If you are considering buying your first pet rabbit, or even if you have owned one before and are thinking of getting another, it is important to do plenty of research, both into rabbits as a species, and the particular needs and concerns attached to each different rabbit breed.
While rabbits have been a popular and very commonly owned pet for centuries, our knowledge of rabbits and what they really need to be happy and healthy is information that has come on in great leaps in recent years, and what used to be viewed as a fairly simple, low maintenance pet is now understood and respected as a much more delicate and complex creature than they were historically.
In this article, we will cover ten pertinent rabbit facts that all owners and potential owners of pet rabbits should be aware of. Read on to learn more!
- Rabbits are social animals that should not be kept on their own without a companion, or they will be lonely and unhappy and not thrive. This means that spaying and neutering of rabbits is important, particularly if you keep males and females together, for obvious reasons! A female rabbit can produce a new litter every thirty days, and you will soon find yourself with more baby bunnies than you can handle! Even if you keep your rabbits in same-sex groups, spaying can help to protect female rabbits from cancer of the uterus, which is a common cancer of mature female rabbits.
- You should choose the material that you use for your rabbit’s bedding carefully, as not all products are suitable for use with them. Scented products that have artificial or natural aromas are a bad idea for rabbits in particular. Aromatic cedar or pine wood shavings are particularly to be avoided, as both of these fragrant woods release oils that can be harmful to your pet, and even cause long term liver damage.
- Rabbits can be taught to use a litter tray, just like cats can, and this is an essential factor of life with a house rabbit! However, again, you should choose the litter that you use carefully to avoid causing health problems. Clay cat litter or other products that form clumps can be ingested and block up your rabbit’s digestive system, and any litter that is dusty may affect your rabbit’s respiratory system.
- It is important that you rabbit-proof your home and garden, and any areas that your rabbit will have access to. Rabbits need to chew on things in order to keep their teeth at a comfortable length, and for some reason, articles such as electrical wires and loose carpet are particularly appealing to them! View your home and garden from your rabbit’s viewpoint, and ensure that everything that they may be able to reach is safe for them.
- When people think about buying rabbit food, they usually imagine ready mixed, rabbit-suitable pellet food, and perhaps the occasional piece of fruit or veg. However, the bulk of the rabbit’s diet should be grass or hay, and your rabbit should have free access to one or both of these things at all times. In order to stay healthy, the digestive system of the rabbit should be constantly moving, and if it stops due to having no more food to eat, getting it restarted again is difficult, and may need veterinary help. Suitable hay for rabbits include timothy hay, orchard grass and various others, and you should feed lots of it when your rabbit does not have access to grass.
- If your rabbit isn’t very tame or even becomes aggressive, never punish them by smacking them or speaking harshly to them. Rabbits are sensitive animals that do not understand cause and effect in the same way that we do, and responding angrily will not help.
- Rabbits are viewed as exotic pets within veterinary surgeries, and while most clinics will see a reasonable amount of rabbits and be able to diagnose and treat minor health issues, and perform standard procedures such as spay and neuter, for more complex problems, your rabbit might need to see a specialist vet. Find out about the provision for veterinary care for rabbits at your local clinic, and work out where you would need to go if they were unable to treat your pet.
- A loss of appetite or watery stools are conditions that in most pets (and people) tend to be minor issues that will resolve themselves within a day or so. However, both problems can be a veterinary emergency for rabbits, and so if your rabbit is off colour with either of these symptoms, contact your vet right away.
- It is a good idea to gain a basic understanding of rabbit health, and learn how to recognise some of the most common problems that can potentially afflict rabbits. These include problems with the teeth, which may require attention from your vet, and a range of other issues including ear mites, digestive issues, and flystrike. Some serious problems can be prevented with vaccination, such as myxomatosis, and so your rabbit should be vaccinated as soon as they are old enough.
- Children should not be permitted to handle rabbits unsupervised, and rabbits do not make a good pet for young children. Rabbits are very delicate and fragile animals that can easily be harmed or frightened, and so only older children who are experienced with rabbits should be in charge of their full time care.