Basic rabbit care
Rabbits are gaining popularity as pets and it is necessary to know the basics of rabbit care to offer them a comfortable life as responsible owners. You should know that caring for your rabbit requires time and money, and being unable to cope with its needs leads to serious deterioration in its health.
You can get a rabbit from someone you know or at a pet shop. When choosing a rabbit it is particularly important to check the following: the cages at the shop are clean, the rabbits have clean water, not too many rabbits are housed in one cage, the rabbits seem healthy, clean, active, have a clean and glossy coat free of faeces, show no visible skin sores or lumps. Avoid buying rabbits from shops that you think do not offer them proper care.
Rabbits are social animals and in the wild they live in families; as pets they can also live alone. If you want two rabbits, you should know that a male and female rabbit will mate resulting in a large number of offspring, and that two males will be competitive and fight; two females is probably an excellent choice.
In the wild rabbits live in open areas and dig burrows. The burrows found under the ground have a central room which is connected to the nests through a network of passages.
It is wrong to believe that a rabbit can live forever in a cage. Rabbits need a place to rest, an open space to exercise (garden or home) and a litter box. Rabbit are social animals and will seek out our company. We must ensure that a caged rabbit is not exposed to rain, draughts and direct sunlight.
Rabbits are very clean animals and do not like urinating in their living quarters. Constant enclosure in the cage where the rabbit urinates can lead to serious urinary tract, respiratory tract, and skin problems.
The litter box should be cleaned daily. Make sure the litter is absorbent and dust-free. Wood shavings are used often and offer the advantage of being highly absorbent, but create dust and cause respiratory tract problems. Lately wood shavings with very low dust content have become available on the market. Wood shavings from carpentry shops are not suitable for your rabbit’s litter box.
Definitely do not lift up your rabbit by the ears. It is particularly painful. Lift up your rabbit supporting its chest with one hand and its rear end with the other (photograph)
A staple rabbit diet is hay (not straw) which should make up 70% of its diet. It should be offered daily, supplemented by dry food, fresh food and clean water changed daily.
The exclusive use of pellets is a common and serious mistake that rabbit owners make. The most suitable vegetables are carrots and carrot leaves, lettuce, endive, celery, cauliflower, parsley, fennel, spinach. The most suitable fruit are apples, pears, bananas, kiwis, grapes.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be offered in small quantities to avoid diarrhoea, after having been washed well and dried. If fresh food is not consumed within half an hour it should be removed.
Beans and cabbage should be avoided.
Rabbits need plenty of fresh water every day. Water bowls should be washed regularly to prevent the growth of poisonous alga.
A beautiful pair of rabbits can easily grow into a large family causing headaches for the owner and a poor quality of life for the increasing number of rabbits produced. The consequences of this overcrowding are mainly stress and diseases, predominantly of the respiratory tract.
Neutering pet rabbits is recommended. As romantic, by human standards, as mating and bunnies may be, it would be naive to think that it is possible to find a good home for all of them.
Your bunny needs to chew on something hard to ensure its incisors stay in shape. Otherwise, the incisors grow excessively (see photo) to the point of blocking the mouth and the rabbit is unable to feed and drink water. Regularly check the incisors of rabbits and contact your vet and ask for help when you notice a problem.