Everything you need to know about rabbits

Approved by the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund.
Approved by

Brian Faulkner

Veterinary Surgeon
RCVS Registered

Find out more about looking after bunnies by following our 26 expert tips on rabbit care.

Rabbits are adorable animals and make great pets, but they also need a lot of care. Whether you’re an existing bunny owner looking to brush up your knowledge, or you’re considering buying or adopting rabbits for the first time, find out more about looking after rabbits with this helpful A-Z list:

A is for aggression

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

B is for brushing

Brushing is an important part of rabbit care for long-haired breeds. They need brushing every day since hairballs can block the stomach and prove fatal. Short-haired rabbits tend to groom themselves or be groomed by their companion.

C is for chewing

Bunny-proofing is vital if your rabbits are going to be loose around your house. Move houseplants out of reach, and cover phone, computer and electrical cables with plastic piping to prevent your rabbits from electrocuting themselves. Give your rabbits treats that they are allowed to nibble, such as a seagrass mat or chewable toys.

D is for diet

Your pets are designed to eat a high-fibre, low-protein, low-energy diet. Feed them small amounts of complete rabbit food, a constant supply of grass and hay, and fresh leafy vegetables in moderation. They 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 or cage. 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 3m x2m x1m high.

F is for flystrike

This potentially fatal condition is caused when flies lay eggs on rabbits and maggots hatch. Check your rabbits at least once a day – twice if they are obese, have problems moving around, or have open sores or an unclean bottom. If you see maggots, or if the bunnies are listless or in discomfort, take them to your vet immediately.

G is for grass

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

H is for hutches

Victorians kept rabbits for meat, and it was they who first housed rabbits in hutches – but hutches were never intended as long-term accommodation. The minimum recommended size for a pair of rabbits is 3m x 2m x 1m, 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 rabbits need things to hop on, crawl under and climb on to stop them becoming bored or overweight. Try ramps and lookouts, 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 they choose to go. As they may nibble the litter, avoid toxic or clay-based makes, which could swell up in their stomach. You could also use a thick layer of newspaper topped with hay.

M is for MOT

Regularly check that your bunnies have 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 ask your vet how to trim their nails if they need it.

N is for neutering

Have your rabbits neutered as soon as your vet recommends it and your bunnies 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 as your pets – 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 bunnies. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) has information on poisonous plants. Rabbits can't vomit, so if you think they’ve eaten something poisonous, take them straight to your vet.

Q is for quiz

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

R is for rescue

Around 35,000 rabbits end up in UK rescue centres every year. Baby bunnies are adorable, but if you rehome an older rabbit, they may already be house-trained, neutered and vaccinated. Older rabbits may also come as a happily bonded pair.

S is for snuffles

This is a common respiratory condition, highly contagious between rabbits, and is usually caused by the bacterium Pasteurella. Other bacteria can cause the same condition, including Bordetella, which causes kennel cough in dogs. So, if you have a dog with kennel cough in the household, be sure to keep them away from your rabbits. If you are concerned that any of your rabbits may be displaying symptoms of snuffles, 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 pets won't be able to eat properly. Apart from their annual check-up, take them to the vet if they drool, appear to be in pain or have lost weight. Their gums should be nice and pink.

U is for uterine cancer

Cancer of the uterus or ovaries occurs in up to 80% of female rabbits that haven't had babies or been spayed. Neutering prevents uterine cancer from occurring.

V is for vaccinations

All pet rabbits in Britain, including house rabbits, need to be vaccinated against viral haemorrhagic disease 1 and 2, and myxomatosis.

W is for worming

Pinworms are among the most common worms to affect rabbits. If you think your rabbit has worms, take them to the vet, who will be able to prescribe a deworming treatment.

X is for xtras

For extra-hea lthy munchies, give your bunnies pieces of edible wood (such as apple, willow or hazel), leafy greens and root vegetables. Avoid giving them 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 for up to 10 years – so consider whether another pet might be more suitable for your family.

Z is for ZZZ

Make your rabbits’ beds from a cardboard box lined with straw or a synthetic fleece, and give them a little bit of veg or fruit – the ideal bedtime nibble.

With thanks to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF).

Do you have any other advice for people who are considering getting pet rabbits? Share your experiences with us on social media using the tag #PethoodStories

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