Pets - Keeping a Rabbit

Rabbits make excellent pets. They are friendly to children and can have lively, responsive personalities. Well cared for animals have a life expectancy of between 6 and 10 years.

Where They Live


More and more rabbits are being kept as house pets. They have a tendency to use the same area for toileting. This means they are relatively easy to keep clean and can also be trained to use a litter tray. Although there are many advantages to keeping an indoor rabbit it is also beneficial to allow them access to a garden under supervision. This is a more natural habitat for them.

An outdoor rabbit will need a hutch. If you are keeping two smaller rabbits it is suggested that a hutch be at least five feet in size. For larger rabbits a six foot hutch is better. All hutches should be raised off the ground. This stops rising damp and problems from rats and other vermin.

The hutch needs to be waterproof. If it is likely to be out in the rain it will also need a roof that overhangs the front of the hutch to keep the rain out.

Bedding


In the living area of the hutch two inches of woodchip provide suitable floor covering. Inside the hutch a rabbit needs a separate area where they can sleep. The sleeping area should have a large amount of straw for the rabbit to bed down in. Rabbits do go to the toilet regularly, so you will either need to clean this area almost daily or consider adding a small litter tray to the hutch. This can make cleaning a lot simpler.

What They Eat


You can buy rabbit food at pet shops. This tends to be a mix of grains, flakes and pellets. If you find your rabbit gets a bit fussy and only eats some types of food there are pellets available that contain a better balance. Rabbits also eat hay to help their digestion as well as fruit and vegetables. They can be a bit like some children and can become picky when it comes to fruit and vegetables, especially if they are fed treats. Although it can be entertaining to see if your rabbit will eat chocolate, cakes and biscuits (it probably will), this can cause problems with their overall diet as vegetables can start to taste bitter in comparison.

Rabbits can suffer from both diarrhoea and constipation. So keep an eye out for this and adjust their levels of fruit and vegetables accordingly. You also need to watch out for flystrike. This is more likely to occur in hot weather, especially if your rabbit is suffering from diarrhoea. Flystrike is where a fly will lay eggs on any soiled fur. The eggs hatch into maggots that burrow into the rabbits skin. If you notice this, take your rabbit to a vet immediately.

As they are grazing animals a steady supply of food is recommended.

A gnawing block to keep their teeth from growing too long is also a good idea.

Keeping Your Rabbit Fit


With all the food going in a rabbit needs plenty of exercise to keep it in tip top condition. Too much hutch time makes for an overweight unhealthy rabbit. You can consider a large run or grazing arc for them to run around in. As rabbits like to burrow the sides of any run or grazing arc need to be buried into the ground. Not only does this stop them escaping it stops other animals such as foxes from digging in.

Friends


Rabbits like company. Therefore unless you keep a house rabbit it is a good idea to keep them in pairs. The best pairing is said to be a male and female that have been neutered.

Bedtime


At night a rabbit should be locked away. I would recommend keeping the hutch in a shed or garage. This is especially true if you live in an area where foxes are prevalent.

Handling Rabbits


It is best to use both hands and support the back legs properly. Do not pick up rabbits by their ears or by the scruff of their necks.

Vaccination


All rabbits should be vaccinated each year against viral haemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis.

What do You Think?


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