Top tips for owning a pet rabbit
Happy Easter! It’s a time of the year when we see rabbits just about everywhere we look – at the supermarket, on TV ads, hopping around outside (if you’re lucky!).
And they’re super cute – so full of personality and charm. It’s no wonder that this is the prime season for people choosing to buy a pet rabbit to add to their family. Honestly, how cool is it to have your very own Easter Bunny?
If you’ve never owned a pet rabbit, you should know a few things about how to care for your bunny once you’ve taken it home. Let’s run through some of the top things you need to know about looking after your pet rabbit, including lifespan, care, health and hygiene.
How long does a pet rabbit live?
You can expect your pet rabbit to live upwards of 10 years, so deciding to adopt a bunny should be a decision you consider for the long term. The longest living bunny on record hit an amazing milestone of 17 years!
You’ll find that rabbits are very social animals, so they love being around you and your family. If you decide to get a pair of rabbits to keep each other company, make sure you get them desexed (if you don’t want to end up with loads of bunnies hopping around) as they will start breeding from 3 months of age.
One thing to be aware of is that although they look super cuddly, rabbits often don’t like being held or picked up, especially by younger children. If you’re looking for a pet that your child can cuddle up to, perhaps avoid getting a rabbit (although some can be very affectionate).
Where should your pet rabbit live?
Pet rabbits can make for an excellent indoor pet and can even be trained to use a litter tray (just like a cat). As rabbits are social animals, they’d prefer to be somewhere they can see you and join in the family activities.
Many people use puppy pens inside to allow their rabbit to be close by without having a free run of their house. If you’re using a cage, it’s vital to let your bunny out so they can exercise and hop around freely too.
If your rabbit is given a free run of your house, make sure you bunny-proof it! They are curious creatures and are known to chew through computer wires, cables, couches, rugs and even those important papers you’ve left lying around.
When keeping your rabbit outdoors, you need to 100% secure their enclosure from predators (cats, foxes etc.) and mosquitoes to keep them safe. They will also need a shady spot as rabbits tend to overheat easily.
What does a rabbit eat?
The best thing to feed your rabbit is high-quality fibre such as fresh grass or grass hay. This should be around 90% of their diet. You can also buy rabbit nutrients from your local pet supplier.
To help keep your rabbit’s teeth healthy, they need to chew throughout the day, so veggies can be added, such as:
Fruit such as blueberries, papaya and peaches can be added as a treat. But keep these to a minimum, so your rabbit doesn’t gain too much weight.
A rabbit’s food should be fresh, so make sure you throw out any fruit or veggies that haven’t been eaten in 24 hours and replace them with fresh products.
And with any pet, make sure your rabbit has access to fresh water every day.
Do pet rabbits require grooming?
Rabbits are similar to cats in that they will groom themselves. However, to keep your rabbit healthy, especially when they’re shedding, it’s recommended to give them a good brush.
If a rabbit isn’t groomed, they can swallow their fur and are also at risk of infection (or flystrike) if they have poops left on their little backsides. You will also need to clip their claws which any local vet or groomer will be able to help you with.
If you have a hairier rabbit like an Angora, they will need regular shaving, which can be done by your local vet or an experienced pet groomer.
Do rabbits need vet checks and vaccinations?
Yes! It’s recommended that you take your pet rabbit to a vet for regular health check-ups. They will check them over and make sure their teeth are healthy. Rabbits are prone to respiratory infections, skin conditions, overgrown teeth, fleas and excessive weight.
Rabbits need vaccinations for calicivirus, an infectious disease spread by other infected rabbits, flies and mosquitoes, and contaminated hay or clothing. If your rabbit isn’t vaccinated against calicivirus and contracts it, they are likely to die.
Here’s the schedule for rabbit vaccinations:
Baby rabbits – 4, 8 and 12 weeks of age, then every 6 months for life
Adult rabbits previously unvaccinated – 2 vaccinations 1 month apart, then every 6 months for life
A pet rabbit will bring you years of joy
A rabbit definitely makes an interesting pet and is an excellent addition to your family. But it takes more than simply buying a hutch and leaving them stuck in that for the rest of their days. Before you buy a pet rabbit, make sure you’re willing to have it be a part of your life for a long time.
If you’ve got any cute rabbit photos or stories, I’d love for you to share them with us. Or, if you’re a rabbit owner who’s got more tips, please drop them in the comments below.
Until next time, pat your fur babies for me.