Rabbits are one of the most midunderstood pets in the country, often kept in tiny hutches and fed diets that contribute to illness. Please read our Rabbit Care guide below to help ensure you keep your rabbit in tip top condition.
We are lucky to have Claire Bush in our team, she is a veterinary surgeon who has a special interest in rabbits and their care and welfare.
RSPCA guidelines advise that rabbits require a hutch that is at least 6 feet long by 2 feet high, preferably with a run attached so your rabbit can have time outside every day. Hutches and runs can never be too big!
Hutches should measure AT LEAST 6 feet long by 2 feet wide and high. The bigger the better. Using the examples below, it can be seen that the hutch on the left is far too small - the rabbit has literally no room to exercise, and nothing to do. The one on the right if far more suitable, but the rabbit also needs access to an outdoor run. The one below these is far better - yes it will cost more, but will be a much more suitable home for your bunny.
Straw is a good choice of bedding as it's a good insulator and will keep your rabbit warm.
Do not place your hutch in the garage. Rabbits need sunlight to keep them healthy.
It is crucial to get your rabbit's diet right, as unsuitable diets lead to many of the common diseases we see in rabbits.
Just like a wild rabbit, the most important part of the diet is hay and grass. Rabbits' bodies have evolved to eat a diet of rough grass and weeds, and your rabbit should eat a diet composed of 80% grass/hay.Think about a wild rabbit's diet, they eat grass, dried weeds and twigs - and don't suffer from most of the health problems that our pet rabbits do.
Commercial rabbit foods should only be fed in small quantities, about an egg cup of food per day. The rest of the diet should be hay, grass (NOT mown grass), and vegetables.
If there's one piece of information we would love you to get from this rabbit information page, it is this:
NEVER EVER FEED MUESLI TYPE RABBIT FOOD
They are totally unsuitable - the rabbit tends to just pick out its favourite sweet bits from the food, leading to an unbalanced diet which is too low in calcium. This can lead to tooth problems, abscesses, fly strike, obesity, gut stasis and more.
On this image, the food on the left is the muesli type, and should never be given to rabbits. Feed a good quality commercial diet such as the one on the right, but only in small quantities.
If you currently have some muesli food for your rabbit, please throw it away right now, give your rabbit more hay and grass, then get some pelleted rabbit food such as Burgess Excel/Supreme. If your rabbit is overweight, they also do a low calorie version.
Safe vegetables you can feed your rabbit include:
Basil, broccoli, chickweed, pak choi, clover, dandelion, parsley, sage, spinach, turnip and watercress.
Safe vegetables, but don't feed too much:
Alfalfa, Carrot (v high in sugar so feed in moderation; carrot tops are high in calcium so avoid or only very small amounts), cucumber, celery, parsnip (high in sugar), brussels sprouts (high in iodine), cabbage (high in iodine), cauliflower (high in iodine), kale (high in iodine), lettuce (dark green/red, not iceberg type)
Safe twigs and branches:
Apple tree, birch, blackberry, hazel, pear tree, raspberry, willow.
Safe fruits (treats only as v high in sugar):
Apple, fresh banana (not dried banana, v high in sugar), blackberry, strawberry, pear, raspberry
Rabbits are sociable and happiest living with another rabbit. The best pairing is a neutered female and neutered male. However, two neutered males may live happily together.
We do not advise keeping guinea pigs and rabbits together as they have very different dietary requirements, rabbits may be aggressive towards guinea pigs (and have been known to kill them), and rabbits can give guinea pigs a disease called Bordetella which can be fatal.
If you would like to get a friend for your rabbit, please consider giving a rescue rabbit a home. Every year, tens of thousands of rabbits end up in rescue centres in desperate need of a loving home.
Rabbits can be expensive to keep healthy, and we recommend pet insurance so you don't have unexpected bills. Two companies offering insurance for rabbits are Pet Plan and Exoticsdirect.com. Pet Plan offer 4 weeks' free insurance through our practice, please ask for details.
We recommend that all rabbits are neutered. This is done from 4 months in males and 5 months in females. Remember that rabbits can get pregnant from 5 months of age so early neutering is essential.
Research shows that a shocking 80% of female rabbits over the age of 5 will develop fatal uterine (womb) cancer. Spaying female rabbits is life saving!
Other reasons to neuter (spay/castrate):
- Neutering prevents unwanted pregnancies
- Neutering makes rabbits better pets - unneutered females tend to become aggressive as they mature. Unneutered males may 'spray' (squirt urine) and become aggressive with other rabbits.
- Neutered rabbits can live happily with another rabbit - unneutered rabbits are very likely to fight.
It is vital to get your rabbit vaccinated to protect against 3 killer diseases:
- Myxomatosis - a very common fatal disease spread by biting insects. Symptoms include swelling around the eyes.
- Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 (VHD1) - kills rabbits very quickly. VHD causes massive internal bleeding, rabbits may be found dead with no signs of illness.
Myxomatosis and VHD1 are combined in one vaccine given annually.
- Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (VHD2) - like VHD1, VHD2 causes internal bleeding. It is relatively new to the UK. Rabbits are protected by a separate annual vaccine given 2 weeks apart from the combined myxomatosis/VHD1 vaccine.
For information about common rabbit health issues, and how you can reduce the chance of your rabbit becoming ill, please see our 'Rabbit - Common Health Problems' section.