Rabbit Care - How To Take Care Of A Rabbit
They’re cute, small and fluffy, but they also require a lot of care and attention. Owning a rabbit is certainly a big responsibility. Don’t confuse rabbit care with hamster care or other small animals, as they have very different needs and responsibilities. You’d be forgiven for thinking rabbits are a relatively simple pet to take care of, but there’s a lot to consider when it comes to taking care of rabbits as pets, especially when it comes to their diet, environment and ensuring they play well with other rabbits.
Before you welcome rabbits into the home as pets, you should make sure you have enough space to properly take care of them, and that you have enough hours in the day to make sure they get the care and attention that they need. Read on to find out more about owning a rabbit and how to provide proper bunny care in our rabbit care guide.
How Long do Rabbits Live?
On average, you can expect your pet rabbit to live anywhere between eight and 12 years, but that depends on the breed. When they’re well cared for, some breeds such as dwarf rabbits, mini lops, and other smaller bunnies can live for longer than 12 years. Larger breeds, such as French lops and Flemish giants, have a shorter rabbit lifespan may not make it to double digits.
Rabbits are incredibly social and require regular interaction with other rabbits and humans in order to stay mentally healthy. Rabbits that are kept on their own are more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression and generally live shorter lives than rabbits kept in pairs.
Rabbits are prey animals and this plays a huge role in shaping their personalities. Their natural response to a perceived threat is to run and hide, so it’s important to ensure that your rabbits have plenty of space in their environment to hide if they ever feel threatened. Think about what other animals you have in your household. This is one of the most important parts of bunny care 101!
Rabbits love to play and have fun and can even be litter trained. They’re naturally inquisitive animals so it’s important to provide lots of enrichment toys to keep them mentally stimulated. Rabbits love foraging for food, so experiment by hiding treats in hay, in tunnels, or in food balls. You’ll know when your rabbits are happy as they’ll do a cute, exciting hop that’s called a binky.
How to Know if Your Rabbit is Healthy
As a prey species, rabbits will naturally hide signs of illness, so it’s important to know what to look out for.
Healthy rabbits have clear and bright eyes.
A rabbit’s coat should be well-kept, clean and never matted
Rabbits should be constantly gnawing away at hay. Lack of appetite could indicate dental or gut problems.
The area around the rabbits’ bottom should be kept regularly cleaned, as dirty bottoms can lead to the horrible flystrike.
Rabbits’ teeth are constantly growing. Their upper front teeth should neatly align with the bottom ones and not overgrow.
They may not be much bigger than guinea pigs, but rabbits need a larger environment. Rabbits can be kept outdoors or indoors, but you must make sure that any environment you create for your rabbit allows them to display all of their natural behaviors. This means providing them with plenty of space. In the wild, rabbits will run the length of several football pitches every single day and exercise is an incredibly important way of keeping them healthy. You should make sure your rabbit has access to a run, a gated area that lets your rabbit exercise outside of its hutch.
Rabbit hutches should be a minimum of 6ft x 2ft so your rabbit is able to stand on its back feet. Rabbits in cramped hutches can develop bone deformities. They’re very clean animals by nature so whether you’re keeping your rabbits indoors or in a hutch outdoors, make sure they’ve got a separate litter area lined with hay and newspaper.
If you’re keeping your rabbits primarily outdoors, make sure that their hutch is well ventilated and cool, ideally somewhere in the shade. Rabbits can overheat very easily, so if their hutch becomes too hot, your rabbits could become seriously ill and even die. If you’re keeping your rabbits indoors, make sure you’ve taken the necessary steps to rabbit-proof your home. This includes hiding any cables or wrapping them with rabbit-proof tape.
Providing the right diet is an important part of providing basic rabbit care. 85-90% of a rabbit’s diet should be high-quality feeding hay or grass from your garden. The rest of your rabbit’s diet should comprise fresh, leafy vegetables and nutritious feeding nuggets. Never feed your rabbits muesli, as research has linked this to health issues. Your rabbits should always have constant access to fresh, clean drinking water and the water source should be cleaned or changed every day.
Hay and grass are so important because rabbits are all about fiber. The fiber from the hay they eat is digested and then pooped back out as something called caecotrophs. These are soft droppings that are then eaten by the rabbits to get the nutrients they need.
How to Hold Rabbits
Start picking up your rabbit from an early age to make sure they become familiar with human contact.
- Begin by slowly approaching your rabbit so it doesn’t see you as a threat
- Pick up the rabbit close to ground level and hold it gently but firmly
- Ensure that one of your hands is resting underneath your rabbit’s lower back/ bottom and the other hand is underneath the belly
- Bring your rabbit close to you so all four of its feet are resting against your body. This will make it feel safe
Some of the most common health issues that rabbits suffer from are dental or gut-related. Many of the most common health issues in rabbits can be avoided by feeding a high-quality diet and regularly checking for signs of illness. We’d always advise that your rabbits are protected with exotic pet insurance to keep vet bills low should they ever develop any common rabbit diseases.