Is a rabbit an ‘easy option’ for pet owners?
While rabbits are often perceived to be low-maintenance alternatives to cats and dogs, a happy rabbit actually needs the same level of care and attention as larger types of pet.
So, while it can be tempting to rush into things and get a rabbit as a ‘starter pet’ for yourself or young family members, there are still plenty of things you need to consider.
Here are just some of them…
Rabbits still need plenty of space and exercise
Although you won’t need to buy a lead and take your rabbit for a walk round the park each day, rabbits still need to be able to run, jump and dig – none of which they can do in a hutch.
They should be let loose in the garden every day under your supervision and, when you can’t supervise, provide them with an exercise run that’s at least 8ft x 4ft x 2ft (2.4m x 1.2m x 0.6m).
Rabbits need attention too
For the sake of your electronics, your appliances and, most importantly, for your rabbit’s own safety, don’t leave them unattended in your home.
While your rabbit is inside you need to supervise them at all times, TV wires are a huge temptation for rabbits to nibble on and electrocution is a serious risk – along with plenty of other potential hazards littered about an average home.
All rabbits also need weekly grooming and long-haired breeds need brushing every day – hair balls can block the stomach and prove fatal.
Rabbits require regular vet visits
Just like your cats and dogs, rabbits need regular trips to the vet. As well as regular check-ups, your rabbit needs to be vaccinated against diseases such as viral haemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis.
You should also, regularly check your pet has a clean and dry nose, ears, tail and bottom. Check they don’t have a runny nose or eyes, or any patches of red, sore skin, and visit your vet if you’re concerned.
During warm periods of the year rabbits are also susceptible to flystrike, a condition where flies lay eggs on the skin at the rear end of an animal which hatch into maggots and grow by feeding on flesh. Conduct regular checks in warm months (twice a day in the summer) and call your vet immediately if you find maggots crawling in your rabbit’s fur.
Dental health is still hugely important for rabbits
It is also essential to keep an eye on your rabbit’s dental health and take him to the vet if he becomes quiet or subdued, starts feeding irregularly or loses weight.
According to vets, up to three-quarters of all pet rabbits treated are diagnosed with dental health problems, which can cause pain and, in extreme cases, can even prove fatal. An extruded nugget-style food will provide your rabbit with vital nutrients and help prevent dental issues.
A rabbit may also need neutering
Just like dogs, it’s often important to have your rabbit neutered as soon as your vet recommends.
Neutering allows your rabbit to mix with other rabbits without fighting or causing a population explosion! Because rabbits are highly social animals who love companionship, this is massively important for their health and well-being.
Males who are not neutered can be very territorial and aggressive. Having them neutered means they are not constantly looking for a mate, which can make them a lot more happy and relaxed.
Similarly, un-neutered females can also be territorial, have false pregnancies and be aggressive towards their owner and other rabbits. Neutering can reduce these traits significantly and, in some cases, eliminate them completely.
Of course, no surgical procedure should be performed without getting all the facts, so ensure you consult thoroughly with your vet and get all the information you can before proceeding.
Rabbits can also be more expensive than you might think
While the initial cost of a rabbit will be much less than that of a cat or dog, their hutch, food, toys and other items – such as vet bills – can be as expensive.
To help with vet bills, all pet owners should consider rabbit insurance in case an unexpected illness – regardless of whether they’re a tiny rabbit or a Great Dane.
If you can, speak to your local vet before committing to buying a new rabbit, they can give you more information about the requirements and responsibilities involved and help you make an informed decision regarding all aspects of their care and health.
What are your top tips for looking after a rabbit? What are your experiences? Let us know below…