How to take care of your pet rabbits
We still think about rabbits, even though Easter is over!
Rabbits can be wonderful pets. They are curious and social animals. Contrary to popular belief they are not a ‘easy’ pet for children. Like all animals, rabbits have certain needs in terms of housing, handling, feeding, and providing them with stimulating and interesting activities.
Here are some tips for caring for your rabbits (and just a reminder that in Queensland, rabbits are not allowed as pets).
Rabbits require the company of other rabbits.
Rabbits live in a social group and shouldn’t be kept alone or without, at the very least, another rabbit who is compatible with them. It is best to keep rabbits in a pair. This takes time and patience but will improve the quality of your rabbit’s life. Desexing the rabbits is essential to stop them from producing a lot of babies.
A hutch is not a house.
Rabbits are often misunderstood as being able to live in a hutch permanently. A pen is only meant to be a temporary enclosure and safe sleeping place for your rabbits. If you keep your rabbits in a cage, it should be connected to a run that has plenty of room for them to exercise, run, jump, and sit/stand up straight. You will need to provide your rabbits with at least some exercise each day outside their hutch or run. Below are some tips for feeding your rabbits with outdoor access.
Remember that when choosing the enclosure for your bunnies, it should be large enough for them to display natural behaviors, such as grooming, feeding, and toileting, while also providing a separate space for this. Rabbits need space to be active and curious. Many of the cabinets on the market are too small. The rabbit’s enclosure should be the largest possible. However, the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund recommends that the minimum size of a rabbit enclosure is 3m (length), 1.5m (width), and 1m in height for two rabbits.
Regularly cleaned bedding should include a ‘burrow-type’ space. Burrowing is normal behavior in rabbits. They need to be able to express themselves and also have a place to hide.
The cabinet must be protected from predators, placed in a place that is not prone to rain, and have netting that can keep out mosquitoes and flies.
Rabbits can be kept inside the house. This is becoming more popular. You would be spending more time with your rabbits, getting to know them, and forming a strong bond. You can keep your rabbits ‘cage-free’ and still provide them with a safe area for themselves. You can even train them to use the toilet! Ideally, your indoor rabbits would have access to an outdoor safe place at least some of the time. They can also be taught to use a flap to get to this safe area. Keep any toxic cleaning products away from your rabbits and keep them safe from chewing on power cords.
Rabbits only want to have a good time.
Rabbits need to be mentally and physically stimulated. They require plenty of exercise and space to run. Make their environment as exciting as possible, and give them the opportunity to run, jump, and dig every day.
Ideally, your rabbit should be able to exercise every day in a grassy, safe area. You will still need to supervise them to ensure they do not escape or are protected from predators. You can also housetrain them and allow them to exercise in your own home.
Spend time every day with your rabbits to play, groom, and care for them.
The rabbit eats more than carrots.
Rabbits eat grass and hay and require a steady supply. Your rabbits must eat 80% grass/hay to maintain good gut health. The constant chewing throughout the day can also help keep your rabbits’ teeth worn down and prevent dental disease.
You can also offer a small amount of high-quality rabbit pellets (though this should not exceed 5% of their diet) and carrots and other root vegetables in small quantities as treats. You can give your rabbits a small amount of rabbit pellets, but this shouldn’t be more than 5%. Carrots and other root veggies can be shown in small amounts as treats.