Rabbits can make excellent pets. They are very active with great personalities. If raised and handled properly they’ll be your friends for life. Here are a few tips to get your pets started in their new home.
A new pet can be a fantastic companion, but sometimes the novelty can wear off (some pets live for a very long time). You may find that daily cleaning, feeding and handling becomes a time consuming chore. Please try to interact and play with your pet as often as possible, you will find that you will be rewarded with a much happier and friendlier pet.
If you are not 100% sure that you and your children will be able to give your pet the attention that it needs then please think twice. Rabbits should never be considered as ‘starter’ pets for children, they require a lot of time and attention, similar to a dog, so please be sure that you and your family are prepared for the responsibility of rabbits and all that entails responsible pet ownership.
Rabbits are sociable animals and should live with other rabbits. Ideally rabbits should be kept with a litter mate of the same sex, or another rabbit of the opposite sex, which must be neutered. You should NEVER keep guinea pigs and rabbits together – this can be very dangerous.
Rabbits are crepuscular which means that they are awake on and off throughout the day and night, they are fully grown about 5 months of age and they have a life expectancy of 6 to 10 years.
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Rabbits are incredibly popular as pets but many are neglected due to lack of knowledge about the care they require, so understanding how to care for them properly is extremely important.
Rabbits are intelligent animals and can live in excess of 12 years if looked after well, so they should never be an impulse purchase; they also require daily maintenance and exercise and can be costly in vet’s fees. If you are thinking about buying a rabbit make sure you do lots of research.
Points to consider:
- Responsibility – Rabbits can live in excess of 12 years, are you able to make that lifelong commitment?
- Time commitments – rabbits need freedom to exercise every day and daily handling.
- Space requirements – Rabbits need plenty of space to exhibit their natural behaviors. A hutch is not enough!
- Costs – annual vaccinations, neutering and costs of keeping can be expensive.
We Love to Socialise
Rabbits are naturally very social animals, they are inquisitive and playful and enjoy interacting with other rabbits, and many enjoy interacting with people; 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! Rabbits left alone with lack of company can become depressed and ill.
Ideally, pet rabbits should either be kept with a same sex litter mate or a rabbit of the opposite sex, in both instances all bunnies should be neutered. If keeping a group, all rabbits must be neutered. Rabbits can be territorial so introductions must be slow and supervised, unfamiliar rabbits can become stressed and aggressive. Pairing and bonding bunnies can be a very stressful situation for them, be sure to seek advice from an experienced bunny owner before attempting.
Housing and Environment
Two small rabbits should be housed in nothing smaller than a 5ft hutch or a two tier 4ft hutch.
THE BIGGER THE BETTER!
A good hutch provides shelter, warmth and shade. It should be placed in a draught free position, out of direct sunlight; don’t position west or south facing as wind and rain can blow into the hutch. It is safer to position the hutch near to the house, against a wall in a sheltered area, so a closer eye can be kept on the rabbits; this can also prevent unwanted animals from trying to attack them.
Their hutch should be seen as their bedroom – permanently attached to a larger roaming area for exercise and play.
Rabbits must be able to hide from things that scare them. They are a prey species and need to be able to hide in a secure place, away from the sight and smell of predators. Make sure your rabbits have constant access to safe hiding places where they can escape if they feel afraid such as tubes, tunnels and houses.
Rabbits are naturally clean and hygienic animals, preferring to keep their toileting area separate from their eating and sleeping spots. A good housing environment will allow for this behavior. The toileting area should be cleaned every day and the entire hutch should be cleaned thoroughly with a pet friendly disinfectant at least once per week. Rabbits are sensitive creatures and the cleaning of their home can be potentially stressful. It is recommended that a small amount of the used bedding should be placed back into the toilet area or housing as this will smell familiar to the rabbits and help to reduce the stress caused by cleaning and changing of their environment.
You can use wood shavings, or other products like Carefresh or Yesterday’s News as Substrate; Straw or White Paper bedding should be used in the bed area. For outdoor rabbits straw is the best option as it is a fantastic insulator so helps keeps them warm. Hay is for eating, do not use as sole bedding.
Indoors vs Outdoors
Rabbits that have always lived outdoors can do so all year round, but newly purchased animals can only live outdoors between 1st of May and 31st of October (approx.) so they can acclimatise to colder weather. If you buy a rabbit between November and April it will be too cold to put the rabbit outside as it hasn’t had a chance to grow a winter coat. At Pets Corner we will never sell bunnies in the winter to live outdoors. Rabbits are susceptible to subtle temperature changes so care must be taken all year round to ensure they are kept cool in the summer months and warm in the winter.
Whether you have house rabbits or outdoor rabbits, the priority is that they are kept safe, they are fed and housed correctly, and that they have plenty of exercise. Rabbits can make good indoor pets and can be litter trained – be careful as rabbits love to chew, they will chew wires and your belongings if you leave them out unattended! Make sure you rabbit proof the house.
Rabbits need lots of exercise, ideally they should have access to a large run (or a rabbit proofed room in your house if you have house bunnies) every day, ideally they should have constant access to this space. Rabbits must be able to exercise, run, dig and jump as well as be able to stand up fully on their back legs without their ears touching the roof – depending on the breed and size of your rabbits a much larger/taller run or hutch may be necessary.
Rabbits need a correct and balanced diet. Ideally their diet should be made up of at least 80% good quality hay, 5% complete life stage appropriate nuggets and 15% fresh leafy greens and plants.
- They need 24 hour access to fresh, clean water. This should be provided in a way that they are used to, either bottles or bowls. If using bottles, you must check daily that rabbits can access the water and the end isn’t blocked.
- Bunnies should have constant access to fresh, clean, good quality hay at all times. They need a good bundle per day that is the same size at them! Ideally they should also have access to fresh grass as well. Rabbits teeth grow continuously so need access to constant forage and hay to help wear their teeth and keep their digestive tract healthy.
- Fresh leafy greens should be part of their daily diet, such as spring green, curly kale and parsley.
- A complete nugget food should be used to supplement their diet. This should be given in small amounts to provide vital nutrients. We do not recommend a muesli style food due to selective feeding and potential health risks.
Remember to give bunnies plenty to do. They are active and intelligent animals, needing toys and tunnels to keep them busy. Good examples are pots and boxes to dig in and interesting way to encourage foraging such the odd treat hidden in play balls with hay.
Vaccinating and Neutering Your Rabbits
At Pets Corner we will always advise to have your bunnies both vaccinated and neutered as preventative measures to ensure your rabbits live a long and happy life.
Vaccinating your bunnies protects them against two deadly diseases, Myxomatosis (Myxi) and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD or HVD). These viral diseases are almost always fatal, but can be prevented through vaccination.
- Myxomatosis is a viral disease which is transmitted by insects from infected wild rabbits. It is usually fatal after a period of suffering from sore, swollen eyes and respiratory distress.
- Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (HVD) is a viral disease which kills very quickly by causing severe bleeding disorders.
Protecting your rabbits with these annual vaccinations will help towards giving them a long, happy and healthy life.
Neutering your rabbits will enable you to keep them in pairs without the risk of fighting and, of course, unwanted breeding.
Rabbits are very sociable creatures who love company of their own kind. We always sell our bunnies in litter pairs to ensure they have the friendship and companionship they naturally crave. However, it is important to have them neutered to avoid any aggression or competition between the two.
Bucks (male rabbits) are responsive and enjoyable pets, but most are territorial and frequently spray urine, and aggression is a common problem. A neutered buck is generally more relaxed than a non-neutered male, making them much more responsive as a pet. Having the buck neutered means that they can enjoy life without constantly looking for a mate and they are likely to be much less aggressive. If introduced correctly, a neutered buck can live with a spayed female or another neutered male happily.
The operation when neutering a buck is minor, the benefits generally outweigh the risks greatly. Neutering can occur in males from the time that the testicles distend, although many veterinary surgeons prefer to wait until the rabbits are 4-5 months of age. This is very much vet dependant.
Does (female rabbits) often become territorial and aggressive from sexual maturity onwards (4-6 months). Female bunnies who are un-spayed can have repeated false pregnancies, and may growl at, bite and scratch their owners as well as other rabbits due to territorial and aggressive behaviour.
Spaying reduces and often eradicates all these behavioural problems. Spayed females are likely to live longer lives than their un-spayed sisters due to potential health risks. Unfortunately the risk of uterine cancer in unsprayed female rabbits is high and often seen to develop by the age of 5 years. Females who are not spayed when young and in good health may have to undergo the operation as an emergency in later life if this develops, prevention is always better than cure.
Spaying is generally performed when the doe reaches sexual maturity at 4-5 months, however this is veterinary surgeon dependant.
The cost of castrating and spaying rabbits varies greatly depending on the veterinary practice used. However, you can expect to pay between £50-£90 for bucks and £80-£120 for females as this is a slightly bigger operation that castration.
Our staff in store can direct you to a local friendly and bunny experienced veterinary practice who will be able to advise you further on both vaccinating and neutering your pets.