Lop-eared rabbits have to be raised properly, like any other pet. Rabbits need plenty of care as well as a good and safe environment if they are to be healthy and happy. They are sociable animals who like the company of other rabbits so it is often recommended that you should get more than one rabbit. If you give your rabbits everything they need, they will happily hop around your house.
Housing Your Rabbit
Consider carefully before purchasing a rabbit. It can be tempting to impulsively buy lop-eared rabbits because of their adorable looks, but consider if this is the right pet for you before you purchase it. Any rabbit whose ears lop down the side of his head, rather than pointing up, is a lop. There are around 19 different breeds of lops, each with different sizes and characteristics.
Know the costs. Before you go ahead and get a rabbit you need to be sure that you can afford to keep it. The price of a lop can vary, but you should expect to pay somewhere between $15 and $60. As well as buying the rabbit you will need to spend approximately $90 for a cage, $30 for a carrier and $25 for a litter box. This is just to get you started.
Get a good size hutch or cage. Rabbits are small creatures, but they are very active with strong and powerful hind legs that are designed for running and jumping around. As such you need to get a house for them that enables them to move around freely. The minimum recommended cage space for a single rabbit of a small to medium-sized breed is four feet wide, two feet deep and two feet tall.
Keep the hutch indoors. Although it is quite common for rabbits to be kept in outdoor hutches, it is now advised that you opt to house them indoors. An outdoor hutch isolates sociable creatures and exposes them to dangers of predators. Even if they secured in a hutch, a rabbit can die from a heart attack brought on by an approaching predator.
Supplying the bedding. You need to get bedding that is warm, soft and absorbent. Hay and straw are the best things to use. Whatever substrate you get, it needs to be edible, so it should be dust-free. Check the packets in store to see which ones are safe.
Get a litter tray. In addition to a hutch, you will need to litter train your rabbit if you are keeping it inside. You can get a litter tray when you buy the cage or hutch at the pet store. The tray will need to fit inside the hutch, but not take up more than about a third of floor space. A litter tray is important for your rabbit's hygiene.
Feeding Your Rabbit
Have a constant supply of hay. Hay, and/or grass, are the most important elements in a rabbit's diet. Rabbits are grazers so it's essential that you have plenty of hay for them to nibble on throughout the day and night. A rabbit needs a good intake of grass or hay to keep their digestive system working properly. You should ensure that there is fresh hay available to your rabbit at all times.
Ensure your rabbit has continuous fresh clean water. You should check your rabbit's water supply twice and day and top up as required. If your rabbit is outdoors take care to ensure that the water doesn't freeze in cold weather. Inadequate water supplies can seriously harm the health of your rabbit. You can use either a water bottle or a dish, the most important thing is the constant supply of fresh water.
Have a good supply of dried food. A rabbit should have a diet that combines good quality dried food (often referred to as pellets), fresh hay, oat hay, fresh vegetables and water. You should follow the manufacturer's instructions for pellets, but it is advised not to just keep re-filling their bowls. If you do this the rabbits may end up not getting enough hay.
Feed him fresh food. Fresh leafy greens should account for around a third of your rabbit's diet. He'll enjoy lots of different greens, including dark leaf lettuces, collard greens, turnip greens and carrot tops. The amount your rabbit will eat depends on the age and size, but as a basic guide, it is recommended to provide two cups of greens per six pounds of rabbit weight each day.
Give him occasional treats. Sometimes you will want to treat your rabbit with a piece of fruit or a root vegetable. Rabbits do not eat these naturally so you should limit the amount you give them. Avoid treats other than fruit and root vegetables, as they harm your rabbit. Some appropriate treats include strawberries, pineapples, apples, raspberries and pears.
Keeping Your Rabbit Happy
Give him some company. Rabbits should be kept with at least one other friendly rabbit. They are sociable animals and like to be with other rabbits. A good combination is a neutered male and neutered female of the same size and breed. If rabbits are left alone for long periods they can develop abnormal behaviours.
Have a good supply of toys and things to chew. You should supply an abundant amount of safe and chewable toys for your rabbit. Some safe chew toys include simple things like cardboard boxes, or even an old telephone directory. You could also give them an old cotton towel to chew on, as long as you don't mind it getting chewed to bits.
Give your rabbit places to dig. As well as being chewers, rabbits are diggers. It's in their nature to dig, so it's important to give them opportunities to do it. They won't be digging holes in your floor like they would outside in the wild, but you can simulate it with a digging box. You can put together a digging box simply getting a good size cardboard box and filling up halfway with shredded paper.
Provide a place to hide. It's very important to provide places where your rabbits can hide. They do this if they are feeling afraid and it's nothing to worry about. They need to be able to hide when something scares them or they will become stressed. The hiding places should have two entrances/exits and be high enough for them to run underneath.
Allow him time and space to run around. You should take your rabbit out of its cage every day so he can run around and get some exercise. Rabbits are very active animals which need frequent exercise ideally in a large space. They are most active early morning, late afternoon and overnight when they like to forage, graze and socialise.
Sit with your rabbit daily. Rabbits are sociable creatures so it's important that spend some time with them. Interact with them regularly to help you bond. Try to put some time aside every day to be with them, even if this is just sitting in the same room while he is roaming about. If you are watching TV you might find him climb onto the sofa to say hello.
Know how to handle your rabbit. Rabbits need to be handled carefully and with sensitivity. Move slowly and talk quietly around him and lower yourself down to floor level. If he is comfortable with being handled you can slide one hand underneath his rib cage and gently lift him while you scoop up his rear with the other hand. Slowly lift him up to your chest and hold him gently but firmly, with one hand supporting his hindquarters at all times. You can help him feel secure by holding all four of his feet against your body.
Clean out the cage and litter box. You should regularly clean out your rabbit's housing and its litter tray. It's important to provide a well-kept and clean environment for them to live in. You can empty out and replace soiled bedding every day and it won't take long. Give the cage a more thorough clean once a week.
Groom your rabbit. It's good to regularly brush your rabbit with a soft brush to remove any excess hair. Moulting hair can build up in mats and cause sores to develop if you don't groom him sufficiently. Brushing will generally help to keep his coat in top condition. When you are brushing go from the back of the head down to the tail.
Bathe your rabbit. Bathing should be done in a way that doesn't alarm the rabbit. Make sure he has secure footing at the bottom of the bowl, and the water is warm. The biggest risk would be him taking fright, jumping out of the bowl or bath, and injuring himself. Keep bathing to a minimum so only when his fur is soiled or there is another compelling reason to bathe him.
Know when to take him to the vet. It's recommended that you bring your rabbit to your local vets for a check-up at least once a year. In between these times you can help by observing your rabbit and watching out for any signs of ill health. If you think he might be ill make an appointment with the vet as soon as possible. Symptoms to look out for include:
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