With Easter just around the corner, many parents might be considering bringing a new furry friend into the family. We talked to Rae Todd, CEO of the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF - Britain's largest organisation for rabbit lovers) who believes, just as we do, that domestic rabbits need space, exercise, companionship and stimulation to be happy and healthy all year round. So, if you are considering buying a rabbit this year or just want to clue up on the best way to care for your pet, there are a number of things you should consider - here are Rae’s top 10 tips for to ensure your furry little friend is a happy hopper!
1. Remember, rabbits can live for as long as a dog
Oftentimes rabbits are mistaken to be cheap and easy pets, but they have very complex needs which differ from other animals. With proper care, rabbits can potentially live for 10 years or more!
Neutering is very important - apart from the obvious it also prevents aggression, territorial behaviour, spraying and general anti-social activities. Additionally, in females it will greatly reduce the risk of uterine cancer (which in un-neutered rabbits is 80%). Pay attention to safety first though, read more here.
3. Bunny Buddies!
Rabbits are naturally sociable animals so they are happiest when kept with at least one other rabbit. If you have a single rabbit please talk to your vet about having him neutered and go along to a rescue centre to adopt a neutered friend. A neutered male/female pairing will work the best. As long as you have room for 2 of course! Read pairing facts here.
4. Let rabbits be rabbits!
A rabbit in a small hutch isn’t much fun for anyone. Give your pet enough space in their secure accommodation to run, jump, forage dig and fully stretch out and up on their back feet. Living spaciously will allow your rabbit to display natural behaviours - which are a joy to see.
5. A Hutch is not enough!
Fun Fact: Rabbits do not keep the same hours as humans and get up to their bunny business at dusk and dawn.
This means a hutch should be a shelter and not the main or sole accommodation available. It's better for both you and the rabbits if you have a safe secure exercise run attached to the hutch so they can come and go as they please. (Aim for an area 10ft x 6ft for two rabbits). Read more hutch advice here.
6. Hay, Hay and More Hay!
80% of a rabbit’s daily food should be clean fresh hay or grass. Unlimited, good quality hay/grass is an essential component of every rabbit’s diet and should be freely available from weaning onwards.
7. Carb Crazy Carrots
In addition to a constant supply of hay or grass, rabbits should only be given a small amount of rabbit nuggets (roughly an eggcup a day). Although it’s advisable to avoid 'muesli-style' food as this causes dental disease - we don’t want that! Include some fresh veg such as greens or cabbage, and go steady on the carrots - they're full of carbs. See more recommended foods here.
Indoor and outdoor rabbits need to be protected and vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) every year. These diseases are spread through biting insects, which is why indoor rabbits are also at risk. Learn more on avoiding infection here.
9. It's a Myth!
It's commonly thought that rabbits and guinea pigs should be housed together. Whilst there are some cases where this seems to work, as a rule it should be avoided as your rabbit will be much happier with a companion of its own species (and the same goes for guinea pigs).
10. Keep learning more!
For more information on rabbit care please see the other rabbit articles on this site and visit www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk.
You can join the conversation: Share the story of how you keep your rabbit happy and healthy with our social media communities:
Show us your happy, healthy pet: Upload your pics to our Happy Healthy Pets gallery and help us paint the biggest ever picture of happy, healthy pets in the UK!