Don't Let Your Rabbit Loose it's Cool

Some people think domesticated rabbits can tolerate heat since wild rabbits do okay in hot climates. Wild rabbits are acclimated to the weather and the heat. Domesticated rabbits are descendants of the European Rabbit and would normally live in a warren that would be cool underground in hot weather. Your rabbit doesn't have a warren to stay cool.

How to Help Your Rabbit Keep its Cool:

Made for Shade: Keep your rabbit out of the sun and have a cage in the shade. Indoor rabbits with direct sun into their cage or pen in the summer need to be protected, too. Heat passing through a window doesn't escape back out so the room heats up. If you let your rabbit run in the garden in the summer, have a shady place for it to rest.

Fans: A fan that will pass a breeze by the rabbit is great and particularly a circulating fan so the breeze isn’t constant. Groucho spends his summer by his own personal fan. Don't put the rabbit's cage in front of an air conditioner and so they really "chill out!" Be sure to bunny proof the cords!

Less Fur: On long-haired rabbits – give them a "hare" cut for the summer. Also, brush hair out of a bunny’s coat so there isn’t extra. After all, that is a fur coat your rabbit is wearing in the summer.

Vegging Out: Vegetables help keep rabbits hydrated so make sure they are getting plenty. Wash the vegetables and leave some of the water on them.

Cool Spots: Ceramic tiles, marble tiles or brick/cement pavers in the cage or in a favorite spot are cool areas for lounging rabbits.

Water: Put a couple of ice cubes in their water crock – this will keep their water cool and the ceramic crock will be nice for them to lounge next to when it gets too warm. Rosemary gets them out and licks them.

Mist Ears: Rabbits dissipate heat through their ears so you can mist them to help them keep cool. Don’t make them wet – just mist occasionally. Plant misters work well. A spray bottle full of water will scare a rabbit.

Cool Buddy: Freeze a few 1 liter pop bottles full of water and then put a thin sock over the bottle and put it in the rabbit’s area or cage. Rabbits will lay next to the bottle to cool off. I keep one or two in the freezer all summer and rotate in the rabbit pen. Rosemary and Groucho share theirs by laying down with their bottle "ice cube" between them.

Heat Stroke: If your rabbit gets heat stroke, mist his ears. Absolutely no cold baths or showers! Call your vet!

In the Car: Just like a dog or cat - never leave a rabbit in the car in the sun or hot weather! (hopper)

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The most important element in your rabbit's diet is hay. Hay provides the fiber needed to keep the digestive tract working properly. Timothy hay (or another grass hay) is recommended over alfalfa since it is lower in calcium, protein and fat. Unlimited amounts of fresh hay should be provided on a daily basis. Because rabbits' digestive systems are designed to derive nourishment from foraging on low-nutrient food, they can actually be damaged by foods too high in protein, fat and calories.

Fresh leafy greens should be offered daily. We recommend at least three different ones from the following list: kale, dandelion, collard greens, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, romaine, escarole, chicory, dill, cilantro, parley, swiss chard, oregano and mustard greens. Carrots should be limited to about 1/2 per day depending on the size of your rabbit as they are high in sugar and calories, but the leafy tops can be fed freely. Typically they should receive 2 cups of greens per 5 pounds of body weight.

Pellets are the leading cause of obesity in rabbits and should be fed in moderation to help provide a well rounded diet. Some veterinarians recommend a hay and vegetable diet only, especially if your rabbit is overweight. Adult rabbits should not be fed more than 1/4 cup per 5 pounds of your rabbit's weight. When choosing a pellet, buy only freshly milled plain green varieties and avoid the ones that have treat foods in them. Flip over the back of the package. Ideally you are looking for brands that contain less than 2% fat, less than 14% protein and at least 20% fiber. High fiber or timothy-based varieties are strongly recommended.

Fresh water should always be available. Make sure that you not only replace the water daily, but that you clean the bottle or crock.

Rabbits should not be fed any human treats including cheerios, bread, chocolate, crackers, etc. Good treats include about a half inch of banana, a thin slice of apple or a couple of raisins. Other fruits may be offered in tiny quantities. All processed treats available in pet stores should be avoided, even if they appear "natural". The extra fat and calories can compromise your rabbit's digestive system and internal organs.(rabbit)
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Watch Out for Mr. Fox

It was such a beautiful sunny morning today that I took my rabbits Cara and Sebastian outside in the garden to play; a very good time was being had by all. I looked up and guess what was walking along the garden wall: a fox! I happened to be taking photo's at the time, so got a picture - this is the exact moment he noticed the rabbits! Cara went running over to say hello as Marianne and I dived for the wall to chase it away. It’s just as well that I never leave the bunnies unattended as they weren't the least bit bothered and would have happily run over expecting him to join in the fun.

Cara and Sebastian were very lucky rabbits. Their owner agreed to share their story in the hope it would help other rabbit owners realise the foxes pose in time to save their bunnies lives. Many rabbits are not as lucky. Other rabbit owners have shared stories of hutches being broken into, rabbits taken from a first floor balcony and even a house rabbit killed after a fox entered through the back door.

Many of these attacks happen in urban areas and during daylight hours. Urban foxes are used to people and are not put off by owners being nearby.

When you are rabbit proofing your bunnies housing you should consider security from the point of view of something trying to get in as well as preventing your rabbit escaping. A fox can easily clear a six foot garden fence or wall. They are also excellent diggers and will tunnel into a rabbit run or under a fence to enter a garden. They have powerful jaws and will gnaw through chicken wire and plywood hutches in order to get at 'dinner'.

Making Out Door Accommodation More Secure

Here are some changes you can make to help security:

A secure run is the best way of giving an outdoor rabbit exercise. It should have both a lid and, if on grass, something to stop a fox digging in or a rabbit digging out. Use weld mesh instead of chicken wire. This is stronger as it is welded at each join rather than being twisted together. Replace wooden catches on hutches with secure metal bolts. Wooden twist catches will easily open when a fox scratches at them. Ensure that mesh is firmly attached to the frame. Many mass produced hutches/runs are put together with staples that don’t go very deep into the wood. You can reinforce these with U-Shaped nails. Most DIY stores stock them, just ask. Check for small gaps that a fox can chew at and enlarge.

If you are aware of foxes in the area you could also:

Fit wooden shutters to the hutch and close them at night (remember to leave ventilation holes). Move the hutch into a shed or unused garage. Turn your rabbit into a house rabbit.

Most importantly: never leave your rabbit loose in the garden unattended.(Rabbit)

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Games Rabbits Play

In the years I have had rabbits (usually only one at a time), I have found a lot of enjoyment from their playing games with me and with each other. These games are often recognizable as games we played when we were children.

One game I found myself playing with my first rabbit was "hide and seek." She would go hide under a bush or something, but as soon as we made eye contact, she would come out. After I did this one time, I went back into the house into the bathroom. Soon the rabbit, who did not usually go into the bathroom, came looking for me. I realized that it had been my "turn" to hide, and she had "found" me.

Another time she led me on a chase up hills and through bushes, and when I was about worn out I spied a flash from the corner of my eye. When I staggered back into the house, she was sitting smugly waiting for my return.

My next group of rabbits played follow-the-leader. One day I found Virginia, followed by the other bunnies, all in single file, going up and down the furniture and in and out of the lower kitchen cabinets.

The rabbit I have now is more aggressive than the others I have had. His game is "bull and bullfighter." He charges at me with a growl and bumps me. I clap my hands and he wheels and goes back to make another charge.

In each of these cases, there was no training in- volved--the games were their idea. But it has made my rabbits really fun to be around.

John B. Miller (rabbit)
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