Everything You Need To Know About Rabbit Before Buying

Thinking of adding a bunny to your menagerie this Easter? Clare Pemberley offers 26 expert tips to help you keep them happy. From the PetPeople magazine archive

A is for aggression

Your bunny will be much less likely to bite or scratch if neutered or spayed, provided with plenty of space and picked up correctly. Always supervise young pet carers to prevent mishaps.

B is for brushing

All rabbits need grooming weekly, but long-haired breeds need brushing every day - hair balls can block the stomach and prove fatal.

C is for chewing

Bunny-proofing is vital if your rabbit is going to be loose around your house. Move houseplants out of reach, cover phone and computer cables with plastic piping and give him treats he is allowed to gnaw, such as a sea-grass mat or chewable toys.

D is for diet

Your pet is designed to eat a high-fibre, low-protein, low-energy diet. Feed him complete rabbit food, a constant supply of grass and hay, and fresh leafy vegetables in moderation. He must always have access to fresh drinking water, too.

E is for exercise

Rabbits need to be able to run, jump and dig, which they can't do in a hutch. Let them loose in the garden if you can supervise them. When you can't, provide them with an exercise run that's at least 8ft x 4ft x 2ft (2.4m x 1.2m x 0.6m).

F is for flystrike

This potentially fatal condition is caused when flies lay eggs on rabbits and maggots hatch. Check your rabbit at least once a day - twice if he's obese or has open sores or an unclean bottom. If you see maggots, or if he's listless or in discomfort, take him to your vet immediately.

G is for grass

In the wild, rabbits spend many hours each day grazing. Your pet needs a constant supply of grass or hay to snack on. Ideally, give him a portable run that can be moved around an area of medium-length, weedkiller-free grass.

H is for hutches

Rabbits were first housed in hutches by the Victorians, who kept them for meat. Hutches were never intended as long-term accommodation. The minimum recommended size for one rabbit is 6ft x 2ft x 2ft (1.8m x 0.6m x 0.6m), but bigger is always better.

I is for intelligence

Rabbits are intelligent creatures that need the stimulation of suitable toys and human company. A bored rabbit can become depressed or destructive, particularly if it is solitary.

J is for jumping

Your rabbit needs things to hop on, crawl under and climb on to stop him becoming bored or overweight. Try ramps and look-outs, pieces of root vegetable hung from a string, cardboard boxes and paper bags.

K is for keep in pairs

Rabbits are much happier when kept in pairs. Keeping a solitary rabbit deprives it of one of its basic needs: the company of its own kind. The easiest pairing is a neutered male with a spayed female and, contrary to popular opinion, rabbits and guinea pigs don't make good hutch mates.

L is for litter tray

Rabbits are, by nature, clean animals and easy to litter train - usually all you have to do is put a litter tray where he chooses to go. As he may nibble the litter, avoid toxic or clay-based makes, which could swell up in his stomach. You could also use a thick layer of newspaper topped with hay.

M is for MOT

Regularly check your bunny has a clean and dry nose, ears, tail and bottom. Check he doesn't have a runny nose or eyes, or any patches of red, sore skin, and ask your vet how to trim his nails.

N is for neutering

Have your rabbit neutered as soon as your vet recommends and bunny will be happier, healthier, easier to litter-train and able to live with a companion without fighting or causing a population explosion!

O is for other pets

House rabbits often enjoy the company of other animals and will be accepted by many cats and dogs, provided they are carefully trained and introduced. If your cat hunts wild rabbits, choose a large breed for your pet - a confident rabbit that doesn't run away is best. Never leave a rabbit alone with your dog or cat.

P is for poisonous

Anything grown from a bulb is poisonous to a bunny - contact the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) for more details. Rabbits can't vomit, so, if you suspect he's eaten something poisonous, take him straight to your vet.

Q is for quiz

Ask your local vet if he specialises in bunnies. If not, the RWAF has a list of rabbit-friendly vets.

R is for rescue

About 35,000 rabbits end up in UK rescue centres every year. Baby bunnies are adorable, but if you rehomed an older rabbit, he may already be house trained, neutered and vaccinated.

S is for snuffles

This is a common respiratory condition, highly contagious between rabbits, and caused by the bacterium Pasteurella. If you are concerned, contact your vet.

T is for teeth

Rabbit teeth never stop growing, and if the top and bottom teeth don't line up correctly, your pet won't be able to eat properly. Apart from his annual check-up, take him to the vet if he drools, appears to be in pain or has lost weight. His gums should be nice and pink.

U is for uterine cancer

Cancer of the uterus or ovaries occurs in 80 per cent of female rabbits who haven't had babies or been spayed.

V is for vaccinations

All pet rabbits in Britain, including house rabbits, need to be vaccinated against viral haemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis.

W is for worming

We are all used to worming our cats and dogs, but some vets recommend worming rabbits against E. cuniculi - a common parasite that can cause paralysis, kidney disease and cataracts.

X is for xtras

For extra healthy munchies, give him pieces of edible wood (such as apple, willow or hazel), leafy greens and root vegetables. Avoid giving him human treats, which are often full of sugar and fat; eating sweets and chocolate can be fatal for bunnies.

Y is for young children

Bunnies don't like sudden movements and many don't like being picked up. After begging for a pet rabbit, many youngsters lose interest in them. A pet rabbit can live up to 10 years - so might another pet be more suitable for your family?

Z is for ZZZ

Make your rabbit a bed from a cardboard box lined with straw or a synthetic fleece and give him a little veg or fruit - the ideal bedtime nibble.

With thanks to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF). For more information on rabbits, download our rabbit guide.