Rabbits are great pets and are now very popular in the UK. They are friendly, content to play with and can be handled happily. With the correct diet, care and handling your rabbit will have a long and happy life.
This guide will provide you with all the information you need to get started with your new rabbit.
Feeding the correct diet is fundamental to maintaining the health of your rabbit, particularly their teeth and digestive system.
Rabbit mixes are generally low in fibre and high in carbohydrates which can lead to health problems such as;
- Dental diseases
- Facial abscesses
- Sore eyes
- Softer faeces which in turn can lead to fly strike
Rabbits are known to be fussy eaters and will often pick out their favourite bits from a mixed feed, leading to an unbalanced diet. Hay and grass foods should form most of your rabbit’s diet alongside a high-quality nugget diet.
Their diet can also be supplemented with fresh greens such as;
- Cauliflower leaves
- Romaine lettuce
Fresh water should always be available.
Whether your rabbit lives indoors or outside, a hutch is a perfect home. There are many designs, shapes, and sizes, so choosing the right one is essential.
The hutch should be high enough for your rabbit to stand on their back legs, and allow for a minimum of three to four hops in any direction.
Hay, barley straw or dust-free wood chippings can be used to line the hutch. This helps to absorb urine and keep the hutch comfortable.
Rabbits are clean animals by nature, so should have separate feeing and toilet areas which should be changed regularly. They can also be litter trained.
The hutch should always be dry, well-ventilated, kept cool in summer and warm in winter.
All bedding should be changed and thoroughly cleaned every 2-3 days.
Rabbits are social animals so it is better to keep more than one. Ideally, they should be of similar size, and from the same litter to prevent bullying. However, neutering is recommended as bullying can still occur especially in unrelated rabbits.
Myxomatosis is caused by a virus spread by fleas and mosquitoes. The infection can cause swelling and blindness within a few days. It makes eating and drinking more difficult and the infection usually proves fatal. Vaccination is essential to protect your rabbit against the disease.
VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease) is spread by direct contact between infected rabbits and also indirectly via contact with people. The disease can be very distressing for rabbits and cause loss of appetite, nose bleeds and blood clots which form in the lungs leading to breathing difficulties. Vaccination is essential to protect your rabbit against the disease
Speak to your vet for advice on vaccinating your rabbit.
Rabbits can be neutered from around 6 months of age and are highly recommended unless you wish to breed.
Neutering your rabbit will prevent unwanted pregnancies, eliminate the risk of uterine cancer and will make both sexes a lot calmer and less aggressive. This can reduce the risk of any behavioural issues.
Neutered animals are more prone to weight gain so be careful not to overfeed.
Microchipping is now available here too to keep track of your pet if he/she ever goes missing.
Dental disease is very common in pet rabbits. Rabbits’ teeth grow constantly throughout their lives, and without the correct diet can overgrow. The molars cause the biggest problems in rabbits as the teeth spike outwards into the cheeks and inwards towards the tongue causing painful sores.
Signs to watch out for include;
- Loss of appetite
- Abscesses around the face and jaw
- Weight loss
Fly strike is a common problem in rabbits but can be easily prevented. It is caused when flies lay their eggs in the matted faeces around the rabbit’s bottom. The eggs develop into maggots which eat away at the rabbit’s flesh. It can often prove fatal for rabbits.
In order to prevent fly strike, regularly check your rabbit’s bottom to make sure it is clean and no faeces are matting in the fur.