Are you aware of the Animal Welfare Act? This doesn’t just cater for dogs and cats, it actually includes equine animals and rabbits and it’s not there only for when the damage has been done to an animal but it’s actual purpose is to prevent animal suffering of any type. “Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act places a duty of care on people to ensure they take reasonable steps in all the circumstances to meet the welfare needs of their animals to the extent required by good practice.” (http://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/changingthelaw/whatwechanged/animalwelfareact 19/10/2015) Every pet owner is obliged to follow this and it’s also inclusive of anybody with domestic animals, such as farms or animal breeders. I may have started off on a serious note here but it’s of incredible importance to be aware of!
My main focus today is on caring for rabbits, if anyone pondering the idea of acquiring a rabbit or two is reading this right now, I implore you to continue doing so and to take heed of the information I’m sharing. Rabbits are statistically the most neglected domestic animal, neglect IS a form of abuse of which no living being deserves. Over the years I have seen cases where rabbits are being mistreated to an awful degree or I see increasingly more people getting these as pets for their children but never fully researching the correct care beforehand. I’d love to think that by sharing some of the things I know to be true from caring for rabbits myself, whilst backed up by research and further reading links, that I could be proving myself helpful for creating a loving and happy bond between owner and pet. A rabbit is as much a part of the family as anyone else and should be treat with the same amount of care as any other member of that family. You are all they have and all they know, they have a right to life and to love, too. Please don’t fail to give them what they truly deserve. So what does a rabbit actually require to be kept safe, happy and healthy? Read on to find out just that.
Rabbits are very expensive animals to keep although very few people appear to think this through first and often find that they’ve taken on too much. It’s said that on average it can cost £1,000 per rabbit and considering a rabbit’s life expectancy is approximately 8 – 12+ years, this adds up to much more in the long run. Most people assume that all you need is a hutch and to keep them fed, this isn’t the case. You will need to consider not only a good quality and large living space consisting of hutch and a run, their food; consisting of fresh greens, pellets and hay, but also a range of toys for them to play with, things for them to gnaw on, bits and bats such as a litter box or hay holder and finally their vets fees and potentially pet insurance. Considering vets fees I don’t just mean if they get ill, either. Every rabbit will need to have initial vaccinations at approximately 12 weeks old, (individual vets have different ideas on when is best for this therefore do research early to plan this accordingly, as it could be as early as 8 weeks!) as well as yearly boosters and neutering. I’ve recently found out myself that rabbits can also be micro-chipped just as dogs and cats can, which I think is an especially fantastic idea for any owners of outdoor rabbits! Of course there is the fact that if your rabbit is not cared for correctly then it greatly increases the chances of needing to take multiple trips to the vets as your furry friend will likely become ill. A good idea to help with the costs of keeping rabbits, like with any larger animal, is to take out pet insurance. You will have to do your research yet again to find the best fit for yourself as an individual, this can be costly when considering long-term, although will be extremely helpful to get the treatment your pet will need in any worse case scenarios – vets bills, prescriptions and operations are extremely costly and can be needed at any time!
A great deal of pet owners will take little to no consideration with regards to their pets diet, choosing the first thing they assume will be the best. So many people still feed their rabbits on a muesli based rabbit feed and it’s the worst choice that can be made. It’s a known fact that muesli based feed includes so many more sugars etc than that of a pellet based diet. With a muesli diet rabbits, like any other animals on this type of feed such as hamsters, will choose to pick out their favourite bits, which are usually the pieces with the highest sugar intake, whilst leaving the rest. The best idea when choosing food for your rabbit is to go for the basic pellet based option, yes it may look incredibly boring but it’s the most nutritional and healthy for your little friend, surely that’s what matters most? On this note, a rabbit should not be expected to live on a diet only made up of pellets or muesli, hay is a huge component. A rabbits teeth never stop growing and they do so at an alarming rate, every week their gnashers could be gaining 3mm! Due to this, we become responsible for ensuring that they have plenty to gnaw on, which believe it or not includes a constant access to hay! Any hay is better than none, however meadow hay is the best and mostly recognised option. Don’t be alarmed if your rabbit consumes an incredibly large amount of hay, this is in fact meant to make up the majority of what they feed on. Fruit and vegetables I hear you calling out? Yes it’s true that rabbits do like fruit and veg, however you must be sure to limit their intake of these as many are high in sugars and are bad for your rabbit in large doses, they’re a great idea to use as a treat which can have the added benefit when used as a reward for training purposes. Here are a few links from the RSPCA which will provide much more concisely what foods your pet can or can’t eat at all, or how much you should be limiting them to of certain foods. Please note a rabbit should always have access to fresh water which must be changed daily, I however change Echo and Eden’s twice or sometimes three times a day to ensure freshness whilst preventing them from being left without.
Basic Diet Requirements: http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rabbits/diet/planner
Safe and unsafe fruits/vegetables: http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/resources/content/info-sheets/safefoods.htm
Rabbits are social animals and you should aim to spend at least an hour every day interacting with them to ensure they don’t get lonely and suffer depression. Leaving a rabbit to their own devices for much of the time is a form of neglect. Consider if you will get one rabbit or two, as rabbits are used to living in warrens with other rabbits when in the wild – also this ensures the rabbit isn’t lonely when you aren’t around. Even when getting two rabbits you will need to spend time with them although it’s still a highly beneficial thing to do. It’s most common to get rabbits together from the same breed, who will be already bonded as this takes away the hard work of having to do this for yourself. Any rabbit will have to be bonded first if you’re going to introduce a newbie to one you already own, this is also the case for re-introducing your pets after a period of separation. I will explore this very topic in-depth in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled and be sure to hit that follow button! Please note that costs will go up considerably when choosing to own more than one furry friend, this is something to consider before welcoming them into your home. A rabbit isn’t just for it’s infancy or a short time period, they will be a part of your family for many years to come and are there to stay. Would you honestly like to be given a home, only to be abandoned some time later after your owners have realised they haven’t thought things through thoroughly? Abandoning the pets you apparently care for is never okay.
Interaction is also a necessity with respect to the bonding process. A rabbit of which is happy with it’s owners; feeling safe, secure and loved, will respond much better to learning good behaviours and being affectionate towards you. Rabbits make amazing friends if you’re willing to put in the required time and energy into them. Rabbits don’t respond so well to children and aren’t the best pet of choice for your child. As we all know children can be very rough when playing with or petting animals also sudden movements can all scare your rabbit, they can lash out when they feel threatened – biting, kicking or scratching. Are you prepared for the possibility of this happening? It would be highly unfair to expect your rabbit not to stand up for itself. Although if you do decide to obtain a rabbit for your child, please note that regardless you are the care giver and are responsible for the complete welfare of your pet, not your child. You may choose to let your child do things such as feeding and cleaning out your pet but you must be the responsible adult and ensure that this is completed correctly.
Home & Security
Every rabbit needs ample space to live and play in, including both a hutch and a run. It’s of utmost importance that they’re able to behave as closely to what they would do in the wild therefore they will need to be able to burrow, stand tall, hop and run – taking lots of space to do so, the more rabbits you own the larger space will be required to home them comfortably. Toys and things for your rabbit to do should also be provided for their entertainment, keeping them happy, along with a range of nibble sticks and items to gnaw on. You can choose to keep your friend either indoors or outdoors and there are things to consider with both options, such as:
- Indoors – Do you have the adequate space in your home for a large hutch and run, where will you keep it in order to least disrupt your home? Rabbits can be smelly animals therefore it’s advised to not keep them anywhere you would cook or eat. Whilst living indoors they would still like to be given some garden time, somewhere providing fresh air, sunlight and the option to dig – after all, any of us would hate to be cooped up indoors all of the time. As well as the smell, rabbits are messy critters and they malt, are you prepared to have the entire contents of your home looking like one giant rabbit? Believe me this is true to life, I speak from experience. There is nowhere that those hairs won’t creep their way into and they’re seemingly impossible to get rid of. Any wires or dangerous items in your home will have to be kept incredibly minimal and tucked away somewhere on the chance that your rabbit may escape either whilst you’re out of the house or during the night, speaking of which – they’re noisy on a night as rabbits are known to wake at dusk and dawn! If you can find a fix for all of these points then that’s amazing because it really is preferable for the rabbit and yourselves to have your friend indoors. It cuts out on a lot of risks I will soon share with you that living in the outdoors presents, keeping them indoors gives great peace of mind from knowing they’re safe. On cold winter nights it keeps them warm by living indoors also, which can cut down the chance of your fur baby getting poorly or infections from bugs they would potentially encounter outside.
- Outdoors – Outdoors definitely presents more dangers for your furry friend, Echo and Eden are currently living back outside and the notion terrifies me on a daily basis, I find myself constantly worrying about them. You will have to consider predators, such as foxes and ferrets. If any of these manage to get to your rabbits they WILL kill them, for seemingly no reason at all. Ferrets are smaller and probably the biggest threat as they will be able to find their way into the hutch more easily than a fox can, you will need to consider ways to throughly predator proof your rabbits home. Cats can pose a threat also and will scare your rabbits although not on the same scale of danger as the other two animals. Hutch security such as locks and using covers are things that can be considered to safeguard your pet, this also can work against humans too as we have all heard the horror stories I’m sure. Security for your garden is something to plan also, keeping people and larger animals such as foxes out (this also doubles as added home security). The strength and condition of the hutch is important to note, you don’t want it blowing over in bad winds if it’s a fragile item. Weather related also and another reason to use a hutch cover, is to provide the rabbit with added warmth and weather protection, keeping the hutch interior warm, dry and comfortable. Rabbits like to dig, if they are placed on grass then they will partake in this hobby, if you’re away from them for some time how do you know they haven’t dug their way out of their home entirely and gone missing, is there anything you could do to stop that from occurring? With all of this in mind it’s probably wise to consider micro chipping in the eventuality that your pet may well escape, it gives some hope that you may get your rabbit back. Last but not least the size of your hutch and run needs to have some serious consideration – this is where your rabbit lives, it’s whole world. Most if not all pet shop hutches are far too small for even one lone rabbit to live in, take a good look at different places for a good quality and sized hutch, or even consider making your own to your preferred specifications. Stated by the Animal Welfare Act, a hutch should measure 6ft x 2ft x 2ft with an added run size of 8ft x 4ft x 4ft. Please watch and listen to the following video, it really does give you food for thought.
Other questions to ask yourself are:
- Do you or anyone else in the family suffer from allergies?
- If they have babies, will you know what to do and be able to cope with the situation? Can you ensure everything is done to correctly care for all rabbits involved until the babies are old enough to find new homes (if that’s the intended plan)?
- When going on holidays, what will you do with your pets?
- A little morbid I know, but when they die will you have a burial or a cremation? It will need to be thought of at some point and this will be another expense.
- They have a life span of approximately 8 – 12+ years, can you promise to give them a safe, happy and loving home until the end of their days? Or will you get bored and abandon them?
- Why are you getting a rabbit in the first place? Is it for your child who will likely get bored, is it purely because they’re cute? Or do you have a desire to give an animal a loving home and friendship, is your main duty to provide love and care for a beautiful animal?
I hope this post has been even of slight use to somebody, if you have any further questions about anything raised here or other aspects of rabbit care (I can even provide hamster and dog care), then please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’d love to hear from you and as always you can easily reach me on any of the below social media accounts.
Disaster Davis x