My rabbit Oliver is 7 years young, and I’m expecting that to be middle-aged for him since neutered/spayed rabbits can live to be 10-13+ years old! One great example of this kind of healthy longevity is IHOP, my great friend Lisa’s (around) 12 year old rabbit. I say “around” because she got him when he was about 2, we do not know his exact age. She has shared some insight with me as well when it comes to caring for a bun in his golden years. IHOP is featured in the photo for this post because he’s amazing and adorable!
If you have an older rabbit, you may be able to tell that she’s not quite as spritely as he once was, but there are definitely things you can do to keep her healthy and happy her entire life.
First, here’s what you may notice in an aging rabbit:
loss of muscle tone,
decreased activity (more resting),
decreased mobility or agility,
a less lustrous coat
decreased functionality in senses (hearing, sight)
less adaptable to stressful situations or change in routine,
Knows EXACTLY what they want (or is that always the case with rabbits? Lol)
Now that we know what to look for, here are some things you can do to give your bun the very best golden years:
1. Regular Vet Checkups & Monitoring
Even with a younger rabbit, it’s good to do these things, but it’s even more important with an elderly rabbit.
After the age of 5 or 6, it’s wise to take your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy vet every 6 months to get her ears, teeth and overall health checked. Catching any issues early is critical, especially for older rabbits.
Here are some things to monitor at home:
A clean backside. Older rabbits sometimes have a hard time moving their spine in a way that allows them to urinate without getting it on themself. Regularly check your rabbit’s butt and back legs for urine or stuck poop; keep that area clean as urine can burn a rabbit’s skin and lead to irritation or fur loss.
Water and food. Note any changes in consumption, and make sure hay and water are always available to your bun.
Behavior. Take note if your bun’s behavior changes suddenly (eating, drinking, pooping, aggression, etc.). This may warrant a vet checkup. If you notice your rabbit is not eating or peeing/pooping at all, it is a medical emergency and you should get him to his vet right away.
Reduced or slower movement. Many older buns develop arthritis, so if you notice he is moving slower or is kind of shaky, it may be time to make some adjustments for him. I cover ways you can help your bun deal with arthritis in point #3.
Nose and ears. Take note of any discharge from the eyes or nose. You can also gently look down the ears for any redness or irritation every couple weeks to stay on top of any potential ear infections. If you notice discharge or redness, call your vet.
Eyes. Your rabbit’s eyes are ideally bright, clear and alert. Some rabbits develop cataracts (like Oliver and IHOP both have) that can result in blindness. We will cover tips to handle blindness in #3 as well.
Hearing. You may notice your bun doesn’t respond to you the way he used to. He may have decreased hearing with age. Keeping this in mind, be careful not to startle him since he may not hear you enter the room. My Oliver doesn’t hear or see like he used to, he is the Helen Keller of bunnies. To not alarm him with my presence, I will gently start to pet him to let him know I’m there. You can also hold your hand in front of your rabbit’s whiskers so that they ‘feel’ you there (if they don’t smell you first).
2. Make Your Bun’s Space Work For Him or Her
One thing you can do in their living space is minimize slippery surfaces. This ensures that your rabbit is able to move/exercise comfortably. You can do this by creating softer surfaces with rugs, carpet remnants or blankets in their space. I lay a blanket down in my rabbit room where I find both of my rabbits constantly lounging on it.
If your rabbit has cataracts or is blind like both IHOP and Oliver, try to keep things in the same spot in their living space so that they don’t run into things or get confused.
Make sure the litter box is easy to access for a rabbit with sensitive joints. Consider a shallower box and gradual ramp for your bun to easily hop into the box.
Ultimately, you want to make their space as stress-free and quiet as possible.
3. Keep Your Bun Comfortable
Here are some things you can do to make your older bun more comfortable physically and emotionally.
Nails - keep them trimmed. It is normal for an older rabbit’s nails to start to curl off to the side, so do your best to keep them at a comfortable length for your rabbit.
Arthritis - I administer an organic, highly absorbable full-spectrum CBD oil to Oliver, and the difference in his movement is night and day. Not all CBD oils are created the same, so make sure you get one that is truly high quality and safe for your bun. I have linked to the one I use for myself and all of my pets; I make dosage recommendations
Immune Support - Colloidal silver is amazing for infection and bacteria prevention in humans and animals. I give all of my animals colloidal silver for prevention purposes. I put a few drops in my rabbits’ water.
Medication - Administer any medication or Critical Care recommended by your bunny vet.
Play & Simple Pleasures - Make toys available to your bun as well as her favorite healthy foods. Provide play tubes or a shallow box with shredded paper for her to explore. Encourage play to keep your bun young and excited about life!
Blindness - Make food and water available in a couple different places in your bun’s area; this is especially helpful for buns with blindness. I also will tap Oliver on the side when I want him to know there’s something there for him, or I want him to go in that direction. He knows now what to do when I tap his side. Picking up a blind rabbit can be confusing and scary for them, so try to avoid picking your bun up if he is blind.
Follow A Routine - Rabbits are routine creatures by nature, and as they get older and much like people, they respond very well to a consistent routine. I ‘tuck-in’ my rabbits at about the same time every night, and Oliver knows that means he gets an unsweetened banana chip, which he snatches out of my hand the moment I offer to him. He knows what to expect every night, which keeps him free of stress or confusion. Delilah enjoys the routine too - if I am late in tucking them in, Delilah is sure to come find me to let me know!
Your rabbit should be eating and drinking regularly. Encourage water consumption with fresh, filtered water every day. I actually give my rabbits mineral water, which they LOVE.
An older rabbit should have unlimited timothy hay, and at least 2 cups of leafy greens per 6 lbs a day. She should also be given 1/4 cup of high fiber pellets per 6 lbs each day. Healthy treats are encouraged as your bun should be able to enjoy the simple pleasures. Treats should only be given once a day.
5. Lots of Love
Give your bun regular love and attention with gentle petting and maybe even a very gentle massage around the joints (if she permits you to!).
If your bun does not have another bunny friend to love, consider getting a friend for him. Oliver and my other rabbit, Delilah, cuddle all the time, and I honestly believe that outside of the occasional banana chip, she is his greatest joy.