Saturday, February 4, 2012

Buy this, not that: Rabbit products

As promised, here is the bunny version of "Buy this, not that".  For those of you who didn't read the version for guinea pigs, here's the deal.  As a rescue, we tell people a lot of what NOT to buy for their bunny, which I will do here, but I will also tell you what TO buy!

So, the first thing I will tell you NOT to buy is...your rabbit!  I know, I know.  Little baby bunnies hopping around in pet store pens are admittedly adorable.  However, if you buy a bunny from a pet store, you are essentially sentencing a rabbit sitting in a kill shelter to death.  If you adopt a bunny from a rescue group (like 4 Lil Pigs n Buns), it means the rescue group can take in another bunny from a kill shelter.  If you adopt directly from a kill shelter, you are also saving a bunny!  Adopting from a rescue group has many benefits.  You pay only a reasonable adoption fee, and the bunny will be spayed/neutered already.  All bunnies need to be spayed/neutered for health and behavioral reasons (aside from the obvious!).  If you take a bunny to a vet to be fixed, expect to pay over $200.  Rescues can also help match a rabbit's personality type to you.  Contrary to popular belief, rescues often have many breeds (often purebred!) available for adoption. 

Although those cute little pet store bunnies are tempting, please don't support pet stores who sell them.
Okay, so you've decided to adopt a bunny.  Where are you going to house your bunny?  Are you able to bunny-proof your home for a free-range bunny?  Or do you need to keep her confined when you are gone?  Let's start with what NOT to buy.
Same as with the guinea pigs, do NOT purchase a small pet store cage.  Even the largest ones are barely appropriate for one small rabbit.  Those "My First Home" kits?  Please keep walking.  Bunnies need space.  They are active, inquisitive, and should not be confined to a cage where they don't even have enough room to stretch out.  Oh, and housing your bunny outside is NOT appropriate, so forget those wooden outdoor hutches.  Stay away from anything with a wire bottom - this can cause sore hock in your rabbit (would YOU like to spend your time standing on a wire floor?)  So what do rescues dream of hearing when discussing housing with potential adopters?  If you can't let your bunny be free range, we LOVE pens.  As with the guinea pig housing I discussed in the previous blog, you can build rabbit pens out of storage cube panels.  Another easy option is to use a puppy exercise pen.  Oh, and if you don't know it, bunnies are easily litter box trained (as long as they are spayed/neutered!)
The author's bunny pen (guinea pig pen is attached)  This is an example of a pen made from storage cube panels.
An exercise pen set-up
Litter
Earlier, I let you know that bunnies are easily litter trained.  So, that means that you don't need to fill their entire space with litter.  Let me start with what NOT to buy.  Clumping clay cat litter might seem like a good idea, but it can be deadly if your bunny ingests it by causing intestinal blockages.  As with guinea pigs, stay away from pine and cedar shavings.  Corn cob litter can also cause blockages if ingested.  What kind of litter should you use?  Any litter made from recycled newspaper is great - Carefresh, Yesterday's News (buy the cat version, it's much less expensive).  Another option is pine pellets (not shavings - pellets are okay).  You can buy wood stove pellets (NO accelerant!) or a product such as Equine Pine or Feline Pine.  Some people simply use newspaper and hay as bedding.  To encourage litter box use, fill the box with nice, fresh hay.  Bunnies like to eat and poop!  For more litter training tips, check out the House Rabbit Society's advice.

Food
Here's where the actual "Eat this, not that" section begins!  I'll begin with photos of products that we do NOT want to see your rabbit ingest!
"Fiesta-style" pellets with seeds and colored bits.  The WORST pellets you can give.
 Here's a quick rule of thumb: if it says "Kaytee", don't buy it.  This package is part of the Kaytee "Pro-health" line.  These treats certainly do NOT promote health.
Just say no to treat sticks.  If it contains honey, seeds, or nuts, don't buy it.  This one is a triple offender (8 in 1 Ecotrition Treat Stick).
So, what should bunny eat?  LOTS of good quality grass hay!!  Hay is the absolute most important part of your rabbit's diet.  Young bunnies and elderly bunnies can have alfalfa, but for most healthy adult buns, it is too high in calories and calcium.  Your bunny should have an unlimited supply of grass hay (timothy is generally used, but you can also feed hays such as orchard grass).

I told you what kind of pellets NOT to buy, so what kind should your bunny have?  The answer - a high quality, timothy-based pellet.  Yes, it will be more expensive than the junk pellets, but just think of the fact that it will save vet bills in the long run!  Good brands include Oxbow, Zupreem, and Mazuri.
What else should you feed your bunny?  Lots of nice & fresh leafy greens!  Your bunny's veggies should look like this:
What about treats?  Yes, I know I said not to give those horrible commercially-available treats.  I also know that you would like to spoil your bunny every now and again.  What makes a good bunny treat?  How about a blueberry?  A (tiny) piece of banana?  Mine love little pieces of dried apple.  Many specialty bunny websites (Bunspace, Leith Petwerks, and Busy Bunny) have wonderful healthy bunny treats!  (but use in moderation, of course!)
Bunny Potpourri from Bunspace.com - my bunnies loved this!

Toys and Miscellany 
What toys should you give your bunny?  It can be challenging finding the right toys for your bunny.  First things first: try to determine how your bunny plays.  Is he a digger?  A tosser?  A chewer?  A destroyer?  Think outside the box - many plastic baby toys can be fun for your bun!  Try stacking cups or plastic key rings.  Or - think inside the box!  Place old phonebooks (glossy covers removed) inside a cardboard box (with a door cut for access).  My buns have hours of fun inside their cardboard box.  Apple twigs and willow baskets are fun to chew!  Pet Rabbit Toys has an excellent selection of toys to buy.  Whiffle balls are fun to toss and roll around.  Here are a few appropriate bunny toy examples:
Available at pet stores!  Finally a pet store product I can recommend!
Another pet store winner!
Available from busybunny.com (Basket 'o Balls)
Available from busybunny.com (Apple sticks)
Everyone loves playing in boxes!
What not to get?  Well, don't bother with salt licks.  Bunnies don't need them, so it's just a waste of money.  Aside from that, just stay away from anything potentially dangerous (small plastic pieces they could chew off and swallow, for example).  Other than that, just use your imagination!

Oh, and the best toy for your bunny?  Another bunny!  Rabbits do best with a friend of their own kind.  Believe me, it's no more difficult to care for two than it is for one.  February is Adopt-a-Rescued-Rabbit month!  If your bunny needs a friend, 4 Lil Pigs n Buns will be happy to have your (fixed) bunny come on a bunny date to choose a friend!

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