A bunny is not just for Easter! – What to consider before buying your first rabbit

rabbits

Ooooh, there’s bunnies everywhere!

Whilst the chocolate ones are easy to buy and quick to enjoy, real bunnies (or any pet for that matter) shouldn’t be bought in such a rash, “I want one!” manner.

Just like the saying “A dog’s not just for Christmas, it’s for life” – it’s the same with rabbits too.

Rabbits can make great additions to the household but as with any pet, they are a big commitment and if you are thinking of getting one, here’s some of the things you need to consider before buying your first rabbit.

Where is your rabbit going to live?

Before buying your first rabbit you need to think about where your rabbit will live.  Whether indoors or outdoors, they need to live in the right kind of environment.

Their home needs to be big enough not to be outgrown – your small little kitten or “kit” will quickly grow – sometimes into quite a large rabbit!

Rabbits need to have plenty of space to stretch out and move around inside their ‘house’ so you need to be sure that it will be big enough.

Before you buy your rabbit, you need to establish how large your particular breed of rabbit will grow, once they are fully mature ensure you select a ‘house’ that is large enough. Check out www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

They recommend a minimum area of 10ft x 6ft x 3ft high (3m x 2m x 1m) for a pair of average sized rabbits, regardless if they live indoors or outside. A small hutch is just not enough.

This will offer ample room to move around and should be tall enough to prevent your rabbit from being able to touch the roof if they stand on their hind legs.

Their home should be ‘carpeted’ with comfortable bedding such as dust-free shredded paper or hay. This is likely to be eaten too so it needs to be safe.

Their toilet area should be separate to the main sleeping area. If you will be having more than one rabbit, they should each have their own litter tray.

How long will your rabbit live?

One of the reasons you should stop and think before buying a rabbit, is that they live on average for somewhere between 8 and 12 years but some rabbits can live even longer than this. A rabbit a long term commitment. Will it still fit into your lifestyle in the future?

Grooming and general care

Rabbits will generally keep themselves clean but you’ll still need to groom them to keep their fur in check.

Long-haired bunnies can get matted fur if they are not groomed regularly.

You should also check their back end to make sure it’s clean and dry, especially in summer months.

Most bunnies will also benefit from having their claws trimmed roughly every six weeks and they will need regular worming and flea treatments.

On a regular basis, their hutch or home will need cleaning out and disinfecting. Will you be doing this or a child? Who is going to take regular day to day responsibility for your rabbit? These are things you need to think about and commit to.

Important healthcare

  1. Vaccinations: Your rabbit will need vaccinations against the two strains of Rabbit Viral Heamorrhagic Disease (RVHD). Rabbits can be protected by injection anytime from 5 weeks of age, then a booster every 12 months, this is when it’s part of the combined Myxo-RHD vaccine.   Your rabbit will also need a separate RVHD2 vaccination every 6 – 12 months.
  2. Neutering: This is VERY important – particularly for female rabbits (not just to prevent the huge number of unwanted baby kits) but because a very high number of females get uterine cancer. Ensure you plan for the associated veterinary costs.
  3. Dental care: Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously throughout their lives and in the wild, tooth length can be kept in check and at a safe length by the regular chewing of hay. Pet rabbits may not get the same amount of hay in their diet, and some of the smaller or round-faced breeds may not have enough room for their teeth. If you have a rabbit, then you’ll need to pay a lot of attention to the care of their teeth, discussing things to look out for and best rabbit tooth care with your vet.

If at any time you spot worrying symptoms such as a runny nose, fur loss, appetite loss, lumps/bumps and breathing difficulties, you should take your rabbit to the vet as soon as possible.

Food and drink

Rabbits are herbivores, which means that they will eat vegetables, some fruits and grasses such as hay.

Your bunny’s daily diet will be largely made up of hay but can include a small amount of leafy green vegetables.

Fruit can be given but this should only be offered as a treat due to the sugar content. Rabbits do not seek out fruit in the wild but they can tolerate small amounts of apple from time to time.

Be aware that some fruits are unsuitable for rabbits and should be avoided at all costs. These include;

  • avocado
  • grapes
  • raisins
  • parsnips
  • fruit pips.

The ‘wrong’ type of diet can lead to digestive and dental problems as your rabbit’s teeth will not be worn down properly. If you’re not sure what to feed your bunny, ask your vet for advice.

Clean water should be provided and this should be changed on a daily basis.

Temperament and care

Rabbits are generally affectionate and social creatures, who enjoy interaction and playtime with their owners.

Many rabbits are happy to be handled and will enjoy this connection to their owner, but they are fragile and can be easily hurt so it is important you know how to handle them properly.

If you’re buying a rabbit for children, supervise and teach your children how to behave (quietly) and how to handle rabbits, before you leave them alone with them.

Rabbits do not feel comfortable being left alone for long periods of time. This can cause stress and anxiety

For these reasons, you need to ensure that you have time to spend with your rabbit. It’s not going to be happy simply being put outside in the hutch and left to it’s own devices.

Rabbits can get bored easily so it’s important to keep them stimulated and happy.

Allow time outside of the ‘house’ for playtime and exercise. This should always be supervised though; if they come indoors, most rabbits will happily chew electrical cords if left unattended so it’s best to keep a close eye on them throughout.

You could of course decide to buy more than one rabbit – it’s always nice for pets to have another to interact with but careful – two bunnies can quickly become too many bunnies! so ensure you get them neutered to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

If you do decide that you are prepared to invest in the long-term care of a rabbit, look up local rabbit rescue organisations, private, hobbyist and show rabbit breeders or pet shops and get advice on the adult size and requirements of that particular breed.

Don’t forget Animed Direct can supply lower cost rabbit prescription medication as well as a range of foods, bedding and accessories.

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