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Rabbit Keeping Guide

Rabbits are a traditional pet within many UK families. Rabbits can be very docile and intelligent pets, who are both affectionate and sociable. This makes a rabbit a great addition to the family as they want to interact with you. Rabbits can live up to ten years and are becoming more common as indoor house pets. They are reasonably easy to train as house pets. I am sure that you are well aware of the rewards of owning a pet however, it is right that like owning any pet there are considerations that you must be aware of.

Considerations

Daily Care

Rabbits are reasonably self sufficient but will require daily attention and feeding which are covered in more detail throughout this guide. The cage/hutch will need to be checked on a daily basis with a thorough clean weekly. The rabbits will need time in their run or in the garden as in their natural environment they would be exploring and grazing freely.

Holidays

You will need someone to care for your rabbits whilst on holiday, such as a neighbour, friend or family member.

Welfare

Rabbits are social animals and like to be in company. This can be from humans and or other rabbits. If the rabbit is to be left for long periods, whilst your at work for instance, it would be worth considering more than one rabbit. Rabbits from the same litter would be best as these are likely to get along without issues. Alternatively, opposing genders that have been spayed and neut should be ok.

Young Children

Although rabbits do become accustom to being picked up, this is unnatural for them and initially may not like this. Rabbits can scratch and bite and this is worth considering if you have young children.

Indoor or Outdoor

Indoor Rabbit

Rabbits are being kept as house pets more and more. It has become more popular due to rabbits being a lovely pet and can be house trained relatively easily. You would need a rabbit cage but the rabbit should be allowed out of the cage to roam and explore. Keep in mind that rabbits have teeth and may chew through electrical cable and chew your nice furniture! Your rabbit will still need to get time out in the garden to enjoy the sunshine and get a dose of vitamin D.

Outdoor Rabbit

Keeping rabbits outdoors is a more traditional way of keeping rabbits. You will need a rabbit hutch which is warm and dry and preferably has a separate run. The rabbit would still require your time and attention. The rabbit will need time out of the hutch enjoying the freedom of the garden.

What Do I Need To Get Started?

Your Rabbits

Rabbits

There are many types of rabbits. They come in all different sizes and colours. Some of the more commonly know breeds would be the Dwarf lop eared, English or the Dutch. You should be able to buy your rabbit from the age of 6-8 weeks old.

Where To Buy Your Rabbits?

You should look to buy your rabbits from a reputable pet store or from a personal friend etc that you know have cared for their pets. It would be seriously worth considering getting you pet rabbit from a rescue centre. The rabbits will likely already be vaccinated and you will be giving an unwanted pet a home.

Always try to meet the parent of your pet so as to ensure they are fit and healthy.

Rabbit Housing

Rabbit Cage

The rabbit cage would be required for indoor rabbits. These cages come in varying sizes. Ideally the cage would only be for sleeping and when you are not at home to supervise.

Rabbit Hutch

Rabbit Hutches come in all shapes and sizes. The main rule with the hutches is the bigger the better. Hutches that have an under run are preferable as this gives your rabbit the freedom to move around even whilst inside the hutch. A smaller hutch will be acceptable if the rabbit will spend most of the day in a run or in the freedom of the garden.

The hutch will need to be safe, secure and be weather proof. Your rabbit will need a place to escape the elements such as hot sun or wind and rain.

The hutch sleeping area will ideally be raised off the ground. This is good for security and most important damp.

Rabbit Run

Rabbit runs are ideal to offer your rabbit the extra freedom to graze and space to exercise unsupervised with the added benefit of protection.

Rabbit Feed And Supplies

Hay

Hay is the core staple food of the rabbits diet. This is were the rabbit will obtain most of the necessary nutrient’s required. The rabbit will require a daily amount of dry hay to eat and also to use as bedding. Chewing the hay strengthens a rabbits teeth and jaw.

Pellets, Flakes and vegetables

As well as the hey your rabbit will need to be fed twice per day. This can be in the form of pellets or flakes. You can also give your rabbit fresh fruit and vegetables. Do NOT give your rabbit grass cuttings, potato’s or lettuce as they could have negative effect on the health of your rabbit. You will need to ensure that the feeding bowl is a heavy one to help prevent spillage from the rabbit knocking it over. The bowl will need to be cleaned regularly.

Water

Your rabbit will drink up to a quarter of a pint of water every day. The water would be best supplied in a hutch mounted gravity bottle. If the water is in a bowl it is more likely to be spilt or get dirty quickly. The water and bottle will need to be kept fresh and clean.

Toys

Rabbits are intelligent animals and need to be stimulated. It is worth investing in rabbit toys and accessories, for example chew blocks in the rabbit hutch.

Health

Spayed or Neut

It is advisable to have your rabbit spayed (female, doe) or neut (male, buck). This can help reduce health risks to the female and lower the aggression of the male. The female option is more costly than the male. This will also help prevent any unwanted litters of rabbits.

Groomed

Rabbits do shed their fur every 3 months and need to be groomed. It is advisable to groom long haired rabbits on a near daily basis and short haired weekly. This is also good bonding time with your pet as well as an opportunity to spot any health issues.

Cleaning

Your rabbits hutch will need to be cleaned as previously mentioned. Your rabbit should be reasonably self sufficient at keeping clean. Should you need to clean the rabbit then use a wipe down technique as rabbits do not like being submerged into water.

Vaccinations

Rabbits should be vaccinated annually for myxomatosis and haemorrhagic disease.

Illness

Should your rabbit develop discharge from the eyes or nose this should be referred to the vet.

Nails and teeth continually grow. If these get too long this should be referred to the vet. You should ensure your rabbit has a toy or gnawing block help keep the teeth down.

Do not allow your rabbit to become over weight.

Disclaimer

Please note this is a basic rabbit keeping guide and is by no means a definitive report. For further more detailed information please check with your vet or information sites.

Recommended Further Reading

home2roost recommends the following websites as good sources of information for keeping rabbits:

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