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Pet Rabbits

Martha Stewart Living Television

Rabbits are a perennial favorite with kids, beginning with characters in books such as "Goodnight Moon" and "Peter Rabbit." When children get a little older, their love for bunnies can develop into a real friendship if they get one as a pet. Today, pet expert Marc Morrone discusses rabbits with his friend Walker, who has a dwarf bunny named Trixie. Trixie weighs only 4 pounds, as compared with Marc's Flemish rabbit named Harvey, who weighs 15.

These soft, gentle little animals make great pets. They are very social, communicating mostly with body language -- moving their ears and tails and stamping their feet.

To house a rabbit, you need a litter box, hay manger, a food bowl, and a water bottle. For bedding, stay away from pine shavings or cedar shavings, as they contain phenols that can cause liver damage. Instead, use aspen-wood bedding or cat or ferret litter made from recycled newspaper.

Feed your rabbit a basic diet of good-quality rabbit pellets plus hay. Alfalfa hay has too much protein for most adult rabbits, so Marc uses Timothy hay. A salt lick and water-soluble vitamins in the drinking bottle will round it out. For treats, any fresh, leafy green is best, except for spinach, cabbage, and kale; these contain too many oxalates for most rabbits. Most fruits, with the exception of bananas, can give bunnies loose stools, so only include fruit in your rabbit's diet in moderation. A small amount of petro-malt or cat hairball prevention can help prevent hairballs in rabbits and should be given twice a week; papaya/pineapple enzyme tablets help take care of hairballs too.

As soon as you get your rabbit, it's very important that you find a good veterinarian who knows how to care for rabbits. As Marc says, there's nothing worse than having a sick rabbit and no vet available to treat him or her. It's also extremely important that you neuter or spay your rabbit as soon as he or she is old enough: Un-neutered male rabbits will fight with other rabbits and spray urine in the house, and 75 percent of all un-spayed females develop uterine cancer.

Learn more about rabbits in author Monika Wegler's book, "Dwarf Rabbits: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual."

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