Looking after your rabbit
Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK and their popularity is growing. When cared for appropriately they are rewarding, fun and companionable pets. They are not the easy option however, so a great deal of thought must go into the decision of owning a pet rabbit.
Considerations before purchasing your rabbit
- Can you afford the up-keep?
- Can you afford veterinary bills?
- Could you or members of your family be allergic?
- Do you have enough space?
- Do you have enough time?
- Who will look after the rabbit while you are away?
- Are your personal circumstances likely to change?
It is important that an adult should take overall responsibility for the care of any animal, and rabbits are no exception to this rule. Owning a rabbit can be a great way for children to learn the joys of pet ownership, however rabbits do not naturally enjoy cuddles and human handling. It is best to let the rabbit come to you rather than forcing him or her into close contact straight away.
If well cared for, your rabbit should live for six to ten years, perhaps longer. Rabbits need plenty of care and attention, and this is a requirement which goes on throughout their entire lives, even after their initially doting child carer loses interest.
Indoor Vs outdoor
Neutered rabbits are quite easy to litter-train and are likely to receive more regular human contact and thus tend to be more companionable and interactive pets.
If your rabbit lives indoors however, it is very important that it still regularly gets plenty of exercise. You should have an outdoor run to allow lots of exercise in the daylight.
How many rabbits?
Rabbits are naturally social animals and therefore they are generally happier when kept in pairs or small social groups. Neutering is very important to reduce aggressiveness between same sex individuals and to prevent a ‘population explosion’.
If you have a single rabbit or if you have lost one of a pair, it is possible to introduce a companion. Rabbit rescue societies such as Jane’s Rabbit Rescue or Fat Fluffs provide a bonding service.
It is recommended that rabbits and Guinea pigs are not kept together, because unfortunately, rabbits can be terrible bullies and their dietary needs differ.
Looking after your rabbit
Many health issues for rabbits arise from feeding an inappropriate or imbalanced diet.
A rabbit’s diet must consist of unlimited timothy hay and meadow grass with limited alfalfa. Vegetables are important but those that are high in sugar or calcium should be limited. Pellets are often overfed causing obesity problems therefore should be limited to 1/8 to ¼ of a cup per 5lb body weight per day (muesli diets are not recommended as they allow the rabbit to pick out the high sugar components and leave those with high dietary fibre). Fruits are high in sugar and should be limited to one to two very small (1”) pieces per day with no seeds. If treats are fed these should be one to two small pieces at a time.
Rabbit Health Information
Find out more
To assist owners in understanding more about a health conditions that are specific to rabbits we have put together a range of information sheets to talk you through some of the more common health concerns seen and treated by our General Practice Vets.