A Brief Overview of Rabbit Care

 I am using the Animal Welfare Act of 2007 structure this section, as I feel it is important that people realise that, by law, they have a 'duty of care' towards any animals that they take into their care.

 The Animal Welfare Act identifies the five key needs of every animal:

1.   The need for a proper diet (including water)

2.   The need for somewhere suitable to live

3.   The need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (as appropriate)

4.   The need to express their normal behaviour

5.   The need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease


While many pet owners already provide for these needs, anyone who fails to do so could be liable for a fine or even a prison sentence.

 

A rabbit’s diet should ultimately be 80-90% hay.  Many large national pet shops supply own brand hay, which is ok hay, however, bunnies can be fussy things at times, and I have found that with farmed bales of hay my bunnies will eat it consistently. 

 Accommodation

Photo copyright of Ryedale Pet Homes 

 

Up until recently, both the RSPCA and the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund ( RWAF) have had guidelines on rabbit accommodation.  The RSPCA previously recommended a 6ftx2ftx2ft hutch and a permanently attached and secure, 6ftx4ftx2ft run (36 sq.ft) .  RWAF recommends a 6ftx2ftx2ft hutch and a 8ftx4ftx4ft run (44 sq.ft), which is preferably attached.  Both these are with respect to a single or a pair of rabbits, more rabbits will mean more space, larger enclosures and increased activities for the rabbits to do, as well as more spaces for individual rabbits to get away from each other. Both with the idea that bigger is better. 

Companionship 

Rabbits are very social animals, and prefer the company of another rabbit.  Both rabbits should be neutered before any pairing, or bonding.  Bonding is most successful when 6-8 weeks have passed from the last operation, and when done on neutral territory.  Neutering reduces the hormones with make bonding difficult and causes bunnies to fight for territory, food and mating rights of the area, as well as to show dominance. 

Normal Behaviour

 

Periscoping bunny,  Hutches and runs must have enough space for a rabbit to periscope, that is where they sit on their hind legs and raise the front part of their body up, to gain a higher vantage point.

So what do we already know... well that rabbits like to run, dig and forage for their food.  If they could, they would love to be in your garden doing these things all day everyday, however, to protect them we place them in and enclosure.  This does need to allow them to show their natural behaviours, so the can jump and periscope without touching the top of their run.  They need to be able to hop around a lot and generally exercise, so they need more than just a hutch.  They like to dig and roll in the soil, so providing a large plant pot of soil or compost is a good idea.  They are clean animals and like to eat separately from where they poop, rabbits are really easily litter trained because of this, so a litter tray is a good idea, it also excellent for making cleaning time a bit easier. Also as prey animal, they need somewhere to hid in times of danger, not just a hutch, but a cardboard box in the enclosure is a good idea too.  They like to live with company of their own species, however, watch out for fighting that gets out of hand and falling outs.  They often hump nip and chase each other as a way to show dominance, which isn’t true fighting.

Protection 

Protection is going to be addresses over the whole website.  There are many things we can do to help protect out rabbits, however it is closely linked in to everything from the accommodation we house our rabbits in, to preventative health care and good food. 

 It is your duty to prevent and treat any illness in your rabbit.  They should be protected from disease and pain as much as possible.  Pet rabbits should have vaccinations each year, to prevent Myxomatosis and Viral Hemorraging Disease (V.H.D.).  Both are quick to kill rabbits, and it’s very upsetting to watch. The new RHD vaccination was introduced in the U.K. meaning rabbit owners need only one trip to the vets. Prices vary from vet to vet, and I recommend phoning the vets you can reach to ask for prices.

It is essential for your bunny to see a vet if they are behaving out of the normal. Rabbits are prey animals and hide illness very well, by the time they are showing you signs of being ill YOU need to act fast and get an emergency appointment with a rabbit savvy very quickly, within the hour.

 




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