Bunny Camp

Rabbit Care

Rabbits make lovely pets… if handled properly they can give hours of pleasure and are very intelligent, some even come if their name is called. I have found that they are not really suitable pets for very small children because if not handled properly they can kick out, scratch and even nip if very roughly handled. This page is just a guideline as to how to look after your rabbit. With good care your rabbit could live up to 10 years or even more.

I feel the minimum size hutch for a rabbit is 5’x2’x2’, I personally prefer 6’x2’x2’ though mine live in larger with my guinea pigs. Also take into account if you have more than one rabbit they will need more space. Their hutch should be sheltered from the elements…shade from the hot summer sun is very important as rabbits overheat very quickly and this can cause a stroke. I use shavings, and lots of hay and straw for bedding. They will also need a good sized fully enclosed run with some toys, wooden chews, a tunnel to run through and maybe an old plant pot to sit on for when they are on look out!!…exercise is very important to a rabbit. I have adapted my run so it will fix to the front of their hutch. I connect this from about 8am till nearly dark, so they never feel closed in and promotes for a happy relaxed rabbit.

Hay is the most important part of a rabbit’s diet and grass if available…these promote a good digestive system and help to keep their teeth in good condition. Hay and fresh water should be available to your rabbit 24/7. A good quality dry food is also essential. You can either feed them the muesli or pellet type. I prefer pellet as they tend to just pick out their favourite bits of muesli and don’t always get all the essential ingredients…I feed Burgess Excel. Also your rabbit will benefit from fruit and vegetables in their diet. I’ve found carrot, kale and spinach to be mines favourite veggies though they also love celery and swede in small amounts. Pear and melon are their favourite fruits but every rabbit is different. The main thing to remember when introducing fruits and vegetables is one at a time and gradually over a long period of time. You don’t want any tummy upsets. Don’t feed them lettuce as it is really bad for them. The darker Romaine lettuce is supposed to be ok but I say if in doubt don’t!! RABBITS SHOULD NEVER BE FED FRUITS AND VEGETABLES TILL THEY ARE AT LEAST 4 MONTHS OLD.

When picking up your rabbit you should always support their back end…a rabbits spine is a very fragile thing, if their back end is not supported and they kick out they could damage their spine which may result in paralysis. Some experts say you should pick up holding the scruff of the neck while supporting the back end and some say place one hand under their chest between their front legs while supporting the back end…I prefer the latter. NEVER PICK A RABBIT UP WITH ITS EARS!!! Because rabbits are prey animals they feel happiest when on the ground and so can be quite nervous when being picked up. Don’t feel upset if this is the case…the more you handle them the more used to it they will get. Once you’ve picked up your rabbit sit down with him on your knee, preferably on a sofa so he can’t see how high from the ground he is. Sit him facing you, talk to him, rub behind his ears (they love this) and maybe brush him with a soft brush which may relax him more. Do this for at least 20 minutes…every day if you can. Hopefully he will gradually look forward to the pampering so much he will practically leap into your arms!!!

Rabbits and Guinea Pigs Together
Most experts say you shouldn’t keep guinea pigs with rabbits due to bullying, risk of injury to the guinea pig or differences in food requirements. But my 2 guinea pigs live very happily with my rabbits. Firstly, to avoid any bullying the smaller breed of rabbit is best. Mine are mini lops and were introduced to the pigs when they were 8 weeks old…spending an hour a day in a run with them. I soon found they were cuddling up to the much older guinea pigs, so as soon as the rabbits were old enough to eat fruit and veggies I moved them in with the little piggies full time. My guinea pigs never groom each other but my rabbits regularly groom them and boy do they love the attention. As for the food I use 2 dishes but mix the rabbit food with the pig food so they all get a bit of everything. They get lots of fruit and veg so never have any problems. If the rabbits get a bit boisterous jumping around in the run the pigs just tend to stay out of their way and have never suffered any injuries. Rabbits should only be introduced to guinea pigs if the rabbit is still a baby.

I think it is very important to neuter your rabbit. In males it calms them down, stops territory marking with urine and generally makes them easier to handle and litter train. In females I feel it is even more important, especially if she isn’t going to have babies. This is because with all the hormones running through their body 80% of females will die from uterine cancer and few will live longer than the age of 5 years. Also it calms them down and makes them easier to handle and litter train.

Rabbits naturally live in large groups. So unless you are going to be able to spend lots of time with your rabbit you should consider buying two as they love company and get very lonely and depressed if left for long periods of time on their own. This can cause behavioural problems. If you have a single rabbit you’ve had a while don’t think oh I’ll go and get him/her a friend and just put them together….this won’t work! They need to be introduced gradually on neutral territory. Some say the best combination is a spayed female and castrated male but I have never had any problems with two of the same sex living together, as long as they have both been neutered.

VHD and Myxomatosis are the most common and most horrific of rabbit diseases. Your rabbit should be vaccinated against these… VHD yearly and Myxomatosis 6 monthly. This also enables your vet to give your rabbit an all important health check. Checks you can do yourself on a regular basis are: Check they have nice clean ears and no runny eyes or nose. Check their bottoms for soiling (especially in summer) as this can attract flies and can cause a condition called fly strike. This is where flies lay their eggs in the rabbits fur and when the eggs hatch the maggots eat into the rabbits flesh and if not caught quickly cause a very swift and painful death. Also just check your rabbit’s teeth are not overgrown. But your vet will check this when you take them for their vaccinations if you’re not happy putting your fingers in their mouths.

I hope this page has been of help to you. I’m no great expert and all the knowledge I have has been through the experience of keeping these lovely pets over the years and reading. I can’t emphasise enough…read about your pets and how best to look after them…books, websites, anything so long as you have the vital information needed to look after them as well as they truly deserve. We at Bunny Camp will always try and help whenever possible.