new rabbit

My First Rabbit - What To Do When You Get A New Rabbit

Posted by Rita on 20 May 2021

Congratulations, you’re about to become a bunny owner! Preparing for your new rabbit can be very exciting, but also stressful. It is always best to make sure you have all the essentials ready before your new long-eared friend comes home

It's also a good idea to do a bit of research. Pet rabbits need special care and a rabbit-savvy veterinarian to stay healthy. If new pet will not be a house rabbit, you'll also need to research what your pet rabbit needs to live happily outdoors in all weather conditions. 

If you were told that bunnies are easy pets, you've been misled. Pet rabbits are a lot of work, especially free-roaming house rabbits. Why? Everything in your home will need to be bunny-proofed. They love to chew on everything from electrical cords to baseboards!

They are wonderful pets, however, if you prepared properly, did your research and know what to expect. THey aren't for everyone, but once this pet loves you, you'll never want anything but more bunnies. 

Need a bit of help? Let's take a closer look at pet rabbit needs and what rabbit ownership entails. 

New rabbit

Preparing For Your New Rabbit

Before you get a pet rabbit, make sure to do research! Bunnies can live for 10 years or more so you need to be ready for the commitment. You will also need to think about getting your new rabbit spayed or neutered as soon as possible unless you're a breeder of course. 

If you want to breed, make sure you have a goal in mind and a place for the babies to go. Rabbits produce large litters, they also breed very quickly with a gestation period of only 32 days! If you don't control breeding, you'll end up with a lot of bunnies very quickly.

You will also need to register yourself with an association or club to become a reputable registered breeder. 

For the pet rabbit owner, spayed or neutered bunnies are the way to go. They are much happier this way since their hormones won't wreak havoc on their systems. You won't experience false pregnancies, mood swings, health issues related to the reproductive tract, potty training issues related to territorial displays, and spraying urine everywhere. Spraying is more common in male bunnies, but females do it too sometimes. 

Where will your bunny live?

The next thing you need to consider is where your new rabbit will live. Bunnies need a lot of space to run and jump. It keeps them entertained and out of trouble most of the time. If you want a house rabbit, it's a good idea to dedicate a whole room to your pet rabbit. 

A lot of people use the living room, family room, or a bedroom for their bunnies to roam. Others might allow their new pet to go where ever they like. Either way, you'll need bunny proof. 

This means covering all cords, protecting the baseboards and any furniture you don't want to be destroyed. Not all pet rabbits are destructive, but a lot of them do like to chew. You can stop some destructive behavior by providing lots of bunny safe toys.

Consider the costs!

The last thing you need to think about is the cost of rabbit care. These fluffy critters need special bunny-savvy exotic vets when they get sick. They can go from completely fine to critical in a matter of hours. Your vet needs to know how to handle these situations. 

This means keeping a bunny can be very expensive! They also need enclosures with enough space to run and lots of toys. Lastly, rabbit ownership means buying LOTS of rabbit-safe foods. They really like to eat a lot. 

Now that you know the bunny basics, let's take a look at what you'll need to prepare for your new rabbit. 

rabbit and girl

Bunny Basics - What You Need for Your New pet rabbit

Ready to get your new bunny area set up? There are a few things your new fluffy pet rabbit can’t go without. Make sure you get the following:

1. A Rabbit Hutch 

A rabbit hunch is an enclosure that both keeps your rabbit out of trouble and offers your pet a safe place to sleep and hide. You will need to make sure the home you choose is big enough for the breed of rabbit you will be getting. Also, remember that rabbits prefer to live in pairs, so there needs to be enough space for both of them to move around comfortably. 

Your rabbit hutch can either be a special rabbit cage, a wooden hutch, or an enclosed area inside or outside your home. Whatever you choose, this is a big step in preparing for your new pet.

If you like to go cage-free, you can combine your hutch with a puppy pen. Simply link the pen to the hutch to dramatically expand the area. You can also close off a room with a baby gate and have the hutch open at all times for your new pet to come and go as it pleases.       

2. Food Bowls

Just like other pets, your new long-eared friends will need rabbit-safe containers to hold their food. It is best to keep to stainless steel or ceramic bowls to prevent chewing. You will also need to make sure that the bowl is tip-proof, impossible to pick up, and unbreakable. 

I learned the hard way that if they can pick up the food dish, you will have food all over the place in no time, it can also be dangerous if you use a breakable bowl. You'll be surprised how hard a bunny can throw a food dish. 

You can buy these at any pet store. A feed store might sell them as well. 

3. Water Bowl Or Bottle

Your fluffy friends will also need a water bowl or bottle. Rabbits drink a lot of water so make sure to have more than one bowl or bottle available at all times. If you use bowls, you will need to make sure that they are tip-proof and resistant to being picked up by a curious pet rabbit.

Bowls are usually better than bottles for large breeds. Bottles can be tiring to drink from, especially for large pet rabbits. Just keep in mind that bowls are more work since bunnies tend to use them as a toilet. They also need to be cleaned daily. 

Anything you put in your bunny's cage also needs to be chew-proof, unless it’s a chew toy of course! Water bottles are better in the sense that the water stays fresh and clean for longer. You will need to make sure that they are big enough and easy for your bunnies to use. 

rabbit water bottle

4. Hay Feeder

You will soon realize that it’s nearly impossible to stop the hay from getting into everything. Hay feeders will, however, prevent your long-eared friends from using the hay as a toilet. Bunnies just love to do their business on their hay so you can place some in their litter box to encourage them to use it. 

If the hay is laying around, you will also notice your bunny pushing it all over the place while nesting or even out of boredom. If you want your rabbits to eat their hay instead of playing with it, get a hay feeder. 

The best place to put a hay feeder is above the litterbox. Bunnies like to eat and poop at the same time. This will also encourage them to use the litterbox while the hay stays clean. 

5. Rabbit Litter Box

If your pet rabbit will free roam in your house, you might want to consider litter box training. Bunnies usually pick a dedicated spot to do their business in. All you need to do is place a rabbit litter box in that spot, fill it with some rabbit-safe cat litter and hay, and make sure your rabbit knows about it, your war is now half won. 

Having a litter box-trained rabbit will also make cage cleaning much easier and keep your rabbit hutch smelling fresh for much longer. Rabbits are very clean animals, so I’m sure they’ll appreciate it too. 

6. Bunny Safe Litter

This goes without saying, rabbits just love to chew on everything, and unfortunately, that includes the litter you use. You can use cat litter for your bun buns, but do make sure that it’s safe for being ingested. Some cat litter consists of crystals, clay, and softwood that expand and clump quite a lot, those aren’t safe for use in rabbit litter boxes. 

Ideally, you want litter made from recycled paper or any other rabbit-safe litter. Wood pellets made from pine also work well. Just make sure your rabbit can't eat them. 

7. Rabbit Safe Toys

My partner didn’t believe me when I told him this, but rabbits do play. A bored bun is a destructive ball of energy and nobody wants that, especially if your bunny has free range of the house. Make sure to get several kinds of chew-safe rabbit toys to entertain your new fluffy friend. 

Chew toys will keep your bunny’s teeth worn down, satisfy their chewing needs and take away boredom. Do make sure to only use toys under supervision since there is a potential choking risk in some cases. Avoid any toys made from plastic since they might cause problems when ingested. 

8. Rabbit Playpen

Every rabbit needs some time outside of its hutch. A good, safe way to allow your fluffy friend some freedom is with a puppy pen. You will need to make sure that the pen is high enough so your bunny can’t jump out. 

Buns are excellent jumpers, so make sure to supervise free time. Your bunny will also appreciate your company. 

If you want your bun bun to have lots of space without having access to your furniture, use a puppy pen attached to your hutch. This is a great setup for the living room. You can also create a rabbit run outside to allow your fluffy friend to graze on the lawn. Just makes sure there are no predatory birds around!

Rabbit Fest | Rabbit Fest, 2019. Vancouver BC. | Tjflex2 | Flickr

By Tjflex2

9. Baby Gate

A baby gate is a very handy tool to keep free-roaming house rabbits out of certain rooms or areas. You will need to make sure the baby gate you buy is made of metal or chew-proof wood with small enough spaces between the bars to prevent your long-eared friend from escaping. Rabbits are escape artists so make sure to check the dimensions thoroughly before you buy. 

10. Rabbit Proofing Supplies

If your bun will be free-roaming, you will need to make sure the house is bunny-proof. You will need to cover all exposed wires with hard split plastic tubing to prevent chewing. If you have wooden furniture, it is also a great idea to cover them to prevent curious rabbits from chewing on your prised furniture. 

Let your rabbit explore its new surroundings, but keep an eye out for the first few days. If there's something you missed, your new pet will let you know very quickly. They have a talent for finding things they shouldn't. 

11. Floor Protectors

If you have an indoor cage, you might want to consider floor protectors. There are multiple products that are very handy for protecting your floor against fluffy hoppers.

They can get a bit messy and have accidents every now and again, especially when you just started potty training. Just make sure that the matt is chew-proof.

Spend some time observing your new bun's habits. You'll figure out very quickly which areas of their new home need a bit of extra protection. 

12. Puppy pads

Puppy pads are handy for potty training and keeping your rabbit’s hutch and play area clean. Just make sure that your bunny can’t eat it!

13. Safe Cleaning Supplies

Unfortunately, all pets need their living areas cleaned now and then, this includes your hoppers. You will need to make sure that the cleaning supplies you use are bunny safe.

Vinegar is a great natural cleaner. It disinfects and removes nasty smells quite effectively. Rabbits have a lot of calcium in their urine which will harden and stick to the floor, vinegar is very useful for dissolving the calcium in dried rabbit urine stains. You can also buy pet odor-removing solutions to help with the smell.

Keep some paper towels and a spray bottle with vinegar handy for cleaning up any accidents. A paper towel works great for soaking up wee and trasfering it to the litter box. This helps your rabbit learn where the wee should go.  

If your rabbit is spayed or neutered, it will also help a lot with reducing urine smells. 

14. Preparing For Your First Rabbit - Care Guide

It is always good to have a rabbit care guide handy. If you run into a problem or wonder about a certain aspect of bunny care, you can always refer to a book or other blog posts on our website for detailed bunny care information. 

15. Rabbit Carrier

You will need a rabbit carrier when you’re bringing your new pet home. You will also need this carrier whenever you go for vet visits or travel. Make sure to train your pet to feel safe in the carrier. This will help to make any traveling less stressful. 

If you need to travel, make sure you read our article on rabbit transport for all the safety tips. 


By Chachacha369 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

16. Bunny Bedding

Your rabbit will need some kind of bedding to stay warm and feel comfortable in its hutch. Bunny bedding can consist of hay (my rabbits have hay bedding) or any kind of blanket or special rabbit beds. Hay is the safest option since your bunny can also snack on it, but if you do use blankets or rabbit beds, just inspect them regularly for vandalism. 

If you notice any damage, remove them immediately and replace them with something more rabbit safe. You can also try to add some cardboard boxes. They really love exploring a cardboard box maze. 

17. Rabbit First Aid Kits

Rabbits have this tendency to get themselves in trouble quite often. It is a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand with basic supplies like a digital thermometer with a flexible tip, disinfectant, wound sprays, deworming, parasite control, tweezers, feeding syringes, jars of vegetable-based baby food, baby gas drops, and bandages.

If you can't find pet supplies specifically for rabbits, try looking in the cat or chicken section since most cat and chicken medicine is safe for rabbits. Consult your exotic vet if you're unsure. 

18. Bunny Grooming Supplies 

Some hoppers like the Angora needs more grooming than others, but all rabbits need a brush now and then, especially in the molting (shedding) season. Rabbits, unlike cats, can’t regurgitate hairballs. Hairballs can cause serious intestinal blockages.

To avoid any grooming-related health problems, make sure you have a brush, nail clippers, cotton swabs, and ear cleaner handy. Depending on your breed, you will need to groom your buns quite regularly. 

NEVER bathe a rabbit! It's extremely stressful for them and can cause death due to stress. 

19. Rabbit Food

Part of preparing for your first house rabbit is getting healthy food. Rabbits are grazers like horses which means they need to eat almost constantly. Your new house rabbit will need a balanced diet with unlimited hay. Make sure to buy good grass-based hay like Timothy hay or oat hay as well as good quality rabbit pellets to start with. You can introduce fresh foods once your bun bun has settled.

Refer to our Nutrition section for which foods are rabbit safe as well as specially balanced rabbit diet weekly menus. 

Just A Recap 

You should have a good idea of what your new bunny needs by now, let’s just fill in this checklist to make sure you are well on your way to preparing for your first rabbit:

[checklist-box title="New Rabbit Preparation Checklist:" extraTitle="" extraUrl=""]

  1. Rabbit housing
  2. Food bowls
  3. Water bottle or bowl
  4. Hay feeder
  5. Rabbit litter box
  6. Bunny safe litter
  7. Rabbit safe toys
  8. Puppy playpen
  9. Baby gate (Only if new bunnies are freeroam or have their own room)
  10. Bunny proofing supplies
  11. Floor protection
  12. Puppy pads
  13. Safe cleaning supplies
  14. Bunny care guide
  15. Rabbit carrier
  16. Bunny bedding
  17. Rabbit first aid supplies
  18. Bunny grooming suppies
  19. Rabbit food


[/checklist-box]Remember to enjoy preparing for your new pet rabbit and look through the rest of our website for more expert rabbit care tips and advice. If you want to know more about rabbit habits, check out our article 'Are rabbits nocturnal'.

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