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So, you’ve come across a stray rabbit. What the heck are you meant to do about it?
I have a whole article on this. You can reach out to a rescue for help but bear in mind that they’re often low on manpower.
Hopefully, it’ll be easy to catch. Fingers crossed!
When it comes to containing rabbits, a cardboard box will do, but make sure that you can cover it somehow. Bunnies are excellent jumpers/escapers.
Check it over
Look for signs of obvious trauma. I always find rabbits on Sundays, so I can’t just drop in at the vets. Emergency vets are extremely expensive, plus there’s no point wasting their time (or pulling them away from another, more needy patient) if it isn’t necessary.
If the rabbit seems generally ok, isn’t obviously bleeding, and has eaten something (anything), you probably don’t need to rush to a vet.
That being said, keep the stray away from other pets, especially other rabbits. Every stray rabbit I’ve found has had worms. Most have had a couple of fleas. I’d rather deworm/deflea one rabbit than all of them. Strays can also have come into contact with fatal diseases like RVHD, so don’t risk them coming into contact.
Get it somewhere safe
You don’t need a fancy rabbit set up. Just somewhere for it to rest where it’s contained and safe. If you can, please bring the rabbit inside.
A lot of non-rabbit savvy people think rabbits belong outside in a hutch, but that’s not really a great place for a bunny to live, and if it’s been stray for a while it could be hot/cold and would really appreciate being somewhere that’s a comfortable temperature and safe.
An x-pen would be great, and they’re pretty cheap on Amazon, or you could appeal to local rescues to borrow one. If you can’t get hold of that, then just try to create a place they can perhaps run about a bit but won’t damage your stuff.
Again, non-rabbit savvy people may be unaware of the damage a rabbit can do to baseboards in a surprisingly short space of time.
The kitchen is often the best place to put a rabbit because they can’t dig in the carpet. If you put a shallow tray in the space and scoop all poops into it, you’ll be surprised at quickly you can litter train a rabbit (and also how many poops a rabbit can produce).
Cordon off an area using whatever you have. We used to have an open plan kitchen/living room and could cordon off the kitchen with the dining table on its side. It wasn’t perfect, but it kept stray bunnies safe for the night.
If all else fails, put the rabbit in the bathroom. They’re small, tiled, and usually have a rug.
Contact a vet
It’s always best to get stray animals to the vet asap. I can’t vouch for all vets but ours will see strays for free.
If yours charges, then contact local rescues, explain what happened (it’s always good to take photos of the capture, so the rescue knows you’re not trying pawn a bunny off on them) and they can often help with the bill.
Not only can the vet do a more thorough examination of the rabbit’s health and check for parasites etc, but they can check for a microchip.
Our rabbits aren’t microchipped (I don’t think – we certainly haven’t had them chipped) but some pet stores insist that rabbits are chipped. One of the strays we found had a chip.
The chip led back to the store he was bought from, and the store put us in contact with his owners who had, unfortunately, dumped him.
Give the rabbit food and water
Rabbits have extremely delicate stomachs, so don’t give them anything rich. If you have rabbit pellets available, give them a few (like, 5) and lots of hay. Don’t give treats, because they’ll probably stressed and we don’t want to induce stasis.
If you don’t have rabbits or any pellets, don’t worry. I highly doubt you won’t have something that a rabbit will eat. Pick grass from your garden (as long as it hasn’t been treated with anything), or dandelions. If you have romaine lettuce, great, but don’t give them iceberg lettuce.
If you can get to a pet store, get them some hay, and maybe pellets (though pellets aren’t as important as hay). If you can get to a grocery store but they don’t have rabbit pellets, get romaine lettuce and maybe some coriander/cilantro.
Don’t get muesli-style rabbit food. Hay/veg is better, the muesli stuff is garbage.
Hay is extremely important, and should make up 85% of a rabbit’s diet but if you can’t get it, they won’t die.
If you can only get romaine, that’ll have to do. If you can only get carrots, this is less ideal, but not as bad as not giving the rabbit anything. Romaine and herbs are best. Spinach will do in a pinch. Carrots and bananas aren’t ideal but better than nothing.
I have a whole article on how to feed rabbits properly, but this article is for non-rabbit owners that have ended up with a stray for the night.
Don’t force-feed rabbits, they’ll end up choking (rabbit digestive systems only go one way, so they can’t vomit and can easily choke if force-fed).
If the rabbit is trying to eat but can’t, it may have been stray a while and gotten overgrown teeth. Try making them a romaine smoothie in a blender with some water. If you have pellets, they soften up if you add a bit of warm water.
Ideally offer them water (the general rule of thumb is that if you can drink your tap water, so can the rabbit) in both a bowl and a bottle. A regular cereal bowl is fine, but be aware that rabbits love to tip. If you don’t have a bottle that’s fine (bowls are better) but if you do, offer that in case that’s what the rabbit is used to.
Find it somewhere to go
Put up flyers, post in Facebook groups etc…someone may well be missing the bunny. The sad fact is that thousands of bunnies are dumped every year. People assume that domestic rabbits can just go back to the wild, when they’ll likely be predated or starve in a day or two.
Your local vet should be able to help you find somewhere for the rabbit to go if you can’t keep it for a few days. Don’t just turn up at a rescue centre – call them first to arrange for them to take the bunny, or find somewhere for it to go., like a foster carer.
It varies from place to place how long this takes, but they’re usually pretty efficient. We don’t foster rabbits (we don’t have the space) but our local vet and rescue centre know that in a pinch we can take rabbits for a couple of days.
There may be someone in your area that does something similar but please go through a vet or rescue – if you just appeal on Facebook there’s a very real chance the rabbit will end up as snake food.
If you fall in love with the rabbit and decide you want to keep it (as long as you’re sure it isn’t being missed by someone) great! Check out, er, the rest of this website to learn how to take care of your new pal!