Rabbit Awareness Week – Top Tips!

Top tips for both new and current rabbit owners!

Companionship

  • Rabbits are extremely sociable animals and can become depressed without social interaction from other rabbits. They should be kept in at least pairs where possible.
  • If you are introducing rabbits to each other for the first time, you should introduce them slowly and carefully, making sure they are neutered before introducing males and females together. This includes siblings, to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
  • If one of your rabbit’s has passed away and you wish to adopt another, then rabbit rescue centres can often help with finding a suitable match and the bonding process.

Diet

  • Rabbits require very high levels of fibre in their diet, without this, their digestive system will not be in constant motion and will not work effectively. This may lead to gut stasis, a life threatening illness. That is why it is important that good quality hay and grass totals around 80-90% of the rabbits diet.
  • Rabbit’s teeth continually grow as they are worn down by the fibrous grasses they naturally feed on in the wild. If they are not provided with enough abrasive foods such as hay or grass, they can become overgrown making it painful to eat.
  • Rabbits also have a tendency to selectively feed, therefore it is very important not to feed a ‘muesli’ style diet as they will pick out the high starch and sugary elements and leave the high fibre pieces.

Housing

  • A rabbits housing should be as large as possible to mimic the free roaming that its wild counterpart would have. Therefore the housing itself must be at least 2 feet high by 2 feet wide by 6 feet long. Also the run area must be at least 3 feet high, 6 feet wide and 8 feet long.
  • Outdoor rabbits must be kept sheltered from the elements, providing warm bedding, be well ventilated, dry and free from draughts, escape proof and secure from predators.
  • Indoor rabbits should be acclimatised to the sights and sounds of the home, including other pets which may be their natural predators. The area must be rabbit proofed, removing toxic plants and electrical cables and allowing terrain which the rabbit can happily walk on. Indoor rabbits should also be allowed access to the outdoors or can be provided with ‘dig boxes’ filled with earth and grass.
  • Rabbit’s houses should be cleaned out daily to remove soiled bedding, uneaten food and cleaning and refilling food and drink containers. As a minimum, the bedding should be completely removed and replaced weekly and a deep clean should be performed monthly by scrubbing and disinfecting using an animal safe cleaner.

Behaviour and Enrichment

  • It is important to provide enrichment for your rabbit, such as including food to forage, tunnels, platforms, separate toilet areas and hiding places.
  • Rabbits are very playful and so it is important to provide lots of toys to prevent boredom such as cardboard tubes, willow balls and other rabbit safe toys.
  • Rabbits are very friendly and enjoy interaction with humans as well as their bunny companions; therefore it is important to spend lots of time with them daily and get them used to being handled safely from a young age.

Health

  • Rabbits are a prey species so will often hide signs of ill health; therefore regular vet visits are extremely important to help prevent illnesses.
  • Rabbits should be vaccinated against both myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease, both of which are fatal if contracted and can be prevented with a yearly vaccination which can be given at both our practices.
  • Flystrike can occur when flies lay their eggs in soiled fur. The eggs hatch into maggots and chew their way into the rabbit’s skin. Therefore a rabbit’s rear end must be checked daily to ensure they are clean and that faeces are not soft and sticking to their fur.