Io's namesake was turned into a cow by Hera, and made lots of noise in her father's fields until he found her. If you ever meet Io you will understand why we named her "Io."
Sayre is Io's second owner, and she came to us very sick and lonely after the other rabbit she lived with had died. Io was immediately operated on and placed on medication and new food. She was allowed to run around the old Upper School, but with her wood chewing habit she was given a huge two story cage when we moved to the new building. Io is 9 years old, and has been given a clean bill of health from the vet.
European rabbits were domesticated in the 12th century. Due to human action and the adaptability of this species, the European rabbit exists in the wild on almost every continent. Wild rabbits live in burrows with as many as 100 individuals in the colony. They prefer sandy, hilly terrain with shrubs located in a dry area at sea level.
Because rabbits are social animals you should think about having two. House your domesticated rabbits in a wire cage at least 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet- large enough for them to stand up and stretch out. The more spacious the cage, the healthier and happier your rabbit will be. However, a large cage does not replace the need for exercise outside the cage. You should allow your rabbits to roam free several hours a day in a safe, rabbit proofed area. Although rabbits should be housed in a wire cage to allow for good air flow, they are not able to live on wire floors, be sure to cover the floor with a towel, board, or rug.
Keeping the cage clean is important for rabbit health. Rabbits are easily house trained, and providing your rabbits with a litter box will help keep the cage clean. Fill the litter box with non cedar or pine based bedding such as Yesterday's News. Do not use clumping cat litter, as your pet could ingest it and become sick.
Provide your rabbits toys to play with such as wood blocks, cardboard, bowls, balls, paper towel rolls, and canning jar rings. Many rabbits love to throw their toys up in the air and love it when they make noise. Wooden chew toys also help with filling down the teeth.
Domestic rabbits are not able to survive in hot, humid locations; the optimum temperature is 60-70 degrees. If you choose to allow your rabbits to live outdoors, you need to provide them with a cooling device on hot days, such as gallon jug of frozen water, or wet towels on the sides of the cage.
Rabbits have complex digestive systems, so it's very important that they receive a proper diet to remain healthy. A basic rabbit diet should consist of the following foods:
1. small amounts of high quality pellets which are at least 18% fiber.
2. unlimited amounts of Timothy or Orchard grass hay.
3. at least three types of fresh food: carrots, beet tops, dandelions, collard greens, broccoli, green peppers, Brussels sprouts. Avoid iceberg lettuce, cabbage, corn, potatoes, onions, grains, chocolate, candy.
4. Fresh water daily.
7-10 years. 15 years if well cared for.
1. Rabbits are fragile animals and should be handled with care. Rabbits have different personalities, and some enjoy being held but others do not.
2. Be sure to trim the nails of your rabbits like you would a cat or dog. Long nails can get caught in the wire cage and cause your pet pain.
3. You must spay or neuter your rabbit to reduce their risk of cancer. There are already so many baby and adult rabbits that need homes, please do not breed your rabbits.
4. Rabbits must eat their cecotropes- green droppings that are formed at night. Most rabbits eat them directly from their anus. But if you find soft unformed pellets in the litter box, your rabbit is not eating enough fiber or is obese. If it continues to occur, seek medical advice.
5. If your rabbits are not given proper chew toys and food, they can have a malocclusion- misaligned or overgrown teeth. Seek medical advice.
6. If your rabbit does not eat for 48 hours you should seek immediate medical advice.
7. If you see diarrhea (not cecotropes) in the litter box, you should seek immediate medical advice, as some serious gastrointestinal conditions can be fatal in less than 24 hours.
8. Be sure to brush your rabbit regularly, especially during the two times a year they shed. Rabbits are very meticulous and can over groom themselves causing fur blockages.
Animal Sheltering Magazine. How to Care for Rabbits . The Humane Society of the United States. 26 April 2009.
Harriman, Marinell. House Rabbits 101: Resources for New Buuny Owners . House Rabbit Society. 26 April 2009.
Sleeper, Jean. A Bunny to Love: A guide to the Responsible Care of Your Pet Rabbit. Pennyroyal Small and Exotic Animal Hospital. 26 April 2009.