New Rabbit

lop bunniesLooking after your rabbit

Congratulations on your new pet! Rabbits are delightful, curious creatures. Here are our tips for you as a new rabbit owner.

How should rabbits be housed?

We recommend domestic rabbits are housed in solid floored and easily cleanable enclosures. Although traditionally wooden hutches are used, care must be taken as these are difficult to clean and the wood can absorb urine. Most of these facilities are now available with built in plastic cleanable floors to help maintain high standard hygiene. Glass housing is not recommended as ventilation is poor and can cause respiratory disease.

We do not recommend rabbits are permanently housed in a enclosure. Exercise is very important, and we recommend your rabbit has plenty of time to explore its surroundings either within a run or freely around the home/ garden. They should also be allowed to graze in grassy areas whenever possible.

All housing should be large enough to have separate areas to rest, play, eat and toilet. It should also facilitate pairs or groups of rabbits and have enough space for all to express normal behaviours such as stand, jump, turn around, explore and hide.

If left unattended, we recommend rabbits are housed indoors. They should also be housed indoors in colder months.

If outdoors, they could be housed in a secure shelter such as a garage or shed facility for safety away from predators. Ensure they are housed within a waterproof enclosure and always take care with drafts and ensure they are kept within an ambient temperature to prevent illness.

If they have access to the outdoors, please make sure the garden is regularly monitored for poisonous plants and toxic substances such as insect or weed repellents. Avoid direct sunlight, as heat stress often occurs.

Take care as rabbits love to dig and for this reason, a large outdoor run is often preferred for safety and precautions should be taken around the garden to prevent escape. Runs must have adequate shade and plenty of space to stand up and move around, ideally with a mesh roof to prevent escape and protect against predators.

We advise that all rabbits with access to the outdoors are fully vaccinated and contact with wild rabbits should be minimized as much as possible to reduce the risk of catching diseases such as Viral Haemorrhagic disease and Myxomatosis.

If indoors, take care they have adequate ventilation and they are kept away from smoke or cooking fumes or excess noise.

Ensure the house is “rabbit friendly” and all electrical cables are out of reach as they often like to chew on items they do not want in their pathway.

Adequate lighting is important and care must be taken with breeding pairs as lighting can greatly influence reproduction.

What sort of bedding is best for rabbits?

Their housing should be lined with newspaper and 2-5cm of substrate such as straw or hay should always be available. A thick bedding will help to prevent health problems such as pressure sores and allow them to dig and nest.  Take care with substances such as wood chippings as some contain harmful fibres that can cause respiratory problems. We recommend thicker bedding in colder seasons.

A closed nest box should be filled with a deeper substrate to allow for hiding and sleeping.

Rabbits can be trained to toilet in a litter tray just like cats. They often choose a suitable location to toilet such as a corner of their enclosure. Recycled newspaper pellets can be used in a tray to encourage your rabbit toilet in one location when freely roaming around your home. We would however, suggest you take care with certain litter types as rabbits can ingest new litters which may cause digestive problems.

What about cleaning?

Hygiene is very important and is key to maintaining your rabbit’s health. We recommend spot cleaning your rabbit’s enclosure daily to remove faeces, urine and unwanted food. Always remember to check your rabbit from head to toe and monitor what they pass each day for any health problems. This must be done twice daily in warmer months as conditions such as flystrike can be seen.

We recommend performing a full thorough clean of the enclosure each week. This includes removing and disposing of all substrate and lining. Clean all of the walls, doors and flooring with a animal friendly detergent and wash out all bowls and water facilities before replacing all with fresh supplies.

Water bowls and bottles should be refilled daily and cleaned in warm water to prevent the build up of algae.

Enriching your rabbit’s home with toys

As they are prey species, rabbits like to hide and seek shelter in “bolt holes” such as tunnels and boxes. Cardboard boxes, tubing and items such as flower pots are excellent for places to hide and rest. Cut plenty of holes in boxes for quick entry/exit when alarmed to escape danger.

They are inquisitive pets and enjoy exploring new items, we recommend adding in new toys and changing facilities regularly to enable them to explore. Small wooden blocks are great for climbing and jumping off, as well as making an excellent tool for gnawing and maintain healthy teeth.

Behaviour problems can often be prevented if domestic rabbits have plenty of enrichment to keep them busy. This can be anything from hiding food around their bedding, or within a box/ tunnel filled with shredded paper.

Other suggestions are items such as hanging baskets filled with hay, vegetables hanging from locations around the home or cage and upturned flower pots or herbs to help encourage natural foraging behaviour.

Fruit tree branches such as Apple wood double up as treats and toys. There are also plenty of rabbit friendly treats available in most pet shops but care must be taken as some can cause foreign bodies or digestive problems.

Rabbit exercise

All rabbits should be able to have regular access to a large open space to enable them to exercise. Failure to do so can lead to many behaviour problems such as frustration and aggression. It can also lead to many health issues such as poor bone development, obesity and dental disease.

Studies show that rabbits given the correct diet and exercise live longer and are healthier, as opposed to those that are kept contained in a hutch for the majority of their lives.

Rabbit diet

Rabbits need to continuously grazing on sources high in fibre for both their digestive tract and file down their continuously growing teeth. Hay should be freely available at all times and a high quality dry pellet such as Burgess Excel dry should be weighed out and offered daily. The correct amount to feed depends on your rabbits weight.

Vegetables such as kale, cucumber and carrots can be offered as a treat 2-3 times a week as enrichment but care must be taken with the type of sugary fruit/veg offered and how often, as too much can cause health problems such as diarrhea and obesity.

Water should be offered in a bowl and or bottle depending on each rabbit’s preference.

 

Call us for more advice on 020 8977 3955 (Teddington), 01932 229 900 (Shepperton) or 0208 390 5270 (Surbiton).