Rabbits aren’t just cute and fluffy they are also incredibly clever and fun to live with. BUT did you know that Rabbits are the most neglected pet in the UK, what is going wrong?
Rabbits are extremely difficult to look after well, unless you are going to put your all into researching rabbits as pets, and how to keep them healthy and happy then I would heavily advise against you getting one. They are a LOT of work.
How can we ensure we make the right decision?
When deciding to share our lives with a pet, there are 5 welfare needs we all need to consider.
Let’s look a bit deeper into each of these for Rabbit welfare needs.
Rabbits must have space, room to run, jump and twist, lots of people underestimate exactly how much space a rabbit actually needs, most of the shop bought rabbit hutches are not enough, there have been many campaigns from rabbit welfare associations on this subject. if you do have a hutch make sure you also attach a run to the hutch and a play space for the rabbit to be able to dig in. If you are housing an outdoor Rabbit make sure that their living area is fully secure and stable to prevent any predator trying to break in. If you are housing in indoor Rabbit then every accessible area MUST be Rabbit proof, things like cables and carpets are usually the first to be chewed on.
1. Is Your environment big enough?
2. Is your environment safe?
The main Rabbit staple is of course HAY, and plenty more HAY, Make sure the hay is fresh and topped up daily. Diet is incredibly important to get right when it comes to Rabbits, in fact it is lifesaving!
Lots of bunnies do suffer from gut issues that can kill them if they eat the wrong thing, if this does happen then you will find yourself at an emergency vet. Becoming obsessed with your Rabbits poop is a MUST, you need to know ASAP how their gut is functioning.
Did you know that most of the ‘bunny’ food sold in pet shops isn’t healthy or even safe for them to eat? Its best to stick to natural foods such as forage. Even a regular carrot is too sugary for a bunny’s diet. Do your research.
When looking at a bunny and their daily natural habits. Bunnies are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn.
Does your housing cater for this activity?
Bunnies LOVE to run jump and twist in the air, this is called ‘Binkying’ whichis a wonderful sight to behold, and the more room they have the more spectacular display you will receive. This is why it is imperative that they have enough space to be able to do this wonderful display of joyfulness.
IF you have an indoor bunny, make sure that their flooring isn’t slippery, or they won’t feel safe to perform this normal behaviour.
Chewing is another normal behaviour All rabbits WILL perform, weather you give them things to chew or not as they will just find their own. It’s REALLY important for rabbits to keep on chewing, as unlike our teeth, their teeth are constantly growing. So it is really important for them to be able to grind their teeth on hay and other chew safe products which need to be accessible 24/7 for them.
Digging is another natural behaviour bunnies need to do, it’s important for you to provide them an area where they can safely dig, dig, dig.
It is important for any bunny owner to start to educate themselves on the language of Rabbits and their normal behaviours and what they mean. Most of all Bunnies need to feel safe and secure at all times.
Rabbits are generally social animals and thrive in the company of others. Bonding 2 unknown rabbits together can be really tricky for most people to be able to do, Luckily when I rescued my rabbits the extremely knowledgeable rescue bonded them for me, but it took quite a few days to do, it was very time consuming and can be quite stressful as the fall out can be viscous fighting. But once they are fully bonded (can take 6 months) then the bond that they share is a joy to watch. Sometimes some bunnies are really hard to find a friend for, it’s an intricate task indeed.
When your rabbit gets ill you need to catch on and react quickly. As prey animals, they don’t show illness like us they hide the pain, you have to look for subtle changes in their behaviour. It is so important to register your rabbit with a rabbit savvy vet, which unfortunately not all vets are, rabbits are included in the ‘exotic pet’ category so make sure your vet caters for them and is knowledgeable on them, here is a website that have all the Rabbit savvy vets in your area: https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-welfare-association-fund/our-work/rabbit-friendly-vets/rabbit-friendly-vet-list/
Rabbits are prone to MANY health problems, so it is important for you to insure your Rabbit, they are well known to suffer from gut issues, dental issues, abscesses and ocular issues. They will need regular check-up visits, 2 x vaccinations a year, regular claw trimming and dental checks. PDSA Annual paw report states that 80% of rabbit owners underestimated the monthly cost of having a bunny.
Did you know that Rabbits eat their own poop? They make 2 different kinds of poop. Little brown round ones (the ones we all know about) and softer black ones known as Cecotropes. These are the poops that the rabbits eat, Once eaten they then digest this a second time, this is because there are still a lot of nutrients that the Rabbit needs in these.
So those are the 5 Welfare needs ALL rabbits would like you to consider and be knowledgeable about before you bring them into their new home.
As a prey animal they aren’t the best pet for small children, rabbits don’t like being picked up and only like being stroked on their terms, as mentioned before they need to feel safe and secure, so handling is another big issue that most people don’t think about when bringing a rabbit home. Your rabbit must trust you in order to feel safe. This requires skill in handling and also knowledge in rabbit body language and behaviour.
Kind Regards, Rabbit.
Resources for rabbit owners:
Emma Goulding-Bosworth runs Emma’s Animals based in Egham, Surrey UK, which has been running since 2012. Emma is a Certified Animal Behaviourist with INTODogs and ICAN. She is also a Tellington Ttouch practitioner, Animal Reiki Practitioner, Mantrailing UK instructor, Scentwork UK instructor and The Real Dog Yoga Instructor.