The essentials for keeping a healthy Rabbit
Environment – Whether your rabbits live indoors or outside, provide them with an enclosure that has separate toilet and sleeping areas, as well as somewhere they can run around, burrow and dig, as this helps keep them happy. Rabbits are very active so it’s really important they have permanent access to a large exercise area securely attached towhere they live.
Diet A complete diet for fibrevores (animals, like rabbits, that need fibre as the most important part of their diet) should provide for their dental, digestive, and emotional health. Good quality hay and/or grass, separate from their bedding, should make up the majority of your rabbits’ diet and should be available at all times.
A small daily amount of rabbit nuggets, healthy fibre-rich snacks to promote ‘foraging’ behaviour, some fresh vegetables like broccoli and cabbage and access to clean water will keep your rabbit healthy. If this diet is different to the way you currently feed your rabbits, introduce new food gradually over a few days to avoid stomach upsets.
Behaviour When rabbits become bored, they may start to exhibit unwanted behaviours, such as plucking their own fur or biting the bars of their home. Rabbits’ behaviour is very much linked to their emotional wellbeing so keeping pet rabbits occupied is very important to help prevent them developing behavioural problems.
Foraging for hay, grasses and herbs is what keeps rabbits busy and occupied in the wild, and this is no different for domestic pets. Hiding healthy food items such as carrot and apple etc, as well as occasional greens, around the living enclosure encourages rabbits to work a bit harder for their food, keeping them occupied and exercised. Toys can also be used as a way to keep them entertained, they also love to hide in tunnels or upturned boxes and even hanging baskets for hay.
Company Rabbits are social creatures and can suffer from loneliness and boredom if they live alone. If you are thinking about getting a rabbit, get a pair of bunnies that are already friends. The best combination is a neutered male and a neutered female to ensure your bunnies get along and won’t produce unwanted litters. Animal rehoming centres are good places to visit, as many have bonded pairs of rabbits who are vaccinated and neutered.
If you already have a rabbit, spend more time interacting with your rabbit, start slowly, handling your rabbit for five minutes at first and then building up the time until your rabbit is perfectly relaxed about being handled. This time spent interacting with your rabbit helps to stop them being bored and also prepares them for any visits they may have to make to the vet.
Consider introducing a second neutered rabbit, but get advice from a pet care specialist on how to do this to avoid fighting.
Health Every day your rabbit should be checked to ensure they are well. Eyes should not be runny, red or swollen, ears should not contain any discharge. Are they as bright and active as usual? Look at their teeth to make sure they are not overgrown, this can affect their eating. A good supply of hay helps to keep the rabbit's evergrowing teeth in check. Rabbits need exercise to stop them becoming overweight, if they do not exercise enough they can become obese. Check your rabbit's bottom regularly to ensure they are clean and dry. Check that their nails aren’t becoming overgrown and make sure their skin and fur isn’t patchy, red or scaly.
If you have any concerns about your rabbits’ health, consult your vet straight away.
You should also neuter and vaccinate your pets. Neutering prevents uterine cancer, a common health problem in older female rabbits, whilst vaccination protects against myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), two serious and life-threatening rabbit diseases.