Rabbits are the third most popular pet in Britain and are often seen as an ideal ‘starter’ pet for younger kids and are frequently bought from pet shops for this very reason.
However, in our experience we do see a bit of a lack of understanding about what these lovely animals really need to live happy, healthy lives. So we thought we would put down a few thoughts to cover the main areas where we feel a bit more knowledge could make a huge difference. As always these are our views and others may have other ideas.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, they are communal animals and we believe that they should not be kept as solitary animals unless, of course, there are any health or behavioural reasons why this would need to be the case. Generally rabbits need the company of at least another one of their own kind and for this reason, at Borders Pet Rescue, we do not rehome rabbits if they are going to be kept as single pets. We currently have two lovely pairs looking for homes for example.
Secondly, because they are prey animals, most rabbits really do not enjoy being picked up with all four paws off the ground. They generally react in one of two ways and either scratch, bite or struggle to get away or ‘play dead’ and remain completely still and silent. Either way they are not enjoying the experience.
Thirdly, the amount of upkeep required to ensure their living conditions are properly maintained and hygienic is considerable. Daily attention to hutches and runs (both of which are essential) is vital to keep them clean and free from disease.
Finally, there are a couple of main health issues that owners need to be aware of. Rabbits teeth are used for so many more things than simply chewing their high fibre food. Since their teeth grow around 2mm every week their diet must contain enough forage and hay to wear them down in an even and healthy way.
It is vital that all rabbits are vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) once they are five weeks old. This is now a combined vaccine and protects them against these two viruses which are usually fatal if contracted. It is vital that boosters are given every year; without it the rabbit is not protected against these diseases.