ADOPTERS CHECKLIST RABBITS
Congratulations on adopting your new pet!! Inside this package you will find information that will help you and your adopted
pet adjust to a new lifestyle.
Some of the things that you will need to know or do within the first couple of weeks of completing your adoption:
• Read through the information provided in this package
• Book your complimentary appointment with your veterinarian (see the last two pages of this booklet). The appointment
should be booked within 10 days of having the animal home. The usual recommendation is to make the appointment around
the 7th-10th day. This allows for the animal to adjust to its new home and for you to have a chance to bond with the animal.
Frequently asked questions we receive from adopters:
My adopted animal is not eating, should I be worried?
It can be a stressful transition into a new home for any animal, especially if they are recovering from recent surgery. During the
first 24 hours it is not unusual for an animal to ignore its’ food. Should your adopted animal not eat within a 48-hour period
call our Animal Health Department at 403-723-6034.
I am having problems with my adopted animal settling in, what can I do?
It can take a while for any animal to settle into a new environment. Give them a quiet space the first 24 hours with limited
exposure to people other than those that live in the home. It can be exiting to bring the new rabbit home and want to show
him/her off. Enjoy each other’s company and get to know one another first before sharing your time with someone else. If you
are having problems that you need advice on check our website at www.calgaryhumane.ca or call our Behaviour help line at
My adopted animal does not seem well, what should I do?
If your animal appears to be sick, the surgery site is inflamed, the animal does not seem to be recovering from surgery, or is
vomiting excessively, contact one of our veterinarians at 403-723-6034, if the illness is noticed within 48 hours of bringing the
animal home. If the symptoms appear after the 48-hour period make an appointment with your veterinarian.
What if my animal gets sick during non business hours, what should I do?
You should contact an emergency clinic. There are currently five clinics located within the City of Calgary: Calgary North Vet
Hospital 277-0135, Animal Care Emergency of Calgary 770-6388, Fish Creek Vet Hospital & Emergency Services 873-
1700, Care Centre Animal Hospital 520-8387 and Shawnessy Pet Hospital 254-5900. They can evaluate the animals’
condition and provide you with information on how to proceed. The cost for the consultation will be your responsibility.
You have provided this animal a second chance and we would like to thank you for the support you have given the Calgary
You have helped us save another life.
NINE COMMON RABBIT MYTHS
Myth 1: Rabbits are great, low-maintenance starter pets.
Reality: Although they don’t need to be walked like dogs, rabbits are anything but low-maintenance. Their quarters need
daily cleaning, and fresh food and water must be offered daily, including a salad of well-washed, dark green leafy vegetables.
Certain rabbit health problems can become chronic and can require regular (and sometimes expensive) veterinary treatment.
Myth 2: Rabbits only live a year or two, so no long commitment is necessary.
Reality: Well cared-for indoor rabbits can live 7-10 years, and some live into their teens. This is approximately the same life
span as some breeds of dogs, and requires the same long-term commitment.
Myth 3: Rabbits do not need veterinary care the way dogs and cats do.
Reality: Although rabbits do not require annual vaccinations, nevertheless, regular veterinary checkups help to detect small
problems before they become big ones. Companion rabbits should be spayed or neutered by veterinarians experienced in
rabbit surgery. This not only reduces hormone-driven behaviors such as lunging, mounting, spraying, and boxing, but also
protects females from the risk of uterine cancer, the incidence of which can exceed 50% as rabbits grow older.
Myth 4: Rabbits are happiest outdoor in a backyard hutch.
Reality: Rabbits kept outdoors in hutches are often forgotten and neglected once the initial novelty wears off. Far too
frequently, they are relegated to a life of “solitary confinement” and are subject to extremes of weather, as well as to diseases
spread by fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes all of which can adversely affect their health and their life span. They can die
of heart attacks from the very approach of a predator – even if the rabbit is not attacked or bitten. Rabbits are gregarious
creatures that enjoy social contact with their human caretakers. The easiest way to provide social stimulations for a companion
rabbit is to house him indoors, as a member of the family.
Myth 5: Rabbits are rather dirty, and have a strong odor.
Reality: Rabbits are immaculately clean, and, once they have matured and are spayed or neutered, they go to great lengths
not to soil their living quarters. They will readily use a litter box, and if the box is cleaned or changed daily, there is no offensive
Myth 6: Rabbits love to be picked up and cuddled, and do not scratch or bite.
Reality: Although some rabbits tolerate handling quite well, many do not like to be picked up and carried. If rabbits are
mishandled they will learn to nip to protect themselves. If they feel insecure when carried they may scratch to get down.
Unsprayed/unneutered rabbits often exhibit territorial behavior such as “boxing” or nipping when their territory is “invaded”
by the owner.
Myth 7: Rabbits, especially dwarf breeds – do not require much living space.
Reality: Rabbits have powerful hind legs designed for running and jumping. They need living space that will permit them ample
freedom of movement even when they are confined. Dwarf rabbits tend to be more active and energetic than some larger
breeds, and require relatively more space.
Myth 8: Rabbits can be left alone for a day or two when owners travel.
Realty: Rabbits need daily monitoring. Problems that are relatively minor in some species (e.g. a day or two of anorexia) may
be life threatening in rabbits, and may require immediate veterinary attention.
Myth 9: Rabbits do OK with a bowl of some rabbit food and some carrots.
Reality: the single most important component of a rabbit’s diet is Timothy hay, which should be provided, free choice, daily.
Rabbit pellets should be given only in very limited quantities.
Rabbits are intelligent, affectionate, sociable, peaceful and quiet animals. They can become wonderful companions if handled
frequently with gentleness and love and allowed to interact with their human families.
Rabbits come in many different sizes, colours, and breed; ranging from the 2lb Netherland Dwarf to the 20 lb Flemish Giant.
Every rabbit has a distinct personality. Older rabbits are often quieter and easier to train. Baby rabbits are very active and still
learning about their environment – they can be harder to handle and litter train.
Rabbits do like to be kept in pairs. It is best to keep a neutered male with a spayed female. All pet rabbits should be
neutered or spayed to avoid contributing to pet overpopulation. Other benefits are the rabbit can be easier to litter-train, less
aggressive, less destructive, and will live a healthier longer life.
Rabbits eat hay, rabbit pellets, and vegetables such as carrots, leaf lettuce, kale, and parsley. They have very complex
digestive systems and one of the most common reasons they become ill is due to digestive tract problems. For this reason it is
crucial to learn how to feed the rabbit correctly. They need fresh water available at all times from a bowl or a bottle.
We recommend rabbit be housed indoors in a large cage. The cage should be large enough to have a litter box in one corner
and a hideaway (box) for sleeping in the other corner. The rabbit should also be able to stretch out full length and stand up
and stretch out vertically. Cages with wire mesh floors are not suitable for rabbits.
Rabbits like to play with toys. Toys are good for their mental and physical well-being and satisfy many of their chewing and
digging instincts. If they have toys to pay with there is less chance of them chewing your favorite furniture and rugs. Examples
of toys are paper bags, cardboard boxes, towels, toilet paper rolls, wooden parrot toys, large rubber balls. Rabbits enjoy
throwing, pushing, bunching up, and chewing their toys.
Rabbits are naturally clean and will choose one corner of their cage to use a bathroom area – this enables them to be litter
trained quite easily. Once your rabbit is litter trained and you have “bunny proofed” an area of your house, the rabbit should
be allowed out for supervised exercise a few times a day. Exercise helps to prevent boredom, maintain health weight and
provide mental stimulation. Some rabbits are very curious and will spend their playtime exploring, others prefer to sit by their
human companion and be petted.
Understanding rabbit behaviour/personality is the key to enjoying and appreciating your pet rabbit. At the Calgary Humane
Society we have many spayed/neutered rabbits in all sizes, and colours, which are waiting for permanent homes.
For more information on rabbits, contact the Calgary Humane Society or look on the House Rabbits Society website at
A RABBIT IN THE HOUSE - NOW WHAT?
Set your rabbit up for success; structure his environment so he will succeed.
Yes, you will need a cage - The cage will be your rabbit’s nest; rabbits usually prefer to have a safe area they can call
their own. Set the cage (nest) on the floor, in an area where you spend time, such as the living room or family room. Do
not put the cage near a heater or a loud TV or stereo. Always provide shade from a sunny window. When secluded in
one room, such as a bedroom, they may be cut off from the family and unsure of the area outside. The more contact you
have with your rabbit, the more you will enjoy each other.
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means that they generally sleep during the day and during the night, but are ready to
play at dawn and twilight. So, if you’re at work during the day, they won’t mind so much being in a cage. But they
MUST be let out for at least several hours each day, both to exercise and to have social interaction with you.
The nest should include a litter box with hay, and food and water bowls. Follow our litter box training tips. Supply
him with safe toys and a bed of lamb’s wool from the fabric store. Line the pull out tray with newspaper. Avoid wood
shavings. Use an organic litter such as CareFRESH, Yesterday’s News or Cat Country in the litter box.
Put Thumper in his nest and close the door for a few hours. Let him get used to the sounds and smells of your home while
feeling safe and secure. If he nibbles his food or stretches out, he is relaxing.
Allow a small run area for the first few days. Close off bedrooms or areas where he can get lost. Block access behind
refrigerators, washer/dryers and entertainment centers. He should be able to have run time whenever you can
supervise him. Put one or more litter boxes in the run area and increase his freedom as he proves himself with his box. Put
some hay in the litter box to encourage him to get in.
Bunny proof - Rabbits like to chew and dig! Tuck electrical and phone cords out of the way or encase them in clear
plastic tubing from the hardware store. Remove books and other desirable items from low shelves. Put houseplants up
out of the way. Provide him with a cardboard box of hay to play in. Redirect him to his toys if he is “acting up.” Young
bunnies are especially exuberant and need to be properly directed.
Bored rabbits become naughty rabbits. If you’re not around to talk to or pet your rabbit as you prepare dinner, watch
TV or just read your rabbit will become very bored. That’s when rabbits generally get into trouble by digging in the
carpet, chewing on forbidden objects or eating your couch. A very large hole can appear in the carpet in just a few
minutes. Young rabbits are generally the ones who get into this type of mischief. So, even if your rabbit starts out this
way, you might check every few months to see if she can earn more freedom as she ages. Often, the bathroom, laundry
room, kitchen or a bedroom are good, safe places to confine your rabbit while you’re away. These rooms are easy to
rabbit-proof. If none of these rooms is practical, then you’ll probably have to consider an indoor cage or pen.
Free run of the house is what we strive for and what many of us are able to achieve. This definitely requires more work
on your part. You must inspect every room of your house like a four-star general, looking for wires and other dangerous
objects (like plants) that could cause harm to your rabbit. If you have a computer room, you might allow your rabbit
access to every room except that one. The more room your rabbit has, the more delightful you will find her as a pet and
Toys: To keep your rabbit occupied and amused, offer toys such as:
• Toilet paper and paper towel rolls
• Paper cups (not plastic coated)
• Newspaper and white scrap paper (ink isn’t harmful, just gives dirty feet)
• Straw baskets
• Canning jar rings
• Rolled oats box; cut off the bottom to make a tunnel for tiny rabbit. Be sure he won’t get stuck!
• Soft drink can with pebble inside for noise
• Rubber balls (unless your rabbit chews on them)
• Wire ball with bell inside (sold in stores as a cat or bird toy)
• Cardboard boxes (tape shut then cut small doors)
Discipline: Never hit a rabbit. They can become very aggressive and angry if provoked. When you find your rabbit
doing something that is not allowed, try any or all of the following:
• Clap your hands together to make a loud noise
• Thump your foot like a fellow rabbit
• Whistle loudly
• Shout loudly
Biting: Biting must be stopped as soon as possible. Rabbits do not usually bite because they hate you. There are many
reasons within a rabbit’s social structure that bring about a bite. For instance, a finger or hand in front of their face may
be misinterpreted as a challenge to fight. A rabbit may also accidentally bite when he tries to tug your pant leg and
accidentally gets your ankle. If you get nipped let out a shrill cry. Rabbits do this when they are hurt. Since they usually
do not intend to hurt you, they will be surprised to find that you have cried out and will usually stop the behavior within a
Get down on the floor - Spend a lot of time on your rabbit’s level where you are less intimidating. Rabbits are naturally
curious and will come up to you eventually. Most rabbits enjoy being petted on the broad part of their head. Snuggling
on the floor is usually welcome. If you are holding the rabbit and he struggles, hold him tightly or drop down to your
knees and let him go. Do not drop your rabbit as they are very fragile.
Your rabbit may be a bit shy at first. Usually within two weeks rabbits begin to feel more secure in their new
surroundings. Soon, you will have a rabbit dancing around your home, testing you, seeing what he can get away with!
WHAT TO FEED YOUR RABBIT
Primary Author(s): Marinell Harriman
Sources: HRH, various articles from the HRJ, RHN
What are the basics of a good house rabbit diet?
A rabbit’s diet should be made up of good quality pellets, fresh hay (alfalfa, timothy or oat), water and fresh vegetables.
Anything beyond that is a “treat” and should be given in limited quantities.
What makes a good pellet?
Pellets should be fresh, and should be relatively high in fiber (18% minimum fiber). Do not purchase more than 6 weeks worth
of feed at a time, as it will become spoiled. Pellets should make up less of a rabbit’s diet as he or she grows older, and hay
should be available 24 hours a day.
What kinds of veggies should I feed my rabbit?
When shopping for vegetables, look for a selection of different veggies--look for both dark leafy veggies and root vegetables,
and try to get different colors. Stay away from beans and rhubarb. Here’s a suggested fruits and veggie list.
Select at least three kinds of vegetables daily. A variety is necessary in order to obtain the necessary nutrients, with one each
day that contains Vitamin A, indicated by an *. Add one vegetable to the diet at a time. Eliminate if it causes soft stools or
Alfalfa, radish & clover sprouts Apple (remove stem and seeds)
Basil Bananas (!)
Beet greens (tops)* Blueberries
Bok Choy Grapes (!)
Broccoli (mostly leaves/stems)* Melon
Brussels sprouts Orange (including peel)
Carrot & carrot tops* Papaya
Collard greens* Plums
Dandelion greens and flowers (no pesticides)* Raspberries
Pea pods (the flat edible kind)*
Romaine lettuce (no iceberg or light colored leaf)*
• (!)Use sparingly. High in either oxalates or goitrogens and may be toxic in accumulated quantities over a period of time
• Sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes should be used only sparingly, as occasional treats. Bunnies have a sweet tooth
and if left to their own devices will devour sugary foods to the exclusion of healthful ones.
Is feeding hay important?
Hay is essential to a rabbit’s good health, providing roughage which reduces the danger of hairballs and other blockages.
Apple tree twigs also provide good roughage.
What quantities of food should I feed babies and “teenagers”?
• Birth to 3 weeks--mother’s milk
• 3 to 4 weeks--mother’s milk, nibbles of alfalfa and pellets
• 4 to 7 weeks--mother’s milk, access to alfalfa and pellets
• 7 weeks to 7 months--unlimited pellets, unlimited hay (plus see 12 weeks below)
• 12 weeks--introduce vegetables (one at a time, quantities under 1/2 oz.)
What quantities of food should I feed young adults? (7 months to 1 year)
• introduce timothy hay, grass hay, and oat hays, decrease alfalfa
• decrease pellets to 1/2 cup per 6 lbs. body weight
• increase daily vegetables gradually
• fruit daily ration no more than 1 oz. to 2 oz. per 6 lbs. body weight (because of calories)
What quantities of food should I feed mature adults? (1 to 5 years)
• Unlimited timothy, grass hay, oat hay, straw
• 1/4 to 1/2 cup pellets per 6 lbs. body weight (depending on metabolism and/or proportionate to veggies)
• Minimum 2 cups chopped vegetables per 6 lbs. body weight
• Fruit daily ration no more than 2 oz. (2 TBL) per 6 lbs. body weight.
What quantities of food should I feed senior rabbits? (Over 6 years)
• If sufficient weight is maintained, continue adult diet
• Frail, older rabbits may need unrestricted pellets to keep weight up. Alfalfa can be given to underweight rabbits, only if
calcium levels are normal. Annual blood workups are highly recommended for geriatric rabbits.
If I feed fewer pellets, how do I compensate?
When you feed a lower quantity of pellets, you must replace the nutritional value without the calories, which is done by
increasing the vegetables. Also, a variety of hay and straw must be encouraged all day long; we do this by offering fresh hay a
couple of times a day.
LIST OF EXOTIC VETERINARIAN CLINICS FOR POST-ADOPTION EXAM
In partnership with the Calgary Humane Society and through the generous donation of the veterinarians in the Calgary area
whose names and phone numbers appear below, your pet will be given a complimentary physical exam within 10 days
following adoption. The physical examination does not include the administration of any drugs or injections, surgical, medical,
or diagnostic procedures.
Codes: To simplify finding a veterinarian for your type of exotic pet, check the codes in the clinic listing.
ALX= All Exotic Species HM= Hamsters
AM= Amphibians (frogs) MS= Marsupials (e.g. Sugar Gliders)
AV= Avian (birds) PB= Pot Bellied Pigs
DG= Degus PP= “Pocket Pets” (all small mammals)
FE= Ferrets RA= Rabbits
GE= Gerbils RP= Reptiles (snakes, lizards, etc.)
GP= Guinea Pigs SP= Spiders
NORTH WEST PRACTICES
Calgary North Veterinary Hospital Dr. Richard Weger ALX
4204 4th Street NW Dr. Tara Sager ALX
Stoney Trail Veterinary Clinic Dr. Janet Anderson RA
Bay 202, 11245 Valley Ridge Drive NW
SOUTH WEST PRACTICES
Britannia Veterinary Clinic Dr. Elaine Murphy ALX
7738 Elbow Drive SW
Calgary Avian and Exotic Pet Clinic Dr. Kerry Korber ALX no PB
Bay 1, 2308 24th St SW Dr. Leticia Materi ALX no PB
Shawnessy Pet Hospital Dr. Mark Norman ALX
144 70 Shawville Blvd. SW & Associates AV, FE, PP, RA
Woodlands Veterinary Hospital Dr. Tom LeBoldus AV, PP, RA
523 Woodpark Blvd. SW
Marda Loop Pet Hospital Dr. Heather Pineo RA, GP, PP
4016 – 16 Street SW
LIST OF EXOTIC VETERINARIAN CLINICS FOR POST-ADOPTION EXAM cont’d
SOUTH EAST PRACTICES
Avenida All Pet Clinic Dr. Irene Phillips ALX
607 12445 Lake Fraser Drive SE
Due South Animal Hospital Dr. Yolande Miles ALX
16626 McKenzie Lake Blvd. SE Dr. Gordon Strick ALX
South Trail Pet Hospital Dr. Tony Gerrow ALX no RP
17 4307 130 Avenue SE
Sundance Animal Hospital Dr. Jennifer Scott ALX
35 Sunmills Drive SE Dr. Anna Cox ALX
NORTH EAST PRACTICES
Castleridge Veterinary Clinic Dr. Brian Jesmer AV, FE, PP, RA
126 55 Castleridge Blvd. NE Dr. Knowler FE
Monterey Veterinary Clinic Dr. Garth Brown AV, PP, RA, GP, FE
917 2220 68 Avenue NE
McKnight 24 hour Animal Clinic Dr. Shelby Kimura FE
34 5010 4th Street NE and Associates
Northeast Animal Clinic Dr. Jasbir Sandhu ALX no PB
6208 Rundlehorn Drive NW
OUT OF TOWN PRACTICES
DEWINTON Pet Hospital Dr. Eva Hadzima ALX
440 412 Pine Creek Rd
Airdrie Animal Health Centre Dr. Swirp RA, GP, PP
111 120 2 Avenue NE Dr. Crisanti RA, GP, PP
Foothills Animal Hospital (Okotoks) Dr. Miranda Bourque ALX
#6 – 34 Southridge Drive