This post was originally published on the Petfinder blog
Mary Lempert is the founder and manager of The Rabbit Advocate, where this blog post originally appeared. She has served as a rabbit behavior and rehabilitation consultant for the House Rabbit Society, House Rabbit Network and the MSPCA in Massachusetts and, most recently, for the Almost Home Humane Society in Lafayette, IN. She lives in West Lafayette, IN, with her rabbits Graysie and Willoughby and any number of foster bunnies.
Most rabbit-parents know that rabbits are not cheap pets — their medical care as exotic animals can add up, and they seem to love chewing on your most expensive items (clothes, furniture, equipment, etc.). However, there are several easy ways to reduce the costs of their daily care and manage your rabbit expenses more effectively. Here are just a few:
Hay: Buy in bulk from the farm
Buying small bags of hay from pet stores can get expensive fast! Buying hay directly from a farmer can cut costs way down. Ordering hay in 50-lb. boxes online from farms is already a bargain compared to the small bags from pet stores, but taking a trip to a local farmer to buy a bale is really the way to go. A bale of Timothy hay, which can last several months, typically costs about $10. (Learn more about the types of hay that are good for rabbits.)
Vegetables: Ask your grocery store for veggie scraps
Ask staffers at your local grocery store to collect their vegetable scraps for you. Grocery stores throw away tons of perfectly good veggies, including carrot, beet, and radish tops, or the outer layers of lettuces, cabbages, and other greens. Farmers’ markets are also a fantastic source for free vegetables. Be sure to never use vegetables that look wilted or old and wash everything extra carefully. Another idea is to try growing your own mint (which grows like a weed), parsley or other herbs in your garden. Be sure to check which plants are toxic to rabbits before feeding anything new. For a preliminary list, read A Rabbit’s Basic Needs.
Litter: Check the cat aisle
A little insider knowledge here can save you some big bucks! If you use Yesterday’s News or some other litter brand that is also marketed for cats, buy the bags in the cat-litter section, as they tend to be much cheaper per pound than the bags sold in the small-animal section. Avoid clay and pine-based litters, since both have been associated with serious health risks to rabbits. Learn more here.
The litter box: Get creative
A litter box is really just a plastic box, so why pay extra for a fancy cat litter pan from a pet store when you can grab a shallow plastic box from Walmart for half the price?
Toys: Try DIY
There are a lot of expensive bunny toys available, but it seems more often than not, rabbits just love playing with old-fashioned toys that don’t cost a cent, such as cardboard boxes, toilet-paper rolls stuffed with hay, and homemade cardboard tunnels or castles. Baby toys (such as plastic keys on a ring) can be cheaper than similar products sold in pet stores. Just make sure the plastic is hard, and not the “teething” kind, which can be chewed and ingested by rabbits.
And one thing not to skimp on: Pellets
There’s a wide variety of pellets available, with a wide variety of price tags. You don’t need to go for the most expensive bag out there, but you do need to make sure the first ingredient is Timothy hay as opposed to alfalfa. Alfalfa hay can be good for rabbits up to a year old, but has too much calcium and fat for adult rabbits. Learn rabbit feeding basics here.
You might have to pay more for high-quality Timothy-based pellets, but with all the money you’ve saved with the other tips listed here, it will be a fair tradeoff!