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Easter Guide to Rabbiting On

blog header rabbiting on

The pet rabbit. Endearing, energetic and a little bit enigmatic!

As it’s Easter, we thought it was the perfect time to talk about the needs of the rabbit, one of the UK’s most popular pets.

So, how do you ensure that YOUR rabbit is the envy of all the others?

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Environment:

Rabbits suffer more than almost any other pet when it comes to housing and living in an inappropriate and unhealthy environment.

The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund have made their ‘a hutch is not enough’ campaign the centre of improving life for rabbits by helping owners understand how inadequate modern rabbit housing can be.

You can read a lot more about the campaign here, but the basics of good rabbit housing are:

  • A hutch with enough space for them make at least 3 hops
  • Enough space to stand fully upright and stretch out fully
  • An outside run that they can enter and leave when they want to avoid danger and the elements
  • Hiding places to shelter and hide from predators

Did you know? The idea of keeping rabbits in hutches dates back to the Victorian era.

Diet:

Rabbits have complex dietary needs and a very unusual digestive system to match!

Rabbits should be fed at least their body weight in hay daily (remember that you should be using straw as bedding so this hay should be in addition), a balanced pellet-based diet and a selection of greens. Always avoid feeding your rabbit a muesli style mixed diet as this can lead to them developing dental problems. This is because rabbits, like us, will try and eat only the tasty bits they really want in a muesli diet so they don’t get the correct balance of food!

Your rabbit’s pellet food should actually only be a small proportion of their diet so please make sure you refer to portion guidelines.

Never assume that your rabbit’s greens can be anything you happen to have in the vegetable drawer. Only certain greens are safe for rabbits and they should have a varied diet to ensure that their diet is balanced. Because of their high sugar content, fruit should be largely avoided.

Did you know? Rabbits produce special droppings, called Caecotrophs. They eat these, allowing the food to be re-ingested.

Companionship:

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Our bunnies also often end up suffering from a lack of company. Rabbits are social animals and don’t enjoy being by themselves, often developing depression if denied company.

The best company for them is another rabbit. Even if your rabbits are the same gender, we’d still advise neutering them. This can prevent aggression and sexual behaviour, as well as provide significant health benefits.

You are also a good source of companionship for them. As prey animals, rabbits may not enjoy being held and cuddled but they will like to spend time with you and develop a bond. In addition, rabbits should be checked over twice a day for health reasons.

Enrichment:

Enriching your rabbit’s life means finding ways to allow them to replicate their natural behaviour.

In the wild rabbits will spend a lot of time happily digging and they can miss this activity – give them opportunities to do so by filling plant pots or deep cat litter trays with soil.

Anyone who has ever watched their rabbit gleefully destroy a carefully prepared toy will know how much of a sense of fun they have.

As a rabbit owner, you’ll discover that the humble empty toilet roll can provide a wealth of play opportunities, whether it’s stuffed with hay, used as an interactive treat feeder or just merrily given to them to be chucked around!

In fact, they love anything cardboard and paper based, as well as solid plastic baby toys. Beware of anything with small parts and remember that whatever you give them will be chewed. Rabbits will also appreciate the permanent introduction of tunnels and things to use as lookout platforms in their run.

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Health:

A rabbit’s health is delicate, so they should be observed and checked regularly. If they are not eating then you should treat it as an emergency and immediately seek veterinary assistance- rabbits should eat near-constantly and can develop a life-threatening condition called gut stasis if they stop eating.

Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously. Their constant grazing often helps to keep them at the correct length, but your rabbit may need a bit of veterinary help if their teeth are not being ground down enough. Please contact us if you think your rabbit may be experiencing this problem.

Rabbits should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic disease (VHD). This is now available as a single yearly vaccine.

Is my rabbit healthy?

They should have…

  • Bright eyes with no discharge
  • Clean ears
  • A dry nose
  • Clean front feet
  • Teeth which line up correctly
  • A fluffy, non-matted coat
  • A clean, dry bottom (rabbits with dirty bottoms are at particular risk of suffering from flystrike)

Is a rabbit right for you or the child in your life? Why not get them to try out the Burgess fibrevore game to see how they get on with having a pet to care for?

If you’d like advice on caring for your rabbit, please give your local Medivet a call for advice or to book an appointment by using our online practice finder.

Posted April 18, 2014 in Seasonal Care

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