Rabbits

Rabbits - Everything you need to know

It's not surprising that rabbits are the third most popular pet in the Ireland after cats and dogs as they are loveable, playful and intelligent animals. Rabbits make ideal pets for older children or teenagers who can handle them easily. There are many different breeds and varieties of rabbit, varying in size, body shape, coat and personality. On average a pet rabbit lives between 8-12 years, but if they are well-loved and looked after they can live for longer.

 

Some Rabbit facts you need to know

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Which breed?

There are over 70 different breeds of rabbit recognised by the British Rabbit Council and they come in a variety of colours, sizes and lengths of coat.  Rabbit breeds can basically be categorised into 4 different types:  Fancy Breeds, Lop Breeds, Normal Fur Breeds and Rex.  Within these types you'll find that rabbits can range in size from 1kg to over 10kg!

Lifespan- In general, the smaller breeds are longer lived, with most dwarf and small rabbits living on average 8 - 12 years. Medium sized breeds generally live around 6 - 8 years and the large and giant breeds tend to have the shortest lifespan at around 5 - 6 years. 

Personality- Different breeds of rabbit can also have different temperaments. Smaller breeds tend to be more alert, active and highly-strung than the larger breeds, which are generally more placid and even-tempered.  As larger breeds are less active they are more prone to being overweight.

Grooming – Long haired and giant rabbit breeds will need extra grooming.  Breeds such as the Angora and Cashmere Lop and have fine silky wool and their coats will need daily grooming and often require clipping.  Giant rabbits sometimes have problems keeping themselves clean as they are not very agile and cannot reach their lower quarters to groom, especially as they get older.

Housing- Large and giant breeds of rabbit require a lot of space for both living and exercise.   If your rabbit is very large you might need to invest in a purpose made hutch however most giant breeds are kept as indoor only rabbits and sleep happily in dog or cat beds.

Health– Large and giant rabbit breeds are prone to obesity and tend to suffer from joint and mobility problems.  Certain breeds of rabbit, including the giant breeds, Netherland Dwarfs and Lop breeds, are prone to problems with their eyes and teeth.  Long haired rabbits can suffer from fur balls which can cause life threatening blocks in the gut.

 

Handling your rabbit

Rabbits are naturally quiet, shy and timid so spend time letting your rabbit get to know you.  Rabbits enjoy human company and once you have gained their trust they make loving and affectionate pets.

When you start handling your rabbit remember to get down to their level.  Rabbits prefer to keep all four legs on the ground and will find it less threatening if you lie down or sit next to them.  This is a good way of letting your rabbit get used to you.  

One or two?

If you are able it is always best to have two rabbits rather than one.  Rabbits need company and are happiest when they have a buddy.  Some rabbits will tolerate guinea pigs as companions but this is not a good idea as rabbits can hurt guinea pigs if they kick out or jump on them.  Rabbits and guinea pigs also have different dietary requirements and different means of communicating.  If you do have a single rabbit make sure you spend lots of time with them and you'll end up with a friend.

 

Male or female?

Male rabbits (bucks) can become territorial if they are not neutered and also scent mark.  Males kept together will fight and even if they are neutered they may still be aggressive with one another. Female rabbits (does) kept together will also fight.  The best match is to have a neutered male kept together with a spayed female.  If you keep a male and female rabbit together that have not been neutered be warned - a female rabbit can become pregnant at 5 months old, produce approximately 30 young in a single breeding season and can become pregnant again within hours of giving birth!

 

Getting a New Rabbit?​

We have a great guide to help you make bringing your rabbit home stress free and smooth with some handy tips for you to help settle your rabbit in to their new life happily.  Our check list below will ensure that you have everything for your new rabbit's arrival.

 

Check List

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Indoors or Outdoors?

Indoor Rabbits

Most rabbits are kept in outdoor rabbit hutches; however keeping in an indoor rabbit is becoming more and more popular. Keeping your rabbit indoors has also been known to extend their life span quite considerably. Rabbits can make good indoor pets and can be trained to use a litter tray - some rabbits can even learn to come when called!  Rabbits that live indoors see humans as important companions and will follow you around.  If you are planning to keep your rabbit indoors you will need to rabbit proof your home.

Your rabbit will need their own space to retreat to if you are busy vacuum cleaning or doing housework. Indoor rabbits will treat their hutch as their own territory and will feel more secure if they have their own place to withdraw into.  The hutch should be in a quiet, draught free spot and there are different types of bedding available that are suited to indoor life.   You will need litter for the litter tray that has been specifically produced for rabbits as other litters may be toxic if nibbled. 

Your rabbit will still need outdoor exercise and the freedom to run about, chew and dig in the garden.  Make sure that your garden is secure and that your rabbit has a safe place to hide if they become scared – a cardboard box or activity tunnel would be ideal.

View our rabbit Products section for our range of rabbit hutches, runs, toys and accessories​​

Outdoor Rabbits

Rabbits don't enjoy being cooped up all day in very small hutches and quickly become depressed and unhappy if left alone.  The bigger the rabbit hutch the better!  The hutch should have must have two separate compartments - a light and spacious day area and a sleeping compartment that is enclosed and sheltered for your rabbit to sleep in.  The hutch should be raised off the ground, be secure enough to protect against predators, water proof and well built.  You should also have a waterproof cover for your hutch to protect your rabbit from driving wind, rain and snow – these are called Huggers and Snugglers and fit over your hutch.

 

​Rabbit Hygiene

Always use cleansing products that are safe for rabbits as disinfectants for the home can be toxic. Make sure you clean your rabbit's water bottle regularly as bacteria and green algae can build up in a short space of time.

 

Rabbit Run​

Your rabbit will need lots of exercise! A large, secure run is great for letting your rabbit roam freely in safety. The run should have an area that is covered to provide shade on hot days. Rabbits love to dig and it helps keep their nails short. If you don't want your rabbit to dig in your lawn you can buy runs with a wire mesh base but be aware that wire mesh can hurt your rabbit's feet badly.  The run should not be placed in an area of the garden where pesticides, weed killers or lawn treatments have been applied as your rabbit could become fatally ill from grazing on grass or plants treated with these chemicals.

View our rabbit Products section for our range of rabbit hutches, runs, toys and accessories​​

 

Bedding, food bowls and water bottles

Bedding

Rabbits need lots of clean and dry bedding and there are several varieties available from wood shavings and recycled paper to hay (which rabbits love to eat).  Bedding should be cleaned when soiled and completely replaced at least once a week.  Your rabbit will chew their bedding so it is important that you only use safe varieties that are not toxic.  Rabbits like to curl up in a cosy nest so put extra bedding in their sleeping compartments – hay is ideal.

Food Bowl

Heavy ceramic bowls are great for your rabbit's dry food as their high sides keep the food clean and they are solid enough not to get thrown around or knocked about.

Water Bottle

Most rabbits prefer to drink from water bowls but these can be spilt over and contaminated by food or droppings.  Water bottles are perfect for keeping your rabbit's drinking water clean and in regular supply.  Water should be changed daily and there are water bottle covers that prevent the water from becoming frozen in winter.

View our rabbit Products section for our range of rabbit hutches, runs, toys and accessories​​

 

Grooming

Long haired rabbits need to be groomed daily but even if your rabbit is short haired they will benefit from gentle grooming to keep their coats clean.  A small brush, finger brush or fine toothed comb is perfect for grooming. Rabbits shed (moult) and need regular grooming to help prevent hairballs and getting a blockage. Grooming also helps you bond with your rabbit and builds a good relationship between you.

View our rabbit Products section for our range of rabbit hutches, runs, toys and accessories​​

Visit Our Rabbit Health Advice to learn more about fly strike

 

Toys

Rabbits are inquisitive and love to play.  Rabbits can get very bored when you are not around to play with them, so it is important that your rabbit has toys to keep them busy and full of life.  There are plenty of toys available for rabbits ranging from chew toys that help keep their teeth in good condition, wooden toys, treat balls, kongs, boredom breakers, activity centres and tunnels.

View our Rabbit Products section for our large range of rabbit toys and boredom breakers

 

Settling in your rabbit

Once you have arrived home with your new rabbit place them straight into their new home and leave them quietly to settle in.  Travelling is very stressful and your rabbit will need some time to themselves to recover.

Feeding your Rabbit​

Your rabbit will need a balanced diet to keep them happy and we have a useful guide to help you choose the healthiest and best foods available for your rabbit.

How much do I feed my rabbit?

Rabbits are grazers and will eat small amounts of food throughout their waking hours.  Rabbits are normally fed inside their hutches so that their food is kept dry and is readily available.  You can feed your rabbit in their run if the weather is fine and you may find your rabbit will take food from your hand.

Grass and Hay

A rabbit's diet should consist of 80 – 90% grass or hay. Your rabbit needs to eat hay and grass to keep their teeth from becoming oversized and for their digestive system to work properly. 

View our rabbit Products section for our range of rabbit hutches, runs, toys and accessories​​

Water

Always provide fresh clean drinking water for your rabbit and check the water supply each day. Make sure water does not freeze if your rabbit lives outdoors in winter.

Greens

Young rabbits can get stomach upsets and diarrhea from eating too many fresh greens so introduce them gradually as a treat.  Greens should never be fed in large quantities and have been washed before you feed them to your rabbits. 

Root Vegetables

Root vegetables can be fed daily such as carrot (use sparingly as carrots are high in sugar), turnip and radish. 

Fruit

Fruit should be fed occasionally as a treat but always in small quantities as it is high in sugar. 

Nuggets and Pellets

Nuggets and pellets are complementary foods that can provide your rabbit with vitamins, minerals and fibre.  They also help to keep your rabbit's teeth trim. 

Be careful not to over feed your rabbit on nuggets and pellets as they should not replace the hay that your rabbit needs. 
There are specialist rabbit nuggets available that have been designed for particular breeds of rabbit to aid problems such as joint stiffness, digestive health, lack of energy and obesity.

View our rabbit Products section for our range of rabbit hutches, runs, toys and accessories​​ 

Treats

Some treats are high in sugar and should be given occasionally but there are a wide variety of treats that are based on bark, sticks, leaves and wood that your rabbit can enjoy on a regular basis.  

View our rabbit Products section for our range of rabbit hutches, runs, toys and accessories​​

Dangerous Foods

Never feed your rabbit chocolate as it is toxic to most animals.

Plants which are harmful to your rabbit if eaten include:

If you suspect your rabbit has eaten any poisonous plants consult your vet immediately – and if you can collect a sample of the plant that they have eaten to help with the diagnosis.

 

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