Rabbit Health Checks
Pick up your rabbit to check him over. Reward him with a treat when you have finished, so that he will learn to accept this routine handling. Keep a lookout for runny eyes, nasal discharge, and a dirty bottom, all of which are signs of ill health. If your rabbit is pedigreed, he may be tattooed in his left ear. This is how pedigreed rabbits are identified as per guidelines provided by the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
Litter Box Inspection
Next, check the litter box. There should be roughly the same number and size of droppings every day. Monitor how much your rabbit eats and drinks. Be alert to any reduction in appetite or a change in his favorite foods. Any drastic change in water consumption should also be investigated.
It is normal to find occasional cecotropes (night feces) in the litter box (or on the carpet, in which case leave them to dry before scraping them off.) These are special droppings, normally eaten by the rabbit directly after they are expelled from the anus.
They look like tiny bunches of grapes, lightly shiny and strong-smelling. If they appear regularly in his box, or if they stick to his bottom, have your bunny checked by the veterinarian.
Litter Box Cleaning
Scrub food and water bowls two or three times a week, taking care to rinse them in fresh water to remove all traces of detergent. Your rabbit’s litter box will need cleaning once or twice a week. Be careful not to over-clean it. If you clean your litter too often, the rabbit may not recognize the smell as the toilet he has become accustomed to, and he will be less inclined to go again in the same place.
Also, if you change the position of the litter or the kind of litter you use, you may inadvertently confuse your rabbit and cause him to choose his own alternative toilet. If your rabbit tends to use one end of the box, use a small shovel to remove the solid litter from the “dirty” end every 2 to 3 days. Push the unused litter to that end, and refill with fresh litter. This will preserve the scent for the bunny but keep the box odor-free for you.
If your rabbit revels in messing up his whole litter, you will need to replace all the litter 2 to 3 times a week. If you do this, keep back a small amount of soiled litter and put it on top of fresh litter. It is best to use a good-quality substrate, such as cat litter, to absorb urine in the litter box.
Rabbits produce a relatively large quantity of urine, so paper towels will need changing frequently. Whatever substrate you use, put a good handful of hay or straw on the top. This will encourage your rabbit to produce droppings as he munches, just like the wild rabbit.
Most house rabbit owners find the litter box is the best place to put hay. If you are using a cage, you could attach a hay rack over the box, but, once you abandon the cage, you will find the box to be most convenient hay dispenser. Obviously, you will need to remove the old hay and put fresh in the litter box every day.
When grazing opportunities are limited, it is recommended that rabbit diets should consist primarily of high fibre forage, dried grass and hay. This is known to maintain intestinal physiology, to aid digestion, and to allow grazing behaviour which in wild counterparts occupies a large proportion of the day.
Potentially negative behaviors such as thumping hind limbs, gnawing housing, grunting and digging on hard surfaces were also common, which could be cause for concern.1
- Nicola J Rooney et al. – The Current State Of Welfare, Housing And Husbandry Of The English Pet Rabbit Population