What to Expect When Adopting a Rabbit

What an exciting time! Adopting a new friend can be a big responsibility and we want to help ensure each animal is set up for success in their new home. We encourage you to keep the following tips in mind when you bring home your new rabbit.

Veterinary Visits After Adoption

A check-in with your family veterinarian within the first week after adoption is critical to ensure continuity of care for your new friend, and to create a preventative health care plan tailored to their specific needs and to your lifestyle. The goal is to prevent future disease and illness, which will ideally also help reduce future costs of care.

Preventative care includes important measures such as a physical exam, oral health care, dietary recommendations, behavioural support and parasite prevention. Any known medical or behavioural concerns will be disclosed prior to adoption, but there can be no guarantees of health. Therefore, this veterinary check will also be important to address any ongoing needs or pre-existing concerns to ensure that your new family member has the specific support required to thrive. A copy of your new rabbit friend’s medical history can be shared with your veterinarian.

Medical Considerations
  • Regular veterinary visits are recommended to prevent illness and to keep your new rabbit as comfortable as possible. Because many veterinarians do not treat rabbits, it is highly recommended to find a suitable veterinarian before care is needed.
  • As a hind-gut fermenting species, the health of the “good” gut bacteria is directly related to the rabbit’s health. Any digestive disturbances can be catastrophic for rabbits and must be addressed by your family veterinarian.
  • Your rabbit’s teeth will grow continuously throughout their life. To help wear down their ever-growing front teeth, provide your rabbits with chewing items such as cardboard and wooden toys. Regular visits to your family veterinarian are important to identify if the teeth need to be trimmed.
  • Your rabbit’s nails will need to be trimmed regularly.
Healing After Surgery

Your new furry friend may have had surgery prior to adoption. In addition to following any specific post-op instructions given to you, it will be important to note the following:

  • Give any post-op medication as prescribed
  • Utilize an e-collar (cone) or a onesie to help protect their incision site, as prescribed
  • Monitor the incision site daily for swelling, discharge and/or holes in the incision line
  • Keep your rabbit calm, and restrict their exercise (i.e., no jumping on/off surfaces, climbing stairs or going outside)
  • Watch them closely to ensure they are comfortable, eating and drinking well, and using their toileting area without issue

If your rabbit is not eating well, is quiet or lethargic and/or if you see any concerns with their incision site, please contact your family veterinarian for support.


When selecting a cage for a rabbit, bigger is always best. This will allow your rabbit to express natural behaviors, which will decrease stress. Your rabbit should have access to an exercise pen daily, where they can stretch and jump around with more space. They should not be limited to just their cage.

Enclosures should have solid bottoms. They can be covered to prevent foot injuries with shredded newspaper, grass hay, aspen or hardwood shavings. Avoid using wood shavings made from pine or cedar, as they can be very irritating to their respiratory system. A hiding place must be provided for your rabbit for when they need some quiet time. Enclosures should remain off the floor to decrease stress.


When you feed your rabbit, a proper diet is essential to keep them healthy. Rabbits are herbivores and require a high-fibre diet to ensure good gastrointestinal health. The majority of a rabbit’s diet should consist of unlimited, high quality Timothy hay, which should always be available. A smaller amount of fresh vegetables and a limited amount of pellets should be offered with the occasional treat.

Always check with your family veterinarian before introducing any new foods to your rabbit.

Rabbits generally prefer heavy ceramic water bowls to drink out of, but some like sipper bottles too. Experiment to see which your rabbit prefers. For more information on diet click here.

Coprophagy, or the eating of feces, is not cause for alarm. This is normal for most rodents and serves to help preserve valuable nutrients, as some are better digested during the second pass through the gut.


Your rabbit enjoys activities that allow them to express their natural behaviours, such as hiding, climbing, constructing and chewing. Enrichment is very important to help keep your rabbit happy and behaviourally healthy.

Rabbits need at least an hour out of their cage every day. Your rabbit may enjoy a walk indoors with a harness or hop around a pen, but don’t let the rabbit roam your home unsupervised – rabbits love to chew! Some chew toys can be included in their pen, but keep them away from anything they shouldn’t gnaw on, such as electrical cords, furniture, and houseplants. List of toxic plants.

Rabbits are quite social and need quality interaction every day. This can be interactive play, grooming, or a safe opportunity to associate with other pets. Your rabbit generally does not like to be picked up off the ground. Instead, interaction with them on the floor will be safer and more comfortable. For enrichment ideas click here.



We are here to support you! For any pre-adoption questions or concerns, contact our adoption staff at your local SPCA here.