Bunnies on a Budget

Rabbits are not inexpensive companion animals, especially in the city. But you don’t have to spend a fortune on everyday care to be a good bunny parent. Here are some ways to save money on bunnies and to plan for unexpected costs.

Use coupons. When you adopt a rabbit, you may get a coupon to use at Centinela Feed. Once you get in the store, be sure to get on their mailing list to continue to receive notices of discounts and coupons. You will have to invest in some good rabbit food pellets, so you’ll need the coupons for those. You also get a coupon for a free bag of hay from Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation and a free rabbit nail trim when you adopt from us.

Buy in bulk. Buy gallon jugs of white vinegar for cleaning the litterbox (at Smart & Final, or occasionally in smaller qualitities at other places such as the 99 Cent store). Get paper towels in quantity for cleaning. Buy hay by the bale or in bulk from the horse stables or feed stores to save big bucks on hay and litter. A bale of oat mix or Timothy hay costs from $15-25 and will last a long time. If you only have one or two bunnies, you will want to buy hay by the bag so it will be fresh; however, you can split a bale with other rabbit people. You can get away with very small amounts of bunny litter if you use newspaper with lots of hay on top in the litter boxes.

Shop at discount stores. Go to stores such as Smart & Final, Big Lots, Target, or Ross where you can find big trays (or actual litter boxes) and food and water crocks. The concrete mixing tubs at Home Depot are large and inexpensive. Make sure the tubs or trays are made of hard plastic—you don’t want bunny to chew and swallow his box! Use white vinegar when you clean the box and you’ll never have to replace it. Get sheets to cover your plastic desk/chair mats at a thrift store or a yard sale. You can save money on the hard plastic mats or linoleum under your rabbit’s pen by shopping at CostCo or other discount stores. GoodWill occasionally sells pet carriers, the hard plastic kind.

Network. Get to know other people in your area who have rabbits. Once you see that they take good care of their bunnies, you can ask to exchange bunny-sitting services and help each other find deals on products for your bunnies.

Comparison shop. If you’ve ever bought Oxbow Bunny Basics T at different stores, you know that the price can differ by a lot. Find out where to find your products at the lowest cost (don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas). But don’t switch pellets on your rabbit—she can get sick from a sudden change in diet. Find a healthy bunny pellet that you can afford and stick to it.

Instead of buying an expensive litter, try wood stove pellets (Altas brand Wood Stove Pellets, found at Orchard Supply Hardware) to line your litterbox with under the hay. The stove pellets are extremely absorbent and they are relatively inexpensive–they come in 40-lb. bags. If you line your litter boxes with newspaper, you will only need to use a thin layer of stove pellets. Alternatively, there are pelleted wood litters made for horses, such as Woody Pet. Another inexpensive litter is the Welcome Home pelleted pine cat litter at Centinela Feed. It’s more expensive than the stove pellets but weighs less and is easier to find. Trader Joe’s also has a wood pellet cat litter.

Buy only the basics. If you’re on a strict budget, don’t buy bunny those pet store treats (not good for her, anyway!). Give her a small piece of carrot or fruit for a treat instead. Tempting as it is to buy toys for your bunny, you can make your own toys with untreated wood from a lumber yard, toilet paper rolls, or cardboard boxes.

Ask for donations. Go to grocery stores and farmer’s markets and ask if you can have free carrot and radish tops. Some grocers throw away the outer leaves of Romaine lettuce. But don’t feed anything to your bunny that you wouldn’t eat yourself, or you will have a sick bunny and vet bills are not cheap! Ask your friends and neighbors to save newspapers for your bunny’s litter box.

Start a savings account for your bunny’s medical expenses. Veterinary care is one area where you really cannot skimp, but you can compare prices (politely) for specific procedures or medications. Reward the kind veterinarians who give you a discount by referring people who can afford to pay full price. Get your bunnies neutered!! This will save tons of money caring for the rabbits your rabbit will otherwise give birth to. Even if you have a single female rabbit, you will save money by getting her spayed now to prevent cancer. There is some financial help for low-cost bunny neuters; see our Low Cost S/N list. Do research on veterinary care so that you avoid doing any unnecessary procedures or paying too much for medications. You don’t have to pay $150 to get rid of ear mites but if you go to some veterinarians, that’s what it will cost. Ask your veterinarian if you can treat your rabbit at home instead of bringing bunny back in and paying for additional office visits. If you have several rabbits, consider joining an on-line rabbit group so that you can ask for advice from others who may have experienced the same problem with their rabbit(s). Pet insurance, such as VPI, may be a sensible option but be aware that the pet insurance industry is currently barely monitored in the state of California. Finally, don’t expect or ask your vet to give away her time for free. Veterinarians have to make a living, too.

If you have an idea on how to save money on bunny without compromising care, let us know.

© Michelle Kelly 2010. May be copied for free distribution.