Rabbits make fascinating family pets, and their rising popularity means more and more people are choosing to keep rabbits then ever before. Rabbits are quiet, personable and adapt easily to becoming house pets. But what are the basics you need to know to make your rabbits life as comfortable and healthy as possible?
A rabbits basic needs are similar to most animals, they need : shelter from the sun, wind and rain; a dry and comfortable place to sleep; fresh water; clean and accessible food containers; an are to exercise and an area to toilet. Most of these needs can be met with a well constructed hutch, with an adjoining area to allow some freedom of movement. A rough guide for the minimum size of house needed is that the enclosure should be a minimum of three of the rabbit's strides or hops in length and one hop in width. There should be a covered area with a smooth floor large enough for the rabbit to lay stretched out completely, stand up fully and turn around. Flooring in the exercise areas should be dig proof mesh or smooth paving to prevent escapes. Ventilation should be excellent and shade is a must in the summer months to help avoid heat stress and respiratory disease. If the hutch will be outdoors, it is vital that the entire enclosure is covered in a fine fly mesh to prevent the entrance of Mosquitos and fleas, which can transmit virus which leads to the fatal condition Myxomatosis, as well as excluding blow flies, which can lead to fly strike.
Bedding for rabbits should be soft, dust free and easily changed. Hay, straw, newspaper, shredded paper, hemp fiber and wood shavings (which have had the irritating oils and compounds removed to decrease respiratory irritation) are all commonly used in rabbit housing. Bedding or recycled paper pellets can be used in a litter tray for the rabbit to toilet in -deep plastic trays, placed in a corner away from feeding and sleeping areas, are often readily used by pet rabbits, and make hutch cleaning a lot simpler.
Food bowls should be easily cleaned and difficult to tip, as rabbits love to move things around their enclosures. Water bottles or bowls should be cleansed regularly, and inspected to ensure proper function. Toys are readily accepted by most rabbits - jingling cat toys, plastic tubs, cardboard, phone books and commercial wood chews can help to keep your rabbit entertained between play sessions - use your imagination!
Rabbits also make great indoor pets, and love to interact with the family. Care needs to be taken to block access to dangerous plants, stairs, electrical cords and other hazards that these curious creatures may discover.
Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they require a diet made up of plant material. Their long incisors (front teeth) and molars (back teeth) grow continuously to allow them to process large amounts of course feeds. The bulk of their diet must be made up of roughage, such as hay (meadow or often are best for adult rabbits, though Lucerne can be used in rabbits under six months of age and breeding does). Additionally rabbits need a fresh daily supply offal green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, silverbeet, chicory and salad greens. The rule of thumb us to feed approximately one packed cup of dark green leafy vegetables per kilogram bodyweight of rabbit per day. Additionally, variety vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beets, parsnips, capsicums, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and small amounts of fruits, such as apples, pears and bananas, can be added for variety. Foods to avoided are avocados, iceberg lettuce, onions and garlic. Rabbit pellets are not intended as the sole source of food for rabbits, and should be fed as a supplement in addition to a high roughage diet. "Rabbit Mixes" and "muesli" should be avoided, as these foods are too low in fibre, often imbalanced and have been linked to dental problems in rabbits.
Rabbits are generally considered low maintenance pets, but just like any of the more common domestic pets, can acquire conditions requiring veterinary attention. A thorough regular examination can help to detect early disease and is recommended for all rabbits.
Yearly vaccination against the rabbit Calici virus, which leads to a fatal haemorrhagic enteritis is highly recommended. Additionally, regular dental checks, nail trims and flea treatment appropriate to rabbits can be discussed.
Desexing rabbits is recommended at approximately six months of age to prevent unwanted breeding, urine spraying and aggressive behavior. Spaying female rabbits decreases their risks of serious reproductive cancers, uterine infections and pregnancyrelated diseases. Castration of male rabbits decreases their risk of developing testicular cancer and can help to prevent or control unwanted sexual behaviors.
Aging rabbits also benefit from regular wellness examinations, as older rabbits can develop arthritis, dental disease and obesity issues which can be discussed and managed with the assistance of your veterinary surgeon.
We hope this guide provided some insight into caring for your pet. Please feel free to browse the other topics available through our client library.