Choosing a Rabbit as a Pet
Easily tamed and sociable, rabbits are wonderful pets for older children and adults. Your indoor rabbit can also be house-trained and once this is done, they will make a wonderful companion.
Types of Rabbits
Lionhead Rabbits are a small breed of long haired rabbit. Sociable and friendly, they appreciate company, and because of their size, will live happily in a normal size rabbit cage or hutch. They have a relatively small appetite and will live for six to ten years.
Dwarf Rabbits are smaller than the lionhead rabbit. They are very sociable, affectionate and like lots of attention, so prefer to live with other rabbits. The dwarf rabbit has a lifespan of seven to ten years.
Lop Eared Rabbits are identifiable by their long ears that flop down alongside their head. They enjoy company and will like lots of attention from you. A lop eared rabbit can be expected to live between six and ten years.
Giant breeds are large size compared to other rabbits. Giant breeds share the same sociable nature of other rabbit breeds, but they tend to live for a shorter time, generally no more than five years.
There are many different types of the giant breeds including the Flemish giant, French Lop, Checkered Giant or Giant Chinchilla Rabbit. A Flemish giant Rabbit can live up to five years they are known for their long and powerful body. The French lop rabbit has a lifespan of five years or more and has loop ears and has a soft dense coat. The checkered giant rabbit is easy to spot; they will have checkered spots over their body and can live up to five years or more. The giant chinchilla is a stocky rabbit and does not require regular grooming.
Company for Rabbit
Rabbits are very sociable and are happiest when they have another rabbit for company. However, they should be neutered or spayed to prevent breeding or fighting. Neutered or spayed rabbits tend to live happily together. The best pairing is usually a neutered male with a spayed female.
Breeding females should be separated from males to prevent the males from attacking the young.
The average lifespan of a Rabbit is between seven and ten years, however giant breeds tend to live for shorter periods, of about five years.
Where Rabbits Like to Live
Rabbits can be kept indoors or outdoors. Your rabbit will need a cage or hutch which is at least four times larger than she is [consider her adult size when buying their cage], to ensure she have enough space to move around. If you have more than one rabbit, you will need a larger cage, or multiple cages to accommodate them.
Your rabbit can be kept outdoors all year round but ideally they should be brought into a shed or shelter provided for the winter to protect them against harsh weather conditions. A hutch cover is recommended to provide extra protection from the elements. Your rabbit’s hutch should be draught free and fully waterproof. It should also have a separate space where the Rabbit can exercise, and should be raised off the ground to provide protection from predators such as cats and foxes.
If your rabbit is going to live indoors, choose a cage which is specifically designed for indoor rabbits. It should be positioned in a cool room out of direct sunlight, away from radiators and clear of any draughts. Indoor rabbits will also like time every day out of their cage to get some exercise.
Exercise & Play for Rabbits
Rabbits can get very bored if they’re left alone in their cage (indoor) or hutch (outdoor), when you are not around. Stimulating natural behaviour by hiding treats around their cage and providing lots of gnawing toys will help to keep them entertained.
Unlike some small animals, Rabbits normally come out to play during the day and sleep at night.
Rabbits love exercise; it is a good idea let them out during the day under supervision in a play pen. Regular exercise will help the rabbit maintain good health. You may also like to take your rabbit for a walk, and bunny harnesses are available at your local Petmania.
Diet & Nutrition
Rabbits are vegans, which means they only eat vegetables, and should be fed a specialist mix rabbit food which will contain the mix of nutrients they require. Fresh hay, which is high in fibre and will aid their digestion, along with clean water, should also be given every day.
Because rabbits like to chew, and to help keep their teeth healthy, gnaw sticks and toys are also essential for your rabbit.
Occasional treats of fresh fruit or vegetables can be given in small amounts, but fruits with high sugar content such as grapes or bananas, should be avoided.
Health & Hygiene
A healthy diet, regular exercise and a clean home will help to keep your rabbit in good health.
Your rabbit’s cage or hutch should be cleaned at least once a week using a pet-safe disinfectant, while water and feeding bowls should be cleaned every day.
Hay and gnawing toys are an essential part of your pets dental routine and should always be available as they help to prevent overgrown teeth.
If you become concerned about any aspect of your rabbit’s wellbeing Petmania’s Pet Care Advisors have a wealth of experience and knowledge that they are only too happy to share, so please ask.
A healthy rabbit will:
- Be alert with bright eyes
- Have dry and clean nostrils
- Have a shiny coat
There are several common rabbit diseases, many of which are contagious. It’s vital that your rabbit is vaccinated against the two diseases known as Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD1 and VHD2). A single injection for each disease will fully protect your rabbit. Your local vet can advise you on these vaccinations and regular booster injections.
Keep an eye on your pet’s skin and coat for signs of fleas and mites such as bald patches or irritation. Regular grooming will help you identify any problems that may arise.
Outdoor rabbits are vulnerable to fly strike during the summer months so make sure you keep your rabbit and their environment clean and dry. Fly strike results from flies laying eggs on a Rabbits fur, these eggs then develop into maggots which then cause irritation for the Rabbit causing nasty wounds to develop if left untreated.
Regular grooming will help strengthen the relationship between you and your rabbit and it can also help to highlight any health problems. Use a soft brush or a grooming glove, brush your rabbits hair once a week (short hair) or daily if they have long hair to keep their skin and coats healthy, and to prevent the hair balls occurring.
Keeping your rabbit’s nails trim is also important. Our Pet Care Advisors can clip your bunny’s nails for you the next time you are in store.
Neutering or Spaying
Neutering (males) or spaying (females), can help your rabbit live a happier, healthier, and longer life, while also preventing unwanted breeding and reducing aggression.
Both neutering (males) and spaying (females) are surgical procedures done under anaesthetic; therefore there is minimal pain for the rabbit. You can neuter or spay your rabbit when it reaches sexual maturity which is around four to six months old.
Benefits of Neutering / Spaying:
- Prevent breeding or fighting
- Neutered or Spayed Rabbits tend to live better together
- Neutered or Sprayed Rabbits are healthier and make much better company
- Your rabbit will be calmer and more sociable
Take Me Home Checklist
When to take your rabbit home, you will need make sure you have some things to in order to help keep him healthy and happy. We’ve put together a simple ‘Take Me Home’ checklist for new bunny keepers. If you have any questions, or need any further advise, please drop in to your local Petmania and talk to our Petcare Advisors.
- Rabbit cage (indoor) or hutch (outdoor)
- Rabbit food
- Bedding (sawdust or wood shavings)
- Ceramic food bowl
- Water bottle
- Toys (gnaw sticks)
- Mineral lick
- Pet safe disinfectant
- Grooming glove or soft brush
- Rabbit treats
- Rabbit care book
- Vitamin supplements