Top 10 rabbit checklist for newbies

Here at SPCA Auckland, responsible pet ownership is what we’re after with every animal adoption.  Rabbits make wonderfully unique pets. They’re affectionate, cuddly, intelligent, athletic, and full of personality, but they need lots of care and attention every day of their 5 to 10-year lifespan. The last thing we want is for people to adopt a rabbit and then realise the animal requires more care than they can handle.

To help people decide whether a rabbit is right for them, here’s a 10-point checklist.

1.Indoors or outdoors?
Rabbits are whip-smart and can be completely toilet trained so they can live indoors 24/7 – perfect for apartment-dwellers. If they’re going to spend at least part of the time outside, you will need a large, purpose-built run that will keep them safe.

Rabbits are highly social animals, so they need to be played with, handled, and cherished every day. Left alone for hours on end in a hutch, a rabbit will suffer and become grumpy and depressed. The more love and attention you lavish on your bunny, the more you’ll get back. And vice versa.

Rabbits are athletic. In the wild they can ramble over several hectares a day so they need lots of exercise every day. To exercise your rabbit outside, you’ll need a safe, portable, predator-proof enclosure that you move to a new patch of grass each day.

Rabbits need fresh water, fresh grass, and fresh hay every day. They like other greens too like dandelions, puha, doc, and cabbage. You can give them small amounts of fruit such as apples and pears, plus small amounts of carrots as a treat. Steer clear of beans, breads, nuts, and grains. And chocolate is definitely wrong so no Easter eggs.

5.Living quarters
Furnishing your rabbit’s home can be a lot of fun. Rabbits live in underground burrows in the wild so make them feel safe and secure by introducing boxes, baskets, and tunnels. Providing hidey-holes and toys also keeps life interesting for your rabbit so it will feel safer and happier.

Rabbits make wonderful pets for children from around eight years old. Keep in mind you will be the primary caregiver for the rabbit and constant supervision is required around young children.

There are few creatures cuddlier than a bunny but they need careful handling to avoid accidental injury to their delicate bones. Place one hand under the chest, support the hindquarters with the other hand, and cradle the rabbit against your body. And never, ever pick them up by the ears.

All that soft, soft fur needs a little maintenance to keep it completely cuddle-tastic. Regular brushing will keep your rabbit’s coat in top condition and prevent it getting hairballs.

9.One bunny or two?
Rabbits live in family groups in the wild so adopting more than one usually means happier bunnies. If you do adopt more than one you’ll need to slowly introduce them to one another to help them bond properly – or you can adopt already bonded, desexed pairs from SPCA Auckland.

Good food, lots of exercise, and a house full of love go a long way to keeping rabbits – and humans – happy and healthy. But like any pet you’ll need to keep a daily check on your rabbit’s appearance and behaviour and be prepared to cart them off the vet if anything seems amiss.

For more bunny tips, go to