Do you own or want a lionhead rabbit? These adorable, fluffy bunnies would make any owner smile, but admittedly, you have questions. What is caring for one of these rabbits like?
To care for a lionhead rabbit, you need to:
- Give it a diet of Timothy hay and fresh pellets
- Brush the rabbit often
- Avoid bathing
- Provide an adequate enclosure
- Give the rabbit stimulation
Those are just some of the steps of many that are required to take care of the unique bunny that is a lionhead. In this in-depth guide, we’ll share 15 care steps you should follow. You don’t want to miss it!
What Is a Lionhead Rabbit?
The original home of the lionhead rabbit is Belgium. Supposedly, breeders created the first lionhead by breeding a Netherland dwarf and a small Swiss Fox species. Lionheads are named what they are because they have a fuzzy mane of hair around their face that resembles a lion.
The muzzle of a lionhead may stand out more compared to other bunny species. Also, despite their large heads, the body of these rabbits is typically quite small. Their legs aren’t very long, about average length. They have short, stubby ears too that are three inches max.
In the late 1990s, lionheads were first imported to the United States. However, for many years, they weren’t considered a legitimate breed. By 2002, the British Rabbit Councilin the United Kingdom granted lionheads an official spot in their group. Decades later, by 2014, the American Rabbit Breeders Association or ARBA followed suit.
There are several lionhead varieties per ARBA. These are organized into the following categories:
- Wideband Color Group: Orange, Frosted Pearl/Frosty, Fawn
- Marked: Vienna Marked, Harlequin, Broken/Butterfly
- Tan Color Group: Silver Marten, Chocolate Otter, Sable Marten, Blue Otter, Smoke Pearl Marten, Fox or Tortoise Otter, Black Otter
- Shaded Color Group: Smoke Pearl Point or Blue Point, Seal, Smoke Pearl, Sable Point, Pointed White, Siamese Sable, Chocolate Point
- Self-Color Group: Chocolate Tort, Ruby-Eyed White, Blue-Eyed White, Blue Tort, Lilac, Blue, Lilac Tort, Black Tort, Chocolate, Black
- Agouti Color Group: Lynx, Agouti/Chocolate Chestnut, Squirrel or Blue Chinchilla, Opal, Chinchilla, Sable Agouti, Chocolate Chinchilla, Chestnut
How to Care for a Lionhead Rabbit in 15 Steps
Step #1: Give the Rabbit a Diet of Timothy Hay and Fresh Pellets
Lionhead rabbits have a very specific diet you must adhere to every day. They need Timothy hay and lots of it. This should always be fresh and of the best quality you can find.
Timothy hay provides a growing lionhead plenty of minerals and vitamins as well as fat, proteins, and calcium. This hay is also good for their teeth (more on lionhead dental care later in this guide) and their digestive system, as the hay won’t irritate it.
If you want to introduce other hay into your rabbit’s life, you can. Meadow hay is one such option. Alfalfa is a more popular pick. This hay is chock-full of minerals, fiber, and vitamins B through K.
You should always feed your lionhead Timothy hay more regularly than alfalfa. This is because the latter has more calories. Your bunny could become overweight quick!
Besides hay, you also want to augment their diet with pellets. The main ingredients in these pellets is hay. That’s why you should limit pellet feeding as well, as this can also contribute to your bunny’s weight.
Step #2: Keep Your Lionhead Hydrated with Fresh Water
Each day, you’ll have to dump your bunny’s old water bowl or bottle and replace it. Lionheads need fresh water. Since hay can be kind of dry, they may drink water more frequently. Make sure you or another member of the household monitor how much water your bunny has at any given time.
Your lionhead should never have to go without water. This might make owning one of these rabbits more of a commitment than other breeds, but it’s a facet of care you cannot overlook. If you’re not always home to change out your bunny’s water, then you should at least get them a large water bottle. This way, the supply of water they have should last all day.
Otherwise, you can give your rabbit both a bottle and a bowl of water.
Step #3: A Few Times a Week, Feed the Rabbit Vegetables and Fruits
Your bunny has to eat more than just hay and pellets (which is really just glorified hay). At least twice weekly, feed them veggies and fruits.
Keep the portion sizes low, just a cup. Also, know that there are certain vegetables and fruits that are safer for lionheads than others.
For veggies, you can give your rabbit the following:
- Grass that wasn’t treated with chemicals or pesticides
- Green or white clover
- Dandelions if they’re free of chemicals and pesticides
- Any color of pepper
- Spring lettuce mix
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
For a sweet treat for your bunny, these fruits are okay for them to consume:
- Apple (avoid all seeds, as these are poisonous to your rabbit)
Some herbs are even good for your lionhead to nibble on, such as mint, rosemary, thyme, basil, and parsley. Just make sure you stick to the above list of approved vegetables and fruits. Iceberg lettuce and potatoes especially are bad for rabbits, as is anything else not mentioned here.
Step #4: Brush Twice Weekly
The namesake of the lionhead rabbit is their gorgeous coat of fur, which is quite fluffy around their head. While these bunnies may be lovely to pet and cuddle, you have to take better care of their fur than other breeds.
You’ll have to get into a regular brushing habit, doing it at least two times a week. If your lionhead is especially bushy, then maybe increase the brushings to three times a week.
There’s plenty of reasons why you need to brush a lionhead’s fur. It’s not just to keep their mane looking neat and shiny. It also prevents fur mats from forming. Without regular fur maintenance, these mats can appear all over the rabbit’s head and even their body.
Mats are incredibly uncomfortable. You’ll probably have to cut them out if they get bad, as brushing them can cause even more pain to your rabbit.
Step #5: Increase Brushing During Molting Season
Rabbits, including lionheads, will molt. This happens the first time when they’re very young, as they’re getting rid of their baby coat. When they reach adulthood, they’ll molt again to make way for another fresh coat of fur.
Once your rabbit reaches adulthood, they should molt when the seasons change. If your lionhead molts more often than that, it could be due to an improper diet and even stress.
When your rabbit begins molting or losing lots of its fur at once, you have to ramp up how often you brush them. You should do it at least once every day.
If you see fur mats in the new coat, get rid of these. When ignored, these mats can cause skin infections, so it’s very important to treat them as soon as you spot them.
Step #6: Examine Your Rabbit Every Week to Safeguard Them from Diseases
While you should take your rabbit to the vet at least annually, you need to be on the lookout for signs of diseases or illnesses. There are many conditions lionhead rabbits are unfortunately susceptible to. These include:
- Uterine cancer: This type of cancer can only affect female lionheads. If you didn’t spay your female, then she’s more likely to get uterine cancer. This can be fatal and is currently incurable.
- E. cuniculi: The Encephalitozoon cuniculi or E. cuniculi parasite is already present in your lionhead. Most of the time, this is not a cause for concern. In some cases, it can cause lots of trouble in your bunny’s life, such as blindness and kidney failure.
- Lice and/or mite infestation: If your rabbit spends time outside, they could end up with a case of lice and/or mites. Other ways to get an infestation include sitting in infected bedding or spending time around infected rabbits.
Step #7: Get the Lionhead’s Nails Trimmed Every Month
You have two options for grooming your rabbit’s nails: go to a vet/groomer or do it yourself. It’s more expensive taking your rabbit to a professional to get their nails trimmed, but you know it’ll be done right. On the other hand, doing it yourself saves your lionhead the stress of leaving the house.
No matter who cuts their nails, it needs to happen at least once a month. If your bunny spends time outside, you might be able to stretch the time a little longer. The hard outdoor surfaces can wear down on your lionhead’s nails a bit.
When cutting the nails, you’re looking for a pink part called the quick. This is where the rabbit’s vein is located. Cutting too close to the quick will always lead to bleeding and pain. Trim away from it as best you can.
If you do accidentally make your bunny bleed, styptic powder really comes in handy. Don’t have any? Household flour is just as good.
Step #8: Avoid Bathing Your Rabbit
Just because you have a different breed of rabbit like a lionhead doesn’t mean the bathing rules change. No rabbit wants to endure a bath where they’re dunked in the water. Some rabbits will go into shock, which can be fatal.
Rabbits will take care of most of their own grooming. The only time you should ever have to step in is if your rabbit can’t reach a spot. If they’ve got caked-on dirt or feces, you can wipe this off with a soft, wet cloth. If that doesn’t work, it’s okay to dip your rabbit’s rear into some shallow water, but never their entire body.
Step #9: Decide Whether You Want an Indoor or Outdoor Enclosure
Lionhead rabbits can live indoors or outdoors. Where you situate their enclosure is up to you, but keep the comfort of your bunny in mind as you make your choice.
Do you have a small living space such as an apartment? In that case, it might be better for your rabbit if they live outside.
There are pros and cons to each. Making your rabbit’s home outside gives them plenty of fresh air and space to run and play. By keeping them inside, your rabbit benefits even more. They’re safer from predators and you two can spend more time together. Most importantly, indoor rabbits tend to have a longer lifespan compared to outdoor rabbits.
Step #10: Choose an Adequate Enclosure
After making up your mind about whether your lionhead will live inside or outside, you need to get them an enclosure. To determine the size of it, measure the length of your rabbit. Then, it’s time for some multiplication. Take that number times five and you get how long the enclosure should be.
Wondering how wide of a cage you need for your lionhead? Again, you need to know the length of your bunny. This time, it’s that number times three.
What about height? You don’t necessarily need a tall cage. Just make sure that, when your lionhead is on their tippy-toes, they can’t lean over the enclosure. Otherwise, they could easily get out.
Step #11: Keep the Enclosure Clean
If you’ve owned other rabbits, then you’re familiar with how to keep their cage clean. Each week, you want to take the rabbit out and do a thorough cleaning of the enclosure’s interior and exterior.
You should also check on your rabbit every day. If they’ve made waste in their litter, replace it. Otherwise, their enclosure will stink of urine. The rabbit could also rub feces on their fur, and it’s then up to you to clean your bunny.
Step #12: Provide Toys and Stimulation
Like many other rabbits, lionheads are a social and smart breed. You need to give them something to do, such as providing toys. Not only do these keep the rabbit from being bored, but toys are a great form of exercise, too.
If your lionhead is spayed or neutered, then feel free to get them another bunny companion. Lionheads love having pals to play and live with. Do keep in mind that owning two of these rabbits would mean double the work.
Step #13: Take Care of Your Rabbit’s Teeth
Caring for your rabbit’s teeth is integral. They should always eat the vegetables you give them, as these can benefit oral health. You also need to monitor their hay intake, as consuming too little can lead to vitamin, nutrient, and mineral deficiencies.
Lionheads can get overgrown molars if you don’t closely watch their dental health. These teeth will protrude out of the rabbit’s mouth and cause them great pain and discomfort. They won’t be able to eat well if at all.
Each week, take a look at the molars specifically. If these seem to be growing faster than the rest of the teeth, you might want to contact your vet for a checkup.
Step #14: Get Your Rabbit Up-to-Date on Their Vaccinations
There are several vaccinations that are recommended for your lionhead. These include vaccinations against:
- Myxomatosis: Myxomatosis is a disease that’s highly viral. That means if another rabbit has the condition, yours could easily end up with it. Since myxomatosis can lead to death, the best thing you can do is get your lionhead vaccinated.
- Viral hemorrhagic disease: VHD is a type of viral hemorrhagic fever that is also highly transmissible. If a rabbit eats food or drinks water a sick rabbit has consumed, they could develop VHD. Even insects can spread the condition, so if your bunny spends time outside, they could be at risk.
Step #15: Be In it for the Long Haul
If you love your lionhead rabbit and you do your best to take care of him or her, they can be in your life for quite a long time. On the shorter end, these bunnies tend to live eight years on average. Some are even around for 10 years.
There are some dogs with shorter lifespans than lionheads. That means you have to be committed to the care your rabbit requires week in and week out. A rabbit is a big responsibility, but a lionhead will make your life wonderful and fill your heart with love.
Are you thinking of buying or adopting a lionhead rabbit? You must give them a specific diet of Timothy hay and pellets, adding in fresh veggies and fruits at times. Hydration is another important facet of care, as is maintaining your rabbit’s bushy coat. Otherwise, they could get fur mats.
While caring for a lionhead rabbit isn’t always easy, it’s definitely worth it.