Rabbits can be very popular pets especially for young children. In fact the PDSA report an estimated 1.5 BILLION are kept as pets here in the UK.
Keeping pet rabbits can be a hugely rewarding experience as they are highly social, inquisitive, intelligent animals! They can form close bonds with their owners and often can respond well to gentle training. There are lots of things to consider however when thinking about getting a pet rabbit.
Rabbits can live for between 8-12 years but some can live longer!
Can I keep just one rabbit or can I keep with other species? Rabbits are highly social creatures as stated above. For this reason we recommend that rabbits have at least one other rabbit companion. A good combination can be a neutered male and neutered female together. Some rabbits can be more dominant than others and they will often form a natural ‘pecking order’. Rabbits that have grown up together are usually ok but take care to introduce any new rabbits gradually and under supervision. Using a space new to both rabbit will often work best.
Are they friendly?
It is important to get your rabbit used to gentle daily handling from a young age. Well handled rabbits learn that human companions are friends but if they are handled roughly or inappropriately they can become scared resulting in aggressive or fearful behaviour. Young children should always be supervised when handling rabbits as they have powerful back legs but fragile bones and can easily injure themselves.
What kind of enclosure do they need?
Rabbits need SPACE! They need opportunities to use their natural behaviour – to jump/hop/run/dig/stand fully upright on their back legs/stretch out fully when lying down. Therefore we recommend you provide a living enclosure/run where they can exercise and a large secure shelter where they can feel safe and are protected from predators and the weather. Make sure there is enough space for each rabbit to retreat from one another if they feel the need and space for them to hide if they feel scared. They need enough bedding to keep warm that is also safe to eat eg dust free straw or hay. Rabbit are clean creatures so need access to separate “toilet” areas. It is very important that their bedding and toilet areas are kept clean and dry. Toys are a good way of allowing your rabbit to exhibit natural behaviours.
We highly recommend not feeding the muesli type commercial rabbit foods as rabbits will tend to sort through this eating the tastier parts and not having a rounded well balanced diet. Rabbits have an unusual digestive tract and constantly growing teeth so their diet is extremely important! Fresh clean water is an essential.IN order for your rabbit’s digestive system to function properly good quality hay/grass should make up the majority of your rabbits diet – as a general rule a rabbit should eat its own body size in hay daily! This is much more important than the commercial rabbit food. We recommend feeding a small measured amount of good quality pellet rabbit food but don’t overfeed as your rabbit won’t then eat enough hay. Safe washed leafy greens and vegetables should also be offered daily. Root vegetables and fruit should only be fed in small amounts as occasional treats as these aren’t part of a natural diet for a rabbit. All of this will help ensure your rabbit wears its teeth down as it eats helping to prevent dental disease. An amazing fact is rabbits teeth grow at a rate of approx. 2mm per week!!
I’ve heard you have to vaccinate your rabbits?
We highly recommend vaccinating your pet rabbit against two deadly diseases – myxomatosis and VHD type 1. Both can be fatal and both are found in the wild rabbit population. They are preventable with an annual vaccination – see our blog on vaccines to find out more
Microchipping your rabbit may seem unnecessary but we see a lot of lost or escaped rabbits. Microchipping them can make them easily identifiable and quickly returned to their rightful owners!
What are the benefits of neutering?
Rabbits can be neutered from around 4-6 months old. It can be beneficial to reduce unwanted litters but also reducing aggression towards other rabbits and yourself. See our blog on neutering to understand the health and behavioural benefits.
In summary rabbits can make fantastic pets as long as they are cared for correctly. They are one of the most abandoned pets in the UK – huge numbers go to rehoming and rescue centres every month so it’s always nice to consider adopting a bunny if you are looking at getting one.