One look into a rabbit's twinkly brown eyes and that adorable furry expression on its face, with its little snuffling nose, can turn even a stone-head (and heart) into mush. This is how most people end up with a pet rabbit. But if you think rabbits are easy pets to look after as compared to dogs and cats, think again.
Rabbits live for at least 5-10 years, and they need grooming, feeding, and exercise. Raising a rabbit involves maintaining cleanliness of the hutch. Choosing a small rabbit breed does not mean that the rabbit requires less maintenance. Moreover, rabbits are normally very timid and shy, and hence very sensitive to the presence of other pets like dogs or cats.
A popular rabbit breed to keep as pets is the lop eared rabbit. If you are a first-time lop bunny owner, read on to learn how to raise a lop eared rabbit. These rabbits are generally very easygoing and lovable. For an adult first-time rabbit owner, lop bunnies are easy to house-train. They are very obedient pets. They are not recommended as pets for children, as their care requires continuous adult supervision, especially where grooming is concerned.
How to Care for Lop Eared Rabbits
Choose the Right Breed
Other rabbit breeds have upright and pricked up ears, whereas lop bunnies have floppy, lop, or drooping ears. Some lop rabbits have "helicopter" ears, where the ears flop out horizontally from the head. Others have one such ear or forward facing ears, like they are ready to charge. Lop ears can be short, or long and trailing on the ground. There are five breeds:
- The Holland lop
- The English lop
- The American fuzzy lop
- The Mini lop
- The French lop
Each breed has a different size from the huge French and English lops (at least 9 pounds in weight) to the teeny-weeny Mini lop (just 4½ pounds). Plus there's their grooming to consider. The American fuzzy lop has thick woolly fur, which needs to be combed and untangled. The other lop breeds have short, to-the-skin fur, which needs minimal grooming. Based on how much time and maintenance you can provide, choose a breed accordingly. You should buy a lop eared rabbit from an authorized and responsible rabbit breeder or adopt one from a rescue organization. Only purchase lop bunnies from pet stores, if you are sure of the animal's health and breed authenticity.
Build the Right Home for Your Lop
Once your cuddly bunny has been brought home, it needs a nice, clean rabbit home or hutch. Points to keep in mind for your rabbit's house are:
- You can keep your lop bunny outdoors, but you need to think how the external climate will affect your bunny.
- An outdoors hutch should be covered with a fly-screen mesh to prevent insects from bothering your bunnies. It should also be protected from foxes, dogs, and cats, who may try to harm your bunny.
- If you live in a warm climate, then your bunny will need fresh, clean water regularly, as well as plenty of shade. If it gets too hot, you may need to bring it indoors for sometime.
- If you live in a cold climate, then your bunny needs a warm hutch, with a nice toasty shelter, so it will not freeze at night.
- Keep your rabbit's hutch out-of-reach from other pets.
- The hutch or cage should be 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet in measurement, and have a solid base.
- Your lop eared rabbit should be able to stand on its feet as well as lie down comfortably, so construct a cage accordingly. Approximate cage size should be 3 times the rabbit's size.
- Large lop breeds like the French lop, need a lot of room to reside in, due to their big size.
- Try to keep a small cardboard box, with some hay in it, as a sort of rabbit "bedroom" in the hutch. This is for your rabbit to hide away or sleep in.
- Place a litter box in the hutch, with some newspaper. This lessens your cleaning job, and trains your rabbit to use its own toilet.
- Clean out the litter box everyday, and change the bedding and hay in the hutch weekly.
Feeding Your Lop Eared Bunny
Rabbits have very delicate stomachs. Also they love to poop. Keeping these two traits in mind, here are some feeding tips for your bunny:
- Your lop eared bunny's diet must consist of pellets, fresh veggies, and hay.
- Feed your pet good quality rabbit pellets, which are free from corn, potatoes, or nuts. Fresh pellets should be fed everyday, and should be high in fiber with a low protein content.
- Young lops need alfalfa pellets, and lops older than 7 months need timothy pellets. Do not feed alfalfa hay to older and adult rabbits.
- Rabbits feed on hay and grass to keep their teeth in good shape and to help their solid food digest. So, oat, timothy, and grass as well as alfalfa are ideal for a lop rabbit. Hay should be fresh, clean, and dry. Check for mold prior to feeding your rabbit.
- Do not overfeed your pet, older rabbits should be fed 1/8 of a cup of pellets per day.
- For veggies, variety is the key. Green leafy veggies like romaine lettuce, broccoli, dandelion leaves, watercress, and cabbage are good. Minimize the intake of carrots, they can get too starchy. Do not feed your lop iceberg lettuce, corn, beans, peas, onions, and any seeds or grains.
- Fruits are meant as occasional treats as they have too much sugar for regular intake. They should be seeded and peeled, and fed in small portions only.
- Your lop is not a human, so no processed foods, breads, chocolate, chips, or biscuits.
- Rabbits drink a lot of water, so make sure your lop has a fresh, clean drinking water supply. Use a shallow but spill-proof bowl to store the water in the hutch.
- Clean the water and food containers of the hutch everyday.
Grooming Your Lop
Tips for keeping your furry rabbit spic and span:
- Lop eared rabbits have floppy, falling ears, hence they are more prone to ear infections. Check your bunny's ears carefully. Look into the ear canal for signs of infection or ear mites.
- If the rabbit's ears smell bad, or if a lot of wax has formed in the ear, consult a veterinarian immediately.
- You can clean earwax using wax removal medicine, but do so carefully, and with medication as approved by a vet.
- Rabbits breed a lot. To avoid turning your house into a rabbit-filled home, neuter or spay your lops in time.
- Lop rabbits are very clean pets, as they groom themselves around the eyes, nose, and ears repeatedly, but they need a human to brush them to get rid of loose hair.
- If your lop has a short-haired fur coat, then a light brush is needed daily, to brush away broken hair.
- With woolly or very long-hair, brush twice a day.
- During the rabbit's molting season, a lot of hair is shed, so brush your rabbit at least thrice a day.
- Your rabbit's nails can grow long, and it could hurt itself while grooming. So trim nails once in a while, either on your own or visit the veterinarian.
Your lop bunny needs a walk to stretch its legs out, but let it roam around a safe, confined area of your house. Watch your bunny, it may accidentally chew on electric wires or sockets. Keep it far away from other pets, and any bulb plants like lilies and azaleas (these are poisonous to rabbits if eaten).
Handling and Love
Those who are worried about how to raise a lop eared rabbit should be aware of the fact that these rabbits are very social and they love to play. You need to talk to them, play with them, and be around them for a period of time, else they will get very lonely. Rabbits do not like being picked up, but if you do so, pick them up the right way, by placing one hand behind their front legs and the other hand under the rabbit's bottom. If you cannot socialize with your bunny and have to leave it alone for long periods of time, then get another lop eared hutch-mate to keep it company.
That was an extensive look at lop eared bunny care. Always remember that your furry, floppy-eared companion would look to you for care and love, so be a responsible pet owner, and it will be a loving pet to you.