Having a rabbit as a pet is growing more popular as the years go on. It is estimated that around 900,000 pet rabbits live in the UK. This statistic is not surprising as rabbits can make great pets for children and adults as they are highly intelligent and curious.
We are going to tell you what it is like to have a rabbit as a pet, along with information on the species and how best to care for them.
In This Blog
Overview of the Rabbit
The rabbit is a well-known family pet in the UK and the breeds popularity is continuously growing.
They are cute, fluffy, and very intelligent, but they do require a lot of exercise and space to stretch their legs. Once you have gained their trust and got a bond with them, don’t be surprised if they cuddle up to you or jump on their lap as they also love cuddles.
It has been reported that there are around 305 different breeds of rabbits across the world, and they are reported to be owned as pets in more than 70 different countries.
With 60 of these breeds living in the UK, some of the most popular breeds include a Dwarf Lop, Sussex Rabbit, Mini Lop, and a Lionhead.
Characteristics and Temperament
If your rabbit has been brought up with gentle handling from a very young age, the chances of them being tame and friendly all the way through their adult life is usually very high.
However, they are still not suitable for young, active children who are not supervised as they can scare or injure the rabbit when holding or playing with them.
Due to them being very intelligent and inquisitive animals, they require toys to stimulate their brain and keep them busy to prevent any behavioural problems from arising.
Rabbit-friendly chews are a great way to keep them occupied whilst they are in their cage, and it stops them from eating their cage.
They also require a lot of space to run, hop, and stretch their legs so be sure to have a very secure rabbit-proof run for them to go out into as much as possible.
Some people may not have thought or believed this but, rabbits are known to be quite amenable to training. This can include litter-training and clicker training to perform certain tricks and behaviours. Imagine how easy life would it be if your rabbit was litter trained!
Rabbits can live outdoors all year around. But you need to think about the location of their hutch, in both winter and summer.
In the summer months, if your hutch is in direct sunlight and the sun is beating down on them, they can become increasingly hot and develop heat exhaustion when it goes over 25°C. Which is not very often in the UK, but it does happen occasionally.
To prevent this from happening, bring them indoors or into a garage where it is cooler and provides adequate shade. If the garage is still too warm, fans or air conditioning can be used on low settings.
Here are other ways to cool you bunny in summer:
- Trim away any excess fur if they are fluffy bunnies
- Offer them frozen water bottles to lay near
- Spray their belly and backs of their legs with cool water
- Mist their ears with cold water
Due to them having delicate little feet, they struggle with the bottoms of their cages being wired. So, it is recommended to have a flat base for their hutch which is solid and has no gaps. Their hutch must be a minimum of 12 square feet, so they have space to move around.
The general rule for the size of your bunny’s hutch is for them to be able to hop three times before they reach the other end and they should be able to stand on their hind legs without touching their ceiling.
Within their home, they will benefit from and definitely appreciate a litter tray. Believe it or not, rabbits are relatively easy to litter train and they appreciate a certain area for them to go the toilet and a separate area for them to sleep.
This brings us on to their bedroom. Your bunny is a social animal but we all deserve our privacy and alone time every once in a while. Your rabbit will be extremely grateful for a quiet separate area where they can sleep and is darker than the rest of their hutch, due to them sleeping from mid-morning up until the early evening. A simple upside-down cardboard box with a hole cut out will suffice for their little bedroom.
Whilst your rabbit may not think so, there is a difference between what your rabbit would like to eat and what they are allowed to eat.
Fibre is very important to a rabbit’s diet, and this can be fed in a form of fresh grass or hay. It is ideal for them to have access to this at any time they choose. If this isn’t possible, provide 5-8% of their body weight in fibre every day.
They are allowed certain vegetables and leafy greens but these are to be fed in moderation so they don’t become chubby bunnies! A handful twice per day should be sufficient and they will appreciate the treat. Always be sure that you check if it is okay for them to eat prior to feeding them. Certain vegetables can make them ill or cause other issues.
You also have rabbit pellets which you can feed to them. By feeding these, you can be sure that they will be receiving all of their vitamins and minerals, but you must feed these sparingly.
One tablespoon for your rabbit if they are healthily under 3.5kg and two tablespoons per day if they are healthily over this. You may be thinking that this isn’t very much, especially compared to the amount of forage they can have a day. Well, the answer to this is because of the high concentrates within them.
The more nuggets you feed them, the less hay they are likely to eat. This can lead to health problems over time, with overgrown teeth being the biggest factor. Your rabbit’s teeth never stop growing so they need to continuously eat fibrous feed to help keep them ground down which they do quite well when chomping on their hay.
Whilst we all love to treat our pets when we go shopping by buying them some funky treats from the pet shop, these are usually high in sugar which is not ideal for your bunny, much to their dismay.
If you are wanting to feed them a treat every now and again, we recommend you feed them a few vegetables which are safe for them. These could be melon, bananas, or kiwis.
Be sure to feed them in moderation and if you own a chubby bunny, avoid the treats. If you want to make it fun, hide the veg in their hutch and in their hay.
Rabbits can be great pets to own and they are really fun to have around as they bounce from room to room and all around your garden. Providing they get their basic care given to them, and their needs are met, they should live a happy and healthy life with you and become your best friend as they grow a strong connection with their new family.
Enjoy being a bunny owner!