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Cheat Sheet

Rabbits For Dummies

From Rabbits For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Connie Isbell, Audrey Pavia

Rabbits can make wonderful pets whether you keep them indoors or in an outdoor pen with a shelter. Bunnies are lively, engaging, and endearing, and you can often tell how they’re feeling from their body language. Of course you want them feeling well health-wise, so you need to keep your bunny out of harm’s way and to pay attention to warning signs — keep emergency contact numbers handy, just in case.

Tips for Living with an Indoor Pet Rabbit

Rabbits make wonderful indoor companions, and the following tips can help you create a successful and enjoyable living arrangement for you and your furry friend. First tip: If you let your lapine roam free, be prepared to find droppings in odd places before your bunny is litter-box trained.

  • Spay or neuter to help prevent problems with health and behavior.

  • Careful rabbit-proofing minimizes damage to both home and rabbit.

  • Have patience when litter box training.

  • A proper diet is key to good health.

  • Daily exercise makes for a healthy and happy bunny.

  • Frequent grooming keeps down excess fluff in the house.

  • Knowing your rabbit’s normal behavior can help detect illness.

  • Regular cleaning is good for both your home and your bunny.

  • Use playtime as a way to build a trusting relationship.

Emergency Numbers to Have on Hand for Your Rabbit

Your pet rabbit can get hurt or feel sick, just like you do. So that you’re prepared for an emergency — your bunny may eat something he shouldn’t or injure a paw — write down emergency contact numbers right away when you bring your bunny home. You need to have numbers for these helpers handy:

  • Veterinarian

  • 24-Hour emergency pet hospital

  • Animal Control

  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435)

  • Pet sitter

Things to Keep Away from Your Rabbit

Some everyday things you don’t think twice about are dangerous to your rabbit. And some things toxic to you are especially bad for your bunny. Your hopping pet can do damage to household items as well. To keep everybun (sorry!) happy and healthy, keep your rabbit away from these things:

  • Antifreeze

  • Balconies

  • Carpet edges

  • Cleaning fluids

  • Electrical cords

  • Heating elements

  • Paint fumes

  • Stairways

  • Telephone wires

  • Toxic plants

How to Recognize a Rabbit Health Emergency

You need to be familiar with your rabbit’s normal condition and behavior so that you notice when something is wrong. Bleeding is fairly obvious, but raspy breathing may be harder to detect and just as dangerous. Contact your veterinarian as soon as you see any of the symptoms in the following table.

Handle an injured rabbit gently so that you don’t hurt your pet further, and be sure to use a pet carrier when transporting your bunny to the vet.

Symptom(s) Possible Cause
Bleeding Injury (Apply pressure to stop the bleeding)
Blood in urine Uterine disease in intact female rabbits.
Inability to stand; staggering Severe illness
Paralysis Injury to the spine
Rapid breathing, raspy breathing, heavy coughing Illness or infection
Refusal to eat Serious illness or mild colic
Severe pain indicated by refusal to eat, teeth grinding, and limping Injury or illness
Straining to defecate or urinate Intestinal or urinary blockage
Swelling on body part that’s hot to the touch Injury
Teary, closed, red, or cloudy eye Eye injury or infection
Temperature significantly above or below 101–103ºF Chill or fever
Tilted head Injury, bacterial infection

How to Read Your Rabbit’s Body Language

Although your rabbit may make some sounds when communicating, bunnies do most of their “talking” with their body language. The following list can help you interpret what your rabbit is saying:

  • Hopping, leaping, and racing: “Whoopee! I’m happy!”

  • Binky-ing (a high jump, with vigorous twists): “I am incredibly happy!”

  • Kicking: If being held the wrong way, “Let go!” or, if playing, “What fun!”

  • Circling: “I’m in the mood for love.”

  • Flattening: “I don’t want you to see me.” A scared rabbit will lower herself to the ground as if to hide.

  • Stretching out (on side or back): “Ah, life is good. . . .”

  • Ear shaking: “I don’t like that.” Frequent ear shaking can be a sign of a medical problem and should be assessed by a veterinarian.

  • Head butting: “Hey!” A persistent rabbit will head-butt you when she wants something — petting, food, whatever.

  • Stomping: “Warning” or, maybe, “I’m annoyed.”

  • Biting: “I don’t like what you’re doing.” A gentle nip is a rabbit’s way of saying “I’ve had enough.” You’ll be able to tell the difference between a nip and a bite.

  • Sitting up tall: “I’m curious,” or “Is there trouble afoot?”

  • Licking: “I love you.”

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