A basic guide to buying a rabbit, caring for a rabbit, keeping an indoor rabbit, keeping an out door rabbit, why rabbits chew, and illnesses to look out for
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Rabbit Care

Included in Rabbit Care...

  • About Rabbits
  • Keeping an Indoor Rabbit
  • Keeping an Out Door Rabbit
  • Choosing the right size rabbit hutch
  • Run Rabbit, Run
  • Keeping more than one Rabbit
  • Introductions
  • Keeping Rabbits and Guinea Pigs
  • Handling your Rabbit
  • What to feed my Rabbit?
  • Rabbit Feeding Guide Lines
  • Mental Stimulation
  • Rabbit Toys and items of interest
  • Rabbit Grooming
  • Rabbit Health
  • Neutering my Rabbit
  • What Vaccinations will my rabbit need?
  • About Rabbits

    Rabbits are lovely animals, making great pets for dedicated owners. Rabbits are sociable creatures, and enjoy the company of other rabbits, and generally prefer to live in pairs. They also love human company and can become very friendly if treated properly. A girl rabbit is called a 'Doe' and a boy a 'Buck'.

    Rabbits require daily attention and some can live for up to 10 years so they are a long term commitment. Rabbits are not cheap pets as many new owners will soon come to realise. There are setup costs, food bills, and veterinary bills to consider, and as rabbits can live up to ten years owning a rabbit can be a long term financial commitment. Make sure you have what it takes to look after a rabbit.

    There are a variety of rabbits to choose from varying in size, shape, colour, temperament and so on. But when choosing which rabbit to buy, always buy your rabbit from a reliable source and if possible check that the mother is in good health. The best time to buy a rabbit is when they have been weaned from their mother at about 6-8 weeks.

    When buying your rabbit, avoid any rabbits that have diarrhoea or a runny nose as these are signs of sickness. If you do not believe the rabbit is in good health, look to another source to find your new pet. You may want to consider getting your rabbit from a re-homing centre as they have many loving bunnies that desperately need a new home. Rabbits from re-homing centres are usually vaccinated and neutered before leaving for their new home.


    Keeping an Indoor Rabbit

    More and more rabbit owners are choosing to keep their rabbits indoors and keep them as house rabbits. This way you can have your beloved rabbit around your home with you all day, and you can play and interact with your pet more often, just as you would a cat or dog.

    Indoor rabbits love to run around the house and hide under and behind furniture. But be mindful, keeping your rabbit indoors requires training, rabbit proofing your home, and more time and dedication than keeping your rabbit outdoors. That wooden chair you love; might have just become your indoor rabbits new favourite chew toy!

    You will need to train your rabbit, as you would a puppy, to use a litter tray, to not venture into certain areas of the house, and not to chew your slippers!

    Rabbit proofing your home is essential, you will need to make sure your rabbit can not nibble on electric wires, eat any poisonous house hold plants and so.

    Keeping an Out Door Rabbit

    In the wild outdoors rabbits live in burrows and spend most of time foraging for food. Living in a hutch allows your rabbit to live outside and receive plenty of sunshine and fresh air every day.

    A rabbit needs space to stretch and stand up on its hind legs, and a place to run and receive exercise. Rabbits that do not get much time out of their cage to run, hop and stretch may develop health problems, so daily time out of the cage is essential. Out door rabbits will get lonely if they do not receive regular attention and mental stimulation. A bored rabbit is an unhappy rabbit. Keep your out door hutch in a sheltered area of the garden, to help keep the bad weather out.

    Rabbits hate the cold. If you keep your rabbit out doors, it is worth considering bringing them indoors over the winter months, or moving their hutch into a garage or shed (as long as there are no care fumes). If this is not an option, you can add a snuggle safe heat pad to the rabbits sleeping area for extra warmth and protection from the cold. If a hutch cover is available this is also worth adding as its an extra layer to protect against the elements.


    Choosing the right size rabbit hutch

    Rabbit Breeders and Pet shops rarely have hutches that are actually big enough for rabbits. A 3ft hutch is not big enough for a rabbit even if it is a dwarf rabbit breed! If a breeder or pet shop tells you otherwise then we would advise that you get your pet from somewhere else as the seller really does not care about your potential pet.

    It is vital to get a rabbit hutch that is big enough for your rabbit. A hutch can never be too big. When a rabbit is really relaxed it will stretch out its front legs forward and itís back legs behind and thus becomes quite long. So your hutch needs to be big enough for your rabbit to stretch out in, and high enough so the rabbits ears do not touch the roof when on its hind legs. If keeping two rabbits together, the hutch will need to be bigger.

    The hutch must be weather proof, preferably off the ground to protect your pet from bad weather conditions and predators. Have a separate sleeping area to keep the rabbit warm at night, and so that it has somewhere to take shade from the sun. Keep the hutch in a sheltered area to keep out bad weather, use extra water proofing if needed, rabbits hate to get wet.

    Rabbits may choose to nibble on their hutch rather than the chewing blocks you have provided. Anti-chew repellent can be sprayed onto your hutch to prevent the hutch from being nibbled away. Or there may be behavioural reasons why your rabbit is chewing, sometimes rabbits chew through boredom or if their enclosure is too small.

    Your rabbits hutch should be tidied daily and thoroughly cleaned weekly with the bedding changed.


    Run Rabbit, Run

    Having a run for your rabbit is great exercise for your pet. A hutch with run access gives your rabbit more freedom, and expands its living space. Being attached to the hutch gives the rabbit the ability to run back inside if hot/cold or frightened. Free standing hutches without a separate compartment need more supervision, as rabbits are easily frightened and like to have a space to retreat to. Consider a run with a separate compartment so your rabbit somewhere secure to go to if needed.


    Keeping more than one Rabbit

    Rabbits are sociable animals and enjoy company, whether this company comes from you or another rabbit it does not matter, as long as they get plenty of it. If you wish to keep one rabbit; then you the owner have a great responsibility to give you rabbit all the time and attention it needs.

    If you are unable to give one rabbit lots of attention for instance if you are out all day at work or at school, you will be leaving your rabbit for long periods of time, in circumstances such as this it is much kinder to keep two or more rabbits so they have company. Two rabbits will keep each company and prevent boredom, stress and depression.

    The best combinations are a male (castrated) and female (spayed) bonded pair. Or if choosing to keep same sex pairs it best to choose litter mates i.e sisters or mother and daughter. Two males may start to fight as they become older. In both cases you will need to ensure the rabbits are spayed/neutered as this will help calm their aggressive nature and make them more docile to you, and each other.


    Introductions

    When introducing a second rabbit you will need to have time and patience. Sometimes boding is instant, sometimes bonding can take weeks! In most cases it is not love at first sight, expect some bunny boxing. The best introductions are between neutered males and females. Introduce them in a neutral place, somewhere your original rabbit has never been (such as a shed), this way territory issues should not be a factor. Let them inspect each other, be prepared for a scuffle. If they do fight, separate them immediately. Then try the process over again at hourly intervals, the plan is they will get to know each other a little more each time, until they gradually realise that the bunny opposite them is not a threat- but a friend.

    Remember, two rabbits mean double the mess, double the food, double the space and double the vetinery bills.


    Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

    Rabbits and Guinea Pigs should not be housed together as the presence of a Rabbit can cause a Guinea Pig stress and shock. In many cases a Rabbit will try to mate with a Guinea Pig, which can result in the death of a Guinea Pig. They also have very different dietary requirements, Rabbits cannot digest as many vegetables/greens as a Guinea Pig, and Rabbit food does not contain adequate levels of vitamin C and protein. Finally rabbits may carry a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica which is hazardous to guinea pigs

    Handling your Rabbit

    Rabbits as a rule donít enjoy being picked up, they like being on the ground. It is always best to come down to their level. Many will kick, scratch and bite if picked up. Rabbits can wriggle so much if they donít like being picked up that they can damage their spine.

    When you do need to pick your rabbit up do not pick them up by the ears- it hurts them! Begin by stroking its head, and then approach your rabbit from the front. Be firm but gentle; use both hands- one hand around the scruff of its neck, the other to take its weight with your hand supporting its bottom. Keep it close to your chest, with its head towards your shoulder. Put the rabbit down if he struggles as a kick can hurt you; put the rabbit down gently hind legs first.


    Food and Water

    In the wild rabbits eat grass, weeds, leaves, twigs, fruit and vegetables. What you feed your rabbit can determine the health and happiness of your rabbit. A poor diet can lead to health problems.

    Hay/grass is also a stable part of your Rabbits diet. Hay is vital to a rabbit as it fulfils their basic nutritional requirements. Chewing hay strengthens teeth and jaws, and time chewing away help prevents boredom. Hay makes up 75% of a rabbits daily diet and essential as the fibre content helps maintain a healthy gut function, and should be available at all times. A hay rack kept clear of the floor is advisable.

    Provide your rabbit with fresh fruit, vegetables or greens daily, and a small amount of pellet/grain rabbit food. Rabbits need feeding twice a day, every day (in the morning and in the evening). A good quality, heavy, earthenware food bowl is essential to keep the food dry and clean, and prevent the rabbit from tipping the food on to the floor of the hutch. Their bowls must be cleaned after every use.

    FEEDING GUIDE LINES

    Size Weight Ration
    Dwarf 500 - 1kg 25g - 40g
    Small 1kg - 2kg 40g - 70g
    Medium 2kg - 4kg 70g - 115g
    Large/ Giant 4kg - 8kg 115g - 200g

    When changing your rabbitís diet you should introduce the new food gradually. Mix about one quarter of the new food with three quarters of the old food on the first day and then gradually increase the new food and decrease the old food over a 10-12 day period. This will help ensure your rabbit does not get a stomach upset.

    Before letting your rabbit run around your garden, ensure there are no dangerous or poisonous plants it could nibble on. Also only feed your rabbit grass, weeds, and leaves you know to be safe. If in doubt, leave it out.Rabbits will drink from a water bowl or bottle. Rabbits drink about a quarter of a pint of water a day, more in hot weather, so make sure you check and change the water daily. The best way to provide fresh drinking water is to use a gravity-fed water bottle, attached to the front of the hutch. Use one of the large ballpoint bottles to prevent dripping and ensure a constant supply is available. Bottles should be cleaned with a bottlebrush regularly to prevent the build up of algae, which is harmful to your pet's digestive system. Bottles and tops can be sterilized in baby bottle sterilizing solution every so often for extra cleanliness. While bowls can be used, the water is more likely to be contaminated, therefore bottles are preferred.


    Mental Stimulation

    Rabbits are inquisitive pets and need to be kept occupied and receive mental stimulation. Without this stimulation your rabbit may become depressed, destructive and generally bored. Toys and items of interest added to your cage, hutch or run help entertain your rabbit and prevent these symptoms. Toys and objects of interest also encourage your rabbit to exercise and gnaw.

    Toys and items of interest Pigs

    • Terracotta flower pots
    • Cardboard tubes
    • Wicker baskets
    • Plastic bunny toys
    • Hide treats to encourage foraging
    • Shoe boxes stuffed with hay
    • Bunny Warrens

    The list is endless; as long as it is not harmful to your rabbit, give it a go.


    Grooming

    Rabbits shed every three months; they can shed a little or a lot. It is important to groom your rabbit regularly to remove loose fur and improve its fur and skin condition. Grooming is a good time to give your pet the once over, check the eyes, nose, ears and teeth, and make sure the bottom area is clean. It also helps to build a relationship with your pet.


    Combing and Brushing Rabbits need regular grooming, long coated rabbits will need grooming daily, use a comb or soft brush. Many long haired breeds will need to be taken to a rabbit beauty parlour for some expert grooming and trimming.

    Bathing: Rabbits as a rule hate to get wet, and putting your bunny in water may caused stress and shock, which can harm our rabbit. If your rabbit is dirty, you can spot clean the dirty area.

    Hairballs: Its not just cats that suffer from hairballs. Rabbits often lick their coat to keep clean and tidy. Unlike cats rabbits can not cough up their hairs balls, if not swallowed they can become a mass of tangled hair blocking the stomach exit. If the hair ball is not treated the rabbit will be unable to eat.

    A diet of good hay rich in fibre can help pass hairballs, along with regular grooming to remove loose fur.

    Nails and teeth: Nails and teeth should be checked often, if they become too long this can cause pain and discomfort to your pet. Your vet will be able to clip nails and teeth, and if you feel confident they will be able to show you how to do it yourself.

    Skin: irritated, red, flakey scratchy skin may be an indication of mites or an allergic reaction to fleas. You will need to treat your rabbit or seek vetinery advice.


    Rabbit Health

    You will need to check your rabbit over daily to ensure you it is in good health. This will mean checking its coat, eyes, ears, nose and bottom area. They need to be clean and anything out of the ordinary could mean illness.

    Symptoms of poor health include:

    • Sneezing.
    • Red irritated, scaly patches.
    • Discharge from the eyes or ears.
    • Overgrown teeth.
    • Diarrhoea.

    If you rabbit has these symptoms you should seek vetinery advice.

    Eyes

    Avoid saw dust in your Rabbits hutch, as the tiny bits get into their eyes and cause irritation and inflammation. Ear wax can be removed from your rabbits ears with a cotton wool bud but make sure the bud does NOT enter the ear canal. If there is a severe build up of wax you will need to take your rabbit to the vet.

    If your rabbit has watery eyes/discharge you will need to take your bunny to the vet. Try to keep the area around the eye dry and clean so as not to cause an infection.

    Diarrhoea

    If your rabbit gets the runs, make sure its bottom stays clean. A soiled bottom may attract flies which will lay their eyes in their coat, which may lead to 'Fly Strike' (maggot infestation) this can be fatal to your rabbit. Ensure your rabbit is clean especially in summer.


    Neutering

    Unless you wish to use your rabbit for breeding, it is advisable to neuter your rabbit. Neutered rabbits are healthier and live longer than un-neutered rabbits. A neutered rabbit will generally be calmer and easier to handle. Most rabbits are also less likely to have destructive tendencies such as biting, chewing and digging as neutering removes the aggressive sexual behavior.

    Neutering a female rabbit virtually eliminates the risk of ovarian, uterine, mammarian cancer. An un-neutered female has an 80% chance of developing uterine cancer by the age of 5. Neutered male rabbits will be more docile, and less inclined to fight as the sexual aggressive tendency will be removed. If housing two rabbits together neutering is a must.

    Neutering also reduces or halts a rabbitís tendency to mark its territory, which if keeping your rabbit as a house pet is something to be avoided.

    Be aware it is more costly to neuter a female rabbit than a male rabbit.


    Vaccinations

    Rabbits need to be vaccinated yearly from Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) and Myxomatosis.

    Symptoms of VHD vary from loss of appetite to sudden death. The virus is presented in saliva and nasal secretions of rabbits and can be spread by other rabbits and animals, carried on people and birds.

    Myxomatosis is a terrible disease spread by fleas and mosquitoes. This is a fatal disease. Symptoms are puffy swelling around the head and eyes, swollen ears, lips and genitals. Vaccination is essential as is flea control. If your pet presents any of these symptoms or you are concerned with your rabbits health, seek a vets advice immediately.

    This is a very basic guide to caring for your rabbit, this information is not exhaustive. Please find out as much information as you can regarding rabbit care to ensure that your rabbit gets the most out of you and you out of your rabbit.

    Websites that will further broaden your knowledge of rabbits :

    rabbit breeder in Peterborough

    Mini lops in Devon

    My Pet Rabbit

    www.Raising-Rabbits.com - A to Z rabbit information and breeder support

    Lop Rabbits

    Nero 3 Deluxe Rabbit or Guinea Pig Cage

    Bringing your pets in from the cold this winter, then choose a cage from a quality manufacturer. The Nero 3 Cage is ideal for Guinea Pigs, for Rabbits choose the Nero 4.

    * Freddie 5ft x 5ft Run

    At 5ft x 5ft and over 2ft all this run offers unbeatable value and comfort for your bunnies.

    Savic Nero 2 Cage Stand

    *Vitakraft Mixed Snack Box for Rabbits

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