Frequently Asked Questions about Pet Rabbits
Below are a few answers to questions we receive a lot.
Q. Help! My bunny's not eating/drinking/pooping/peeing. What should I do?
A: These are serious symptoms in a rabbit. Take your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy vet immediately. To locate a rabbit-savvy vet in your area, see the House Rabbit Society Veterinarian Index.
Q: My rabbit has [insert medical condition here]. What should I do?
A: The editors at My House Rabbit are not vets. Call your rabbit-savvy vet and describe your rabbit's medical issue to them, and they will be able to tell you if there is a treatment you can provide at home, or if you need to bring your rabbit in to the vet.
Q: My rabbit is pooping/peeing outside his litterbox. How do I make him poop/pee exclusively in the litterbox?
A: First, note that bunnies are not perfect. Expect them to drop a few pellets here and there in the general vicinity of the litter box from time to time. However, if your situation is more serious than this, your first step is to read our article about litter training if you haven't already done so. Here are some further tips:
- Rabbits tend to poop while they eat hay. So it is always a good idea to place ample amounts of hay either in the litterbox or in a hayfeeder right next to the litterbox (so the bunny is forced to sit in the litterbox if he wants to munch on hay).
- Mop up urine with a paper towel and pick up stray poop and place both in the litterbox. This helps get the message across that the litterbox is the place that they should do their business.
- Be patient and persistent. Litter training takes time, especially if your rabbit has learned bad habits. It takes a while to retrain them. If you can see they're about to go to the bathroom outside their litterbox (they may lift their tail or sometimes they sort of shimmy down in a seated position right before they go), try to pick them up and put them in the litterbox or corral them in. This is oftentimes easier said than done of course.
- Limit their space. If your bunny is free reign, you may want to limit their space initially using a puppy pen until your rabbit is consistently practicing good litterbox habits. Then, very gradually increase the space, ensure those good habits remain intact. Eventually, you will be able to take away the puppy pen completely.
- If your bunny is insistent on going in one corner of the room, sometimes it's easier to give in to their stubbornness, and place a litterbox in that corner. Sometimes when rabbits consistently choose another place to go, they are trying to tell you that that's where they want to go.
- If your rabbit is pooping/spraying pee everywhere, this is probably due to your rabbit marking his territory. It's a good idea to get your rabbit spayed/neutered in order to ease territorial feelings.
Q: My rabbit keeps peeing on my couch/bed. How do I make her stop?
A: If you think it's a more deliberate action than simply poor litter box habits (in which case, see the answer above related to litter training), then you will probably benefit from reading our blog post "Being Top Bunny".
Q: My rabbit is eating his own poop. How do I make him stop?
A: Rabbits excrete two forms of poop. One type takes the form of compact, dry pellets that you should see in your rabbit's litterbox. The other form is called a cecotrope. Cecotropes are soft, pungent feces that look like tiny clusters of grapes. Rabbits eat cecotropes directly from their behinds and reingest them. This process, called coprophagy, is a vital part of a rabbit's normal digestive cycle. Cecotropes provide important nutrients and help keep their digestive system in balance. In short, rabbits are supposed to eat their own poop and should not be discourage from doing so.
Q: How do I bathe my rabbit?
A: Only in rare circumstances should you ever give your rabbit a bath. Rabbits are naturally very clean animals and groom themselves constantly. They will be able to keep themselves clean as long as their living environment is clean. Make sure to clean their litterboxes frequently. In some situations, giving your rabbit a bath may be necessary. An example would be if your rabbit is suffering from "poopy butt" and wiping the area with a damp paper towel is not effective. If this is the case, try to keep as much of the rabbit dry as possible, and only give the rabbit a shallow bath if you can. Then dry your bunny with a towel and make sure he's able to stay warm. That is, don't put him outside if it's cold, and he's still wet. (See our article about poopy butt if this is why you want to give your rabbit a bath. The article gives tips on how to prevent the condition from recurring.)
Q: My bunny doesn't let me pick him up. What should I do?
A: See our article about handling a rabbit for tips on picking up/holding rabbits. However, do note that rabbits are prey animals. So in general, they don't feel safe being held. They much prefer if you come down to their level instead and allow them to come to you when they feel comfortable.
Q: My bunny is biting me. How do I make him stop?
A: Sometimes rabbits nip to get attention. If this is the case with your bunny, the solution is to squeal every time he does it. This lets the rabbit know that his nipping hurts you. In the future, you'll find that he'll nip softer or will stop doing it altogether. Rabbits may bite in a more serious way other than nipping for attention however. Sometimes rabbits can be very aggressive and territorial. Spaying/neutering rabbits can help calm these tendencies. Also, building a trusting relationship with your bunny can help as well. (See our article on building a relationship with your bunny here.)
Q: My two rabbits used to get along, but now one is biting/humping the other.
A: Bonds between bunnies can sometimes break, especially if they were bonded before reaching sexual maturity. Once they reach sexual maturity, territorial feelings and aggression may arise. Your rabbits may be trying to reestablish dominance by fighting or by mounting one another. To some extent, you do have to let your bunnies decide dominance before they will ever get along. However, you need to ensure that they're not causing serious injury to one another. Monitoring them is essential, and if the violent behavior escalates, you will have to separate them. One thing to note is that getting your rabbits spayed/neutered can help ease aggressive behavior. (See our article about bonding for more information about the process of bonding two bunnies.) Sometimes people also find that what they thought were two males/two females turn out to be one female and one male. In this case, it is imperative to get your rabbits spayed and neutered.
Q: What breed is my bunny?
A: We're not really experts on breeds here at My House Rabbit. You can try to match your bunny to the breeds listed at the ARBA, but you may find, like our bunnies Coco and Cosette, that your rabbit is some kind of mix.
Q: What breed of bunny makes the best pet?
A: Rabbits have unique personalities, unrelated to breed. Your best bet is to contact a local rabbit rescue and talk to the volunteers about the personalities of bunnies they have available. They will be able to match you up with a bunny that's right for you and your family.