Rabbits

Rabbits live 7-10 years or longer.

Did you know:

    The likely lifetime cost of owning rabbits is around £9000. This excludes veterinary costs if your pets become sick or injured, so this cost could be even higher.  Could you afford the lifetime costs of owning rabbits?

Rabbits, like all animals, need five things to be healthy and happy; these are called the five welfare needs. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and equivalent legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, all owners need to provide these five things for the pets they keep:

1. Environment – a suitable living environment

2. Diet – a suitable diet

3. Behaviour – to be able to behave normally

4. Companionship – to have appropriate companionship

5. Health – to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Top tips:

  • Ensure your rabbits have a large hutch with constant access to a secure run that is large enough to allow them to run and stretch up fully on their hind legs
  • Most rabbits are fed an incorrect diet – hay and grass are the most important parts of their diet, as they ensure good dental and digestive health
  • As well as a large exercise run, rabbits should have items and objects that they can explore and interact with. Tunnels, boxes and sand pits filled with child-friendly sand or earth allow rabbits to hide and dig
  • Rabbits are highly social animals, yet nearly 7 out of 10 pet rabbits live alone. A neutered male with a neutered female is usually a good combination. Please don’t keep a solitary rabbit in a hutch – this does not meet many of the fundamental needs of the species and results in a bored and distressed animal
  • Rabbits should be vaccinated, just like cats and dogs. They need protection from myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD)

Outdoors

Two or more rabbits, provided they are neutered to prevent fighting and breeding, can live in a permanent enclosure in the garden with suitable shelter, or share a hutch at night with daily access to a large, secure exercise run.

The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund recommend a minimum hutch size of 6ft x 2ft x 2ft in addition to an area to exercise. A large wooden Wendy house with a secure run attached is a great way of providing for the rabbit’s needs.

Indoors

Rabbits can be trained to use a litter tray and live indoors. However, even after training and “bunnyproofing” some wear and tear on furnishings, and pet hair, is inevitable.

If you decide to buy rabbits, PAAG recommends the following:

  • Please consider contacting your local animal rescue/rehoming centre
  • Never buy rabbits solely as pets for a child. Rabbits are rarely cuddly and may bite and scratch if they feel frightened or insecure. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and similar legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland, a child under the age of 16 cannot have legal responsibility for an animal’s welfare – it is the responsibility of the child’s parents or carers to ensure that the animals’ needs are met
  • Make sure any rabbits you buy are lively, alert and not showing any signs of illness or injury
  • If rabbits have been carefully and gently handled from a young age (one week of age onwards) they are more likely to be comfortable with handling as they grow older
  • Consider the cost of veterinary care – vaccinations against VHD and myxomatosis, neutering and unexpected illnesses or injuries, and remember you will need to make provisions for care whilst you’re away on holiday
  • “Starter kits” are only temporary homes for young rabbits. As your rabbit grows, be prepared to buy or build suitable accommodation – this may cost more than £100.
  • Your rabbit will need regular supplies of quality food, hay and bedding.

If you require advice, please call:

Further advice is available from:

Your Right Pet – a pet selector tool that helps you find a pet that’s right for you: www.pdsa.org.uk/getpetwise

Blue Cross:
http://www.bluecross.org.uk

PDSA:
http://www.pdsa.org.uk/rabbits

Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund:
http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

RSPCA:
http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/rabbits

The Mayhew Animal Home:
themayhew.org

Wood Green Animal Shelters:
http://www.woodgreen.org.uk

Government Codes of Practice on how to meet the five welfare needs for rabbits: