Foster Carer Portal

Welcome to the Foster Carer Portal!

Ready to learn about rabbit care? You find all our training resources here.

Foster Carer Guide

INTRO AND CHECKLIST
GETTING READY
RABBIT CARE
JOURNEY TO ADOPTION
EMERGENCIES
FAQs
RESOURCES
INTRO AND CHECKLIST

Welcome!

Thank you so much for helping our mission to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome bunnies!

This guide will give you all the basics to get started and to understand what's involved in getting a rabbit ready for adoption.

If you have any questions we - the 'Bunny Trackers' - are here to help! If you have any questions at all you can either ...

  • send an enquiry via our our online form
  • contact us directly - our contact details are here
  • contact us via the Foster Carer Facebook messenger group chat (you should have received an invitation to join)

We are so excited to have you as part of the team!

Our Newbie checklist

  1. Make sure you have read and fully understood the Foster Care Agreement. If you have any questions please ask.
  2. Make sure know how to contact at least one Bunny Tracker - either by adding them as Facebook friends (if you are based in Sydney add Sydney Bunny-Tracker as friend), so you can message each other, or have their phone number in your contacts. You find their contact details here.
  3. Make sure you have been added to one of our Foster Carers Facebook Messenger Groups (we have one for each area, e.g. Sydney, Central Coast, South Coast etc...). If you haven't been added to any Facebook Messenger Groups, contact the Bunny Tracker responsible for your region. 
  4. Make sure you have read and fully understood this Foster Carer Guide, before you get your first foster rabbit! If you have any questions please ask. 
  5. Make sure you know all of our Social Media Channels! Here is our overview:
Purpose: To enable all foster carers to advertise their foster rabbits when they are ready for adoption, and to answer any questions potential adopters might have. If you need help let us know.

Rules: No private rehoming of rabbits. No discussions.  
Purpose: To enable all foster carers to communicate with each other, and with Bunny Trackers. You can ask questions and share stories, photos and videos about their foster rabbit. It's a private group - only foster carers can see your posts! 
Purpose: Bunny Runners are people who help with the transport for The Rabbit Sanctuary. If you need a Bunny Runner you can request assistance here. Alternatively, if you plan a longer trip and don't mind taking a bunny with you, you can share your travel plans in this group and offer to be a Bunny Runner for that day.
Purpose: To enable all foster carers of leverets (baby hares) to communicate with each other and with volunteers. Leverets are released in the safety of The Rabbit Sanctuary when they reach the age to run free. 
Purpose: To help educate people about rabbit care and rabbit welfare and to raise raise awareness that rabbits make wonderful pets. This is a friendly group for ANY Australian rabbit lover.

Rule: No private rehoming of rabbits. No selling of rabbits.
Purpose: To share the cutest photos and videos of our rescue bunnies!
GETTING READY

Preparing for your foster bunny

You will need the below items to foster a bunny with us. To reduce costs, you can purchase pens and other items second hand. We have a limited supply of this equipment which you can borrow if available. Feed can also be provided. In most instances, you can collect our equipment from various storage locations.


Pethomes have put together a great Starter Pack. If you order it you just need to purchase litter and a pet carrier and you are all set! We are working to put together a comprehensive buying guide - coming soon!

Equipment check list

PLAYPEN
Needs to provide enough space - 1.2m x 1.2m or more and be high enough - 30 inch / 76 cm or more. Soft pens and cages are not appropriate.
PLAY TUNNEL AND/OR HIDEY HOUSE
Needs to give the bunny the opportunity to hide. If you have a tunnel, a hidey house is optional and can be made of cardboard. If you only have a hidey house it must be from a durable material.
LITTER TRAY
Needs to provide enough space for a bunny to sit comfortable and turn around. Typically you will need one that is 50cm long. 
LITTER
Litter consisting of paper, wood shavings, wood pellets or crystals (avoid the 'clumping' ones).
Good brands are Max's, Breeder's Choice and Catmate.

HIGH QUALITY PELLETS
Recommended brands: Vetafarm, Oxbow, Burgess. No pellet mixes that are colourful, contain seeds, or are marketed as suitable for rabbits and guinea pigs).

HAY
You need 3 types of hay: 1) Cereal hay: Oaten (most common), wheat, barley, 2) Grass hay (timothy, orchard, rye, teff, pasture), 3) Lucerne hay as treat and for emergencies. Best brand: Oxbow. Other good brands: Peters, Friendly Earth, King Alfalfa.
WATER BOWL AND FOOD BOWL
The water bowl should hold 400-500 ml and either be heavy / very stable so the rabbit cannot tip it over.
As for the food bowl: Any bowl or plate you have at home will do.
PET CARRIER
Any pet carrier will do as long as it can be securely locked and is big enough for a rabbit. Hard plastic carriers last longer than the soft fabric / foldable carriers as rabbits can chew them.

PET BRUSH AND NAIL SCISSCORS

For daily grooming, and trimming nails when required.

Emergency kit

You will need this in case the rabbit stops eating. Responding quickly can make a difference between life and death (or a $1000+ vet bill). Check our emergency section in this guide to learn how to recognise symptoms and what to do. In case of an emergency contact us and we will guide you on how to use it.

CRITICAL CARE

Can be given to the rabbit if it has stopped eating. 

SYRINGE

Can be used for syringe-feeding the rabbit with critical care or water.

HEAT PAD

Can be used to increase the rabbit's body temperature. Recommended product: Snugglesafe Microwave Heatpad.
RABBIT CARE

How to care for your foster rabbit

On a daily basis:

1) Check the rabbit's health

2) Complete daily chores
    • ​Provide food and water
    • Remove waste and add litter to litter tray
    • Groom the rabbit to remove fur (as explained in this video: How to groom dead fur off a rabbit)
    • Clean and refill food and water bowls
    • Clean and tidy living areas

3) Give love, affection and training
    • ​interact with the foster rabbit 
    • pick up the foster rabbit (as explained in these videos: How to safely pick up a bunny rabbit & How to pick up a large bunny 
    • train the bunny to come to you for a treat
    • Let the rabbit free roam indoors (!) for at least 30 minutes a day - except for the first 7-10 days when the foster rabbit should stay in the play pen so it recognises it as its home base. 
    • Let the rabbit free roam outdoors - but only occasionally and under supervision, if outdoor conditions and weather permit and there is no reported calicivirus or myxamatosis outbreak in your area.

Overall:


1) Other activities to help get the rabbit ready for adoption and find a new home:
    • Take the bunny to the vet if needed (or request a volunteer Bunny Runner)
    • Provide paperwork from the vet to The Rabbit Sanctuary
    • Advertise your foster rabbit on our Rabbit for Adoption Facebook page (or contact us to do help you or do it for you)

2) Educate yourself:
    • Attend our online training sessions when offered (coming soon)
    • Read our training material provided on our Foster Carer Portal

3) Communicate with us:
    • Join our Foster Carer Facebook group
    • Respond to emails or text messages from our volunteer team - also called 'Bunny Trackers' - in a timely manner
    • Contact us if you have any questions or need support
    • Alert Kim Cooney via text message to 0416 062 947 if you are concerned about your rabbit's health or behaviour. Include your name, your rabbit's name, main symptoms, location, phone number (+ and photos where appropriate).

Feeding

DO FEED

  • UNLIMITED Oaten hay and grass hay (e.g. Timothy)
  • Lucerne hay in tiny amounts (as treat)
  • Fresh grass
  • 1-2 table spoons pellets twice a day

DO NOT FEED

  • Vegetables and fruits (no exceptions)
  • Seeds
  • Salt licks
  • Items labelled rabbit and guinea mixes

Why can't I feed veggies and fruit? I have fed rabbits these before and had no issues.

We are aware that many rabbits will have no adverse reactions to eating certain veggies and fruits. However, due to the sensitive nature of the rabbit’s gut, especially in stressful situations (such as coming into rescue), incorrect feeding can result in bloat, soft stool and risk stasis and calcium build up in the long term. Too many times we have had preventable emergency situations that have resulted in $1000 vet bills for a bunny for an over night stay. Removing veggies and fruits means that we can be sure our rabbits are on a consistent diet and reduces the risk of these things happening. 

Please kindly respect our wishes and keep the diet to what is mentioned above.

Things to monitor for in your daily health checks

   Behaviour

Normal:

Rabbit eats and drinks regularly

Rabbit poops regularly

Rabbit is bright and alert, moves around



Abnormal:

Rabbit doesn't eat, and refuses even treats when tempted

Rabbit doesn't poop

Rabbit hides in unusual spot, appears lethargic

Rabbit grinds teeth

Possible cause:

Gut stasis






   Mouth

Normal:

Fur around the mouth is dry. No discharge.

Abnormal:

Fur around the mouth is wet. Bald patches around the mouth or chin.

Possible cause:

Overgrown back molars

Misaligned incisors

   Eyes

Normal:

Bright and clear. No discharge.




Abnormal:

Cloudy appearance

Bulging

Discharge present or rabbit is squinting.

Possible cause:

E. Cunniculi

Cataracts

Scratched eyeball


   Ears

Normal:

Crust free, healthy skin and no wax build up in the ear canal.




Abnormal:

Lots of build up in and around the canal

Skin looks dry or red

Rabbit seems to be shaking head a lot or scratching

Possible cause:

Ear mites

Ear infection




   Nose

Normal:

No discharge.

Breathing doesn't sound congested.


Abnormal:

Wet or milky discharge.

Sounds congested when breathing

Rabbit is sneezing a lot

Possible cause:

Pasteurella

Respiratory infection


   Body

Normal:

Good body weight (should not be able to feel ribs or spine easily)

Fur well kept

Skin healthy, pink and crust free

Bottom area is clean

Abnormal:

Rabbit feels skinny

Clumpy or matted fur that's dull in colour

Bottom area appears dirty and genitals swollen

Possible cause:

Rabbit unable to groom itself or poor hygiene from previous location

Malnutrition, incorrect diet

Parasites

Urinary tract disease

  Poop

Normal:

Even sphere shape

Consistent size and good amount

Dry and crumbles when squashed

Brown or gold in colour






Abnormal:

Uneven shape (long or pointy)

Very moist and leaves residue, might be mushy

Small amount

Very dark in colour

Presence of mucous or pellets are chained together


Click here for more information.

Possible cause:

Parasites

Incorrect diet

Gut stasis

Stress

Underlying illness





If you recognise any abnormal symptoms alert Kim Cooney via text message to 0416 062 947. Include your name, your rabbit's name, main symptoms, location, phone number (+ and photos where appropriate).

JOURNEY TO ADOPTION

The foster carer's journey ... 

consists of 6 steps:

Prepare

Introduce

Care

Vet

Advertise

Rehome

How long might this journey take you ask? The answer is simple: It depends! On the bunny and you (and the vet's availability - more on that later). Let us explain what you need to do at each stage on the journey.

Prepare

So you have all your equipment (as listed in 'Getting ready') - what next? It's time to set up the playpen and equipment. There are a couple of things you should consider:

  • Location of the play pen: We recommend you set it up in the corner of a room. If you have your own rabbits don't put it into the area they consider their territory - ideally you want to keep them apart. 
  • Arrangements within the play pen: Put the litter tray into the corner of a play pen that is close to a wall. Rabbits like to do their business with their back to the wall while having a good view of their surroundings. 

Our showcase setup

  1. Play pen: 8 panels, 70+ cm high, with walk-through door. Placed in the corner of the room.
  2. Large litter tray, 50 cm long. Placed in the corner of the play pen. Filled with 2/3 litter and 1/3 hay, so the rabbit can poop and eat facing the room.
  3. Hay bag to ensure unlimited hay supply (you can use a shopping bag)
  4. Water bowl: 15 cm in diameter, difficult to tip over, ideally heavy (ceramic)
    Food bowl: No special requirements.
  5. Play tunnel: for the rabbit to play and hide in. 
  6. Sea grass matt: for the rabbit to chew (optional).
  7. Hidey house: another place for the rabbit to hide (you can use a cardboard box).

In this example setup: Playpen and litter tray are from Pethomes (also offers Starter Kit), hay bag is from Bunny Bazaar, water bowl (950 ml) is from Petbarn, tunnel is from Amazon, seagrass matt is from Bunnings, hidey house is from Kmart


There are many ways to equip and arrange a play pen, but if you stick to this 'template' you cannot go wrong! If you would like further inspiration check out our video on foster carer setups:

Once you have your area set up, please take a photo and send it to the Bunny Tracker you have been in contact with. This way they can review it and advise you if you need to change anything.

Introduce

Now it's time to welcome your foster bunny into your home. How exciting! Keep in mind though this is very stressful for the bunny - it will need time to settle in and get used to you and the new surroundings. There are a couple of things you should do in the first 7-10 days:

  • Keep the rabbit in the play pen, do not let it free roam. It needs to recognise the play pen as its territory. 
  • If you have other rabbits: Keep your foster rabbit away from them as it may pass on illnesses. This means: Don't let them use the same water bowls, litter trays, etc... 
  • If you have dogs: Do not leave them unsupervised near the bunny at any time. Dogs can react differently to a new bunny in their home and can attack or scare them to death.
  • Monitor the rabbit's health from day 1 as per the instructions in the chapter 'Rabbit Care'.
  • Provide litter training if required. Rabbits naturally like to do their business in the same spot, which makes litter training quite easy. Your foster rabbit will most likely be litter trained, but just in case it isn't, do this:
    • Place the litter tray in the corner of the play pen, so that the rabbit can poop and pee while having a good view of the room. Otherwise they feel uncomfortable and might choose a different spot.
    • If your rabbit doesn't use it's litter box properly, put all the poo into the litter tray, and wipe up the urine with a paper towel and put it into the litter tray.
    • If your rabbit consistently uses another spot to do it's business, relocate the litter tray that spot. 

Care

As a foster carer it's your are responsible for the rabbit's wellbeing and for ensuring it will be suitable for adoption. What does this mean? 


The rabbit needs to be:

  • Healthy - do health checks every day as per the 'Daily Care' guide. If you observe any abnormal symptoms text Kim Cooney immediately. 
  • Well cared for - nails must be clipped and fur must be groomed.
  • Easy to handle and comfortable around humans - spend as much time as you can patting it, and pick it up once a day. Train it to come to you for treats. 

Picking up your rabbit

Place one hand under the front legs and support the bottom with your other hand.  

Clipping nails
  • Make sure you have adequate light to see the quick when cutting nails. You can also use the flashlight of your phone. Place it underneath the nail to see. 
  • Apply pressure a few times before actually cutting. The rabbit will pull away if you are too close to the quick. This is especially useful when your bunny has black nails.
  • It's easier if you do this with a partner, where one holds the rabbit, and the other one cuts the nails. With practice you will be able to do it on your own.
  • If you cut the quick dab a little cornflour on the end and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. It will clot quite quickly and the bunny will be fine.

Grooming

It is essential that you groom your foster rabbit daily, to remove dead fur. Rabbits groom themselves and if they are shedding, or are not hydrated enough or their gut mobility is poor, the fur they ingest can cause blockages in the gut, which can have severe consequences, including death.

Basket handling

The more time you spend with your foster rabbit, the better. Rabbits can be placed in a basket with a towel at the bottom, you put this basket on your lap and pat them while watching TV so they can get used to the attention. Children often find it difficult to properly hold rabbits, so it can be a good way for them to interact with the bunny.

Picking up your rabbit

Place one hand under the front legs and support the bottom with your other hand.  

Vet

All rabbits must be desexed, microchipped, vaccinated, dewormed and health-checked before they can get adopted. Some of them need "The works", and some of them only need just one or two things done. All vet costs are covered by The Rabbit Sanctuary.


The booking will be made by The Rabbit Sanctuary - when the booking request is sent to the vet you will receive the email in cc. The vet will call you to offer an appointment. If they don't call within 3 days please give them a call and tell them that you are a foster carer with The Rabbit Sanctuary and that you would like to make a booking as per the email. 


Please make it a priority to bring the rabbit to the vet at the agreed date and time - in some areas the vets are very busy and if you ask to reschedule on short notice it might take a while until you can get another appointment. 


If you need a "Bunny Runner" - someone to bring the rabbit to the vet and back to you, please let a Bunny Tracker know, post in your Foster Carer Facebook group or in our Bunny Runner Facebook Group


When you pick up the rabbit please ask for the vet certificate. The vet will either say that they email it directly to The Rabbit Sanctuary or they will give you a hard copy. If they give you a hard copy please take photos and either send them to a Bunny Tracker or upload it via our Foster Carer Portal enquiry form.


When your rabbit comes back from desexing it may be quiet and prefer to hide for a day or two. Please do the following:

  • Check if the rabbit is still eating, drinking, urinating and pooping.
  • Administer pain relief as per the vet's instructions.
  • Check the surgical site - it must be clean and not infected. 
  • Make sure the rabbit doesn't chew their surgical site open. If it does, you may need to make a soft collar as per this video.
  • Contact a Bunny Tracker if you have any concerns.

Advertising

After all vet work is completed, a Bunny Tracker will let you know when it's ready for adoption and the time has come to advertise. From that moment on your rabbit will appear on the website as ready for adoption. 


What are we asking of you?

  • Please check The Rabbit Sanctuary website and make sure your foster rabbit is represented with a nice profile photo and a good description. 
  • Please advertise your foster rabbit on our Facebook Group 'Rabbits for Adoption'. Post cute photos and videos you have taken of your foster rabbit over time, and tell people what your rabbit is like. Include the phrase: "Apply to adopt on rabbitsanctuary.com.au/adopt". If you are not on Facebook, or need help with photos or telling the story about your rabbit, please contact a Bunny Tracker.
  • Additionally, if you can also set up an account on Instagram, and post photos of your foster rabbits - we have seen a lot of adoptions thanks to Instagram! If you want help setting up an Instagram account for your foster rabbit, please ask a Bunny Tracker.
  • Please be prepared to answer questions about your foster rabbit, if adoption applicants reach out to you! 

How to take great photos

coming soon

How to write posts that make adopters fall in love with your foster rabbit

coming soon

Rehome

When an adopter wishes to adopt our foster rabbit, a Bunny Tracker will give you a heads-up, so that you are prepared. When the adoption is official an email will be sent to the adopter, with instructions on how to get in touch with you. This email will include your mobile phone number and suburb (not address). You will receive the email in cc. It will be the adopters responsibility to contact you. Have a chat to discuss where and when to meet to hand over the foster rabbit. You may meet at your place or theirs, or in the middle. Alternatively the two of you may agree to request the support of a Bunny Runner. 

Happy End! 

P.S.: After your foster rabbit has found its new home, please let us know whether you 

  • are ready to take in the next foster rabbit
  • need a break
  • do not wish to foster anymore. 

Whatever you decide, we are grateful that you have helped a rabbit find a new home! 
EMERGENCIES

Work in progress - coming soon 

FAQs

I found a rabbit or know of a rabbit that is in need of rescue. Can I take it in as a rescue rabbit on behalf of The Rabbit Sanctuary?

No. While we would love to rescue every rabbit in need, there is a very long list of bunnies that are waiting to come into care. Accepting ad-hoc rabbits may mean that we cannot accept rabbits that have been on the waitlist for a long time or are in more urgent need of care. Unfortunately we cannot make exceptions to this due to our limited capacity and funding.

If you have found a rabbit or know of a bunny which requires rescuing, please complete our surrender form so Kim can assess it and determine its priority. If you choose to take the rabbit into your care, please understand that it will be completely your responsibility and The Rabbit Sanctuary will not take responsibility for any treatment it may require.

Are rabbits allowed outside?
Rabbits are allowed outside for supervised play. If you have clean lawn that they can graze on then most rabbits would enjoy the treat! BEFORE you let your foster rabbit outside, make sure of the following:
1. You are not in a calicivirus or myxomatosis risk area
2. You have an appropriate play pen so they cannot escape, and mosquito protection in place.
3. Your foster bunny is up to date with its vaccination.

Please DO NOT house your rabbit outside or leave them outside unsupervised. 

I am having trouble purchasing food and hay for my foster rabbit. What can I do?
The Rabbit Sanctuary greatly appreciates foster carers supplying their own feed to their foster bunnies as it helps us contribute more fees towards bunny vet work, however we understand that everyone’s situation is different. We do not expect carers to supply feed and do not want anyone to feel financially burdened when fostering. If you need help sourcing or purchasing food for your rabbit, please reach out to your region’s Bunny Tracker or Kim for assistance or reimbursement. We advise that you reach out BEFORE purchasing the goods as is highly possible there may be supply within our care network already that can be shared with you. 

Can I introduce my foster bunny to my own rabbits?
No. Please DO NOT do this for the following reasons:

  1. We do not always know the history of a foster rabbit and it could put your rabbit at risk of getting something contagious due to close contact. 
  2. Bonding rabbits is a process and can result in horrific injuries if not done properly
  3. It’s traumatic for your foster to be bonded and then be separated from it’s new friend/mate when it gets adopted. If you plan to adopt your foster or are considering adoption, let the Bunny Tracker team know ASAP. Bonding your foster with your own bunny does not by default mean that you can adopt your foster bunny or have priority to do so if there are other applicants interested. 

I would like to adopt my foster rabbit, what should I do?
Fill out our adoption application form. You need to go through the same process as all other adopters. 

I have a question that is not answered in these FAQs. What should I do?
We also have FAQs on this webpage and plenty of information in our Foster Carer Portal. If you don't find the answer you are looking for you have plenty of options: 
  1. Send us your question via our Foster Carer enquiry form.
  2. Post your question in our Foster Carer Facebook group.
  3. Ask our question in the Foster Carer Facebook Messenger chat for your region. If you haven't been invited to join any of our chat groups, please let us know

RESOURCES

Work in progress - coming soon!