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CIRCUS LIONS RABBITRY

Lionhead rabbits for sale in Northeast PA

Care information

Please be careful when bringing new babies home. You have to remember they are young, and stressed from leaving their mother and litter mates and going to a new home. No added stress is good and can actually kill a bunny.  He needs quiet time to learn his new home and family, for at least a month. That means don't overhandle him or let your other pets scare him.  

Please be sure you understand that rabbits act like rabbits - they don't act like dogs, cats or people.  Rabbits are prey animals and they know it so they're easily frightened by sudden movements and loud noises. Scaring them causes very loud, back foot thumping.   They can injure themselves throwing themselves around the cage, in an attempt to get away from what they think is a threat.  

They will urinate to mark their territory. They will very often act aggressively toward other rabbits. Some will act aggressively toward you sometimes, especially if they are feeling territorial about their cage or protective of their babies.  They will attempt to chew about anything they can get their teeth around. This is not a "bad" rabbit; it's just a rabbit being a rabbit.

Caging:

Caging rabbits separately is STRONGLY recommended.  They often become territorial about their cage and will fight, causing injury and possibly death.  Even if they do happen to tolerate a cage mate, you could end up with unplanned babies.  Young rabbits are notoriously difficult to sex (see sexing rabbits); even experienced breeders make mistakes.  Do not believe the online hype that rabbits prefer the company of other rabbits, that they get "lonely" or need a rabbit companion to "bond" with. They're perfectly happy being solitary!  Believe me, I'd need a lot fewer cages if rabbits liked hanging out together in the same cage, much past a few months old.  For more info, see this link - Barbi Brown's page on rabbits and companions.
Lots of rabbits get grouchy about having their cage cleaned.  If yours is one of those,  simply remove the rabbit during cage cleaning and return him when it's done.  This trait is more common in does than bucks.

A cage roughly 4x the size of the rabbit is minimum - larger is better, of course.  Indoor "pet" type cages that have a deep plastic bottom tray are easiest to keep clean.  The depth of the tray helps contain the bedding inside the cage.

 Litter Pan Training -I use corner litter pans (intended for ferrets and other small animals) filled with ASPEN SHAVINGS.  (Please don't use cat litter! Rabbits will try to chew or eat everything in their cage and cat litter can cause an intestinal blockage).  Aspen shavings don't have the aromatic oils in them that pine or cedar shavings do, which are suspected to cause illness and death in many small animals.  Rabbits tend to pick one corner for elimination and usually will readily use the litter pan.  Soak the pan with vinegar to remove the rabbit urine scale-like build-up.  Normal rabbit urine has a high concentration of calcium in it and is a chalky yellow color.  It's also normal for the urine to appear a white, orange, red or rust color at times. If the cage starts to smell like ammonia, it's past time to clean the cage.  The ammonia fumes (from the build-up of urine) are bad for the rabbit's respiratory system and can cause illness. 

Litter pan "training" is kind of misleading.  The rabbit trains you where it wants to go and you put the litter pan there.  You should expect the rabbit to still leave droppings around and occasionally urinate outside of the pan; this is how they mark their territory.  This is normally not a big deal because the droppings are hard and dry with very little odor and easy to clean up.  Rabbits usually pick a favorite corner to go in and they also like to go on top of things, like bedding and hay. Many rabbits like to lie in their litter pans or will sit in them, hanging out. Rabbits sometimes dig in their pans, especially pregnant does. 

Cimmaron's Wateka in her litter pan

Outdoor cages have wire bottoms for the rabbit's droppings to fall through. The wire can make the rabbit's feet sore, though; they need a board over part of the wire so they can get off the wire sometimes. Keep in mind when choosing an outdoor cage that all sorts of predators, including dogs, cats, raccoons, weasels, owls, hawks, skunks, bears, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, snakes and neighbor's kids, need to be kept out, as well as keeping the bunny securely in. Even if a predator can't get in at the rabbit, having one lurking around trying to can be very stressful to the rabbit.  Outdoor cages should be in a sheltered area, with some shade in the summer.  Rabbits are much less tolerant of  heat than cold.  When outside make sure the bunny has plenty of cold water.  It may not seem so hot for us, but they feel the heat more than we do.  They can die from heat stroke.  You can freeze soda bottles filled with plain water and lay them in the cage for the bunny to lie next to as added relief from the heat.

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Cotton Candy, lying next to her frozen water bottle during our heat wave
 (very pregnant here)

Feeding:

Rabbits have extremely sensitive digestive systems.  They need rabbit pellets, clean water and as much timothy hay as they want (not alfalfa, too rich in calcium) daily.  This provides the high fiber diet they require.  Very small amounts of fresh veggies are ok but NO iceberg lettuce.  I offer fresh grass, dandelions and clover occasionally.   I've also seen references that suggest only feeding 1/8 cup of pellets a day for a 2-4 lb. rabbit to avoid obesity but my guys were too skinny when I tried this.  Other breeds may be prone to weight gain but I free feed pellets without a problem here.  Experiment to see what works for you  Digestive problems and diarrhea can prove fatal quickly so make changes in their diet very slowly.  Using a water bottle keeps their water clean and stops them from dumping it out.  If you don't know if the rabbit has used a water bottle before, be sure to offer a crock of water until you know he's using the water bottle.

Rabbits are easily susceptible to ENTERITIS and GI STASIS.

Enteritis: This occurs when the rabbit is fed food that its stomach is not accustomed to, including vegetables, fruit (or any other sugary food, seeds, nuts, corn and grain - not recommended at ALL).  Any new food should be offered in very small amounts.  Enteritis causes inflammation of the digestive tract and an imbalance of the healthy bacteria in the rabbit's gut, resulting in severe diarrhea and sudden death.  Baby rabbits are especially vulnerable.  Many new pet owners kill their rabbits accidentally this way and never know why it happened.   It's strongly suggested not to introduce veggies to your bunny until at least 4 months of age for this reason.  You can never harm your rabbit by free feeding as much hay as it wants and good quality fresh pellets.

GI Stasis:  This means the digestive system has slowed down or stopped working completely.  This is also very dangerous for the rabbit.  Here is a link  http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/ileus.html for details on how to treat this condition.  "Symptoms include  very small (or no) fecal pellets, sometimes clinging to the bunny's bottom. In some cases, very small fecal pellets will be encased in clear or yellowish mucus. This potentially serious problem (enteritis, an inflammation of the intestinal lining) should be treated as an emergency. With GI stasis, the normal, quiet gurgling of the healthy intestine may be replaced either by very loud, violent gurgles (gas moving around painfully!) or silence. The bunny may become lethargic, have no appetite and may hunch in a ball, loudly crunching his teeth in pain."  - GastroIntestinal Stasis - The Silent Killer by Dana M. Krempels, Ph.D.

Rabbits pass two different kinds of droppings.  There are regular, round, dry balls of feces and there are also cecotropes are clumps of softer poop that can be mucousy and look like bunches of grapes.  It is normal for the rabbit to eat the cecotropes; they contain bacteria necessary for the proper functioning of their gut. Lots of times you won't notice them in the cage, because the rabbit eats them as they come from the anus. Photo on left shows regular droppings on the left and the shiny clump of cecotropes on the right.  This is not diarhhea and the shape of the clump may vary.

Grooming:

Lionheads' coats are easy to maintain.  Combing out once or twice a week is usually sufficient.  Baby lions need more monitoring.  They're shedding out their baby wool and growing out their adult coat so check them often for mats and for poop stuck to their fuzzy bottoms. If this occurs, just rinse their bottom with warm running water and work the poop out of the fur.  Avoid giving a full bath, just spot clean the bunny. Lionheads can also suffer from wool block - loose hair that's been swallowed by the rabbit and clogs up its digestive system.  It's much easier to prevent this than to treat it and it can be fatal (another cause of GI stasis - see above).

Grooming baby lion - a simple dog comb works and just takes a few minutes.  The red in this one's ear is magic marker ink, so I could tell him apart from his "twin", another blue, litter brother.

Nails - Sometimes the nails need to be clipped. I use a small pair of clippers, intended for birds' nails.  There are 4 toes on the back feet and 5 on the front feet.  The 5th one on the front foot is on the inside of the leg, up a liitle way from the rest.  On light nails, you can see the "quick", the pink vein that supplies blood to the nail. Clip just below that.  On dark nails, clip just the tips. If you clip too short and the nail bleeds (and the rabbit begins plotting your demise), just put pressure on the toe above the nail for a few minutes to stop the bleeding.  You can also use styptic powder, drag the end of the nail across a bar of soap, or dip the nail in flour or cornstarch.

Teeth - Look at the rabbit's teeth when you groom him.  Healthy teeth wear themselves down and they should have the top teeth just overlapping the bottoms. If the rabbit has an incorrect bite, the teeth will continue to grow, often until they stick out of the mouth, between the lips.  Then the rabbit can't eat.  Teeth that have this issue can be clipped down with dog nail clippers (just avoid the lips and tongue).  It doesn't hurt the rabbit.  This is hereditary so rabbits with an incorrect bite (malocclusion) should never be bred.

Handling:

When I first kept rabbits, I was always walking around with scratches up and down both arms.  I picked them up by the scruff of their neck and supported their bottoms but somehow still always got kicked and scratched up.  Then I stumbled across a video on youtube, which showed me that the best way to pick up and put down a rabbit was BUTT FIRST.  When you take the bunny out of his cage or put him back in, always do it butt first.  They don't see where they're going and don't scratch you from eyebrows to elbows that way.  Try it.  It works.

Many rabbits don't enjoy being picked up but are fine as soon as they're held close to your body or sitting in your lap for an ear rub or a nice grooming ;) 

Never pick a rabbit up by the ears.  These are not convenient handles.     

And, please, handle with care.  It's very easy for a rabbit to break its back, twisting and struggling to be free.  You can also tuck them under your arm once picked up, in a "football carry", covering their eyes so they stay calm.

A rabbit that's biting is usually defending its cage (being territorial) and is usually a doe.  Reach in over her as high as you can and grab her by the scruff of her neck, lift her and then support her bottom.  Act as if you're not afraid of her, even if you are.  Most bunnies like this are fine as soon as they're out of their cage.

Supervise kids with rabbits.  You don't want either party to injure the other one.  A pet can be a great learning experience for a child, teaching them that other living things have feelings, too.  If your child isn't old enough to handle your bunny gently and carefully, please stick to stuffed bunnies until they are.

Toys:

Rabbits enjoy stuff in their cage that they can chew, pick up and throw around. Suggestions are:

  • Plastic shower curtain rings (can also be strung together or hung from the cage bars)
  • Empty soda bottles
  • Cat toy balls (with bells in them)
  • Larger parrot toys, the ones strung on a chain with pieces of wood to chew
  • Toilet paper or paper towel cores can be stuffed with hay 
  • Hay huts available in pet stores that the rabbit will very happily demolish.

A bunny-proofed area (protect electric cords because they will chew on them) for occasional romps out of the cage is greatly enjoyed, too (always with supervision).  Rabbits explore everything with their teeth and will chew your stuff.  They also enjoy digging and can rip up a carpet pretty quickly.  To protect your belongings, stay with the rabbit if it's out of the cage.

My rabbits play with all of this stuff and my does even put the toys in their nest boxes sometimes.Kashmir put her shower curtain rings in the nest box