Most people have seen a mini-Dutch rabbit, although the name itself is not that popular. It has a small, rounded body, with distinct patches of white fur, a helmet-shaped colored patch on the ears and face, and another patch of the same color on the back. The mini-Dutch is one of the first sophisticated species and has been bred as a pet for many decades. It is popular with children mainly due to its stable temperament which makes it less prone to aggression, unlike other rabbit breeds. Although sociable, the mini-Dutch is not extremely needy. He's kind but energetic enough to play games with the family.
Part 1 of 5: Deciding whether to buy a mini-Dutch
Step 1. Decide whether to introduce a rabbit to the family
The life expectancy of the Holstein rabbit is usually five to eight years, although the animal's neutering, especially in the case of the female, can extend this period. See if you can provide a healthy and happy environment for the rabbit to live in for the rest of its life.
Step 2. If you want to raise a rabbit at home, choose the mini-Dutch
If you intend to train a rabbit at home, the mini-Dutch is perhaps the best option. In addition to being intelligent, the animal responds well to training and learns to use the litter box quickly. Due to the stable temperament, the mini-Dutch is also a good choice for children, however, it is important to remember that rabbits, regardless of breed, are prey in the wild, so they may not like being raised and are easily startled.
Fear can make the rabbit go into shock quickly. Also, the animal's delicate bones can easily break if it is handled unkindly. The pet must be treated with respect, and children (especially those under the age of ten) must be supervised when playing with it
Step 3. Provide a calm and healthy environment for the animal
Only buy a rabbit if you can provide a peaceful, predator-free environment. If you already have a cat or dog, acquiring a rabbit may not be a good idea - the pet will live in fear confined with its natural enemies.
Also, be prepared to invest time each day cleaning up the animal's environment and interacting with it (which will keep it from feeling bored or lonely). If you can't commit to it, it might be better to buy a toy instead of a rabbit
Step 4. Prepare for financial costs
It is important to have the financial means to provide veterinary care for the rabbit if he becomes ill. Rabbit surgeries and medications have advanced a lot in recent times, however, not all veterinarians are sufficiently qualified to treat the species. It is important to look for a veterinarian who is specialized and capable of treating rabbits, or at least one who is interested in the species and is specializing.
- Proper care of rabbits is as expensive as care of cats and dogs. Don't think it will be less expensive just because the value of the rabbit is lower.
- Be prepared to pay for the health plan. Currently, some companies offer plans for rabbits.
- Make a list of possible costs and add them up before purchasing the animal. It is important that the future owner is able to provide a home, a good diet, health care, mental stimulation and exercise for the rabbit.
Part 2 of 5: Sheltering the Rabbit
Step 1. Decide whether to keep the rabbit indoors or out
First, you must decide where to keep the rabbit. Professionals recommend keeping rabbits indoors, considering that outside the animal will be more at risk of being neglected.
If you are going to keep your rabbit out of the house, you will need to protect it from rain, sun, wind and predators
Step 2. Buy a cage
You can find a wide variety of cages, including models ideal for rabbits, condominiums and dog cages. Regardless of the choice, it is important that the cage has plenty of room for the rabbit to move around, as well as specific areas for the litter box, hiding places, food and water.
- If you have more than one rabbit, it is important that each rabbit has its own hiding place so that it can hide when you are tired.
- The minimum length of the cage should be 120 cm, however it is preferable for it to be 150 cm as the width of the cages is usually half the length. The room should be high enough that the rabbit can stand upright without its ears touching the ceiling. However, as large as the cage is, it is important that the animal is released from it every day to exercise, find food, explore and kill boredom.
Step 3. Provide a litter box, a bed and a dining area in the cage
The cage should have a litter box for the animal to take care of. Rabbits are clean animals and the mini-Dutch, in particular, quickly learns to use the bathroom. Cellulose pulp is the ideal material for the rabbit box, as it is not very harmful if ingested by the animal (unlike clay-based products, which should be avoided).
Each rabbit must have its own shelter. In times of stress, an animal's natural instinct is to hide. Providing him with a hiding place is a way to keep his stress from getting worse
Step 4. Check the cage floor type
Wire floors are not acceptable as they can hurt the pet's feet. If the cage has a wire floor, remove it or cover it with plywood. The mini-Dutch are prone to pododermatitis, which is like a pressure ulcer in the hock (ankle-like part of the rabbit's body). This condition is painful and debilitating, and its most common causes are wire floors and dirty upholstery (which are not often changed).
The floor must be covered with at least 5 cm of bedding. You can use a variety of materials such as bedding, including straw (hot and soft), cellulose pulp (recycled, safe, and highly absorbent material), and shredded cardboard. Traditionally, sawdust is used as lining for rabbits, however, this material can dust, in addition to containing irritating oils for the animal's lungs, therefore, it is recommended to use another type of lining
Step 5. Keep the cage clean
Clean the rabbit's litter box daily, removing faeces and urine. The box should be sanitized with disinfectant once a week, or before it starts to smell.
Be aware that rabbits expel two types of stool: small, dry stools, which should be discarded, and larger stools, with a softer consistency, called cecotrophs. Cecotrophs are foods that have passed through the animal's intestine, but still contain nutritional aspects and must be ingested again. Never remove cecotrophs from the litter box, as they are essential for the pet's nutrition
Part 3 of 5: Feeding the Rabbit
Step 1. Provide access to water
It is important that the rabbit has water to drink whenever he wants. Check that the water and container are clean.
Step 2. Provide access to grass or hay
In the wild, the rabbit feeds on vegetation, sprouts, leaves, herbs and grass. Their diet is high in fiber and low in calories. The pets spend hours eating to get the nutrition they need. In a domestic setting, the rabbit should ideally feed on the grass in the backyard, but if this is not necessary, hay is the second best option.
The rabbit must have access to quality green hay 24 hours a day. This will be the main portion of his diet. Chewing food will keep the animal's teeth trimmed and eating will provide vital fiber to keep the rabbit's digestive system healthy
Step 3. Feed the rabbit fresh feed daily
It is acceptable to offer a small portion of feed each day, in an amount that the animal can eat within 20 minutes. Do not provide enough feed for the rabbit to eat all day. This can cause the animal to gain weight and suffer health problems such as corns, skin infections, myiasis and arthritis.
Opt for an extruded diet, that is, consisting of identical grains. Avoid mixed feeds, as the rabbit will likely only eat the tastiest and least nutritious grains (high-calorie, low in fiber and calcium), leaving the less flavorful, more nutritious parts aside
Step 4. Offer fresh fruits and vegetables daily
Vary the type of food offered so that the rabbit never eats the same type of food two days in a row. Be aware that fruit with high sugar content should be offered in small amounts to prevent the rabbit from getting too fat.
Fresh foods to avoid include tomato leaves, potato leaves, fern, laburnum, yew, oak leaves, poppies and rhubarb leaves
Part 4 of 5: Taking care of the rabbit's health
Step 1. Neuter the rabbit
Females can become pregnant from the age of four months, and males reach reproductive maturity at approximately the same age. Therefore, there is a risk of pregnancy if rabbits of both sexes live in the same environment. It is highly recommended to neuter them, as this will make the male less territorial and friendlier. Castration also represents a great benefit for the rabbit's health, as it prevents adenocarcinoma (cancer of the uterus). Removing the uterus during castration will eliminate the risk.
Neutering is usually done after the rabbit is four months old
Step 2. Take the animal for routine veterinary examinations
Take the rabbit to the vet for examination as soon as you buy it. It is also recommended to take an exam annually. In the UK it is common to vaccinate rabbits annually against myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic fever. Your veterinarian will tell you which vaccines should normally be taken in your area.
Step 3. Look for signs of health problem
Look out for signs indicating that the animal may be sick. These signs include lack of appetite (the animal should be taken to the vet urgently if not eating within 12 to 24 hours), producing little stool, wet chin, limping, sneezing or wheezing, wet nose, runny eyes, excessive itching, and diarrhea.
Seek veterinary care urgently if you notice any of these symptoms, as the rabbit's health can quickly deteriorate
Part 5 of 5: Improving the Rabbit's Quality of Life
Step 1. Do not keep the rabbit in the cage at all times
Give him a chance to walk freely around the house daily. If you don't want to release the animal at home, at least get it out of the cage and let it jump in some space, or put it in a fenced area.
Make sure the environment is safe for the rabbit. Keep electrical cables out of the animal's reach to prevent them from chewing and electrocuting themselves
Step 2. Comb the rabbit
Brush it daily. This will bring him closer to the pet, gaining his trust and getting him used to physical contact.
Step 3. Improve the rabbit's environment with toys
Toys can be simple cardboard tubes with snacks in the center, covered with hay. The rabbit will have to remove the hay covers to get to the treat. In addition to being fun, this game will stimulate the animal's mind.
Step 4. Take care when holding the rabbit
Never lift it by the ears. Ideally, support the rabbit's weight on your forearm and the back on your elbow, with the other hand supporting the animal's head.
If you're not good at holding the rabbit, wrap the animal in a towel to keep it supported and prevent it from scratching you
Step 5. Consider getting a second rabbit
If you can't pay much attention to your rabbit, it might be a good idea to buy another one so that it has company. If you intend to create a male and a female, you must neuter them. An alternative is to purchase two rabbits of the same sex and litter. They will grow up together and be tolerant of each other.