What to Know About the Californian Rabbit

Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 24, 2022

Californian rabbits are one of the most popular commercial rabbit breeds in the United States. Californians are often raised for meat or fur but have also become common to keep as pets.

Keep reading to learn more about Californian rabbit characteristics, personality traits, and how to care for your rabbit.

The Californian is a large, docile American rabbit breed. Their size, soft fur, distinct markings, and calm temperaments make Californian rabbits well-loved livestock and family pets.

They get their name from southern California, where a man named George West first developed the breed in the 1920s. Californian rabbits have since become one of the most popular and competitive commercial rabbit breeds in the United States.

Californian rabbits are known to be very calm and gentle animals. While most rabbits do not like getting picked up, Californians are usually easy to lift and carry when you handle them properly.

No matter the breed, rabbits are active and social animals. They love hopping, digging, chewing, and playing with toys. Many rabbits are affectionate pets that like to sit beside their owners for petting and healthy treats.

Along with their laid-back personalities, Californian rabbits have physical characteristics that make them good choices for both commercial breeding stock and housepets.

Californian Rabbit Size

Californian rabbits are sizeable rabbits. A typical Californian rabbit weighs 8-10 pounds when fully grown.

Young Californian rabbits grow to adulthood rapidly. When well-fed and cared for, young Californian rabbits can reach half their adult weight around the time they are ten weeks old.

Californian Rabbit Fur and Eyes

Californian rabbits have short, soft, thick flyback fur, meaning that when you pet your rabbit, its hair will return or “fly back” to its original place.

Their distinct coloring makes Californian rabbits an easily recognizable breed. Most Californian rabbit fur is white, but they have dark brown or black points on their ears, nose, feet, and tail.

Their eyes are vibrant pink and red. This striking color comes from an albino gene that removes pigment from the rabbit’s eyes.

Californian Rabbit Life Span

Owning a pet Californian rabbit will be a long-term commitment. Pet rabbits live on average between 5-10 years.

Rabbits raised for meat have much shorter life spans. Californian rabbits are often processed when they weigh about 5 pounds, roughly 10-16 weeks old.

Californian rabbits are relatively easy to care for, whether you plan to raise them as livestock or keep one as a pet. As with any rabbit, they will need a safe place to live, healthy food to eat, and gentle, patient handling.

Californian Rabbit Habitat

Californian rabbits can live happily both indoors and outdoors. They will need a safe, sturdy cage that measures a minimum of 30 inches wide and 36 inches long. The larger the space they have to hop and jump, the happier and healthier they will be.

Rabbits love to chew just about everything around them, their cages included. Make sure to choose sturdy materials your rabbit can’t easily chew through. A cage made with metal bars and plastic bottom, or an all-wire enclosure with a metal frame, will prevent your rabbit from damaging their home and be easy to clean and disinfect. If you use an all-wire cage, be sure it has a rest area with a solid bottom. Constantly sitting on the wire can hurt your rabbit’s feet.

Most rabbits will pick one corner of their cage to pass waste, so adding a litter box in their preferred corner can help keep the enclosure clean. It’s best to keep the litter box in one corner and place your rabbit’s food and water bowls or feeders in the opposite corner.

If you are breeding your rabbit, they will need a nest box to raise their young. Standard-size nest boxes are roughly 16 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 8 inches high. Boxes can be metal, wood, or plastic. Make sure whatever box you choose doesn’t have any sharp edges that can hurt your rabbit and is easy for them to jump in and out.

Both commercially raised and pet rabbits will need toys or other enrichment objects in their cage to play and interact with. Sticks, wooden blocks, plastic baby toys, and cardboard boxes or tubes are good options to help keep your rabbit happy.

Californian Rabbit Diet

Californian rabbits need healthy diets high in vitamins A, D, E, and fiber. They also need moderate amounts of protein and fat. Young, growing rabbits and pregnant or nursing females will need more protein than mature adults.

To give them the nutrition they need, give them unlimited amounts of timothy hay and fresh water, and feed them small amounts of rabbit pellets. An adult Californian rabbit will need about half a cup of pellets daily. 

Rabbits also enjoy a wide variety of leafy green vegetables and small amounts of low-carbohydrate treats. Some rabbit-friendly produce includes:

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choi
  • Endive
  • Green peppers
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Pear
  • Radicchio

Avoid giving your rabbit high-calorie treats like grains, bread, cookies, seeds, or nuts. Carrots are fine to give your rabbit in small amounts, but too many carrots can make them sick.

Californian Rabbit Handling

Rabbits are active and social animals that need time outside of their cages to exercise and get the attention they need. Handle your rabbits carefully to avoid injury when taking them in and out of their enclosures. Scared rabbits can kick and scratch as they struggle to get away. They have fragile backs and bones that can easily break if they twist, fall, or jump out of your arms.

Californian rabbits generally have very docile personalities, making them easier to pick up and carry than other breeds. Not every rabbit will enjoy having you hold it, so be patient and careful when handling your rabbit.

When lifting your rabbit, always support its entire body, keeping one hand under its legs and hind end. Hold them close to your body, gently but firmly, so they feel secure and are less likely to struggle or scratch.

Show Sources

American Rabbit Breeders Association: “Californian.”
Animal Foundation: “Is Adopting a Rabbit Right for You?”
Bennett, B. Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, 5th Edition, Storey Publishing, LLC, 2018.
Merck Manual: “Providing a Home for a Rabbit.”
Ohio 4H: “ARBA Rabbit Breed Profiles.”
VCA Animal Hospitals: “Feeding Your Rabbit,” “Housing Your Rabbit,” “Owning a Rabbit.”

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