Rabbits are excellent pets that have character, are extremely sociable, enjoy the company of humans and are a great way of introducing young children to pet ownership. They are quiet, clean and are easily toilet trained.
Housing and Husbandry:
While rabbits love company, they can be left alone during the day and are therefore suitable for people who work or are away from home. A predator-proof enclosure to ensure their safety is essential. An appropriate enclosure is a hutch that is divided into two connecting compartments, one a wire mesh to allow access to natural light and fresh air, while the other is enclosed to provide protection against weather and a secure sleeping place. The floor of your rabbit's hutch should be covered with newspaper, with a layer of bedding material like straw, grass, hay or shredded paper for warmth, comfort and to prevent pressure sores on your bunny’s feet. The mesh used for the hutch needs to be small enough to keep mosquitos out, as they can spread deadly viruses such as myxomatosis. Consider extreme weather conditions and ventilation when choosing a location for your hutch. Rabbits are extremely sensitive to the hot summer temperatures in Australia and may die of heat stroke if their hutch is not in a cool, shady position.
Rabbits should have at least two hours outside of the hutch for exercising each day. Handling them will also be of benefit in keeping them tame.
Using a firm brush to remove dead hairs, tangles and pieces of garden matter should form part of your daily routine. Grass seeds can commonly become stuck in their eyes, ears and nose, causing irritation or even infection. Check your rabbit’s rear end daily to make sure it is clean and dry - if soiled it is very prone to fly strike and infections.
Feeding your bunny:
Feeding and nutrition is the most important factor in making sure your rabbit stays healthy. Many commercial rabbit foods don't contain enough fibre (18 - 20% is required) and are too high in fats and sugars. Rabbits are herbivores so their diet should consist almost entirely of vegetable matter. Pellets and mixes should not form a main part of the diet. Grass or hay is an essential dietary component to ensure your rabbit’s health. Apart from providing a high fibre diet, and maintaining gut health, chewing hay wears down their continuously-growing teeth and keeps them occupied, preventing boredom. Ideally, feed your bunny 85% hay and 15% veggies such as Asian greens or endive (lettuce and cabbage can cause diarrhoea). Treats such as fruits, root veggies (carrots), capsicum and pellets should only be offered in small amounts (1 - 2 tablespoons per day per rabbit). Fresh water should always be available using both a drip feed bottle and an open container.
Veterinary Care of Rabbits:
Routine veterinary care is just as important for rabbits as for other pets. You should make sure all your rabbits are vaccinated against Calicivirus, a highly-contagious virus causing severe fever, multiple organ failure, bleeding problems, and sudden death. There is a yearly vaccination to protect against the disease, and your rabbit will get a full health check each year as part of their visit, including a check of their teeth. Dental issues are a major problem in rabbits, so your veterinarian will keep a close eye on the teeth and check that the teeth are wearing evenly.
Desexing is also very important for your pet rabbits. Firstly, breeding like rabbits is a saying that is very close to the truth - they can breed very quickly! It is difficult to determine the sex of young rabbits, so always have them checked as they reach about 6 months, so you don't have unexpected litters. Undesexed females will often develop uterine cancers even when only a couple of years old, so desexing young removes this risk. Males can also develop some bad behaviours if not desexed, such as thumping and spray-marking their territory. Desexing rabbits young helps remove many of these problems.
We welcome you to book an appointment to discuss how to keep your rabbit in optimal health.