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What do I need to know before getting a rabbit?

Article ID: 637
Last updated: 27 Apr, 2016
Revision: 13
Views: 3853

Rabbits can make fantastic pets. Sometimes rabbits may be viewed as easy, low maintenance pets but this is not the case. Rabbits require extra special care, for a whole range of reasons, so it is essential that before acquiring a rabbit, that you know what is needed to ensure your rabbit is happy and healthy.

Housing

A hutch should serve as a temporary enclosure only. It needs to be safe and secure for your rabbit and provide protection from predators. It should be large enough to allow your rabbit to exhibit its normal behaviours. All pet rabbits should be given the opportunity to exercise outside of the hutch for a few hours each day.

Hutches should be easy to clean. Suitable bedding includes hay, straw, shredded paper etc. An all wire floor is unsuitable. Remove soiled bedding daily and totally clean the hutch at least once weekly. This should help to prevent ammonia build-up and reduce attraction of flies to the area. If kept outdoors ensure that the hutch is rain proof and avoid extreme weather conditions. It is critical to ensure the area where rabbits are kept will not become too hot as rabbits are very prone to heat stress, which can be fatal. Hutches need to be well ventilated.

Wild rabbits live in burrows underground. The burrow is a ‘safe’ place for rabbits to be. Ideally a similar form of ‘safe’ place should be provided for your rabbit at home. A frightened rabbit will ‘bolt’ into its burrow if it feels threatened. At home this
‘burrow’ can be simulated in the form of an upturned box or a covered corner of the room. By providing these ‘bolt holes’
rabbits may feel more secure in their environment. More security = less stress = healthier rabbit!

It is also very important that the hutch (whether indoor or outdoor) uses fly screen wire or mosquito netting to keep out mosquitoes which can infect rabbits with deadly myxomatosis or calicivirus. Flyscreen wire or mosquito netting is also essential to keep out flies which can cause 'flystrike'. Flystrike is a life threatening condition where flies lay their eggs on rabbits and these turn into maggots. Maggot infestation can easily be fatal, so blocking flies is critical. Some rabbit owners put a mosquito net over the hutch for protection.

Indoor living                                                                                                                                                        

It is recommended that you keep your rabbit indoors as this way, not only do they feel safe and secure, and are protected from the heat and cold, but you get more time to interact and therefore bond with them and enjoy their company as they each have their own special personality. When rabbits are indoors, be aware of them chewing electrical cords & furniture! Rabbit proof your home!

make sure you provide a rotation of different safe chew items each day indoors so they are less likely to chew on wooden furniture. Chewing is a natural behaviour for rabbits and they actually have to chew because their teeth grow continuously and they need ot chew on things to wear them down.

Exercise                                                                                                                                                        

Exercise is important. Allow rabbits to exercise freely. This promotes good physical & mental health. All pet rabbits should be given the opportunity to exercise outside of the hutch for a few hours each day. Provide your rabbit with access to unfiltered natural sunlight regularly.

Play time                                                                                                                                                              

As with any pet, it is essential that you consider how much time you can interact with them. After all, this is one of the main reasons for having a pet. Even though you may not take your rabbit for a walk like a dog, you need to spend considerable time interacting with them every day including playing, stroking, grooming, feeding etc. 

Wherever your rabbit lives, it is essential that they have some toys to play with as well as cardboard boxes, which they love to hide in (make sure you have two holes cut out so there is an entrance and an exit on adjoining sides). Toys can be wooden toys and old phone books to chew on.

You can also toilet train a rabbit, they soon learn to use a litter tray or particular area to defecate and urinate in. Suitable litter materials include hay, straw or some cat litters (avoid clay types).

Feeding                                                                                                                                                         

Feeding rabbits a balanced diet is one of the most important parts of their care. The majority of their diet (80%) should be composed of fresh grass and/or grass hay. Grass/grass hay can be supplemented with daily fresh leafy greens & vegetables. Chewing grass and grass hay is also critical to wear down their constantly growing teeth.  See the ‘What should I feed my pet rabbit’ below for more detailed information.

Health care                                                                                                                                                       

Finally, health care is just as important for rabbits as for any other pet. Talk to your vet about vaccinations against calicivirus, They can also check your rabbits teeth to make sure they don't become overgrown.

Coats may require regular grooming and nails may need occasional clipping. Grooming is important so they don't get sick from licking and ingesting their fur. Long haired rabbits may need their coat to be groomed daily. Talk to your vet about whether trimming their coat would be a good option for your rabbit. Unlike cats, they won’t ‘cough-up’ fur balls, resulting to a possible hair obstruction gut, which can be fatal.

And when you are working out costs of having a rabbit, you need to factor in desexing as this is absolutely critical. It is so important to ensure that more baby rabbits aren’t adding to the over population of pet rabbits. Desexing males is about $150-$200 whilst females are approx. $300. Make sure you find a vet who is experienced with rabbits as there aren’t many around.

Adoption                                                                                                                                                             

We urge you to consider adopting your new furry friend as good homes are always needed for the many rabbits who sadly end up in an animal shelter. Reputable shelters will also ensure their rabbits are vaccinated and desexed as well as given an overall health and behaviour assessment prior to being available for adoption. Check out the RSPCA website Adoptapet to see rabbits that are available for adoption.

It is helpful to regularly visit a couple of reputable rabbit websites to keep up to date with important information. The following are a good place to start;


This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
Also read
document I just got a new rabbit. Can you give me some general advice on its care?
document What sorts of health problems do rabbits suffer from?
document What is myxomatosis and how do I protect my rabbit from it?
document Why can't I vaccinate my rabbit against Myxomatosis?
document Do I need to trim my rabbit's nails?
document What is rabbit calicivirus and how do I protect my rabbit from rabbit haemorrhagic disease?
document What should I feed my pet rabbit?
document How do I keep my rabbit happy and entertained?

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