Rabbits are growing in popularity as house pets. Social as well as active and playful, rabbits have the potential to be wonderful pets for the prepared owner.
Useful tips on how to keep your pet rabbit!
Rabbits are social with gentle handling are generally quite tame.
Rabbits are playful and entertaining to watch.
Being social, rabbits need a great deal of interaction with their owners and/or other rabbits to be happy. Daily playtime and exercise outside of their habitat is necessary.
Rabbits are not low maintenance – it takes a good deal of work to properly care for a rabbit.
Rabbits can be litter trained.
Rabbits do need to chew, so lots of chewable toys should be provided and any areas where the rabbit is allowed to run must be safe and carefully rabbit-proofed.
Rabbits need a relatively large cage.
While rabbits are generally quiet pets, rabbits are not a good match for active young children who may not be careful enough when picking them up or playing around them.
Rabbits like to be near their people, however, they often would rather not be handled.
Rabbits will likely require some veterinary care, which can be expensive.
Rabbits should be spayed or neutered (by a vet experienced with surgery on rabbits) and they may require vaccinations depending on where you live.
Rabbits are sociable and therefore best provided with company, especially if the owner is away during the day or the rabbit is to be kept outside. Male rabbits (bucks) kept together will most often fight once sexually mature, although neutered bucks will live happily together. Does (female rabbits) will also live happily together if introduced at a young age or carefully introduced at an older age. A buck and doe should not kept together as this will result in continuous breeding. Even if the intention is to breed at some point, the buck and doe should only be introduced for a short period for mating to occur and kept separate at other times.
Rabbits are very affectionate and enjoy human companionship but most often prefer to sit beside their owner to being handled. However, their playful and trainable nature means they also enjoy play.
A rabbits diet should be made up of good quality pellets, fresh hay (alfalfa, timothy hay or oat), water and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a ‘treat’ and should be given in limited quantities.
Water is the number one nutrient requirement for all animals and fresh clean water is a must for your rabbit. Water can be provided in a sturdy crock or a water bottle with a sipper tube. If your rabbit soils the water bowl or enjoys tipping it over, the bowl should be replaced with a water bottle. Water needs to be changed daily and a bottles sipper tube should be cleaned weekly.
Your rabbit should eat vegetables daily. It is important to introduce vegetables one at a time to make sure each agrees with your rabbits digestive tract. Approximately, 1 cup of vegetables per 4 pounds of body weight daily is appropriate for rabbits.
Some suggestions include celery, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce or other veggies including cilantro, parsley, carrots, collards, dandelion greens and kale. Avoid gas-forming vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower.
Hay is essential to a rabbits good health, providing roughage which reduces the danger of hairballs and other blockages. Apple tree twigs also provide good roughage.
Rabbit hutches can be bought from most pet shops or if you are adventurous enough you could try building your own, however, make sure that you get one with a weatherproof roof if the hutch is to be kept out in the open. The hutch should be divided into two parts – two thirds should be the open part (usually covered with wire mesh) and one-third a closed-in bedroom.
The enclosed ‘bedroom’ is particularly important if you are going to be breeding your doe. The bedroom should have plenty of hay for your rabbit to burrow under.
The minimum size of a hutch for a small or medium-sized rabbit is about 4 feet in length (120 centimetres or 48 inches). Make sure your rabbit has plenty of room to move around in. Line the hutch with newspaper and sawdust to soak up urine, wood chippings are a good idea as well. The sleeping compartment should have plenty of hay for them to snuggle in. Your rabbit will eventually use a particular area in the habitat/hutch as a toilet, so put extra newspaper and sawdust in that spot when you have discovered where it is.
A rabbit run is essential if they are kept outdoors and provides plenty of room for exercise. Wire mesh coverings keep them safe from predator harm.
As with any pet, keeping a rabbit requires day to day commitment caring for it during its life.