than heat. They are very sensitive to heat stroke and it is critical to maintaining an environment below 26C. A well ventilated house is key in keeping your bunny happy and healthy.

Bristish Small Animal Veterinary Association Client Information PDF Links

BSAVA Feeding your Rabbit a Healthy Diet

BSAVA Feeding your Rabbit a Healthy Diet page 2

BSAVA Housing your Rabbit

BSAVA Housing your Rabbit page 2

BSAVA Should I Have my Rabbit Neutered

BSAVA Should I Have my Rabbit Neutered page 2

BSAVA Looking After Your Older Rabbit