Preparing for Your First House Rabbit

Bringing a new pet rabbit into your life is an exciting event. You’ll want to make sure you’re fully prepared so that you and your new bunny can get off to a great start. Learn the basics of rabbit ownership, and review our checklist of initial bunny supplies below!

Bunny play area

Are you ready for a 10-year (or more) commitment?

Rabbits make wonderful indoor companions.  They are clean, relatively quiet, and adorable! But before you jump into rabbit ownership, make sure a rabbit is a good fit for your family.

First of all, ensure you’ve properly budgeted for your new furry friend. Costs include an adoption fee; vet bills for spay/neuter surgery, annual checkups, and occasional illness; housing and bunny proofing supplies; and food. After ten or more years, these costs can add up! Make sure you do the math first.  Learn more at How Much Does a Pet Rabbit Cost?.

Further, do your research on what it’s like to own a rabbit.  Rabbits like to chew EVERYTHING.  So anywhere your rabbit goes must be bunny proofed. If not, you will be greatly disappointed when cherished possessions are gnawed up. Rabbits require daily exercise, so keeping them confined to a small space all the time will not suffice.  In addition, if you’re envisioning having a lap pet, a rabbit might not be right for you. In general, rabbits don’t like being held. Finally, rabbits should not be thought of as “children’s pets”.  Families with children can certainly enjoy the companionship of a rabbit, but the primary caregiver for a rabbit should always be an adult. See Children and Pet Rabbits for more information.

You can learn more about the realities of rabbit ownership in our article, Thinking about Getting a Pet Rabbit? to determine if a rabbit is a good fit for you and your family.  If the answer is still “Yes!” then read on!

Prepare Your House

The first step when you decide to bring a bunny into your life is deciding where the bunny will primarily live.  At My House Rabbit, we advocate that rabbits live inside the home with you.  This provides much-needed social interaction for the rabbit, along with protection from predators and severe weather.

A great place to house your rabbit is in a central area of your home. You can use a puppy pen to block off a corner of a living room or family room.  A puppy pen provides ample space for a litter box, food/water bowls, a hay box, and a cardboard castle.  The rabbit also still has plenty of room to hop around in. Using a puppy pen is a better option than a cage because it provides more space, and it can be easily adjusted if you want to gradually increase the area to eventually give your bunny free reign in a bunny-proofed room (or rooms).  Because puppy pens have doors, it’s easy to let your bunny out of the pen for daily exercise. Learn more at Housing Your Pet Rabbit Indoors.

Indoor rabbit housing area

An example of a rabbit area setup. This works for rabbits who are contained by a puppy pen or roam free in a bunny proofed room. A cardboard castle and other chew toys complete the area.

Once you’ve set up the primary housing location for your rabbit, you’ll have to bunny proof the surrounding area where your rabbit will romp, rumble and play. All cords must be covered with wire protectors or lifted out of reach (at least 3-4 feet).  Your bunny will also be drawn to wooden furniture legs, books/stray papers, remote control buttons, moldings, rug corners, and basically anything else that’s potentially “chewable”.  If you don’t want those things destroyed, you will have to keep them out of reach or covered. Or you will have to carefully supervise all out-of-pen exercise time. For more tips, see our article, Bunny Proofing Your House.

Bunny Supply Checklist

  • Puppy pen
    Get one 36 inches or higher so your rabbit can’t jump out. Buy on Amazon >
  • Litter box
    A medium-sized cat litter box (no top) or a shallow storage container will do. Buy on Amazon >
  • Rabbit-safe litter
    Do not get clay/clumping cat litter or cedar wood shavings. These are unsafe for rabbits. Instead opt for a recycled newspaper pellet litter such as Yesterday’s News (unscented).  The recycled newspaper pellets will absorb the odors from urine. Learn more at Litter Training Your Pet Rabbit. Buy on Amazon >
  • Food / water bowls
    Ceramic dishes are heavy enough so your rabbit can’t tip them over. Buy on Amazon >
  • Food
    Adult rabbits should be given an unlimited supply of fresh timothy, grass, or oat hay. Juvenile rabbits should be given alfalfa.  You can purchase hay by the bale from a local farmer (check local Craigslist ads) or you can order bulk hay online at Small Pet Select (use coupon code MYHOUSERABBIT for free shipping).  For more about the importance of hay, read Hay for Rabbits: The Basis for a Healthy Diet. You will also need to purchase pellets (to be given in measured amounts) and fresh vegetables. Read our article, What to Feed Your Pet Rabbit for more information about what kinds of pellets and vegetables to provide. Buy hay and pellets at Small Pet Select >
  • Cardboard box
    Create a cardboard castle by cutting doorways and windows in a large cardboard box. Your rabbit will enjoy having quiet time in the box during the day. Learn more at Building a Cardboard Castle for Your Bunny.
  • Toys
    Cardboard/wooden tunnels, cardboard toilet rolls, old phone books, shoe boxes, etc. make great toys for rabbits. Learn more at Enrichment for Your Pet Bunny.
  •  Wire protection
    Bunnies will target all wires and cables within reach. Make sure to cover all your cords with flex tubing or plastic sleeves.  Learn more at Bunny Proofing Your House. Buy on Amazon >
  • Nail clippers  – You will need to regularly trim your bunny’s nails.  If your rabbit has dark claws, a small flashlight helps you to locate the quick. Learn more at Clipping Your Rabbit’s Nails. Buy on Amazon >
  • Hay feeder – (optional). This helps keep hay fresh and available to your rabbit at all times. If you don’t want to spend the money on a hay feeder, you could just put the hay on top of the litter. Just make sure to remove soiled hay and provide fresh hay regularly.
  • Chair mat – (optional). You may want to protect your floor in the bunny area. Make sure to get a hard plastic one to resist chewing. Buy on Amazon >

White rabbitWhat bunny should I get and where?

Now here comes the fun part: Picking your rabbit! Many ask, “What breed is best?” The answer is that rabbits have many different kinds of personalities and this is not confined to any particular breed. There are lovable, affectionate rabbits spanning all kinds of breeds, both purebred and mixed.

A rescue or shelter is a great place to look for your rabbit. Rescues and shelters have baby bunnies, adult bunnies, senior bunnies, and pairs of bonded bunnies – in all breeds and sizes. Check out PetFinder.com or your local House Rabbit Society chapter website for available rabbits up for adoption near you.

The added advantage of adopting a bunny through a rescue is that the volunteers often litter train the rabbits while in their care. Further, in general, rabbits older than six months have already been spayed or neutered. This greatly reduces vet bills for you. To learn more about adopting a pet bunny, see our article, Benefits of Adopting a Pet Rabbit.

Because rabbits are social creatures, you may want to adopt a bonded pair of rabbits. This is a great option for people who work during the day. You won’t have to worry about your rabbit being lonely if he/she has a bunny pal. If you’re unsure, talk to a rescue volunteer about the pros and cons of adopting a pair.

Now that you’ve got a good overview of rabbit ownership, hop on over to our Rabbit Care and Rabbit Behavior sections for more articles about creating a safe and enriching home for your first house rabbit.

About the Author

Abi Cushman is the proud owner of two mischievous agouti rabbits named Coco and Cosette. She also co-edits the fun wildlife website called Animal Fact Guide.