The rabbit is one of the UK's best loved pets, with personality and energy that is a joy to watch. However, rabbits are also one of the UK’s most neglected pets. This could be for a number of reasons, such as that they’re often bought at the insistence of children, who quickly become bored with them. Also, if they’re left on their own and in hutches that are far too small for them they do not thrive as they should.
We have put together an easy to follow guide to looking after rabbits, which will help you to decide whether it is the best pet for you, pinpointing what you will need to consider before and after bringing one home.
What you should know before buying a rabbit
Before you commit to owning a rabbit, you should be aware of a number of things.
- Rabbits are naturally sociable animals and preferably need to be kept with another rabbit. It can help to introduce rabbits to each other when they’re young, otherwise they may fight
- Do not keep rabbits and guinea pigs together as the rabbit may bully or injure the guinea pig
- Rabbits are very intelligent and need stimulation both mentally and physically
- Neutered rabbits are generally happier and healthier, with few behavioural problems
- To keep your rabbit healthy, ensure that it has been vaccinated against myxomatosis and VHD
- When choosing your pet, remember that healthy rabbits are alert and lively. Signs of poor health can include scaly patches inside the ears and discharge from the eyes and nose. Also check their teeth and back
Where your rabbit should live
Your rabbit’s environment is incredibly important and you should consider the surroundings before bringing it home.
- Keep in mind that a small hutch will not be enough room. The rabbit will need to be able to stand on it's hind legs inside the hutch and will require a large run attached to it
- If a rabbit does not have enough space, it will become bad tempered
- Your rabbits need shelter from the sun and rain, which you can create by using a tarpaulin over part of it
- A private compartment will be needed for hiding and restful sleep
- Give them plenty of things to do such as tunnels, wood to chew on and toys to play with. If you have space, a sandbox or somewhere for your rabbit to dig would be great
- Bedding needs to be clean, fresh and natural so that it can be eaten, such as hay or dust-free straw. Check it daily and change it regularly
- Your rabbit will need places to go to the toilet and this can be hay or shredded paper. A rabbit will use the same spot each time, so if you put down a litter tray where they like to go, your rabbit should use it!
- Make sure the hutch and run are safe and secure, so your rabbit is unable to escape and predators are unable to get in
What your rabbit should eat
Rabbits have an unusual digestive system so you must be careful to give them appropriate foods.
- Grass or hay is the most important food for your rabbits
- Complete rabbit foods are a good addition and you should feed them washed, leafy foods every day
- Carrots or other root vegetables should only be given as a treat
- Change the water supply every day
- Avoid cereal based foods which can be high in sugar and low in minerals
- Food should be available at all times
- Do not feed your rabbit grass cuttings
Grooming your rabbit
It is important to look after your rabbit on the outside as well as the inside.
- If your rabbit has long fur then you should brush it daily to avoid it matting
- Do not bath your rabbit as they do not like the water
- Regularly trim your rabbits nails
- Efficient grooming and cleaning of the hutch will help to prevent fly strike, a common condition where eggs will lay on the fur and burrow into the skin
Now you will have everything you need to give your rabbits a healthy, safe home. As long as they’re handled and given plenty of attention every day, they will live long and happy lives. Rabbits are wonderful, inquisitive, intelligent animals and with the right care they make incredibly rewarding pets.