Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets
Rabbits have long been synonymous with celebrations of Spring and Easter. If looked after well they can be rewarding, lovely pets and can be so much fun.
Here is some advice on Rabbit care.
Ideally do try to keep rabbits in pairs, or a compatible group, as they are not solitary animals. Naturally sociable they like companionship and their behaviour will reflect this.
Neutering them will prevent unwanted litters and potential fighting and neutered rabbits are generally happier and healthier.
Rabbits are sensitive animals so children should be taught how to safely handle and care for them. They are not an ideal first pet for very young children as they do need quiet, patient handling and minimal stress.
Annual vaccinations are very important against myxomatosis and VHD
Rabbits can live for up to ten years and as with all other pet animals they need time and attention and checked on at least twice in the day.
They must be kept in spacious accommodation which allows them to stand up, hop, stretch and play.
Most rabbits are happy living either indoors or out. If you choose to keep them as indoors extra care must be taken to keep them safe. Generally, rabbits can live side by side with other household pets such as cats and dogs quite happily, provided that the other animal in question is well trained and does not view your rabbit as prey. Introduce other pets to your rabbit carefully and slowly, and make sure that your rabbit can always escape to an area of safety. Rabbits are relatively easy to litter train and will usually go to the toilet in the same place every time. A paper-based biodegradable litter is safest. Rabbits are chewers so always provide plenty of safe things for them to chew on! All electric cables must have a strong protective covering or wire guard around them, and house plants should be moved as they may be poisonous.
Outdoor rabbits also need plenty of room with a large hutch and surrounding run and a private compartment for them to retire to for some privacy. It is important that any outdoor accommodation is sited in a sheltered, shaded area away from direct sunlight, strong winds, and rain.
A healthy diet is one of the most important parts of your rabbit’s care. An inappropriate diet can lead to obesity, digestive issues and severe dental problems. Hay and grass should be the basis making up to 85% of a rabbit’s diet. They also need a daily variety of fresh leafy greens as 10 % of their diet. Kale, spinach and savoy cabbage are ideal. Cereal-based diets are high in sugar and low in minerals and should not be given. Small quantities of a good complete pellet diet are a better choice making up 5% of their diet. Carrots and fruit can be high in sugar and starch, so only feed as an occasional “treat”. Never give rabbits lawn grass cuttings as this will cause serious health problems. Fresh clean water must always be available and changed daily.
Indoors or out Rabbits need daily mental stimulation to maintain physical and mental well-being. This can be encouraged by providing them with plenty room to run around in and safe things for them to chew on, such as apple wood, willow or small wooden blocks or chews. Also try to provide plenty of cardboard boxes and tubes for them to run through and hide in and hang some fresh root vegetables up on a string for them to nibble.
All our four-legged friends can help us enormously with our own mental health and emotions. If we are feeling a little anxious due to isolation, just take this time to sit and observe your pets and enjoy watching their behaviour. Looking after our pets does provide us with some positive focus during these worrying times.