Thinking of getting a Rabbit?

Our Top Tips for looking after them...

When thinking about a pet for children the fluffy bunny always seems to spring to mind but is a rabbit the best choice?

Rabbits are highly sociable creatures and are much happier with a lot of interaction and company. 57% of rabbits are kept alone which can result in loneliness.  The British Veterinary Association has raised concerns highlighted by vets where 1 in 5 have flagged up concerns with health and welfare.

Often bought on impulse rabbits are believed to be ‘easy’ pets to keep but, like any companion animal, they need regular attention, a healthy diet, keeping clean and well. However, by choosing wisely doing your homework, putting in place good care and positive attention rabbits can make the most wonderful pets.  Rabbits naturally want to be clean and will happily use a litter area whether that is in a hutch or as house rabbits. House rabbits have grown in popularity and are particularly good to have in smaller homes or flats. Rabbits can live in hutches but they must be big enough for them to move around freely, have separated sleeping areas and whenever possible get outside in a run to stretch their legs and exercise.

FEEDING

Every day Your Rabbit Will Need These 4 things -

1. HAY Provide roughly your rabbit’s body size in good quality hay to eat.  Keep it separate from the bedding. Not giving enough hay can result in damage to their teeth which can cut and harm their gums and tongue.
2. VEGETABLES A handful of greens, vary what you give to ensure a mixture of nutrients. Give fruit sparingly as they don’t need the sugar. Veggies, just like us though, are very important.
3. DRY FOOD 1-2 tablespoons of good quality nuggets.
4. FRESH WATER fresh clean water should be available at all times, empty the bottle and refill don’t just top up. Make sure the bottle is clean and isn’t going green. If the water doesn’t seem to be going down do check to make sure the nozzle is working. Some rabbits prefer drinking from a bowl - keep watching to make sure they have enough water every day.

Keep an eye on your rabbit, too thin? increase the food, too fat? which can happen with not enough exercise and a huge bowlful of nuggets and not enough greens, reduce the food.

HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

Give your rabbit a lot of space and a variety of things to do so they don’t get bored. In their living space they should be able to dig, run and play every day. So give them planters filled with potting compost for digging, large diameter tubes for running through and cardboard boxes for exploring. Provide toys, platforms for climbing, untreated logs to help them explore, give them cardboard boxes to discover and change them often as well as playing they can make great hiding places. Swap the toys around so they don’t get bored, change their living area frequently.

Ideally ensure they have the company of another rabbit for companionship and play.

Handle your rabbits regularly from a young age – especially in the in the first month after they’re born – so they are used to being handled as adults.

TRAINING

Train your rabbit to use a litter tray. Simply put some of their droppings in the tray or area you want them to use and when they do use it offer a reward, a treat, piece of carrot or cucumber anything that you know they like. Very quickly they will cotton on and they want to be clean so it becomes very easy to encourage. Make sure you use a non clumping, non toxic litter.

HOUSING & RUNS

This is one area where we see many rabbits suffering, your rabbit unless it is a house rabbit is going to spend an awful long time in it’s cage and run. It HAS to be as big as it possibly can, sadly too many hutches are just simply far too small and cruel.

What should the hutch be like?
The Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals recommend a minimum of2’ high x 2’ wide by 6’ long. We think even bigger would be better.
• It should be big enough to allow them to lie down and stretch out in all directions. Tall enough so they can stand up on their back legs without their ears touching the top. Long enough to allow at least three hops.
• It should also be weatherproof and raised off the ground.
• Line the hutch with newspaper and/or clean woodshavings, then put soft straw on top.
• Put clean, dry hay or straw down as bedding in the sleeping area
Do my rabbits need an exercise run as well as a hutch?
Yes. In the wild, rabbits have a home territory the size of 30 tennis courts! Give them as much space as you can. A large run on a grassy area helps ensure rabbits get enough exercise.

What should my rabbit run be like?
• It must be both escape-proof and safe from foxes.
• It should be located out of direct sunlight and strong winds – and offer some shade.
• Ideally, their run should be attached to the hutch so that the rabbits can exercise whenever they want.
• A run should be tall enough to allow rabbits to stretch up to full height and they should be able to run, rather than just hop. A suggested minimum size of run for most rabbits is 2’high x 4’ widex 8ft long
In Winter
When it gets really cold move the hutch into a conservatory, garage or very sheltered area with a cover to keep out the wind, rain and damp.

In summer?

Always make sure there is plenty of shade for the run and hutch, rabbits can suffer heatstroke.

Keeping the hutch clean
Everyday remember to do these 3 things
1. Remove any wet or dirty shavings or bedding.
2 Removing any uneaten fresh food.
3. Clean the food and water containers before refilling them.

Once a week

• Clean out completely and use a non-toxic cleaner to freshen up and make sure you get in the corners and right up to the edges.
• Clean the food bowl and water bottle.
• Clean out the litter tray and disinfect.

Every 2/3 months

• Strip it out completely.
• Scrub it thoroughly inside and out.
• Only allow your rabbits back in when it is completely dry.
HEALTH
Doing all of the above and spending time with your rabbits will ensure that they have the best possible chance of a healthy, happy life. Spending time with them will allow you to really get to know them and you will notice if they seem unwell or there are any changes that might mean a visit to the vet.

Keeping them well

1. Register with a vet and take their advice on neutering and vaccinations.
2. Brush them regularly, this will help with bonding it raises oxytocin which allows them to relax and connect, especially good for children. It will also keep their coats smooth and shiny.
3. Ensure when you leave them if you go away for a few days or longer that they are with someone who knows exactly what they need to eat, how to look after them and can be trusted to keep them safe.