Common Questions

My precious bunny Riley is 5 years old and I’m worried that he might be getting old! How long do rabbits usually live? from Amy, Akron, OH

Well, Amy, the new statistics show that a rabbit’s life span is 7-14 years, due in no small part to the incredible care given to our house rabbits, and by advances in bunny medicine. If Riley is 5 years old (go Riley!!!), then it would be wise to trundle him off to the vet for a baseline in bloodwork. This will show us how his kidneys and liver are doing and help warn of any possible future problems. You might want to revisit his diet as when our bunnies age, they don’t need the same caloric intake as when they were younger and more rambunctious. We have a whole section on geriatric bunnies, so please visit that for more information on diet and exercise… But your Riley isn’t ready for the Bunny Assisted Care Center yet!

I love having my rabbit run all over the house, and I don’t have a cage set up for her. Does she really need a cage? Am I depriving her of some basic necessity since she doesn’t have a cage to go to? from DevAnn M., Flower Mound, TX

Absolutely not! Congratulations on knowing the boundless joy of having a house rabbit! What a cage provides is security and a place to hold food, water, and a place to go to the bathroom. What you might want to do is get a large cardboard box, tuck in or cut off the flaps, turn it upside-down, cut out a keyhole, and voila! You have a rabbit castle! Feel free to decorate as you desire. This will provide her with a wonderful little hidey hole to hang out in during the day — and to chew on to her heart’s delight!

Are there any toys I can get for my rabbit to play with? Do rabbits even play with toys at all? from Lee W., Vancouver, WA

Rabbits love to play, you just have to think in bunny terms instead of dog and cat terms. Stop at your local pet supply store and ask if they have any round balls made of wood.
Wicker balls may be available in the small animal or bird section of your local pet supply store.

Rabbits love to throw things, and if he can get his teeth on it, cock his head, and throw it, you’ll be very impressed at how much they’ll play! Toilet paper/paper towel tubes stuffed with hay and little bits of carrot make a wonderful toy as well. You can also look for plastic cat toys with jingle bells in them. They don’t play like cats and dogs do; theirs is more of a curiosity-driven play. So hide-and-seek some things for your rabbit! Bunnies also like to play “tag, you’re it” where they come over and bonk you, and then run away. Your role in this game is to be the bonkee, and the rabbit is the bonker. Upon being bonked, get up and chase your rabbit gleefully down the hallway! Rabbits do this in the wild to help hone their predator-prey instincts, so playing with your rabbit on his terms is psychologically healthy for him, and lots of fun for you.

Why does my rabbit seem to sleep all day? Is something wrong with him? from Lewis V., San Francisco, CA

Nothing is wrong with your bunny. Ok, get ready, I’m going to use big words here. Because of their natural history, rabbits have a behavior that is associated with the time of day. Rabbits tend to sleep or lounge during daylight hours, coming awake around 4 in the afternoon, and staying pretty darn active until the early morning hours. This is known as corpuscular behavior, which means they are neither diurnal (day-active) nor nocturnal (night-active) animals. They are fulfilling a vital part of their natural history because when they were wild bunnies, they would forage for food at dawn and dusk (when there is dew on the grass). What’s great about this is that they are just waking up when you get home from school or work, ready to participate in the evening’s events (which, of course, all revolve around them)! However, if your rabbit seems more lethargic than usual, not interested in his food or playtime, then it might be time to call a rabbit professional or visit your vet.

My rabbit, Suzie, loves helping me eat my fruits and veggies. I’m wondering, though, if there are there any toxic foods or plants that I should avoid giving her? from Jessica D., San Bernadino, CA

Yes, Jessica, there certainly are! Watch out for dark green, glossy-leafed plants as they traditionally are bad news for bunnies. This would include some common houseplants like wandering jew, swedish ivy, and pathos (philodendron). I would suggest hanging houseplants or just keeping them out of reach and out of the tumble zone from your bunny. You can visit for a comprehensive list of what fruits, veggies, and plants your bunny should not eat.

My rabbit is pulling all of his hair out on his back! What’s wrong? from Steve T., NC

Uh oh! Let’s take a look at this. Do you see a white, powdery, flaky substance like dandruff on his back? Does the fur come out really easily? Are the bald areas running along the spine down to the base of the tail? Bingo, we have walking dandruff, otherwise known as skin mites.

Evidence of skin mites on a rex rabbit denoted by fur loss parallel to spine

Close-up of "walking dandruff" or evidence of skin mites, shown on a rex rabbit

This isn’t something to try to do at home, and please do not bathe your rabbit! He needs to go see your vet who will diagnose the disease and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Skin mites are most likely in this situation, but another culprit could be (gasp!) fleas if you don’t see the white dandruff. You can tell it’s fleas by the “flea dirt” around the base of the fur, which looks like tiny cracked pepper. Don’t panic, fleas are not uncommon, and the very very best way to get rid of them is to purchase Advantage for kittens and cats under 9 lbs. This is a topical spot treatment that you place between your rabbit’s shoulder blades, following the instructions on the package. If it is indeed fleas, then you will have to treat the house appropriately.

I just caught my rabbit eating an avocado, which I read is toxic to them. I know rabbits cannot vomit, so what do I do now? from Justin A., Camden, NJ

The bit of the avocado that is closest to the peel is actually the most poisonous, so please, no more sharing your guacamole with the bunny! Depending on how much avocado was eaten, you just need to keep an eye on him for any out-of-the-norm behavior, and if you are really worried, take him to the vet. A rabbit is related physiologically to a horse, and can and will colic just like a horse will. This means that when he has a tummy ache, the bad stomach contents can’t go anywhere. If your rabbit is sitting in the corner hunched up and looking none too happy with the world, chances are he has a tummy ache. This condition does warrant a visit to your vet.

What does it mean when my rabbit runs in circles around me and makes a grunting sound? Is she trying to get attention or food or does this mean something bad? from Jennifer C., Denton, TX

Well, Jennifer, it looks like it’s time to spay your bunny! She is exhibiting mating behavior. If your rabbit is at least 4 months old, she can be spayed by a qualified, rabbit-savvy vet. Since you are in our neck of the woods, be sure to check our list of approved rabbit vets in the DFW metroplex. This adorable but annoying behavior will quickly disappear.