Sociability and Lifespan
Rabbits are remarkably social animals. In the wild they live within a loosely organised society in underground tunnels called a warren. Groups can vary in numbers from less than ten to hundreds of individuals!
Pet rabbits should either be kept with a same sex litter mate or a neutered rabbit of the opposite sex. If keeping a group, all rabbits must be neutered. Rabbits left alone without company, can become very depressed and ill. They thrive with company so you should be prepared to take on a pair.
Taking on bouncy bunnies is a very long-term commitment. Rabbits live in excess of 12 years, so certainly require a lot of consideration.
Rabbits will need a lot of space to play, run, dig and perform natural behavior. It’s a well-known fact that a rabbit’s wild living area is about the size of 30 tennis courts!
It’s important to know that every hutch or indoor cage should be considered just a bedroom, somewhere simply for your bunnies to eat, drink and sleep. They need dedicated exercise space outside of this. It’s very crucial that they have space to be their active selves, they can become bored, frustrated and even unwell if they are not given the appropriate space.
For some inspiration check out our range of large hardwearing hutches and runs. These are made here in the UK and come with a three-year workmanship guarantee.
Any outside hutch or enclosure needs to be appropriately weather and predator proof.
Indoor bunnies can live either free reign within a suitably bunny proofed room or in a large pen/enclosure. Either let outside for exercise where appropriate or given access to a dedicated indoor exercise area every day. Rabbits need space to run around and explore. In order to create a safe space for your bunny and to protect your belongings, you will need to thoroughly bunny proof the area –remember rabbits LOVE to chew!
Naturally rabbits are herbivores. This means that their digestive system requires a fibre moving continuously through their system. Not only is hay essential for your bunny’s digestive health, but also for their teeth. Rabbits have hypsodont teeth, which means they will grow continuously. Providing good quality hay will help wear their teeth down appropriately.
An appropriate diet for a rabbit should consist of the following:
Enrichment & Wellbeing
Rabbits are very intelligent and have the capacity to get bored very quickly. Not only do they need space to exercise, they also need mental stimulation.
Providing your bunnies with various cardboard boxes, tunnels and puzzles will encourage them to investigate and chew. Try and get creative and give your bunnies something new and interesting to gnaw and play with regularly to prevent them from becoming bored.
Bunnies also need to dig! This is a natural behavior and should be encouraged! If you don’t provide rabbits with a dedicated dig area, they are likely to dig up something they shouldn’t.
Give your bunnies a dig box filled with safe soil/sand or a certain place for them to dig in the garden.
Rabbits are naturally very clean animals and can frequently be found cleaning themselves. However, bunnies will still need a little help from their owners to keep their coats in tip-top shape.
Rabbits can moult considerably and regular grooming with appropriate tools will help remove this excess fur. The general rule is to groom your rabbit at least once weekly, however long haired extra fluffy bunnies may need this done more regularly.
Due to rabbit’s dedicated self-cleaning regimes, they (much like cats) can suffer from hairballs. However, unlike cats, they cannot regurgitate ingested hair to expel it from their system. So, it is very important to groom regularly, remove excess fur and ensure your bunnies have plenty of hay and fresh water to keep their system moving.
Alongside regular grooming and pampering sessions, you will also have to pay special close attention to your bunnies’ nails. Nail clipping is an important part of small animal ownership. If nails grow too long, they can cause discomfort, pain and often end up with a vet visit. Regular trimming will keep them healthy and filed down.
House Bunnies and Toileting
As bunnies are exceptionally clean and hygienic creatures, they can often easily be toilet trained.
Before you begin the process of litter training your rabbits with it is important for them to learn where their core base territory is and that it belongs to them. So, give them time to settle into their enclosure and to demonstrate confidence and comfort in using their litter tray.
Normally popping a litter tray in the place where they usually toilet and putting some soiled litter into it gets the ball rolling. Always work to their preferences and move the litter tray if it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect.
Praise your bunnies each time you see them toilet in their litter tray with something they like such as a small piece of their favourite veg or treats. This will give them a positive association with using their tray to do their toileting business.
Accidents may happen but don’t despair, simply pick up any poops and put them in the tray. By doing this you will reinforce where their toilet is. You should never tell a rabbit off for having an accident as this can make them fearful and easily scare them.
Rabbits are naturally very intelligent animals that often find great enjoyment in learning and being rewarded for their actions by their owners. Teaching your rabbits using a clicker training method can be wonderful for building bonds with your bunnies. Not only is clicker training wonderful for strengthening your relationship, it can also be incredible in aiding husbandry. Getting your bunny to come when called, or even to lift a paw on command will certainly come in handy!
Keeping Rabbits Healthy
First and foremost be sure to give your rabbits a nose to tail health check every day to ensure there are no obvious problems.
Common Health issues in Rabbits
Flystrike – This unfortunately is fairly common; it is very distressing and can often be fatal. It is caused mainly in warmer months when flies lay their eggs either on any sore areas around the rabbit’s bottom or in their hutch. The eggs then develop into maggots that will eat away at the rabbit. You can help prevent flystrike by keeping the environment clean (always use a pet safe disinfectant), removing any wet bedding, using appropriate preventative products and keeping your rabbit healthy, an overweight rabbit cannot groom itself efficiently.
Overgrown Teeth – Rabbit’s teeth continuously grow, if the teeth are not ground down by gnawing and grinding hay etc. they can become overgrown and may need to be clipped by a vet. Rabbits can also get fur caught around their teeth which you must remove. Always provide plenty of fresh hay and gnawing material. Did you know rabbits have twenty eight teeth?
Digestive Problems – A change of environment, over-handling and rapid changes to diet can cause problems. These disorders can be fatal, therefore if your rabbit stops eating or you noticed a bloated stomach or diarrhoea please contact your vet immediately. Follow the feeding advice above.
Myxomatosis and VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease) – Myxomatosis is caused by a virus spread by biting insects, and quickly leads to blindness, swellings around the genital areas, difficulty eating and death. VHD is very serious causing internal bleeding. We recommend that you have your rabbit inoculated against these diseases.
First and foremost, rabbits are prey animals. Pet rabbit’s biology and behaviour are very similar to their wild counterpart, so understanding their needs will lead to a content pet.
To maintain a happy healthy rabbit, you must provide an interesting, stable environment and an opportunity to exercise and interact regularly. Remember that wild rabbits have a territory equivalent to around 30 tennis courts to explore, and plenty of rabbit friends!
If a rabbit is not given enough stimulation, behavioral problems can develop including depression, fur plucking, aggression, chewing bars, altered feeding, drinking or toileting habits, sitting hunched, excessive hiding, reluctance to move and repeated circling of their enclosure.
Always handle rabbits gently and talk to them in a calm quiet voice. Rabbits become stressed very easily so always supervise children when handling the rabbit.
Rabbits all have their own personality; an important part of pet ownership is getting to know your pet’s individual style so that you can learn to recognise if anything changes, or if there’s a problem.
Helpful Rabbit Tips
- Always provide your rabbit with somewhere to hide
- Allow your rabbit to exercise out of the hutch and cage as regularly as possible
- Spend plenty of time with your rabbit, they are extremely intelligent and can even be clicker trained! The more time spent with your rabbit, the friendlier he/she will be
- Provide tunnels (large enough for the rabbit to fit through easily)
- Provide Gnaws, safe twigs and wicker
- Rabbits love to dig, a planter with compost will be thoroughly enjoyed
- Cardboard boxes filled with hay will provide great entertainment
If you have any concerns about looking after your small animals or any other pets in your family, please do not hesitate to visit one of our highly trained members of staff in one of our stores.