Rabbits For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Bringing on the Bunny Basics

Part II: Taking Care of Creature Comforts

Part III: Rabbit Psychology: Behavior and Training

Part IV: Enjoying Your Fun Bunny

Part V: The Part of Tens


Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Bringing on the Bunny Basics

Chapter 1: Jumping into Rabbit Ownership

Admiring from Afar

Digesting this information (and that carrot)

Taking advantage of skin and bones

Taking a whiff

Putting those ears to good use

Figuring Out Whether a Rabbit is Right for You

Asking yourself whether you’re rabbit-ready

Considering the right reasons to own a rabbit

Knowing What You Want in a Furry Friend

Providing Shelter

Feeding Your Rabbit

Grooming Your Rabbit

Keeping Up with Chores

Monitoring Your Rabbit’s Health

Training Your Rabbit

Thinking Like a Bunny

Having a Good Time with Your Pet

Chapter 2: Choosing the "Right" Rabbit

Pinpointing the Right Age

Deciding Between a Boy or Girl

Opting for an Only Rabbit or a Bunny with a Built-in Companion

Mixing it Up: Bunny Mutts

Rabbit coat types

Head shape


Living the High Life: Bunny Bluebloods

Purebred reasoning

Different breeds, different looks

Chapter 3: So Many Breeds, So Little Time


American Fuzzy Lop

American Sable


Belgian Hare


Britannia Petite


Champagne d’ Argent

Checkered Giant



Crème d’ Argent


Dwarf Hotot

English Spot

Flemish Giant

Florida White





Jersey Wooly



Mini Rex

Mini Satin

Netherland Dwarf

New Zealand







Silver Fox

Silver Marten



Chapter 4: Hiding in Shelters, Holes, and Shops

Donning Your Cape: Rescuing a Rabbit

Presenting the problem

Seeking the solution

Saving a stray

Considering Breeders

Getting a connection

Checking out a breeder

Calling the classifieds

Taking Precautions at Pet Shops

Selecting the Rabbit

Watching for signs of an ill rabbit

Keeping character in mind

Part II: Taking Care of Creature Comforts

Chapter 5: Shacking Up with an Indoor Rabbit

Getting Serious about Safety

Taking Health Concerns to Heart

Bonding with Bunny

Having Fun with Your Bun

Making Sure That Everyone’s Comfy: Rabbit Essentials

Craving His Cage

Putting a Pen to Good Use

Rabbit-Proofing Your House

Identifying trouble spots



When Littering Is Good: The Litter Box

Encouraging your bunny to go in her cage

Providing 1.5 bathrooms

Cleaning up

Keeping a Squeaky Clean Home

Litter box cleaning

Daily cage duty

Weekly cage cleaning

Chapter 6: Stocking Up on Carrots

Supplying Your Bunny with Belly Timber

Hay Every Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Going Green

Getting Fruity

Making the Most of Pellets

Picking pellets

Determining the correct amount of pellets

Coping with a Chubby Bunny

Giving Your Bunny Treats

Popping Pills

Forbidding Foods

Chapter 7: Cleaning Behind Those Great Big Ears and More

Stocking Your Grooming Toolshed

Handling with Care

Running Down the Grooming Checklist

Bypassing the Bath

Breaking Out the Brush

Brushing short to medium coats

Brushing long coats

Clipping It Not Quite in the Bud

Cleaning Your Bunny’s Ears

Chapter 8: Making Fitness and Fresh Air Fun for Your Bunny

Fitness Matters

Keeping Your Rabbit Fit



Motivating a lazy bunny

Taking care of outdoor chores

Rabbit-Proofing Your Yard

Keeping Wolfie away

Protecting your rabbit

Protecting your yard

Avoiding poisonous plants

Plants for safe snacking

Chapter 9: Nipping Common Health Problems in the Bud

Finding Dr. Doolittle

Evaluating a vet

Going for an exam

Spay It, Don’t Spray It

Playing Doctor

Assembling a first-aid kit

Identifying signs of pain

Dealing with Bunny Ailments

Gastrointestinal problems

Urinary tract concerns


Dental disease

Ear infections


Head tilt

Inflammation of the feet


Paralysis and hind limb weakness

Banning Pesky Parasites

Intestinal parasites

Ear mites

Fur mites





Chapter 10: Coping with Other Health Woes and Aging Issues

Treating Infectious Diseases

Respiratory infections



Tyzzer’s disease

Venereal disease

Viral hemorrhagic disease

Encephalitozoon cuniculi

Caring for Disabled and Special Needs Rabbits

Helping Bunny Live to a Ripe, Old Age

Saying Goodbye

Letting go: Euthanasia

Finding a place of rest

Grieving is good for you

Bonding with a new bunny

Part III: Rabbit Psychology: Behavior and Training

Chapter 11: Thinking Like a Rabbit

Making Sense of Body Language

Interpreting Rabbit Sounds

Preying for Safety

Showing Others Who’s Boss

Coexisting Peacefully: Ensuring a Happy Homecoming

Gaining Your Rabbit’s Trust

Meeting Fido and Fluffy



Combining Children and Rabbits

Chapter 12: Putting Boxing Gloves on Your Rabbit: Training

Training Your Bunny the Right Way

Giving a Command Performance

Training with treats

Here, Fluffy: Coming when called

Making like Van Halen: Jumping

Working on the abs: Sitting up

Cozying up in his cage: Go in

Taking a walk on the wild side

Chapter 13: Reckoning with a Bad Bunny

Just Say "No!"

Taming Terrible Teenagers

Coping with Aggressiveness

Biting the Hand That Feeds You — Literally

Food aggression



Busting Loose: Kicking

Boxing Bunnies

Chowing Down

Digging In

Duking It Out

Pee Marks the Spot


Shaking in His Bunny Boots: Fearfulness

Part IV: Enjoying Your Fun Bunny

Chapter 14: Playing Around Isn’t Just for Dogs

Getting Playful with Toys

Keeping safety first

Going prefab

Made from scratch

Tag! You’re It! Playing Games

Amusing Themselves

Making like The Pointer Sisters: Jumping

Tiny chariots of fire

arious and sundry other hijinks

Chapter 15: Getting Hoppy with Your House Rabbit

Clubbing It

Regional rabbit clubs

Signing up with the House Rabbit Society

Kid-friendly groups

Rescuing Rabbits

Being proactive

Halfway there: Fostering

Rabbit Hopping

Getting up to speed (and height)

Taking the plunge

Putting on the sweatsuit: Training

Showing Rabbits

Considering pros and cons

Attending your first show

Taking the 4-H route

No relation to the Swedish band: ARBA

Chapter 16: Hitting the Road with Your Rabbit

Keeping Him at Home

Preparing your pet sitter

Going the professional pet-sitter route

Boarding your bunny

Traveling with Your Rabbit

Travel dos

Travel don’ts

Packing a mean bag

Carrier comfy

Bunny you can drive my car

Flying the unfriendly (for bunnies) skies

Being a law-abiding bunny

Staying at a Five-Carrot Hotel

Booking a reservation

Being a good guest

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 17: Ten Signs That Require Emergency Action

Blood in Urine


Excessive Salivation



Labored Breathing

No Stool




Broken bone



Head Tilt and Seizures

Sudden Weakness

Chapter 18: Ten Great Rabbit Web Sites

Chapter 19: Ten Ways to Make Your Bunny’s Day

Get Fresh

Take a Peek

Get Fit

Breathe Some Fresh Air

Check on Health

Make Time for Playtime

Listen to Your Rabbit

Schedule Spa Time

Clean Up

Spend Quality Time

Appendix: Rabbit Resources

Rabbits For Dummies®

by Connie Isbell and Audrey Pavia


About the Authors

Connie Isbell, the author of Rabbit Adoption For Dummies, grew up in rural New York State, where she spent time with creatures of all kinds — companion, farm, and wild alike. Connie carried this interest in animals and nature into her work as an editor and writer for Audubon magazine. She has also edited countless pet books, on everything from adopting an ex-racing greyhound to caring for rabbits and parrots. Connie now works from her home on the coast of New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and an assortment of pets.

Audrey Pavia is a former pet magazine editor and an award-winning freelance writer specializing in animal subjects. She has written articles on various rabbit topics in Rabbits, Critters, and Pet Product News magazines. She has authored 21 other animal books besides Rabbits For Dummies, including the Owners Guide to the Rabbit.

Audrey has been involved with rabbits since the age of 10, when she first joined her local 4-H rabbit project. She currently resides in Norco, California, with her husband, two Rex rabbits, and a house full of other pets.


From Connie: To my parents, who have inspired me in so many ways.

From Audrey: To Doey and Rusty, who introduced me to the world of rabbits and loved me despite my inexperience.

Authors' Acknowledgments

From Connie: Many thanks go out to the knowledgeable and dedicated volunteers of the House Rabbit Society, editors Kelly Ewing and Erin Calligan Mooney, technical editor Angela M. Lennox, DVM Dipl. ABVP-Avian, Stacy Kennedy, and Ingrid Pearsall; Cream Puff, Cupid, and Coconut deserve extra treats for their expert bunny antics and input.

I am grateful to my husband and daughters — Eric, Alice, and Lila Nathanson — for their endless love, patience, and encouragement throughout this and every one of my projects.

From Audrey: I would like to thank the following people for their assistance with writing this book: Wayne Kopit, DVM, of Brook-Ellis Animal Hospital in Fountain Valley, Calif.; attorney Roberta Kraus; my editors Tonya Maddox Cupp and Tracy Boggier; my sister Heidi Pavia-Watkins, DVM; Margo DeMello of the House Rabbit Society; Caroline Charland of the Bunny Bunch; my always supportive husband Randy Mastronicola; and my very helpful parents, Haydee and John Pavia.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Kelly Ewing

(Previous Edition: Tonya Maddox Cupp)

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

General Reviewer: Angela M. Lennox, DVM Dipl. ABVP-Avian

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistant: Jennette ElNaggar

Cover Photos: © Radius Images/Alamy

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Katie Key

Layout and Graphics: Christin Swinford, Christine Williams

Proofreaders: Melissa Cossell, Evelyn W. Gibson

Indexer: Potomac Indexing, LLC

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Welcome to Rabbits For Dummies, 2nd Edition, the one and only book that you need to get started in the wonderful world of rabbit ownership. Of course, when it comes to rabbits, you can never stop discovering. Although they may seem like simple little creatures, rabbits are actually physically and emotionally complex and they never cease to amaze those who live with them.

If you’re interested in rabbits, you came to the right book. Whether you’re thinking about getting your first rabbit or you already have a bunny and want to find out more about how to take care of him, this book can be a great help.

How hard is owning a rabbit? Rabbits For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is designed to be a useful reference for those who aren’t experts, as well as those who know zero about rabbits. Even people who know a thing or two about bunnies can benefit from this book because it’s a reference for behavior and health.

Rabbits are nothing like cats and dogs, the two most common pets. The rabbit’s digestive system is more akin to a horse than a feline or a canine. And the psychological makeup of a bunny is closer to that of a bird than that of a cat or dog.

In order to understand your rabbit and care for him properly, you have to know the details specific to rabbit ownership. By finding out about rabbit psychology, rabbit physiology, and basic rabbit care, you’ll have what it takes to take care of a rabbit just right.

About This Book

Rabbits For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is like a department store: You’re able to enter on whatever floor you like. You don’t have to walk past that smelly perfume counter to get to the housewares section on the third floor. You just walk into the housewares section. Likewise, you don’t have to start reading this book at the beginning, going through each page until you reach the end. You can turn to any section of the book that interests you and begin reading at that point and not feel lost. You don’t have to remember what you read yesterday, and you don’t have to read chapters or sections in order. Just find something that interests you, read it, do it, and put the book back on your shelf. (No one expects you to read from cover to cover except maybe your high school English teacher, but you can ignore her this time around.)

Each part of the book is divided into chapters that address basic questions about rabbits and their care. You’ll find answers to questions like

Am I really cut out to be a bunny owner?

How do I prepare my home for my rabbit’s arrival?

How do I communicate with my bunny?

What’s the best way to make sure that my rabbit is healthy and happy?

What do I do in the event of a medical emergency?

Conventions Used in This Book

Rabbits For Dummies, 2nd edition, makes information easy to find and use. To help you navigate through the text, we’ve used certain conventions:

Italics are used for emphasis and to highlight new words or terms that are defined.

Boldfaced text is used to bring attention to key words or highlight points in a series.

Monofont is used to set apart Web sites and e-mail addresses.

In this book, we refer to rabbits with the male pronouns (he, his, him) and the female pronouns (she, her). This convention is merely for readability’s sake. We don’t call rabbits “it” because they’re living creatures.

What You’re Not to Read

From time to time in this book, we share information that may be interesting but isn’t essential to the complete understanding of the topic at hand. You can find this nonessential information in two places:

Sidebars: The gray shaded text boxes contain supplementary information that you can skip or read later.

Technical Stuff: Paragraphs highlighted with the Technical Stuff icon contain technical rabbit facts and tidbits that are interesting but not required reading.

Foolish Assumptions

In writing Rabbits For Dummies, 2nd Edition, we made some assumptions about our readers:

You know a rabbit when you see one.

You’re one of the many people who think about adopting a cute, fur ball of rabbitness, but you want to make sure that a rabbit is the right pet for you and your family.

You’re lucky enough to own a rabbit, but you want to be certain that you’re doing all you can to properly care for him.

You care about rabbits and want to treat them with kindness, especially when it comes to housing them in your home.

You’re allowed to keep rabbits in the area where you live.

You know that the best way to find out about things is to read about what the experts have to say on the subject.

You’re no dummy, despite the title of this book. In fact, you’re pretty smart — otherwise, you wouldn’t have bought this book.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is put together in a way that allows you to find the information you need quickly and easily. Rabbits For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is divided into five parts made up of several chapters relating to that specific rabbit topic.

Part I: Bringing on the Bunny Basics

Before you even get a rabbit, you need to know what rabbits are all about. This part offers information about whether a rabbit is right for your lifestyle, how rabbits are put together, how to go about choosing a rabbit, and the best places to find one.

Part II: Taking Care of Creature Comforts

Housing, grooming, and feeding — these three important elements for keeping a rabbit are all covered in this part of the book. You can find out why rabbits are happier and healthier as indoor pets, how to litter box train your house rabbit, why keeping your pet clean and groomed is so important, and how best to feed your bunny.

Because rabbits are prone to illness, bunny healthcare is an important matter. In this part, you can find out how to recognize common rabbit illnesses, how to prevent them, and when to go to the vet. You also get help putting together a bunny first-aid kit, and you discover how to handle rabbit emergencies. Finally, this part discusses how to say the final goodbye when that inevitable moment comes.

Part III: Rabbit Psychology: Behavior and Training

Rabbit personality is what makes living with a bunny so much fun. Find out how to understand bunny body language. (They can’t speak English.) Discover helpful tips on training, as well as how to train your pet to do a few fun tricks. This part also includes invaluable information on how to deal with common behavior problems, such as biting, chewing, and digging.

Part IV: Enjoying Your Fun Bunny

Think rabbits don’t do much except sit in a cage all day? Wrong! You can have all kinds of fun with your rabbit. Part IV discusses playing with him, getting involved in rabbit clubs and shows, and even traveling with him. This part also covers the unique sport of rabbit hopping, along with details on how to get involved with rabbit social issues.

Part V: The Part of Tens

In the Part of Tens, we tackle three different subjects: health emergencies, useful rabbit Web sites, and ways of enhancing a pet rabbit’s life. In the health chapter, you find an overview of the ten signs that require emergency action. Follow the advice, and your rabbit is likely to live a long, healthy life. Chapter 18 has the best links on the Internet for rabbit lovers. And last but not least, the final chapter offers ten ways to make your bunny’s day special.


The Appendix in this book contains a plethora of rabbit resources, including rabbit rescue groups, purebred rabbit clubs and registries, rabbit activity groups, educational organizations, rabbit publications, and other useful resources for rabbit owners.

Icons Used in This Book

As with all the other books in the For Dummies series, this book has useful little icons in the margins to call your attention to specific types of information. See the following explanations of what each of those icons means:

Remember.eps You see this icon throughout this book because when it comes to rabbits, you need to do plenty of remembering. We place this icon next to important information that you won’t want to miss or forget.

Warning(bomb).eps When you see this symbol, beware! This icon highlights information about dangers that can cause your rabbit harm.

TechnicalStuff.eps Occasionally, rabbit information gets a bit technical, hence this icon. When you see it, put the left side of your brain in high gear. But if you’re short on time, know that this information is interesting but not essential.

Tip.eps This icon alerts you to helpful hints regarding rabbits, pertaining to their care and handling. If you read the information next to this icon, you’ll have a happier, healthier rabbit.

Where to Go from Here

Go wherever you want. You can start at Chapter 1 and read all the way through to the final appendix, or you can hop, skip, and jump around — much like a rabbit.

If you’re going to do that skipping around thing, can we at least ask you for a favor? Before you start jumping from place to place, take a few moments to read through Chapter 1, which contains the most important questions you want to ask yourself before you embark on the responsibility of rabbit ownership:

If you’re considering getting a rabbit, hop over to Chapter 1.

If you’ve decided that you’re going to buy a rabbit, Chapters 2, 3, and 4 help you find the right one.

If you already have a rabbit or two and want to get the latest perspective on a healthy bunny diet, see Chapter 6.

If you want to train your rabbit, Chapter 12 can help you.

If you want to participate in rabbit-related activities, Chapter 15 can get you started.

Part I

Bringing on the Bunny Basics


In this part . . .

If you’re just starting out with a rabbit, you need the basics. This part gives them to you. You find details on how to tell whether a rabbit is the right pet for you, the different breeds and types of rabbits available, the benefits of adopting a rabbit who needs a home, and how to find a healthy rabbit. You also see details about how the rabbit’s body works and receive pointers on how to choose the right rabbit for you.