Rabbits are pretty much the cutest thing. With their iconic ears, bouncing paws, and nervous nose, it's understandable that many people want one as a pet. But like any pet, bringing home a rabbit requires preparation and knowledge of what you're getting into.
|Owning A Rabbit: What You Should Know Before Getting a Pet Rabbit|
This is especially true for rabbits. Most of us know what to expect when we get a cat or a dog, more or less, but caring for a rabbit is not something we know. This could explain why rabbits are the third most delivered animals to shelters, according to PETA.
Armed with a little knowledge, however, you can be ready to take care of a rabbit – or, well, rabbits, but more on that in a moment.
This is an informative article. Nodisk One is not permitted to make a diagnosis or recommend any form of veterinary care. If your pet is in pain or ill, we recommend that you take him to the vet.
Rabbits Can Live 10 To 12 Years
This is perhaps the most important thing to know about rabbits, as they require a considerable degree of daily and weekly care throughout their lives. Considering how long they live, it's a good job of more than just feeding and scooping up after their poop. This is an especially important commitment if a rabbit is given to a child as a pet, then that child goes off to college, and now that rabbit is the responsibility of the parent or guardian. And speaking of children...
They Are Not Good Pets For Children
Yes, every child would love to have a little hop bunny, but the bunny may be less than thrilled to have a little child as their primary caretaker. Rabbits are prey animals, as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) notes, and as such they are easily startled by loud noises and jerky movements. Picking up rabbits is also prohibited as it may make them think they have been caught by a predator. The HSUS strongly advises parents or guardians to wait until children are older before the family adopts a rabbit.
An adult (18 years or older) should be your rabbit's primary caregiver. It must be recognized that rabbits are not appropriate pets for children under 8 years of age. For children 8 years and older, an adult should be the primary caregiver for rabbits.
Outdoor Housing For Rabbits
Rabbits require constant protection against predators. They require a sizable hutch that is protected from predators when kept outdoors (cats, dogs, foxes). This ought to keep out insects (mosquitoes) and shield the rabbits from bad weather. Position the hutch so that it is also protected from the weather (on a veranda or terrace).
The hutch should be elevated off the ground, sturdy, waterproof, and easy to clean. Do not use a metal hutch or shed as overheating may occur. Rabbits are prone to heat stress. The hutch should be put in a shed during the winter months in cold climates. The space allowance for housing rabbits outside is the same as for housing in the door.
Temperature And Ventilation For Your Rabbit
Pet Rabbit with Protruding Ears to the Side Rabbits need protection from temperature extremes and weather in all environments (including outdoor living spaces and enclosures).
The suggested temperature range is between 10 and 25 °C. Outdoor hutches should be covered with a blanket or rug on cold nights (taking care not to block ventilation). Indoor living areas should be located in a cool, draft-free room out of direct sunlight. Buildings that are enclosed need ventilation.
You Must Make Your House Rabbit-Proof
If you don't have the space for a dedicated rabbit room or a large cage, giving your rabbit free rein in the living space may be your only option, and that means preparing the rest of the house. Rabbits' teeth keep growing, so they love chewing on everything, including furniture and wires. Plastic tubing around the cables will take care of that temptation to chew on, or taping the wires up out of the rabbit's reach will also work.
When it comes to wood furniture or baseboards, Best Friends Animal Society recommends wood or plastic coverings to protect furniture, cardboard barriers around chair legs, or chew deterrent sprays, like Grannick's Bitter Apple. Also useful? Make sure your rabbit has plenty of safe, easy-to-chew toys as alternatives.
Rabbits Do Best As Indoor Pets
Unlike their wild counterparts, pet rabbits live longer and healthier lives when kept indoors. Outdoors, these prey species are exposed to dangerous wild predators, including hawks, foxes, coyotes, and stray dogs.
It is the owner's responsibility to ensure that the rabbit's environment is clean and hygienic. For cleaning, only high-quality, pet-friendly disinfectants should be used. Rinse and dry the hutch thoroughly before bringing the rabbit in. The living area should be cleaned daily or as often as needed so that your rabbit has a clean and healthy environment. Cleaning should include:
- Removing and replacing any soiled or wet bedding.
- Disposal of uneaten fresh food.
- Cleaning water and food containers.
Clean the toilet area daily. Use high-quality hay at the toilet area. This can be supplied in a litter box to help with containment and cleaning. One tray of hay per rabbit is recommended.
Running areas should be rotated or cleaned regularly.
Protecting Your Rabbit From Hazards
It is important to provide defense from predators and animal harassment. Keep living spaces and runs clean and free of disease-carrying rodents and feral rabbits. They also stress out caged rabbits.
To further prevent the spread of disease, insect proofing is advised, protect against of disease (for example, myxomatosis). Use caution when applying pesticides, herbicides, and cleaning supplies. Always read the packaging before using anything around rabbits. Keep medications, household cleaners, and other items that aren't meant for use on or consumption by rabbits out of the rabbits' reach.
Don't let rabbits roam around in flowerbeds or other areas that may contain poisonous plants. If you suspect your rabbit has come into contact with anything harmful, you should seek a veterinarian's advice right away.
Socialization And Early Experiences
Early experiences can have a big influence on rabbit behavior. While some rabbits are naturally more trusting than others, experience with humans and rabbits (socialization) is essential during the first weeks of life.
Rabbits that have had no experience with humans may find it difficult to cope and adapt to their surroundings as adults. This can lead to fear-related aggression towards people (including their owner), making it difficult to handle the rabbit and provide care.
It is the responsibility of the breeder to ensure that the rabbit is well socialized from an early age and is able to deal with most new situations and people confidently as an adult. . Socialization involves:
Introduce The Rabbit Appropriately To Different People
- provide experiences important for behavioral development, experiencing objects and sounds in a safe environment.
- The rabbit should never be coerced into interacting, and he or she should always have access to a secure hiding place.
- Rabbits instinctively fear other animals such as dogs, cats and birds. Other pets should be introduced to rabbits gradually, and they should always have the option to avoid them. Never leave a rabbit alone with a cat or dog, even if he is familiar with them.
When you bring home a rabbit, it should be gradually introduced to its new environment and handled.
They Like To Be With Other Rabbits
Rabbits are social animals that depend on each other to survive in the wild. A rabbit by itself should be alert at all times to potential predators, but if there is another rabbit around, that spreads the blame around it. And since rabbits only talk rabbit, it helps them feel much safer if there's another rabbit around. Related to this, neutering and neutering your rabbit is a good decision if you're going to have two rabbits, but it's generally smart even if you're going to stick with just one rabbit.
Rabbits Need Exercise And Space To Roam
PedMD recommends a good four hours of exercise per day for rabbits, which basically means leaving them locked in a cage all day isn't the best idea. Exercise for rabbits, like humans, helps with overall health, including digestion and mental health, and why wouldn't you want a happy rabbit? If you have the space, an entire room just for your bunny is probably a good idea, as it gives him plenty of room to run back and forth.
If you don't have the space, then the cage or container holding your rabbit should be a minimum of five times the size of the rabbit, according to the HSUS, and that includes at a vertical level so the rabbit can stand up. without hitting its head, on its hind legs. Tiered containers are also recommended. The rabbit area will need to be refreshed daily and cleaned once a week.
Jumping, running, jumping off of elevated surfaces, and performing "binkies" are all forms of exercise for rabbits (jumping in the air and twisting the head and body in opposite directions). Rabbit enclosures should be as large as possible to encourage rabbits to perform the full range of exercise behaviors. Runs must provide:
- Appropriate platforms.
- Hidden tunnels and holes.
- Outdoor access to grassy areas.
- Sheltered areas.
- Space for them to be alone.
Rabbits should be supervised at all times when exercising or exploring outside of the rabbit enclosure. Outdoor exercise areas should be rabbit-proof to prevent escapes.
Raising And Breeding Rabbits
When raising rabbits, it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that the welfare needs of parents and offspring are met. Adequate homes must be provided for all children resulting from a pregnancy, whether planned or unplanned. A veterinarian should be consulted regularly - before, during and after pregnancy.
At 4 months old, rabbits are sexually mature. They can produce 4-12 kittens per litter and have up to 6 litters per year. If you are not going to breed your rabbits, they should be desexed by a veterinarian. Female rabbits can be desexed as early as 4 months old and male rabbits can be desexed as early as 3 months old.
Desexing rabbits has positive health and wellness benefits in addition to simply preventing them from reproducing. The benefits of desexing include:
- Reduction in problem behaviors such as aggression, nesting, spraying and mounting behavior.
- Rrevention of infections of the uterus or cancer.
- Allowing companionship without unwanted pregnancies.
Identification Of Rabbits
Permanent identification (microchip) is recommended as a precautionary measure in case the rabbit escapes. The microchip must be implanted by a qualified person and registered with your local council and pound.
Rabbits Need More Than Carrots
The common misconception is that rabbits only eat vegetables all day, and some may want to, but it's important to provide your rabbit with a varied yet healthy diet. According to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF), rabbits should be fed a healthy, balanced diet at least once a day. Food such as good quality fresh hay should always be available to the rabbit, day and night. Uneaten food from the previous meal should be accounted for before giving more food. Moldy or contaminated food should be removed immediately.
Rabbits are herbivores. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that the rabbit receives an appropriate high fiber diet. The fiber helps wear down their teeth and promotes healthy bowel function. Diets high in fiber enrich the environment. A high fiber diet for rabbits includes:
- 90% good quality hay (oat or grass hay) or dried or fresh grass pulled from the ground (avoid grass clippings, clovers and dirty grass that may have been treated with pesticides or be contaminated with feces).
- 10% green leafy plants (broccoli, cabbage, parsley, watercress, celery leaves and kale) and wild plants (column, bramble, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry and dandelion). The rabbit can be provided with safe tree twigs (apple, pear) that haven't been pesticide-treated for chewing.
- Small amounts of specialized rabbit food (granules or nuggets) should be limited to 1 tablespoon per rabbit per day. Obesity may result from consuming these foods in excess. Be careful when feeding muesli-type mixes, as rabbits are selective eaters and tend to choose the tastiest ingredients, leading to dietary imbalance.
- Fruit can be fed but only occasionally due to the high sugar content.
All green foods should be washed and dried before feeding. Many plants are toxic to rabbits. Only plants whose identity is known and which have been confirmed as non-toxic to rabbits should be fed. Feeding changes should be introduced gradually over 2 to 4 weeks, especially when weaning or introducing green plants.
Improper diets can cause obesity, dental and intestinal problems in rabbits. Rabbits should not be fed too many specialized rabbit treats. Avoid sugary treats as they are harmful to the rabbit's teeth. Changes in the rabbit's eating habits should be watched closely as it can be a sign of illness. Rabbits may have other dietary needs while pregnant or recovering from illness. Ask your veterinarian or a qualified pet care specialist for advice.
A rabbit has a specialized digestive system and produces grape-like faeces called cecotrophs which it re-degenerates to receive even more nutrients.
Food containers should be large enough in size or number that all of your rabbits can comfortably eat at the same time.
Water for your rabbit
Rabbits should have fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Metal-tipped bottles or teats should be placed about 10cm off the floor (not too high for the rabbit to reach comfortably and not too low for contamination from urine, feces or fur) . They should not protrude more than 2.5 cm into the rabbit hutch or cage. Automated waterers are recommended with a backup system in place so rabbits still have access to water if the automated system fails.
Bottles or drinkers should be cleaned regularly and checked for leaks or air blockages. Even though a water bowl is less hygienic than a bottle, water can also be provided in it. Clean the water bowl regularly. A rabbit may refuse to drink if water is given in a different way than normal, which can lead to dehydration.
Make sure the water has not frozen when it is cold outside.
Rabbits Need Unique Medical Care
As with any pet, you should be aware of your rabbit's general well-being, but rabbits have their own needs. As such, rabbits also have their own specialist vets, according to PETA, and they can be more expensive than your regular vet. The RSPCA recommends annual visits to the vet to check their teeth, test for parasites and get vaccinated.
Dental care for rabbits
A rabbit's teeth grow continuously throughout its life and are usually worn down by a diet high in roughage (hay and grasses). Access to hard and chewing objects can also help wear down teeth and prevent incisor overgrowth.
A rabbit's teeth should be checked regularly. Dental problems caused by oversized or misaligned teeth can affect a rabbit's ability to eat and can also be painful. Lack of appetite and drooling are often signs of dental problems, and veterinary advice should be sought promptly.
A veterinarian should treat teeth that are out of alignment or that are overgrown.
Weight And Rabbits
Overweight or underweight rabbits can have health problems as a result. Potential issues include:
- Sore joints and feet.
- Decreased ability and willingness to exercise.
- Thermal stress.
- Nutritional deficiencies by the impossibility of reingesting cecotrophs (soft ball like the faeces that it consumes directly from the anus).
- Fly strike.
- Difficulty in grooming.
When the ribs are easily felt, a rabbit is at the ideal weight. The ribs should be rounded, not sharp, with a thin layer of soft tissue padding. The lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones should be easily palpable but not protruding.
Adjust your rabbit's diet so that it does not become overweight or underweight.
Owning a rabbit requires a significant financial and personal commitment. All reasonable measures must be taken to ensure that the rabbit's needs are met, as required by law. A rabbit needs a good environment that provides it:
- protection from climatic turbulence.
- water and food in moderation.
- freedom of movement, protection from pain and suffering.
It's crucial to keep an eye out for behavioral changes that could indicate your rabbit is in distress, ill, or having trouble adjusting to its environment (its needs are not being sufficiently met).
Only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, are used by Nodisk One to substantiate the information in our articles.