Rabbits Care Guide

Netherland Dwarf & Mini Lop Rabbit Setup

What you need for your rabbit

Carry Cage – every rabbit owner needs one for safe transport, also useful for bunny adventures or to hold during enclosure cleans. A cardboard box is not recommended, as they can chew through one very quickly.

Enclosure/Hutch – please consult staff on enclosure recommendations. Both indoor and outdoor enclosure are available.
*Remember – there is no such thing as an enclosure that’s too big.

Quality Rabbit Pellets – Selective Junior (under 6 month), Selective Adult (over 8 months), Peckish, Rabbit Origins, Birdsville Small Animal Mix. We only stock the best.

Hay – Oaten, Ryegrass, Timothy, Pasture or Ryegrass. 70% of their total diet. It is an important source of fibre assisting in digestion.

Salt Lick / Mineral Block – essential for rabbits to have in their enclosure, just in case they are lacking any dietary imbalance and need extra salts or minerals. Rabbits will only use them when they are needed.

Treats – great for training and rewarding your rabbit.

Hay Feeder – helps keep your rabbit hay fresh and prevent it from getting soiled.

Drink Bottle – these guarantee your rabbit has clean water all day long, that has not been pooed in or be tipped over.

Bowls – for pellets and fresh veggies, they need to be not too high and heavy, so they won’t be knocked over.

Litter Tray – for toilet training, need an appropriate size litter tray for your rabbit when it is full grown.

Litter – wood or paper pellet litters are the best and the safest for is rabbits litter trays. The litter in the tray need to be different from the substrate used in the enclosure, so the rabbit can differentiate from the two.

Toys – rabbit are very social and love to lay. A minimum 4 – 6 appropriate toys for chewing, throwing, rolling and general playing is a must.

Hide – a small safe place for your rabbit to hide. These can range from tents, pouches, and hides and are made from a variety of materials and in different sizes. When choosing one, keep in mind how big your rabbit will grow too.

Substrate – straw, sawdust, paper pellets, mini hemp, oz hemp, wood pellets or Kaytee litter. Do not use hay (food) for substrate as it could lead to sickness.

Hutch Cleaner CSI, Vetafarm, F10 and Aristopet are all rabbit safe, nontoxic disinfectant to remove sticky acidic urine and faeces from enclosure. Normal household disinfects can be quite toxic to rabbits.

Wormer – Worming treatment needs to be completed 10 days after bringing your rabbit home and then repeated every 3 months for internal parasites. Simple to use just follow the directions on the bottle.

Mite & Mange – Mite & Mange treatment need to be completed 10 days after purchase and repeated every 3 months to prevent external parasites. Simple to use, point and spray avoid rabbits’ eyes – directions also on the bottle.

What you may like to consider for your rabbit

Enclosure stand – stands are available for some indoor enclosures, these are great to lift the enclosure off the ground, to an easy level to interact with your pet.

Spare bowls (food & water) – swap bowls, if normal one gets dirty and need a soak (easy cleaning) or to add an addition food.

Vitamins – vitamins are need when lower quality food is being feed or as a top up to the diet.

Rabbit shampoo – occasional you may need to bathe your rabbit. Human and other animal shampoo are too acidy on a rabbit’s sensitive skin.

Treat & Veggies Holders – an additional way of suppling treats and veggies that can make them more interacted for your rabbit and keep them off the ground, reducing waste.

Harness & Lead – added safety when outside with your rabbit from predators and to prevent rabbit from running off. Harness training does take a little time and should never expect your rabbit to take to it straight away.

Bed – For the luxurious Rabbit who likes comfort.

Tunnels – great for rabbits to run through, play and hide.

Play Pen – allows an extra safe place outside their enclosure for indoor and outdoor use.

Synbiotic / Probiotic – Can boost immune system, support digestive function when used daily.

First aid – Spark, Triple C, F10 barrier ointment and heat lights are a few things that can be kept on hand in case of an emergency.

Important Rabbit Notes

Environmental enrichment (toys) keeps your rabbit entertained while you are away and while they are in their enclosure. It also helps prevent behavior issue down the track, such as chewing and general bad behaviour. It will help creates a tamer, friendlier and happier rabbit. Toys need to be rotated regularly so rabbit doesn’t get bored and if the rabbit destroys the toy, it means they like it and should be replaced.

Are you ready to be a Rabbit Guardian?

Please all new rabbit owners read all the below.

We have detailed all the important non-sugar-coated facts of rabbit ownership.

Please follow these details below as occasionally people find different opinions online and sadly the rabbit can pay the ultimate price.
Our goal for our customers’ pets is to thrive physically and mentally. This is how we and our breeders keep our rabbits happy and healthy.
Congratulations on your new family member from our Birdsville team.

Netherland Dwarf vs Mini Lop

Mini lop rabbits are the second smallest breed of rabbit in Australia, averaging in size from 0.75kg to 2.5kg. They have large floppy ears are known for being the most docile breed of rabbit.

Netherland Dwarf rabbits are the smallest breed of rabbit in Australia, averaging in size from 500g to 1.9 kg. They have very small ears with an inquisitive nature.
In both breeds, rabbits that are handled correctly and consistently from early age will form a strong bond with their human family, and other pets in the household. When fed a good quality diet and kept in clean enclosure, they grow up quite robust.

Both breeds litter toilet train very well and get along with other pets, like guinea pigs and birds. Some of our customers have them free range in the house, with cats and dogs and they form bonds. * Remember – other pets need to be socialised and observed properly as your rabbit grows.

Rabbits live around 8 years and are hardy enough to withstand gentle cuddles from kids, just be careful with baby rabbits for the first couple of weeks, until they settle in.

Heat stress and too much handling can cause injury or kill a baby rabbit. They can also be see as a prey item from other animals (wild and domestic).

The Netherland Dwarf and Mini Lop rabbit have the exact same diet requirements mentioned below.

Enclosure set up: Rabbits need a certain amount of space to move around, as they need to be able to stretch their body. Minimum rabbit enclosure should be 100 x 56 x 45cm.

Rabbits need a hay feeder, to fed unlimited hay through the day and night. You will also need a drink bottle or bowl for water (we recommend bottles, as bowls can tip over, the rabbit could step or lie down in it and possibly could lose your rabbit, if they run out of water).

Next a litter box. When your rabbit is trained to use a little box, your maintenance will be very easy. Inside the litter, use a highly absorbent bedding, that is different from the bedding in the rest of the enclosure.

A bowl on the ground for pellet.

A hide in the enclosure for them to feel safe, as they are burrowing animals and like an enclosed area.

Toys and chews are essential to keep the teeth warn down and yes, rabbits like to play with them.

Attach a salt / mineral lick to the side for a precaution and make sure you monitor the use. If they use their salt or mineral lick, they are lacking something in their diet and adjustments should be made.

Out of the enclosure exercise is very important for rabbits and we recommend puppy or rabbit play pens. There are pens with wire or a cover on top for outdoor safety and pen the completely open to section off a safe part of the house. Make sure the area you section off is rabbit safe.

Substrate/bedding: In an outdoor hutch, straw is recommended. In an indoor enclosures straw, dust extracted sawdust, hemp or paper littler bedding are all very good options. Bedding depth can be around 5 to 15 cm.

Hygiene: Rabbits live in such close contact with their litter and bedding these must be kept clean and free from toxins. Cleaning your rabbit’s enclosure regularly, with the right non-toxic cleaner, is essential to avoiding unnecessary health problems.

Ammonia in the fumes of urine causes irritation in the nasal passage which makes them more susceptible to infection. Rabbits, unlike other pets have a very acidic urine that will burn them and need a proper disinfect cleaner that is safe for small animals. These cleaners also remove the sticky acidic substance that will accumulate under the bedding. If it is left it will burn the rabbit’s skin. If your enclosure or rabbit gets stinky, you have left it too long between cleans.

Toys: are essential, as rabbit are such intelligent animals and they love to play with them. We have such a large part of our store designated to just rabbit toys for a reason, rabbits just want to have fun. Toys also help to keep their teeth trim which is very important, without toys it’s a matter of time before your rabbits’ teeth over grow and result in very expensive vet bills.

Hides and tunnels: When choosing a hide make sure the rabbit can fit inside, as burrowing animals they do like to feel snug. They also love to run through and hide in tunnels. We have a wide variety of wooden and plastic hides. We prefer the wooden, as it’s an extra item to chew on.

Worming: A baby rabbit should be wormed 10 days after bringing them home, once they have settled into the new environment. Worming a rabbit too young or to soon after being moved to a new environment can upset their stomach.
An adult rabbit, can wormed straight away, even if it has already been wormed, just to be safe.

Rabbits should be wormed 4 times a year.

The common house fly is known to spread a large number of parasitic worms. This happens when a fly lands on another animal faeces that maybe infected. The fly can then fly through a window and lands on your rabbit’s water, food bowl, hay or on your rabbit and infects them.

This is the reason rabbits are regularly wormed and it will protect your rabbit, but also the whole family. Humans and other pets can get the same worms.
Worming your rabbit is easy to do, as it’s a solution that goes into your rabbits drinking water, a worming bottle comes with easy-to-use instructions on the label.

Mite, Mange & Flea: Rabbits are very susceptible to mites, mange & fleas. Spraying your animal with lice & mange spray every 12 weeks as a preventative is recommended, as they can be easily transmitted, even if you don’t have any other pets.

Mites and mange is spread by other animal and the common house fly.
Mites and mange spray is simply sprayed evenly on the animal avoiding the eyes, the bottle has easy to use instructions on the label.

Rabbits can also contract fleas and flea treatment can be purchased in store. This is recommended as a monthly treatment.

Vaccination/de-sexing: It is recommended to vaccinate your rabbit at 12 week of age and to keep it indoor or covered with mosquito net until this is done.

Please talk to your vet about de-sexing your rabbit at the vaccination visit.

There are some new vaccines out now, where you can vaccinate straight away, check on your local vet.

Teeth Health: Rabbits teeth grow constantly throughout their lives, so having hard wooden toys are very important to wear their teeth down. Overgrown teeth in rabbits are not only painful for them but become an expensive vet bill as vet treatment is the only solution.

Rabbits need toys to chew and the proper high fibre diet to stop their teeth from over.

Vitamin: To add that extra bit of health and vitality, Petsville stock small animal vitamin drops that contain concentrated multivitamin and iron source. These supplements keep up their vitamin and mineral levels to keep your rabbit in top healthy condition.

Supplements: Salt licks, mineral licks are great for rabbits’ health and well-being. Your rabbit will need this depending on the diet.

A rabbit will only use its salt or mineral lick, if it is missing something in its diet. Rabbit should get most of it salt from hay, but it can vary depending on where the hay is grown and conditions. Salt and minerals are necessary for a rabbit’s diet, but it must be consumed in moderation, which luckily your rabbit will instinctively know when its body needs additional salt.

A salt lick is important as it will aid in digestion, muscles, nerves and fluid regulation.

Diet: Diet need to be consistent high in fibre and low in carbohydrate and sugars. Any changes to the diet must be made gradually over a period of 2 to 3 weeks to reduce digestive upset.

Rabbits as herbivores will graze up to seven hours a day and need a well-balanced plant based diet, consisting mostly of 70% hay Oaten, Ryegrass, Timothy, Pasture or Ryegrass. Some hay has received a lot more marketing than other hays. Many of your overseas brands are a much higher price, but this doesn’t make it better.

Our Australian grown hay is world class and some of the best quality hay in the world. All hays mentioned are all high in fibre, but if you have an overweight rabbit you may want to switch to timothy.

At Petsville we stock every type of hay and there is no right or wrong choice for young rabbits. Some rabbits love variety and some are very picky.

Hay should make up 70% minimum of their total diet. Without the high percentage they will have health issues, as It is an important source of fibre that assists in digestion. Hay should be available for you rabbit all the time.

Never use old hay or hay from a source you do not trust.

Rabbits should be given a high-quality brands rabbit pellets every day. We recommend our premium Petsville, Vetafarm, Selective or Peckish rabbit pellets. Its best to avoid other commercial brands of rabbit food, as they are often unhealthy and can contain harmful additives or waste foods.

We have chosen to stock these products, because they are high quality and great value.

Please make sure you don’t overfeed on pellets; we recommend no more than 20% of your rabbits’ diet should be pellets. Most rabbits will naturally do this, but if you have an overweight rabbit, reduce or make sure your rabbit isn’t eating more than 20% of the overall diet.

Treat (including minimal fruit and veg) should be 10% of total diet. Do not overdo high sugary fruits or vegetables, like carrots. As sugar, even natural sugar isn’t very good for rabbits and can cause issues.

Leafy greens that should be 8% of the 10% treats, which includes, carrot tops, celery, Bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach leaves, endive, Asian greens, parsley, dandelion, coriander, mint, basil, dill.

A small amount of fruit and root vegetables such as carrot, sweet potato, capsicum, and fruit. Yes, carrots are bad for rabbits if fed too much. Fruits are not necessary but if you do blue berries are one of the best for rabbits.

Legumes such as Lucerne, alfalfa or clover is not hay and shouldn’t be confused as hay. Legumes should be fed as a treat part of your rabbit’s diet. This is because they contain a lot of sugar, protein, calcium and are low in fibre.

Do not confuse straw with hay, rabbits can’t live on straw as it has no nutritional content, straw is only bedding.

Do not feed the following to your rabbit – lettuce, cereal, avocado, onion, garlic, sugar, corn, beans, breads, sweets, chocolate, biscuits, grains, nuts and some garden plants can be toxic to rabbits.

Changing a rabbit’s diet can cause the rabbit to get the runs.

Handling: While handling rabbits always support the bottom and hold with 2 hands.

When you first bring your new rabbit home, it is a stressful period for them. Give them a day or two to get use to their new environment. When your rabbit has started to eat and drink, you can start to handle him.

Gently handle regularly, in short intervals, giving the plenty time to rest.
Rabbits can kick, so it’s’ important that they are not dropped causing injury or leading to death. Rabbits in a new home will likely be a bit stand-offish, so it’s important to do plenty of gentle handling to get the rabbit to become used to you and your scent.

Never hold your rabbit by the ears.

Training: Understanding sight, touch and smell is essential before training.
Rabbits are very social intelligent. With understanding and the right approach, you can train them quite easily. Sadly, many people fail to train them, because they have adopted the wrong approach and do not understand the nature of rabbits.

Firstly, you need to understand how a rabbit views and smells the world. As a prey animal, rabbits have eyes on the side of their head. You may notice them bob or move their head around when you approach, this is your rabbit’s way of getting a better view of you.

Rabbits have poor eye sight when looking ahead straight, they can see 360 degrees. This is so, in the wild, they need to be able to run and hide from a predator approaching from any direction.

A rabbit’s sense of smell and whiskers are used to detect anything in its immediate environment more so than sight. A dog will see the treat where a rabbit will smell and feel a treat. Placing treats right under the rabbit’s mouth and nose.

Before touching or patting your rabbit you need to calmly let the rabbit see and smell you, this will greatly improve your bonding allowing your rabbit to be calm as this will verify that you are a friend and not a predator.

Once you have been verified, then give your rabbit a treat and give your rabbit plenty of cuddles and snuggles, as they love affection once they feel safe.

Devoting a little time every day to training your rabbit will get best results. 2 sessions a day of at least 5 minutes of training your rabbit using your rabbits’ favourite treats.

Petsville have a huge selection of rabbit treats.

Have an organised area that you want the training and behaviour to occur.

For example: If you want your rabbit to leap onto your lap when called.
Step 1 – Give your rabbit a reward every time it comes to you.
Step 2 – When it’s mastered step 1, give the rabbit a reward when he comes to you and stands up with his front legs on your legs.
Step 3 – When it’s mastered step 2, give your rabbit a reward when it reaches even higher.
Step 4 – When it’s mastered step 3, encourage him to jump into your lap for his treat.

Always make sure you give your rabbit a treat immediately when your rabbit has performed what was asked.

If you give your rabbit a reward when they have done something else that you have not asked then you will be re-enforcing the wrong behaviour. Always use the same commands so your rabbit doesn’t get confused, such as sit, stay, come or up. As rabbits love affection it’s good to add praise when they are receiving their treat.

Some people use clicker training, Petsville have clicker trainers in stock almost always.

As your rabbit gets better with following instruction you can reduce the amounts of treats but it is always good to continue treats from time to time to re-enforce the desired behaviour.

Harness training: First thing you will need is a proper harness specifically for Rabbits, Petsville have a number of good quality Rabbit harnesses and leash’s arriving regularly. Never use a collar on a Rabbit.

Start by getting your rabbit used to wearing the harness and leash inside to begin with for a few minutes at a time. Then you can start leaving it on for longer, before you start using the leash indoors. Once they are use to indoor use, you can move outside. Never rush your Rabbit and have realistic expectations. Don’t make the walks too long or daily, just the occasional excursion to a nice grassy area. If you are going to public spaces with your rabbit, be aware of your surrounding and other animals.

General care and grooming: Rabbits have beautiful fluffy coats and should be brushed once a week. As they grow, they will gradually lose their baby fur and acquire an adult coat. It’s recommended to groom with a wire brush to remove patches of fur when they moult.

You may want to give your rabbit a bath from time to time, make sure you only bath them with rabbit safe shampoo that has the correct PH, as human, dog and cat shampoo can harm their sensitive skin.

Signs of illness or changes in your Rabbit: If you ever notice a change in behaviour, appearance, off their food, quiet, lethargic, wheezing, runny nose, runny eyes, drooling, skinny you need to take act.

– Hairballs: Rabbits ingest fur as they groom themself and hairballs can accumulate in the stomach, which can cause gastrointestinal stasis. Avoid this by making sure rabbits have a high fibre diet with quality hay mentioned above. The fur should have no problems passing through the digestion tract. Regular brushing will help avoid this problem.
– Loneliness: A scientific study has shown that lonely rabbits are more likely to die and live a much shorter life, so give your rabbit lots of affection and love. Even if you have a rabbit that doesn’t like to be touched, they still will love out of the cage time and space to exercise. Also provide them with plenty of toys to entertain themselves.
– Fly Strike: Not common in Australia but can affected outdoor rabbits. It is a condition where flies bite the rabbit making it uncomfortable and itchy. Fly’s may also lay eggs, developing into maggots inside the wound. This can be prevented and Petsville stocks a product to get rid of fly’s that is animal safe, or bringing your rabbit inside.
– Overgrown teeth or claws: If you follow our guide on diet and toys its very unlikely you will have issues with teeth. Our Petsville team can check your rabbits’ teeth and claws if you ask us. We offer a rabbit nail trimming service 7 days a week in our Petsville store. Teeth correction must be done by a vet. Over grown or crooked teeth can be cause by trauma, poor diet or a lack of toys for your rabbit to chew on.
– Coat dandruff or fur loss: a sign your rabbit has mites or less commonly fleas. A regular mite, lice and flea treatment will prevent this, mentioned above.
– Weight loss: Could be caused by the above over grown teeth or a whole host of reasons including cancer, neurological disease, starvation, trauma, stomach ulcers, injury, kidney failure, tumours, dental disease, poisoning, respiratory disease to name a few.
– Sore hocks: sore feet or underside can happen from unsuitable flooring or not using small animal cage cleaner as the acid from a rabbit’s urine can burn them underneath.
– Head tilt: can happen from a stroke or a protozoan infection, trauma, cancer, intoxication from consuming something that hasn’t agreed with them. The good news is with proper treatment many rabbits with head tilt can go on to lead a long and happy life.
– Difficulty breathing: also known as the snuffles. Us not a cold, as rabbits do not get the human cold. Signs of the snuffles is wheezing (respiratory infection) with runny eyes the discharge can be white in colour and jelly like.
– Diarrhea or soft poo: Sometimes what looks like diarrhea could actually be loosely formed cecotropes. Cecotropes are not faeces, but are rabbit made nutrients that your rabbit eats. It may seem gross to us, but this is normal for rabbits. The cecotropes are produced in the cecum in between the large and small intestines. By consuming their poo, rabbit can extract vitamin B from the cecotropes, which they are unable to produce themself. Loose cecotropes looks like smelly, mucousy poo and clings to their bottom or tail. Unfortunately, this can make them difficult to eat and un-appealing for the rabbit. Loose cecotropes can be caused by change in diet, a diet too high in carbohydrates, too low in fibre, too high in fibre, too much water–rich vegetables, too much sugar-rich fruit and veg or too much grain.

Diarrhea could be the other reason. Diarrhea can be a worry and can lead to dehydration, diarrhea has a number of causes including but not limited to change of diet, improper diet, stress, too many pellets, viral, antibiotics, bacterial, parasitic, fungal, metabolic diseases, Human borne digestive viruses and bacteria and insufficient fibre.

If you are not sure how to tell what a healthy rabbit looks like and unsure how to perform a visual health check, we will happily show you. Please bring your rabbit into Petsville and wait at the front counter near the entry. We do not charge to do a visual health check, as this is a great skill set for any rabbit owner to have and can increase your ability in spotting if your rabbit is not 100%.

Health check: A rabbit visual health check starts with a pat from the rabbit’s head to tail. If you feel ribs and bones, then the rabbit is skinny and that is a big red flag. Also, check your rabbits’ eyes, nose and mouth, there should be no discharge or mucus coming out of any of them.

We do stock some basic medications, but we are not vets. We have been dealing with rabbits for a long time and are our team are skilled in doing visual health checks.

Antibiotics should only be prescribed by a vet for rabbits. We also have a list of vets listed at the bottom of this page, as they can do a whole series of tests to pick up something for a rabbit that is asymptomatic.

Please be aware our animals are not DNA sexed. Whilst we may give our expert opinion on the sex of a bunny to the best of our ability and we are pretty good at it. We also are happy to show/educate you how we sex our rabbits as well, but please remember this is not a guarantee, as young rabbits can be hard to sex.
No refund, credit or exchanges will be given if an animal is not your desired sex after 3 days of ownership.

Boarding is available throughout the year, please go to petsvillehotel.com for all bookings

Don’t hesitate to come and see us in store if you have any concerns, or question and bring you rabbit for us to see.

Recommended Vets

Small Animal Specialist
Hospital 02 (9190 6806)
Level 1, 1 richardson place North Ryde

The Wild Vet
1300 9453 838
22A Bridge Road, Glebe

02 9436 4884
57-63 Herbert St Artarmon

Southern Cross
02 9516 0234
60 Princes Hwy, St Peters

Carlingford Animal Hospital
02 9871 6036
772 Pennant Hills Road Carlingford