Rabbits can make wonderful pets if cared for correctly. Watching the run, jump and play is a real delight.
Rabbits come in different shapes, sizes and colours, and domestic rabbits kept as pets are fundamentally the same as their wild cousins – who live in large social groups and cover an area equivalent to six football pitches every day.
Rabbits typically live for around 7-10 years, although some can live up to 12, so you must be sure you can care for your rabbits for the next decade. If you are buying rabbits for your child, they will be your responsibility.
Rabbits should be kept in neutered pairs or compatible groups, and never on their own – a male and females partnership work best. Rabbits suffer from stress and loneliness if kept alone and they value companionship as much as food. We do not recommend keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together as they have a different set of needs.
Pet rabbits should be allocated some of their owners time every day as they enjoy attention, offering them a small treat is a great way to interact and build trust.
CHOOSING YOUR RABBIT
There are many varieties of rabbits available that vary greatly in size and temperament. Dwarf lop eared rabbits are very popular due to their appealing looks and docile nature. Although a Dwarf lop is smaller than English and French lops, hey can still weigh more than 2kg when fully grown. Longhaired rabbits are less suitable as pet because they need daily grooming, which can be time consuming.
Rabbits should be at least 8 weeks old when you get them. When you buy new baby rabbits, feed them the same food they have been used to, alongside fresh hay and water.
Rabbits should be provided with a large spacious cage, so they can comfortably sand on their hind legs. A hutch for outdoors should be sturdy, waterproof and raised off the floor by approximately 25cm. Place the hutch in a sheltered position so rabbits are protected from all weathers. A hutch cover, blanket or piece of old carpet will offer added protection on cold nights. A house rabbit’s cage should be place in a cool room and out of direct sunlight and draughts.
Rabbits are active; therefore it is essential they are allow daily exercise outside the cage, whether is a safe garden enclosure or a rabbit-proof part of your home. An outdoor enclosure should be secure enough to kee the rabbits in as well as other animals out.
An exercise area that is permanently attached to their hutch or cage, which allows rabbits to exercise whenever they please, is recommended. A hutch r cage is not enough for you rabbits, and should be regarded as burrows to rest in as part of a larger living area,
An exercise run on the lawn will allow your rabbit to express normal behaviour, such as running, digging, burrowing, jumping, hiding and grazing. It is important to be aware that your rabbit may dig their way out of a run, so make sure you move in regularly to prevent escapes. Regularly moving the run will also allow you rabbits access to fresh grass.
If your rabbits’ run is attached to their hutch and is unable to be moved, it is recommended to pave the floor and provide a digging box and plenty of fresh hay.
All hutches and runs need to be sturdy and predator-proof. Before purchase, check hutches and runs have bolt locks, not swivel locks and ensure the wire is strong.
Rabbits are prey animals, so they’re naturally shy, quiet and usually dislike being held above ground level. Children should be encouraged to interact with them at ground level.
BEDDING AND HUTCH MAINTENANCE
A hutch or cage should have a layer of absorbent bedding on the floor with plenty of hay and straw for nesting. Any bedding that becomes wet should be removed daily along with any uneaten fresh foods. A litter tray can be used in the latrine corner, which is easier to clean daily.
Hygiene is extremely important, particularly in summer. If not kept clean the hutch will attract flies and other undesirable pests, so it should be cleaned thoroughly at least once week. Rabbits often use the same area for their toilet; this means they can be trained to use a litter tray, which is easily cleaned out daily.
FOOD AND WATER
Rabbits should be fed in a way that is as close as possible to their natural diet, which is mostly grass and hay. We also recommend providing some fresh leafy vegetables and a small amount of commercial feed.
A daily healthy diet should be:
· 80% grass or hay. This should be available to your rabbit 24/7 from a hay rack if available
· 15% leafy greens and vegetables, such as kale, carrots and broccoli
· 5% commercial feed, approximately two egg cups
Hay provides rabbits with the fibre needed for a healthy gut and helps to prevent dental problems. Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously and so hay helps to keep them at a healthy length.
A wide range of prepared feed is available and many are formulated for rabbits of different ages and sizes. Be very careful not to overfeed as this can lead to obesity. Do not change your rabbits’ commercial feed suddenly, as it can cause fatal digestive upsets. A change of food should be done over a period of at least two weeks.
Fresh foods should be given in moderation. Baby rabbits in particular should only get a very small amount and contrary to popular belief, lettuce should be avoided. Suitable fresh foods include kale, spring greens, broccoli and dandelions. Fresh foods should be washed thoroughly before feeding and should not be allowed to become frosted. Anything tht is not eaten should be removed regularly.
Fresh hay should be provided at all times as rabbits’ digestive systems are sensitive and require a large amount of hay to eat.
Fresh water must be available at all times and should be provided both by a gravity fed bottle and also a bowl.
Annual vaccination against Myxomatosis and another serious disease known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) are essential. Unfortunately, it is very easy for rabbits to catch these diseases if not vaccinated.
It is important to have rabbo
its neutered as this helps prevent some behaviours and health issues, and allows for social groupings.
Pet rabbits should be registered with you vet and insured against unexpected costs as soon as possible.
It is recommended to check your rabbit underneath daily, especially during summer, to ensure they are clean. All rabbits are at high risk of fly strike, as flies are attracted to soiled areas around the rabbit’s tail, where they lay their eggs. If you suspect your rabbit has fly strike, contact your vet immediately. It is also recommended to find a rabbit friendly vet.
Rabbits are traditionally kept in a hutch and run outdoors but are increasingly popular house pets. If you decide to keep your rabbit indoors it is essential that you home is rabbit-proofed. Be aware of exposed electrical wires, other pets and plants – many of which are poisonous to rabbits. They also chew door frames, furniture and clothes, and so should be supervise at all times.
· Large outdoor hutch/indoor cage, spacious enough for two rabbits to jump and run
· Hutch cover to protect from extreme weather
· Large run or pen for the garden
· Commercial rabbot food and ceramic food dish
· Water bottle, bottle brush and water dish
· Hay or freeze dried grass for feeding
· Hay rack
· Hay or straw fro bedding
· Absorbent bedding
· Toys and tunnels
· Pet safe disinfectant
· Fly repellent
· Nail clippers
· Litter tray
· Rabbit car book