Melissa J. Nixon, DVM
Things to remember in working with bunnies:
They are a prey species. They also do not see very well straight in front. So always approach them from the side and speak gently to them so they will know you are there. When picking up a bunny, keep your hands low and to the side as you approach - coming at them from above scares them as it seems like a hawk is going to attack.
Their back muscles are incredibly strong. If you do not properly support both their front end and their hind legs at all times, they may kick out and actually severely injure their backs in the process. I have seen bunnies paralyzed because of this.
It is normal and healthy for rabbits to eat their own stool. They get a bit more nutrition out of it the second time around.
Rabbits may thump their back legs when startled.
The squeal of a frightened or painful rabbit is a horrifying noise. Try never to give a rabbit any reason to scream!
Never pick a bunny up by the ears. Always support them under their chest and under their hind legs.
Although some rabbits can be stroked and rolled over on their backs in a trance, not all can. This is not a parlor trick, and it can be very upsetting to bunnies that do not go into a trance.
Rabbits have scent glands under their chin and will rub on people or objects to mark, much like cats do with their faces.
Rabbits often like a gentle stroke down their forehead, on the top of their head, or on their cheeks. They are less likely to enjoy tummy rubs, or touches on their nose, mouth, or rear end.
Bunnies feel safest when they can be in a corner or up against a wall.
Rabbits have very sharp toenails, and in combination with those strong back muscles those nails can really injure you if the rabbit startles while being held.
It is easier to put a rabbit into a cage backwards, and it is easier to remove them from a cage backwards.
Rabbits can be transported in cat carriers or small dog carriers.
Rabbits use their ears to get rid of excess body heat, much like elephants do.
Female rabbits are induced ovulators, so they can breed anytime they are with an intact male.
Bunny cages should have the wires spaced no more than one inch apart.
Rabbits should eat commercial rabbit food. They should also receive a small amount of grass hay.
Water bottles work better than water bowls for most bunnies.
Rabbits are prone to urine scald and secondary fly strike, so it is important to keep the cages clean.
Rabbits need to be housed as far distant as possible from the dog kennels.
Never leave a rabbit in a carrier out in the sun; they can die from the heat quickly.
Rabbits get a bacterial infection caused by Pasteurella called snuffles. Bunnies with runny noses should be isolated and reported to the veterinary team.
Angora bunnies are prone to hairballs, but unlike kitties they cannot vomit the hairballs. If we have angoras staying with us, they should be groomed to reduce the risk of hairballs.
Rabbits can also get a viral disease called Viral Hemorrhagic Disease caused by a calicivirus. This causes death very rapidly in a large number of the rabbits exposed and must be reported to state authorities. Rabbits may die without noticeable signs or may have a bloody nose and respiratory difficulty. There have been outbreaks in the USA, let's hope it never arrives in one of our shelters.
Rabbits get ear mites. Notify the veterinary team if a rabbit's ears have discharge.