Rabbits are intelligent, lively, inquisitive and affectionate. They are easy to care for and playful. It is these characteristics along with the huge variety of breeds, colours and coat types which make them such popular pets worldwide.
These cute herbivores (plant eating) are well known for their high reproduction rate.
Most active at dawn and dusk, rabbits nap often during the day but are rather sociable creatures appreciating the company of other rabbits and humans.
Rabbits can be kept either indoors or outdoors. However, tempting as it is to have your fluffy tailed friend hoping around inside, care must be given to creating a safe environment for them. They will want to hop, stretch and play – not to mention chew – so keep wires and potentially poisonous house plants out of reach!
The best time to buy your rabbit is when they have been weaned from their mother at about six to eight weeks. But remember that it is a long term, albeit rewarding, commitment as rabbits can live for up to ten years.
If you don’t want to take on a young baby, rescue centres usually have rabbits of all ages, shapes, sizes and breeds desperate to be placed in the right homes.
It’s a common mistake to place rabbits in hutches with guinea pigs. Really, the animals are different species and do not “speak the same language”. More often than not, the Guinea Pig will end up with injuries because of the rabbits’ powerful kick.
Some pet shops keep them in the same cages when selling them, but this is a dangerous practice and shouldn’t tempt you to buy them as a pair.
Take me home
Outdoor rabbits will need plenty of room to play, hop, stretch and stand up in. The minimum hutch size for two small rabbits is 150cm x 60cm floor space, by 60cm tall. For two large rabbits this should be at least 185cm x 90cm floor space, by 90cm tall. It should also have a private, enclosed section where they can rest quietly and undisturbed.
Keeping a rabbit in confined accommodation is no fun for them or you. They can become bad tempered because they are suffering from skeletal pain. So whilst it may cost a little more to buy a bigger hutch, it is worth it in terms of quality of life.
The hutch should be in a shaded and sheltered area. In the winter they should also be given extra bedding and protection from the elements. And because they are outside, do keep them protected from wild animals. Although they may not be able to get in, rabbits are easily shocked and it is possible for them to die from shock.
The best type of bedding is clean, bagged straw; available from Rooke’s. It should be checked on a daily basis and changed as soon as it becomes soiled. This is particularly important in hot months when the flies are out, as rabbits can contract the potentially fatal “fly strike”.
Amazingly enough, it is rather easy to litter train a rabbit. Keep an eye out for which corner they use as a toilet and put a litter tray there. It makes keeping the accommodation clean much easier and makes for a happier rabbit too.
Feed me – keep me healthy!
Rabbits like to eat hay or grass and this should form the main part of their diet, although do offer a few fresh vegetables as well. Some people are tempted to offer cereal based diets, but these are high in sugar and low in minerals. A better choice is to give small quantities of high fibre rabbit pellets. Of course, fresh water should always be on offer and if you use a water bottle, check it regularly to make sure it’s working.
All rabbits should be regularly vaccinated against the potentially fatal diseases, myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD). Your vet should be able to tell you how often to do this. Make sure you also check over your rabbit regularly, including his teeth!
Whilst it is a good idea to neuter your rabbits to prevent unwanted babies, it can also lessen the risk of diseases and behavioural problems. Not only this, but it can also make them easier to house train.
Rabbits have been kept as pets for centuries. The image of a bunny has come to be associated with everything cute and cuddly. In fact rabbits are more associated now with newborn babies than teddies! They have been involved with humans since 3,000BC and if you’ve ever had one as a pet, it’s easy to see why!
Facts you may not know about rabbits:
• The world record for the rabbit high jump is 1 meter.
• The largest litter of baby rabbits is 24. It has happened twice. Once in 1978 and again in 1999.
• The oldest rabbit was nearly 19 years old when he died.
• Female rabbits have 2 lobes to their uterus. Though not advisable, rabbits can carry 2 litters of different gestational ages at the same time.
• Rabbits can see behind them without turning their heads.
• President Lincoln allowed his sons to keep many pets in the White House, including pet rabbits.