Rabbits are now the third most popular pets after cats and dogs and whilst they do make great companions, there are certain things to take into consideration before making the decision to bring one home.
Rabbits are social animals and it is best to keep them in pairs, the ideal combination being a female and male, a ‘husbun’ and wife if you like. Of course the male will need to be neutered and the female spayed. In fact spaying is vitally important as it protects female rabbits from a very prevalent cause of death, uterine cancer.
Rabbits will also need to be vaccinated yearly against two major causes of disease, myxomatosis and VHD, and they will need regular veterinary checkups. All of this adds to the cost of their upkeep.
As the saying goes, ‘a hutch is not enough’ for a rabbit. These are animals that need plenty of space to hop about and play. The ideal situation is to keep them as house rabbits or at least confined to one or two rooms. Of course this does call for some bunny proofing of cables or anything they might chew, but on the flip side they are easily housetrained to use a litter tray. More and more bunnies are now being kept as house rabbits and people are coming to appreciate what distinct and lovable little personalities they have.
The alternative is to keep them in a very large hutch or a small shed, both with spacious outdoor runs, where they can get plenty of exercise. Always make sure that if rabbits are kept outdoors then their enclosure and their run is predator-proof.
Of course every animal needs fresh water and food every day. The majority of a rabbit’s diet should be made up of hay, they can eat the size of their own body in hay every day, some rabbit food pellets and a small amount of fresh vegetables.
Hay is important for rabbits, not just because they need it to keep their digestion healthy, but also because it wears down their teeth, which are continually growing. In addition to hay, it is also fine for rabbits to eat grass, but never give them grass clippings as these can ferment in their systems and cause severe illness or even death.
Rabbits are by nature inquisitive and intelligent. They need toys, both to chew on, and to have fun with. You can enhance their playtime by hiding treats and food in toys and in their hay, and letting them discover them. They also enjoy tubes to run through and cardboard boxes that they can shelter in and chew on. Rabbits enjoy playing and running and if they are truly happy they will reward you with the cutest of acts, the binky, which is when they do those little leaps and twists in the air, for no other reason than to show how joyful they are.
Looked after properly rabbits can live for up to ten or twelve years. During that time they are going to need feeding, housing, toys, vaccinations and veterinary visits, all of which cost time and money. Make sure then that you have the ability and desire to fulfill their needs for a long time ahead. If you do think you can provide rabbits with love and care then please consider getting a pair from a rescue, as there are a growing number of rabbits being abandoned each year.
Rabbits can bring a lot of love and joy into your life, just make sure that you have the patience, finances and commitment to provide them with all their needs. All you give them, will be repaid to you twice over, when you see those happy binkies.
About the author: Alison Wood writes about the health and care of naughty little pets everywhere, on her aptly named website Pet Hooligans.