Here at Pets4Homes, we are delighted to be celebrating Rabbit Awareness Week 2022, also known as ‘RAW’ which is an annual campaign dedicated to the welfare of rabbits. It runs from 27th-1st July and this year the focus is “Room for Rabbits”.
It aims to educate rabbit owners on all aspects of their care and it’s proudly supported by a number of charity partners.
Along with behavior, diet, companionship and health, the environment rabbits live in is crucial to their wellbeing. These are known as the 5 welfare needs. Whether your rabbits live indoors or outdoors it is essential that they have enough space to exhibit their natural behaviors.
What was once thought of as rabbits’ main housing area, put simply, a cramped hutch is not enough. Rabbits need space to roam and a secure exercise area that is permanently attached to their housing which is protected from the elements and predators.
Suzanne Moyes, in-house vet at Burgess Pet Care says just how important housing is: “It remains a common misconception that rabbits are easy, low maintenance pets that are ideal for children – but a lack of understanding of these curious and intelligent creatures means that many are suffering, even though that’s the last thing many owners would want. Following a surge in demand for rabbit ownership in the UK during the past two years, it is more important than ever that collectively we educate owners and continue to help improve rabbits’ welfare. One of the ways to do this is by helping owners understand their housing needs and how this impacts upon their wellbeing."
Our rabbits’ home needs to be tall enough for them to stand up on their back legs without their long ears touching the roof. As rabbits love to run, jump, explore and forage and take consecutive hops, they should also be able to lie fully outstretched in any direction, and enjoy doing all of the things that come naturally to them!
The housing itself should be big enough to allow your rabbits to make at least three hops. It’s recommended it is a minimum of 3m x 2m x 1m tall. Their hutch should be permanently attached to a larger space within which they can exercise freely. This could be a safe bunny-proofed room indoors, or a large run outdoors.
Your rabbits should also have full access to their exercise area at all times so they can run around as they would in the wild.
In the wild, rabbits are prey animals so it is important that they feel safe. Your rabbits’ housing should have safe hiding places so that they can escape if they feel scared. Make sure you have a secure shelter with plenty of suitable bedding and dust-free hay.
Your rabbits will also need access to an area where they can go to the toilet. This should be separate to the sleeping areas, and you can use newspaper, hay/straw and/or a paper based non-expanding litter.
It’s important to provide enrichment toys for your rabbits. Tunnels, platforms, as well as at least one hiding place per rabbit with two entrances/exits work well. Rabbits love to dig, and there are some great rabbit housing attachments that you can add to your current set up to facilitate this!
Your rabbits should have a constant fresh supply of good-quality feeding hay, placed in areas that are separate to the bedding area. There should also be fresh, clean water constantly available.
>> Remember the three hop rule! Your rabbits should have enough space to lie stretched right out and hop at least three times <<
Don’t forget to stay up to date on the RAW social media which will be jam-packed with competitions, videos and is the place to be in the 16th Rabbit Awareness Week to celebrate all things rabbit welfare!
Follow Rabbit Awareness Week on Facebook
Join Rabbit Awareness Week on Instagram
Plus, you can get involved by downloading a Rabbit Awareness Week pack! Download yours today on the Rabbit Awareness Week website where you can print your own bunting, download our colouring sheets and access useful guides to help you keep your bunnies happy and healthy.
Have you heard of the Rabbit Awareness Action Group? The team that brought you RAW, have come together for a year-round rabbit welfare campaign.
The RAAG team are committed to raising awareness for the five welfare needs of rabbits and supporting the Good Practice Code for the Welfare of Rabbits. Collectively we can all make the Good Practice Code law in England, that is, with your help!
The Animal Welfare Act contains the five welfare needs of our pets. Dogs, cats, and horses also have codes of practice. The codes of practice outline how owners can meet each of the five welfare needs.
At the moment, rabbits do not have a code of practice. But this could change. We can change the law and make sure our pet rabbits are protected.
You can read the Good Practice Code for the Welfare of Rabbits on the RAAG website.
You can help us change the law in England. The RAAG partners have written a letter of support which they are currently campaigning to secure enough signatures to be able to demonstrate to parliament the importance of this issue.