Rabbits are a popular pet at this time of year. But they’re actually complicated animals, so here are some things to consider before you get a bunny
Rabbits are a popular symbol of Easter and there’s usually an increase in owning rabbits at this time. It’s important to think carefully before deciding if they are right for you—they are complex animals with specific needs and not as easy or cheap to own as once thought.
However, with the right care they are incredibly rewarding and interesting pets, explains Claire Stallard, behaviour lead at pet charity Blue Cross. Here are things to consider.
Rabbits need 24-hour access to a space that is big enough for them to exercise
Rabbits need a lot of space! They are active animals that need to be able to hop, jump, run and explore.
"Rabbits are most active at dusk, dawn and at times during the night"
Blue Cross advises that a pair of rabbits have 24-hour access to a space that is no less than three metres by two metres by one metre high. Converted sheds or children’s playhouses are often just as cost-effective as the traditional hutch.
As rabbits are most active at dusk, dawn and at times during the night, exercise areas should be permanently attached so they have freedom to come and go.
A single bunny is a lonely bunny. Rabbits are social creatures and need the company of their own kind. Keep at least two together and you’ll never look back—watching rabbits interact with each other is a joy.
The best combination is a neutered male and neutered female, but neutered same-sex siblings can work too. Introducing rabbits should be done slowly with a lot of care as, although they are social, they are also territorial.
Rabbits can reproduce from four months, so it’s important to get them neutered—talk to your vet about this.
It prevents accidental litters and health problems, but also means that rabbits can live successfully with other rabbits.
Even same sex pairs should be neutered—this will help prevent serious fighting.
All paws on the floor
Rabbits are seen as a good first pet for children, but they do not enjoy being picked up
Unfortunately, rabbits are still thought of as an “easy” introduction to owning a pet and are often bought for small children.
They don’t enjoy being picked up and cuddled and they are easily frightened.
"Rabbits, being prey animals, like to keep all four feet firmly on the ground"
Of course, children can enjoy learning about rabbits and interacting with them. But rabbits, being prey animals, like to keep all four feet firmly on the ground and prefer to hop onto a lap to get a tasty treat rather than be picked up and carried around.
The right food
Sugary foods like carrots should only be fed to rabbits occasionally
Rabbits have a complex digestive system and teeth that grow continuously—they need constant access to grass (not freshly cut) of good quality to keep them healthy.
They only need a small amount of concentrated food a day (about an egg cup twice a day for the average rabbit) and a few healthy greens.
"Rabbits need constant access to grass (not freshly cut) of good quality to keep them healthy"
Avoid muesli food. “Sugary” vegetables and fruits (carrots and apples) should only be fed very occasionally, if at all.
Consider adopting rabbits from a rescue shelter, as there are many who are looking for homes and often already have bonded pairs.
For help, visit bluecross.org.uk
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