Californian rabbit

Comprehensive Guide To Californian Rabbit Care

Californian rabbits are a new addition to my little farmstead, but already they’re one of my all-time favorite breeds. The Californian rabbit is extremely docile and friendly, though they can be a little bit shy right at first. The first Californian I ever took in was found running loose. She was very shy around me at first, but warmed up quickly and became a good buddy. All of the Californian rabbits I’ve had love being pet, and held, and have a lot of fun running around their playpen in the yard. Rabbits produce little brown pellets of gold – their manure is an excellent addition to any garden. The Californian rabbit is also a fully vegan pet – a perfect addition to any plant-based homestead.

All about Californian Rabbits

Californian rabbits are an easy breed of rabbit to get started with. They’re tame, friendly, and productive, and they make great pets. Here’s what there is to know about these adorable rabbits:

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  • Latin name: Oryctolagus cuniculus
  • Appearance: White body, black points, pink eyes
  • Origin: Lynwood, California
  • Temperament: Shy, docile
  • Purpose: Meat, fur, pets
  • Size: Large
  • Weight: 7 to 10 pounds
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • ARBA Recognized: Yes, 1939

Californian rabbits are a medium to largbe breed of rabbit varied in coloration. They grow to approximately 7 to 10 pounds.

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These rabbits have an even temperament and are docile and friendly, if a bit shy at first, which makes them ideal as family pets. Intact rabbits that haven’t been neutered or spayed live 5-6 years on average. Neutered and spayed rabbits tend to live a bit longer, closer to 8 years. It is a breed recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders’ Association. They are mostly bred for their meat but make great pets.

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Temperament

From the moment I got my first Californian, I was hooked on the breed. She and her offspring have been awesome additions to the farm. I can’t speak positively enough about the temperament of the Californian rabbit. In general, male rabbits (bucks) are friendlier and less territorial than female (doe) rabbits, and that has been, in my experience, true for Californian rabbits as well. In my experience, bucks are easier to keep for new pet rabbit owners. But a properly handled doe is a great addition too.

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Purpose

The primary breeding purpose for Californian rabbits is for meat and fur, but they make great pets too. They are a medium breed that tops out at about 11 pounds. They are also very friendly, docile animals, which makes them great companion animals, especially for children. They are can be dual purpose, food and friend, depending on your intentions. If you’re looking for a pet rabbit for the family and see a Californian rabbit advert, my recommendation is to scoop it up.

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Californian Rabbit appearance and variations

Californian rabbits are an ARBA-recognized breed of rabbit with round white bodies, pointed ears that are typically black, a black nose, and pink eyes. These rabbits are bred to have a round, plump body shape and ears that stand sharply upright. The ARBA recognized this Californian breed of rabbit in 1939, a decade after it was originally bred.

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Housing

A rabbit hutch is the simplest way to house your Californian rabbits. Hutches are raised structures that allow air circulation and secures your rabbits against any would-be predators. Hutches also prevent rabbits from escaping. When it comes to size, the bigger the better. There is no such thing as a rabbit hutch that’s too big. Each rabbit should be given 12 square feet of hutch space. A 6×2 or 3×4 foot hutch will provide plenty of room. Rabbits can be kept in cages smaller than that, but plenty of outside time should be provided to your rabbits if they are to be kept in a smaller cage.

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Providing a litter box for your rabbits is a good way to cut down on cleanup. Your rabbits will need a source of food and water provided at all times and plenty of enrichment – lots of chew toys and things to play with. Your rabbits will have hours of fun moving and tossing things around. My buck, in particular, is very very particular about where his belongings go. If I clean out his hutch, he spends hours getting things back where he wants them to go.

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Common problems with the Californian Rabbit

Californian rabbits, in my experience, are pretty hardy. They don’t have any breed-specific issues, but can be susceptible to common rabbit ailments experienced by domestic rabbit breeds like:

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  • Overgrown teeth
  • Pasteurellosis
  • Hairballs
  • Myxomatosis
  • Rabbit hemorrhagic disease
  • Cancer

Overgrown teeth

Unlike us, rabbit teeth continue to grow throughout their lives, a bit like our hair and nails. Rabbit teeth are slowly ground down by chewing their fibrous food. If they don’t have enough fibrous food to chew on, their teeth can overgrow and cause pain, which prevents eating and can result in death. The best way to avoid this is by simply offering a lot of grass and hay. A veterinarian can correct overgrown teeth, but it’s much less expensive to prevent this condition.

Pasteurellosis

Pasteurella multocida is a bacteria that can be easily transferred from one rabbit to another. It produces similar symptoms to pink eye and runny nose. The eyes can become puffy and red with a discharge, and your rabbit may sneeze a lot. This bacterial infection is sometimes called ‘snuffles.’

Stress is the primary cause for this infection. Strains of this bacteria are latent in the sinuses of your pet rabbit and a reduction in the efficiency of the immune system, caused by stress, can cause it to grow out of control. If your rabbit has snuffles, quarantine it from others and seek a treatment course of antibiotics.

Hairballs

Rabbits spend a good amount of time grooming themselves which can lead to hairballs. Hairballs are mostly not an issue unless there’s some other problem with your rabbit’s gastrointestinal tract. The best way to prevent hairballs is by providing a high quality, high fiber diet to your pet. If a hairball blocks the gut, your Californian rabbit may require surgery.

Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a virus spread by mosquitoes and fleas, as well as contact with another rabbit with the virus. It has similar symptoms as Pasteurellosis – swelling and discharge from the eyes and nose. Your best bet for prevention is to keep rabbits well away from fleas and mosquitoes, and attempt flea control to the best of your abilities. There is no vaccine or treatment for this and it will eventually kill your pet rabbit.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease, sometimes called Rabbit Calicivirus (though the term is no longer up to date) is a virus spread similarly to Myxomatosis – through fleas, mosquitoes, and contact with infected rabbits. This is a disease that progresses quite rapidly, incubating for just one to three days and causing death within 72 hours. The best way to prevent this is by vaccinating your rabbit against RHDV1 and reducing exposure to fleas and mosquitoes and never allowing your pet rabbit contact with a wild rabbit. There is no treatment.

Breeding Californian Rabbits

Early on in my experience with breeding rabbits, I was told that rabbits are “very efficient.” This is an understatement. Californian rabbits become fertile at just 12 weeks of age and will begin at least attempting to mate at around this time. If you intend to breed your rabbits, hold off until they are 5 to 8 months old. Breeding before this age can be harmful to your rabbits.

Does not go into heat and are instead fertile year round. Bucks are also generally eager to mate regardless of the time of year. The timing for breeding your rabbits is up to you. Some don’t like breeding in the dead of winter due to concerns about the cold. Others breed only in spring and fall in order to avoid the heat of summer impacting the kits (baby rabbits.)

When breeding rabbits, bring the buck to the doe, not the other way around. Allow the buck to mate with the doe two to three times. You will be looking for what’s called a ‘fall off.’ After the buck has finished mating, he will fall off of the female rabbit. This signals complete copulation. Once you have the number of fall-offs you desire, return the buck to his hutch. Do not leave your buck unattended with the doe.

Californian Rabbit gestation period

If pregnant, your doe will gestate for 28-35 days. She will kindle (give birth) on day 31 or 32 usually. Provide a nest box with plenty of straw for the doe to build a proper nest. She will also pull fur from her abdomen to mix in with the straw provided. The average litter size is between 1 and 14 kits. She can be impregnated again within 24 hours of giving birth, but this is generally not advised.

Californian rabbit kits are born blind, deaf, and hairless. Cannibalism can occur and is a defense mechanism. A doe will eat any stillborn rabbits as well as any blood and dead tissue left behind in the nesting area. This is normal and nothing to be alarmed by.

A kit’s fur begins to grow in by the 5th day and sometime between the 7th and 10th day, their eyes will open. At the age of 2 weeks, they’ll begin exploring outside of the nest boxes and looking for other food sources. The mother will start to wean them at 3 to 4 weeks of age.

Bucks generally don’t involve themselves with raising the young. If kept in a colony setting, a buck may ‘babysit’ the young from time to time. While they don’t generally help raise the young, they don’t harm the young either.

What to feed your Californian Rabbit

Rabbits can be fed a balanced rabbit feed, but ideally, your Californian rabbit should subsist primarily on hay. A pellet feed can be offered but shouldn’t be the primary feed choice of the rabbit. They can be fed small amounts of vegetables as treats, but high-quality hay like Timothy hay should be the bulk of your rabbit’s diet. Food should always be available to your rabbits.

History of the Californian Rabbit

The Californian rabbit was originally bred in 1923 in Lynwood, California by George S. West. West had a herd of 300 New Zealand white rabbits which he crossed with the Standard Chinchilla and Himalayan rabbits. The breed he developed was publicly shown for the first time in 1928. It was recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association in 1939.

Thomas Nelson
Environmental Advocate
Thomas is an environmental advocate currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. In his spare time, he enjoys experiencing the outdoors, raising chickens and ducks, and reading about current environmental issues. Despite slight colorblindness, his favorite color is green.
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