First few weeks with bunny

In case you've done some research and decided to adopt a rabbit, here is some information about your rabbit that will help you these first few weeks.

This is the adjusting period, it will take time for you an your rabbit to adjust to the new schedule and environment. 

The first few days that I had Piko, I was constantly checking on him to see if he was eating or drinking. I never saw him drinking, so I was really worried about it, especially after I went to work. I was using one of those water bottle ones that you attach to the cage and it has a roller at the bottom, it was leaking like crazy. I took it back, got a different one, that one didn't work at all, so I had to take it back and eventually got another one that sort of worked. I wasn't happy with it though, and it didn't look like it was helping my rabbit much, so I used a little dish that I had. It worked, but it was in the way and my rabbit kept spilling it everywhere, so I went back to the store and got a metal one that you can hang on the cage. This one is MUCH better. He still manages to flip it when there's not enough water in it and it's his way of telling me to go fill it up. Haha.

You will have to get used to sleeping with the rabbit in your room, if that's where you put them. Your rabbit also needs to get used to your schedule since the schedule they had before was different. For example, the time you wake up, feed your rabbit, let your rabbit out, as well as give them veggies. For the first few months, I was giving Piko his pellets in the morning as well as his veggies! I realized that this was taking too much time out of my morning routine and there was too much food for him, so I stopped giving him veggies in the mornings and only pellets. (I like to rinse the veggies more than once and chop them up). He had to get used to the new routine when I first brought him home as well as the change in routine when I stopped giving him veggies in the mornings. I also moved in January 2016 and he had to get used to the new routine at the new place:  he had his own room across from mine and my own morning routine changed since I could wake up at six instead of 5 a.m. Then, I moved again in October 2016 into a house and Piko had to get used to staying in my office as well as his new space in kitchen area. (It's a HUGE space). During these times of adjustment, your rabbit might not eat as much, sleep more, and might seem a little bit less energetic. This is normal, but keep an eye on them because if they stop eating and drinking completely, this is a huge medical problem and they need to see a vet ASAP. If they also stop pooping and peeing, then you must take them to a vet immediately! 

This is also an important time to BOND with your rabbit and gain trust. 

When you let your rabbit out, or when you get home from work, you should spend as much time with your rabbit as you can. Let them sniff you, climb on you, etc. Let them do their own thing and only touch them when they come near you. If they run away, let them. Do no try to force your rabbit to allow you to pet them! It’s very important that you build trust with your rabbit slowly. Try to touch their head to give them a head rub, if they run away, let them, if they crouch down and you hear them grinding their teeth, that’s a good sign! Rabbits will “purr” (grind their teeth) when you pet them and they like it! It’s really cute to see and hear when it happens! At first, Piko didn’t do this, but as he built trust, he eventually started doing it and now he does it all the time. Remember, don’t pick up your rabbit unless it’s absolutely necessary and only hold them for a few seconds or minutes at a time. If they squirm, let them go. Bonding can take time with your rabbit but trust me, with some patience, lots of love, and affection, your rabbit in some way or another will reward you. They may let you hold them, give you a nose bonk, binky, stretch out/sleep in different positions (that means they are happy and comfortable), or they will give you kisses and run around your feet in circles making a cute little sound. It’s hard to describe this sound as it’s not grunting (that’s the sound when they are mad or feel threatened). It’s a kind of soft vocalized sound that they will do when they are happy, though. Piko does this every morning when I come into his room (my office) and feed him his breakfast. He also does this when I take him out into the larger xpen in the kitchen area as well as any time I go near him and he wants to play, or when I give food.

Bunnies have their own verbal cues and body language to let you know when they like something or don’t like something. 

Like I mentioned before, if your rabbit grinds their teeth when you are petting them, they like it. If they run around making that soft vocalized sound, they are happy. Rabbits also binky, which is when they do a jump in the air. They will suddenly just jump straight up, or they may jump, twist, and kick out their feet, which is another type of binky. This means they are happy! Binkies are always a good sign. Another good sign is when your rabbit tosses his head and starts running. This is a way of your rabbit expressing that he is in a playful mood. Rabbits will also run around your feet making that vocalized happy sound as well.

Body language: There are many different types of body language of a rabbit, so it’s best to do some research so you know what they all mean. I’ll give you some charts that I found about rabbit posture that really helped me understand my rabbit better (from American Pet and RSPCA).

These are postures and behaviors that you may see in your rabbit and it’s important that you understand what they mean. If you stick your hand in the cage/xpen and your rabbit suddenly lunges at you, making a kind of “growl/honk” and bites you, that’s because your hand is somewhere it shouldn’t be. Perhaps you were moving something in their cage; your rabbit is territorial and your hand is in their territory. They are telling you to get your hand out of there. Piko did this to me for a while, but eventually stopped doing it once he realized that I was giving him more hay or changing the litter. Don’t hit your rabbit if he bites you! Just let out a cry of surprise so he knows that you don’t like it either.

Important Tips About Your Rabbit:

Never submerge your rabbit in water! Rabbits are clean animals. They like to lick and clean themselves all the time, like a cat and do not need to be bathed! If they had/have diarrhea, it’s best to use a cloth to clean their feet/lower body. You can also hold them on the counter and scoop up some warm water onto their bum to clean it. However, never submerge or completely get your rabbit wet! This is dangerous and they can get sick and die from the cold.

Never trance your rabbit! I had a lot of trouble trying to cut Piko’s nails and I searched YouTube for videos on how to do this. None of them worked for me, so I went to the pet store and asked them. The girl there told me to put Piko in a bunny burrito (wrap in a blanket) and FLIP HIM OVER! Please don’t do this! Putting your rabbit in a trance can be very dangerous for your rabbit! This is basically paralyzing your rabbit and is something that usually produces fear in your rabbit! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t do this! There’s a viral video of someone with their rabbit submerged in the sink on their back getting a “bath” and people commented on how it’s cute! It’s NOT cute. It’s dangerous and I consider it a form of animal cruelty! People should NOT be trancing their rabbits for ANY reason. If you have trouble cutting their nails or giving medication to them, find an alternative way! I have to get another person to cut his nails for me while I hold him. There’s no other way to do it, I’ve tried everything (except trancing). If I need to give him medicine, which I haven’t yet, I will probably also need someone to help me. 

Eren Wiebe is a blogger at sakuradaisuki, writer, editor, figure skater, amateur photographer, and mom to her fur baby, Piko.

Photo: RSPCA