Donation FormAnother Chance Outdoor Pet Care Information

Cold WeatherHot Weather

Although this information is written about rabbits, there are useful tips that can be applied to many other pets!

Cold Weather Tips

Hi, I saw the section on outdoor animals, and just hoped I could help by adding a few tips on keeping outdoor rabbits in the winter. Ours live outside by their choice, we tried to bring them inside last winter and they were miserable, didn't eat well and just stayed in one place most of the day. We had several instances of GI problems, so we decided to make them the best home we could outside, and they are sooo much happier. Now they have large pens in a custom built shed that they share with our pet ducks. (They are separated from the ducks however.) They have their toys and chew baskets, they also have a large fenced area to play in. They take turns playing outside anyday that the weather is cooperative.

I realize not everyone is able to do this for their rabbits, but I wanted to offer some tips that anyone can do, with just a small amount of money. We bought heated water bowls for them, which are WONDERFUL. They are just under $20.00 and worth every cent. They are available at www.petvetsupply.com. They are one quart bowls, that hang on the pens. They are very safe and keep the water at a comfortable temperature for them to drink. Even though the cord is covered with a chew guard, we made sure the rabbits could not get to the cord anyway. The tubes on water bottles freeze almost immediately in very cold weather, so in fall we start switching them over to bowls for drinking.

Another thing I wanted to add is that extra hay for eating is very necessary, but it is better to use clean straw for bedding instead of hay. A bale of straw costs between $5.00-$6.00 and for one or two rabbits will probably last the whole winter. The best way is if the straw is packed into a box (we use the tops of Booda Dome cat litter boxes). We pack the dome with some straw make a little indent for them to get into, and add some hay for them to eat while they are inside. Even a cardboard box could be used, as long as it can stay dry. Straw has insulating qualities that hay does not, and it does not pack down if it gets wet. If it does get wet, it should be removed and replaced immediately. The houses should be checked daily in case they have soiled them. If so, again, replace the straw and hay.

There is a great website for rabbits: www.rabbit.org, it is the House Rabbit Society website, and while they don't advocate having rabbits outside, sometimes it is necessary. This website has wonderful info on diet and health care. It also has many links to rabbit supply websites. Rabbits are such wonderful creatures, they need a lot of attention and care, but they are so much fun if you get to know them. Thanks for all the work you guys do.

Hot Weather Tips

Since it is getting warmer (FINALLY) and you so kindly printed my advice on winter rabbit keeping, I was wondering if you could put some info on your website for keeping rabbits in the hotter weather. That is actually harder on most rabbits than cold weather is.

Rabbits do not do very well in very hot temps. Above about 75 degrees they can start to have problems with the heat.

The obvious thing to do is to move them to the coolest area possible. If they can go into a cooler garage, or barn, that would help. If you can take them out of a hutch a while and put them in an exercise pen with good shade, they will dig a tunnel and get into that to get cool. If that is not possible, there are some things that can be done to help them cool off.

Home Depot sells 16" x 16" ceramic tiles. You can buy a few (they are very inexpensive) and keep them in your freezer. I wrap them in plastic to store them in the freezer and when it is really hot, I put one in each rabbit's pen. We have two rabbits and four tiles, so there is always a cool one ready if needed. They wash easily, and stored flat in a plastic bag, don't take up much room in the freezer. They stay cool a long time and the rabbit can choose to lay on it to cool off when it wants. Another thing that can be done is to freeze a large gallon milk jug of water and wire it to the side of the pen or hutch so that bunny can lay up alongside it if they want. Just remember to make sure he/she can get away from it if they choose.

Don't forget CLEAN, cool water. Algae forms quickly in hot humid weather, so cleaning dishes or bottles daily is a MUST! I like a bowl of water AND a drinking bottle when it is very hot. That insures water even if the bottle malfunctions or they spill the bowl.

Our rabbits get vegetables twice a day (check out the House Rabbit Society website for lists of vegs that are good and bad for rabbits). I leave the veggies a bit wet to get more water into the bunnies. There are even small cage fans available from www.PetEdge.com. These are actually fans made for people who show dogs to attach to the outside of a dog crate. They run on batteries and could be used for rabbits during the very hot times. Again, bunny must be able to move out of the way in case they don't want the air blowing directly on them.

If your hutch has a metal floor (which is actually bad for hocks and feet) remember the metal can get hot in the sun, the same goes for metal feeders and bowls. Be sure to offer your rabbits a resting pad in the hutch so they can get off the metal floor.

Keep the urine and feces cleaned up daily (obviously), to avoid attracting flies. Many rabbits will happily use a litter box filled with newspaper and hay. It makes clean up very easy. Empty, rinse with vinegar and water and refill. DO NOT USE BLEACH OR AMMONIA TO CLEAN LITTER BOXES (again obvious, but bears repeating).

I realize this is a bit long, but I hate to see rabbits shoved in a hutch in the back corner of the yard and barely paid attention to. Rabbits are smart, funny, affectionate pets, just like cats and dogs, and deserve to be part of the family. If you can take the highlights out of this and post them, maybe it will help some owners to take better care of their bunny kids.

Thank you to Phyllis Flint and Mocha & Murphy.!

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