Rabbits…Rabbits…Rabbits everywhere! Rabbits mean different things to different people. Some like to eat them, some love them as much as people love their children. For me, rabbits are cute to look at but too much to properly care for. This blog will discuss the care to that goes into proper rabbit ownership.
The breed of rabbit and the gender can affect their size and life span. Mini Plush Lop and Lionhead rabbits are some of the smallest domestic breeds. They typically average about 2-4 pounds. The largest breed of rabbit is the Flemish Giant. They average around 15 pounds. That is the same size of a pug!! Just like with dogs and cats, it is recommended to have your pet rabbit spayed or castrated. They can develop certain reproductive issues and cancers if left intact. Unaltered rabbits also tend to show more signs of aggression and urine mark their territory. A neutered house rabbit can live 8-12 years.
Humans with allergies or asthma may want to reconsider having a pet rabbit due to rabbits requiring hay in their diet.
It is recommended that rabbits live indoors to provide them with a safer, longer life. Rabbits exposed to the outside can get warbals, intestinal parasites, myxomatosis or viral hemorrhagic disease. They are also exposed to predators.
An indoor enclosure should be at least four times the size of the rabbit when it is laying down. A rough estimate for cage size is at least 4 feet long for dwarf breeds and 6 feet long for larger breeds. The enclosure should be a solid floor because wire mesh flooring can cause injuries or sore hocks. A lot of rabbit lovers will provide a large play pen or free run of their home once is has been rabbit-proof. Don’t worry about those little brown “recycled food” balls all over your house, rabbits can be litterbox trained. Rabbits don’t sweat or pant well, so keep an eye on the temperature where your rabbit is kept.
Rabbits will need both physical and mental exercise to stay happy and healthy. Supervised floor time using baby gates or freestanding collapsible pens will provide enough space for physical activities. Make sure to set out a large litterbox, toys, food, water, and hay in the play area. Most bunnies love to tug. By placing a newspaper tucked under a table leg, it will give them something to do. Rabbits are very playful, they love to toss toys around and some even learn to play fetch! Rabbits must get at least four hours of exercise per day to prevent boredom and more importantly osteoporosis. Exercise also helps with motility. Only give your bunny specially prepared wood blocks and seagrass mats for them to chew on. Other safe toys for your rabbit to play with include: toilet paper rolls, cardboard boxes, paper bags, non-breakable hard plastic dog or parrot toys, and woven straw baskets.
A lot of people are worried when it comes to picking up a rabbit and for good reason. Rabbits get very nervous when picked up and as a response, they try to flee. When they struggle, they can severely injury their spinal cord. The safest initial approach to take with a rabbit starts by stroking the top of the head. A step by step diagram for picking up a rabbit can be found at: http://rabbit.org/an-uplifting-experience
A rabbit’s diet should be made up of good quality pellets, fresh hay (timothy or other grass hays), oat hay, water and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a “treat” and should be given in limited quantities. An amazing and thorough list of fruits and vegetables for your rabbit can be found here.
Just with any other type of pet ownership, it is recommended your rabbit is seen by a veterinarian yearly. Since rabbits have the prey protective instincts, they do not show any signs of illness until it is almost too late. Any sign of your rabbit not acting like itself, is definitely time to get them to a vet. By keeping an eye on their breathing, bathroom habits and if they are grinding their teeth, that can give you an idea of their health status between annual vet visits. Rabbits are susceptible to a variety of health issues. Here is a list of some of the more common issues seen in rabbits: gastrointestinal stasis – not eating, bacterial infections, heat stroke, hypothermia, teeth issues, head tilt and abscesses. Rabbits can get fleas. But it can be very dangerous to treat them with certain flea products. Never use Frontline on them. It is fatally toxic. Please call our office to know what flea products are okay to use on your rabbit.
Rabbits can provide the pet-human bond you may be looking for if you are unable to have a dog or cat. Making sure they are properly cared for will allow you to have many joyous years with them.