Pet rabbits are becoming popular in the UK.

Behind the deceptively soft and timid appearance of the rabbit is an animal that is wonderfully affectionate, impeccably clean, entertainingly playful, and always intriguing. Still, it must be said that rabbits need specific care and owners should be aware of this and be ready to put the time in. In addition to the above mentioned qualities, they can also be extremely stubborn, destructive, demanding, and temperamental!

Vaccinations 

Currently in the UK there are three diseases that can be vaccinated against. Myxomatosis is seen commonly in wild rabbits and can be transmitted through contact with them or by parasites like fleas and mites transferring from wild to domestic rabbits.  

Viral haemorrhagic disease or VHD is now present in two strains. VHD1 and VHD 2. Strain 1 seems to be less common now and has been vaccinated against in combination with myxomatosis for some time but VHD2 is newer and only really been around for a few years. Because of this some vets, breeders and owners are still learning about the way it’s transmitted and effects rabbits. The best advice therefore is to vaccinate against all available strains to be safe and protected. 

Housing 

Generally rabbits need a lot more space than just a cage or hutch. Its important to be able to offer as much space for them as you can and still be safe.. 

The placement of the cage in your home is also important. A rabbit cage should not be placed too near a source of heat like a radiator, radiator, or wood burner, nor in a draughty cold spot. 

Loud noise can stress rabbits, so the cage should not be placed right next to a television or sound system speakers. . 

Outdoor hutches should be placed out of direct sunlight, in a sheltered position like next to a fence or wall and have insulated and waterproof covers. 

Provide the biggest hutch and run you can. All that is required is a dry and draught free area for sleeping, a sheltered area to keep food dry; and as much exercise and play area as you can provide. 

Access to change of scenery is great for enrichment so if this is a portable run or being taken in doors now and then can give them somewhere new to explore 

It is important that the hutch is secure and safe from predators, ensure fences and gates are secure and latches on the hutch are sturdy. 

Diet 

Correctly feeding a rabbit is really important and must be based on a good high-protein, high-fibre pellet and plenty of hay.  Pellet mixes with grains and dried fruit or Muesli types are not recommended as a staple for rabbits because it is thought the high sugar and calcium content of these mixes may contribute to digestive and kidney and bladder problems. Good quality Hay should also be provided for the rabbit all the time as this makes up 80% of their overall diet, with 10% pellets and 10% fresh food  

Rabbit Care and when to see a vet. 

Rabbits usually need to have their nails trimmed once a month depending upon how much they wear down.  Left untrimmed, a rabbit’s nails can grow to be very long and sharp and will be uncomfortable for the rabbit. 

Ears and eyes should be checked every week If there are any signs of infection or infestation by ear mites, consult your vet. 

Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously and teeth that do not meet perfectly overgrow each other. If the incisor teeth at the front of the mouth overgrow, this is obvious and stops the rabbit eating. The same is true of overgrown molar teeth at the back of the mouth, which often develop sharp edges and spikes to them causing painful mouth ulcers. In such a state, your rabbit will also go off its food, and often saliva dribbles from the mouth in a condition known as ‘slobbers’. 

Teeth should therefore be checked to ensure that they are wearing down properly. Rabbits with straight teeth will keep them worn down with everyday gnawing and chewing as long as their diet is rich in grass or hay. 

Its important to make sure your rabbit is eating and passing good stools regularly. Rabbits are consistent grazers and are very prone to getting intestinal problems like gut stasis. This is where a build up of gas, faeces and food in the intestine can cause pain, bloating and even death.  Rabbits shouldn’t go more than 4 hours without eating or passing pelleted stools, if you notice they refuse their usual foods and don’t pass any stools or watery stools then its important to contact your vet immediately  

Cleanliness 

The best way to keep a house rabbit healthy is to keep its environment meticulously clean. 

Remove soiled litter from the boxes every day, give it fresh water and food, sweep out any droppings and spilled food, and clean up any soiled spots in the cage with white vinegar. 

Most rabbits are possessive about their cages and will prefer you do this when they are not in them. Wait until they are out before starting to clean the cage. Give the cage, litter tray, and dishes a thorough cleaning once a week, and once every month or two clean everything with a mixture of one part bleach to ten parts water. Strong household cleaners are not appropriate because they contain chemicals that can harm your rabbit. 

Spaying and Neutering  

Any pet rabbit should be spayed or neutered upon reaching sexual maturity. Veterinary practices usually spay or neuter when the rabbit is six months old. 

There are many good reasons why you should consider having your rabbit spayed or neutered: 

  • Neutered rabbits live longer than un-neutered rabbits.
  • Research has shown that more than 80% of un-spayed females develop ovarian or uterine cancers by the age of five years. This risk is virtually eliminated by spaying your female rabbit.
  • neutered males are likely to live longer as well, as he is more likely to lead a less aggressive, less stressful life.
  • Neutered rabbits make better companions, they are calmer and less prone to aggressive or destructive behaviour. 
  • Both males and females are easier to litter train once they are neutered and are less likely to regress.
  • Prevents unwanted litters.

 

The life expectancy of a rabbit depends on the size of the rabbit. Very small rabbits tend to have shorter lives of 5 to 6 years. Average-sized rabbits; about 6–12 pounds may live 8 to 12 years or more. Very large rabbits; over 14 pounds may have shorter lives, about 6 to 10 years. Caring for your rabbit ensures they are with you longer and are happy healthy, loving pets.