Rabbits

Rabbits can make wonderful pets but they are complicated animals that are also a considerable commitment, living for 8-12 years and sometimes even longer

Environment

a suitable living environment

Diet

a suitable diet

Behaviour

to be able to behave normally

Companionship

to have appropriate companionship

Health

to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

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

Did you know?

The likely lifetime cost of owning a pair of rabbits could be up to £16,000. 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?

8 - 12 years life expectancy

£16,000 life time cost

Check before you buy

Please consider contacting your local animal rescue/rehoming centre first

Never acquire rabbits solely as pets for a child

Rabbits are rarely cuddly and may bite and scratch if they feel frightened or insecure. As well as people being injured, rabbits can also be easily injured if handled inappropriately. 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 acquire are lively, alert and not showing any signs of illness or injury

If rabbits have been carefully and gently handled from a young age (10 days onwards) they are more likely to be comfortable with handling as they grow older

However they are unlikely to enjoy being picked up so you should interact with them on ground level where possible

Consider the cost of veterinary care such as annual vaccinations against RVHD1&2 and Myxomatosis, neutering and unexpected illnesses or injuries

You may wish to consider taking out pet insurance to help cover these costs. Remember you will also need to make provisions for care whilst you’re away on holiday

If your rabbits stops eating or is withdrawn you should see a rabbit savvy vet immediately

If your rabbit stops eating for even just a few hours this can be fatal as they need a constant flow of food through their gut

“Starter kits” are not suitable for rabbits

Be prepared to buy or build suitable accommodation – this may cost more than £300. Rabbits need an enclosure measuring at least 3m x 2m x 1m high (10ft x 6ft x 3ft high) which comprises of a shelter with attached run, this will allow them to stretch up fully on their hind legs. Rabbits should have permanent access to all areas of their accommodation. Larger breeds or bigger groups of rabbits will need more space than this. 

Indoor 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

As well as a large safe exercise area, 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 and should be kept with another (neutered) friendly rabbit

A neutered male with a neutered female is usually a good combination. Please don’t keep a solitary rabbit in a hutch – this meets few of the fundamental needs of the species and results in a bored and distressed animal

Your rabbit will need constant access to good quality dust-free hay to eat and for bedding

Owners should buy different feeding and bedding hays as feeding hay is of better quality. Hay and grass are the most important parts of their diet, as they ensure good dental and digestive health, and they should have constant access to it. 85% of their diet should be grass or a good quality hay, 5% a commercial rabbit pellet, and 10% fresh greens or herbs. Rabbit pellets should be fed in preference to rabbit muesli.

Microchip your rabbit as this provides a safe and permanent method of identification

This will increase the chance of returning your rabbit to you should it escape or be stolen.

Register your new pet with a vet as soon as possible and book them in for regular health checks

Common Scams

Be aware that rabbits with lop ears and short noses are more likely to have expensive dental and other health problems

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