Gone are the days when rabbits are kept at the end of the garden in a small hutch. Although this used to be the norm we are aware now how inappropriate this is. All animals should be kept with the 5 freedoms in mind so here are our recommendations on how best to look after your rabbit.
What are the 5 freedoms?
As a pet owner the 5 freedoms are the five welfare needs of every pet that should be met as a minimum, they are:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst.
- Freedom from discomfort.
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease.
- Freedom to express normal behaviour.
- Freedom from fear and distress.
What should rabbits eat?
As part of the five freedoms every animal should have access to fresh water and the correct diet to maintain health and vigor. For rabbits the best way to give them fresh water is by a bowl, they have been shown to drink more this way. Some rabbits that are used to a bottle will not drink another way so they may need to be offered both. The correct diet for rabbits is mostly fresh good quality hay but also some fresh mixed greens. For more information see our post here.
Where should rabbits be kept?
To allow for enough space to run around and express normal behaviour we recommend that rabbits are kept in an enclosure with a floor space that is at least 2m by 3m in floor space and 1m high. This can include a sheltered sleeping area or this can be separate. The enclosure should be secure from predators with places to hide to reduce the risk of fear and distress. The sleeping area should be a minimum of 1.8m x 0.6m. These dimensions are based on two rabbits sharing, we do not recommend keeping rabbits on their own. Remember larger rabbit breeds or bigger groups will need a larger area than this.
Can rabbits be kept on their own?
Rabbits are highly social animals that live in group in the wild and being solitary does not allow for expression of the normal behaviour. It keeps them calmer having a constant companion and studies have shown that single rabbits often show behaviours associated with stress. We recommend keeping rabbits at least in pairs. Rabbits should not however be paired with guinea pigs.
What bedding should I keep my rabbit on?
Straw that is soft and dust extracted is a great bedding for rabbits, it is soft and warm and allows normal digging behaviours. Some rabbits may eat the straw and that is ok but enough hay should be given that they eat the hay instead. Pulped paper, shredded paper and newspaper can be used but may need to be covered with straw so that it is softer for sleeping on. Sawdust should be avoided because it is dusty and can lead to lung and skin problems. Any bedding should be cleaned regularly to maintain good hygiene.
Is enrichment important?
Enrichment gives the rabbits things to do and ways to express normal behaviour. Good enrichment for rabbits includes willow balls, tunnels and hide outs, cardboard boxes, digging pits of earth and foraging opportunities. More information can be found here.
How can I keep my rabbits healthy?
Rabbits should be neutered by 4-6 months of age to avoid unwanted pregnancies and uterine cancer. All rabbits should be vaccinated yearly and have a yearly health check to check for signs of ill health. Rabbits should be fed a suitable diet to maintain good health, as discussed above. If at all concerned about your rabbits health at any time or they stop eating then book an appointment with the vet by calling 01702 545558.