Housing Rabbits

Housing your Rabbit

Rabbits come in all kinds of sizes and shapes from the Flemish Giant weighing up to 9.5kg (the size of a small dog) to the tiny Polish rabbit weighing just over 1kg.  Naturally the size of your rabbit hutch should reflect the size of your rabbit.  Whatever the size of your rabbit you should remember that rabbits need space – and LOTS of it!

  • View our Rabbit product section for our range of hutches, runs, huggers and snugglers

Big is best

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!  

Your rabbit hutch should be:

  • Big enough for your rabbit to stand up on their hind legs without their ears touching the roof.
  • Big enough for your rabbit to lie fully out stretched in any direction.  
  • Big enough for your rabbit to turn around without difficulty.
  • Big enough for your rabbit to take at least 4 hops in any direction.
  • The longer the time periods that your rabbit is expected to remain contained in the hutch or the larger the number of rabbits to be kept together, the larger the hutch should be.
  • View our Rabbit product section for our range of hutches, runs, huggers and snugglers

Cosy and comfortable

Rabbits like to have separate rooms for eating and sleeping just like we do.  Your hutch should 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.  

Your hutch should have a solid non-slip floor as rabbit prefer this to wire flooring.  Wire mesh can also cause problems as rabbits can get sore feet if kept on wire floors.

  • View our Rabbit product section for our range of hutches, runs, huggers and snugglers

Safe and secure

Your hutch needs to be sturdy, well ventilated, draught-proof, damp-proof, escape-proof and predator-proof.  

  • Raising your hutch above the ground helps to deter predators and to prevent damp rising up into it off the wet earth.  Wire mesh on the outside of the hutch should be heavy enough to stop a predator (or your rabbit) chewing through it. All fastenings should be sturdy and strong.
  • You should find a nice quiet spot to place your hutch in that is sheltered from wind, rain and direct sunlight. Rabbits can't sweat like humans and succumb to heat stroke very quickly.  
  • Your hutch should have a sloping waterproof roof to prevent the wood soaking up water and becoming damp and cold in periods of bad weather. Rabbit Hutches that have a plain wooden flat roof are designed for indoor use and should not be used outside.
  • In the colder months you can shield your rabbit from the driving wind, snow and rain by covering your hutch with a waterproof cover – these are called Huggers and Snugglers and fit over your hutch.  If the weather is very cold you can move your rabbit indoors.  Keeping rabbits indoors has become very popular and rabbits can be trained to use a litter tray very easily!
  • Visit our Getting Started Advice to learn more about indoor rabbits
  • Visit our In Winter section for advice on cold weather and rabbits
  • View our Rabbit product section for our range of hutches, runs, huggers and snugglers

Rabbit runs

Rabbits are active animals and should be kept in a run for 4 hours a day at least.

A large, secure run is great for letting your rabbit hop, run, jump and dig about in safely.  The run should have an area that is covered to provide shade on hot days.  Make sure that your garden is well fenced and that your rabbit has a safe place to hide in their run if they become scared – a cardboard box or activity tunnel would be ideal. 

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.  Do not use pesticides, weed killers or lawn treatments anywhere near your rabbit run as your rabbit could become fatally ill from grazing on grass or plants treated with these chemicals.

  • View our Rabbit product section for our range of hutches, runs, huggers and snugglers
  • Visit our Rabbit Health Advice to learn more


 

Playtime for your Rabbit

Why play is good for rabbits

Playing is very important for rabbits and they should be in a run or secure garden area for a minimum of 4 hours a day.  Rabbits enjoy playing with humans as well as each other and need toys and boredom breakers to keep their minds busy. They love to get lots of attention and stimulation and you'll find that playtime keeps your rabbit happy, entertained and in good health – and you have fun too!  In fact play is essential to your rabbit's well-being, gives them mental stimulation and exercise, and keeps them alert and trim.  The best times for playtime are the mornings and evenings as this is when rabbits are most active.

  • Visit our Rabbit Products section for a wide range of suitable and safe toys for rabbits.

Playtime for all

Rabbits of all ages like to play but their exercise needs differ according to age, breed and whether or not they are neutered. Rabbits reach maturity somewhere between 6 and 10 months of age depending on the breed.  Generally rabbits are considered to be elderly at about 5 - 8 years old but different breeds of rabbit age more quickly than others.  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. 

Young rabbits – young rabbits are full of energy and are more likely to chew the bars of their cage if they are bored. 

Older rabbits - senior rabbits are not as active and usually sleep more but still need regular work outs to prevent obesity.

Large breeds – Large or giant breeds (such as the French Lop or the Giant Chinchilla) tend to be less energetic than small or dwarf breeds (such as the Dutch or the Dwarf Lop).  Large and giant rabbit breeds are prone to obesity and benefit from exercise but they are not as agile as smaller breeds and tend to suffer from joint and mobility problems.

Neutered rabbits – Neutered or spayed rabbits slow down a little and put on weight more easily.

Indoor only rabbits - It is important to ensure that rabbits kept indoors play outside as they do not use up the energy normally reserved for outdoor activities.  Exercise helps to prevent obesity.

Playing games with your rabbit is a great way to prevent boredom and get to know them a bit better.  Your rabbit will play hide and seek with you, chase you, play with a football and play King of the Castle if you lie down!  Obstacle courses are great fun and you can create one in your garden out of tunnels and jumps.

  • Visit our Rabbit Health Advice to learn more on obesity in rabbits.  
  • Visit our Rabbit Products section for a wide range of suitable and safe toys for rabbits.

Choosing the best toys for your rabbit

The best toys for your rabbit can prevent boredom, discourage destructive behaviour, provide mental stimulation and keep them supple and agile.  Some rabbits enjoy throwing their toys around and up into the air so make sure the toys you choose are safe and have no sharp edges.

Chasing and jumping – Rabbits love to run about and will chase balls and tug toys.  These are often made from wicker or rope which satisfies your rabbit's need to chew.  

Digging and burrowing – Tubes and tunnels are ideal for your rabbit as they recreate an underground environment.

Chewing and gnawing – There are lots of chew toys for your rabbit to gnaw at and range from sticks, wood, fruit and vegetable chews, kongs and treat balls.  Your rabbit needs to chew to keep their teeth trim as their teeth do not stop growing.

  • Visit our Rabbit Products section for a wide range of suitable and safe toys for rabbits
  • Visit our Rabbit Health Advice to learn more about your rabbit's teeth.  

Keeping Rabbits Healthy

  • Vaccinations
  • Which diseases are covered by vaccination?
  • Health care
  • Flystrike
  • Fleas, Lice, Mites and Worms
  • Neutering
  • Register your rabbit with a vet

When you get a new rabbit you should register with a vet as soon as possible for a health check and to arrange vaccinations.  

Vaccinations

When your rabbit is about 8 weeks old you should start their vaccinations.  There are 2 shots which are given 2 weeks apart.  
Boosters are given twelve months after the starter course and your vet will tell you when they are next due.  If you live in a high risk area your rabbit should receive vaccination against Myxomatosis every 6 months.

Which diseases are covered by vaccination?

Myxomatosis – a fatal, highly contagious disease.  Transmitted by biting insects and direct contact with infected rabbits or hares.  Symptoms include swollen, runny eyes, blindness, swollen genitals, swelling in the head, thick pus discharge from the nose and lumps on the body.
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) – a fatal, highly contagious disease.  Transmitted by direct contact by biting insects or infected rabbits and indirect contact via contaminated food, bedding or water.  VHD is also transmitted via humans or animals that are carrying the disease on clothing, hands or fur.  Symptoms include lethargy, collapsing, convulsions, lack of co-ordination, paralysis, breathing difficulties, bloody discharge from the nose, jaundice, weight loss, fever and groaning.  However many rabbits show no symptoms at all and are simply found dead.
 

Health Care

You can tell if your rabbit is feeling ill or is in pain by their behaviour.  If you notice that they are not eating or drinking, or are quieter than usual this could be a sign of illness.   Rabbits that are stressed are much more likely to become ill.

  • Ears - Always check your rabbit's ears regularly.  If your rabbit is shaking their head constantly, scratching at their ears or if you notice any signs of brown matter it could be a sign of ear mange (canker) caused by mites.  There are lots of anti-parasitic products available that you can use against mites and it's also best to dispose of all dusty hay and bedding as well.  Ear infections can also cause Head Tilt – this can be very serious and you should seek veterinary attention immediately.
  • Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.
  • Eyes - Your rabbit's eyes should be bright and clear, with no signs of runniness, redness, swelling or soreness.  Sore or swollen eyes can also be a sign of dental problems such as abscesses – if in doubt ask your vet's advice.  Rabbits can develop eye infections caused by dust and bedding that they kick about in their hutch.  Eye gels are available for rabbits that suffer from this and you should contact your vet for anti-inflammatory and antibiotic treatments.
  •  Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.
  • Nose - Your rabbit's nose should not be crusty, or runny.  If your rabbit is sneezing and snuffling you should contact your vet.
  • Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.  
  • Teeth - Your rabbit's teeth continue to grow throughout their life and this can become a problem for pet rabbits.  To keep your rabbits teeth trim supply them with abrasive hard food (root vegetables and pellets) and gnawing blocks.  Overgrown teeth can be trimmed by your vet.  If your rabbit goes off their food it can mean that there is an underlying dental problem and urgent veterinary attention is needed.
  • Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.
  • Visit our rabbit Products section for a selection of mineral, bark and twig treats for rabbits.
  • Diarrhea – Diarrhea can be fatal for rabbits and if your rabbit has severe symptoms they need the immediate attention of a vet.  Your rabbit may have diarrhea from an underlying illness, a dietary disorder or most commonly being fed too many greens/vegetables.  Mild diarrhea in adult rabbits may be cured by not giving any greens for 24 hours. Feed only hay and water.
  • View our rabbit Feeding Advice to learn more
  • Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.
  • Hairballs – Rabbits are prone to hairballs as they ingest fur when they are grooming themselves.  As rabbits are unable to vomit, the swallowed fur can cause digestive problems and blockages in your rabbit's stomach. Signs that your rabbit may have a hairball are pieces of fur in their faeces, lethargy and weight loss.  Rabbit hairballs must be treated immediately or they may cause the animal to stop feeding and ultimately die due to dehydration.  There are products available that act as laxatives to relieve the symptoms and it is best to ask your vet for advice.
  • Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.
  • Claws - in the wild rabbits' claws are worn down naturally by burrowing; in captivity they will need clipping.   A rabbit's claws are living tissue with a blood filled vein (a quick).  If you clip your rabbit's claws too close to the quick this can hurt them and cause bleeding.  Understandably owners can be nervous of clipping their own rabbit's claws.  If you have not clipped your rabbit's claws before we recommend that you contact your vet who can either clip them for you or show you how.
  • Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.
  • Obesity – obesity can affect rabbits that are shut up for long periods in a confined space.  Your rabbit needs 4 hours of exercise and active play in their rabbit run every day.  A good diet will help your rabbit stay fit and trim - feed more hay and less high calorie foods such as grains and pellets.
  • Call Vet Clinic at Petstop for a consultation.
  • Visit our rabbit Feeding Advice to learn more about healthy foods for rabbits.

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Flystrike

Flystrike can be fatal. Flies lay their eggs in soiled fur under the rabbit's tail and can be a particular problem in summer.  Long haired rabbits are especially vulnerable. The maggots hatch out 12-24 hours later and burrow into the flesh.  Check every day to make sure your rabbit and the hutch and bedding are clean and fresh.  In the summer, Flystrike can happen in as little as a few hours, so it's advisable that your rabbit is checked at least twice a day during this time of year.   To help prevent Flystrike remove soiled bedding daily.  Products are available to prevent Flystrike but if you think your rabbit is affected seek immediate veterinary attention.

  • Visit our rabbit Products section for a selection of flystrike prevention products.

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Fleas, Lice, Mites and Worms

Fleas - Fleas can be a problem at any time of year and if your rabbit is scratching a lot she probably has fleas.  Fleas are hard to spot but you may see small black bits of dirt on their skin and coat which are their feaces.  Fleas spread the disease Myxomatosis (see Vaccinations above).

To get rid of fleas you have to treat your rabbit's hutch as well as your rabbit to break the flea life cycle.   Bedding should be destroyed and the hutch scrubbed with an appropriate insecticide.  Your rabbit should have regular treatments for fleas to prevent them reoccurring. There are several treatments for your rabbit - Flea Drops, Tablets, Spray and Powder.  Only use rabbit flea products and not ones for other animals as they may seriously harm your rabbit.   
Petstop is licensed to sell a full range of anti-parasitic treatments, which you would normally find at your veterinary clinic, that provide an effective, long lasting treatment. Our qualified staff can dispense these treatments without consultation fees.    They are much stronger than the standard off the shelf products and have faster acting active ingredients.
Visit our rabbit Products section for a selection of flea treatments
 

Lice – Signs that your rabbit has lice are continued scratching and tiny white eggs (nits) attached to their fur.  

Lice can be destroyed by insecticide powders and sprays.  Several applications are necessary to eliminate the succeeding generations of lice emerging from the nits.
Mites – There are several different mites that can affect your rabbit.  Signs of mites are scratching, brown matter in the ears, bald patches on the coat and irritated broken skin.  

Our qualified staff at Petstop are licensed to sell a full range of anti-parasitic treatments, which you would normally find at your veterinary clinic.  
Visit our rabbit Products section for a selection of mites and lice treatments
   
Worms – Worms can cause ill health in rabbits as well as posing a risk to people. Symptoms are difficult to spot, but can include loss of condition and diarrhea.

Petstop is licensed to sell a full range of anti-parasitic treatments, which you would normally find at your veterinary clinic, that provide an effective, long lasting treatment. Our qualified staff can dispense these treatments without consultation fees.    They are much stronger than the standard off the shelf products and have faster acting active ingredients.
Visit our rabbit Products section for a selection of worm treatments
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Neutering

We highly recommend that you neuter your rabbit.  Neutering your rabbit not only prevents unwanted breeding, but it also has significant health and behavioural benefits.  Neutered rabbits are more sociable, live longer and are easier to manage.  They are also less destructive and less aggressive.  

80% of female rabbits (does) die of uterine cancer by the age of 5 but this is an illness that can easily be prevented by neutering your female rabbit while she is young and in good health.
If you keep a male rabbit (buck) and a doe together that have not been neutered be warned - a doe 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!
Neutering reduces aggression and territorial behaviour.  Bucks that have not been neutered can spray urine and attack other rabbits.  Does that have not been spayed can also be aggressive towards other rabbits and can suffer from repeated phantom pregnancies, constantly pulling out their own fur in order to line a nest.
While bucks can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend (usually around 14 weeks of age), the operation is not carried out on does until they are around 6 months old.


In Winter

In winter your rabbit will need protection from the freezing temperatures and cold weather.  If your rabbit was born in the autumn they will not have a winter coat so they should be kept indoors.  If you have bought your rabbit from Petstop they will not have a winter coat as we keep them nice and warm indoors so remember to choose a suitable hutch and cover if you are going to keep your rabbit outdoors and keep the hutch in a sheltered location.

Winter coats

  • Your rabbit will (moult) their summer coat and grow new thick fur for winter which will help insulate their body against the cold.  However your rabbit will still need to be kept warm and dry in the winter.  Grooming your rabbit in winter is important as they will need brushing to prevent matting (especially underneath) caused by being out in their runs in the wet.
  • Indoor rabbits won't have built up a winter coat as they are kept inside in the warm so only let your indoor rabbit out in their run during the warmest times of the day.
  • View our rabbit Products section for a selection of rabbit grooming products

Keeping warm and dry

  • Rabbit hutches can be insulated with waterproof hutch covers that shield your rabbit from the driving wind, snow and rain – these are called Huggers and Snugglers and fit over your hutch. Make sure your hutch cover allows a little air for ventilation and remove the cover first thing every morning to let some fresh air and sunlight in.   
  • You can add extra insulation to your rabbit hutch by placing a good thick layer of hay on the base of the sleeping area.  Extra bedding also acts as insulation but make sure it is not too tightly packed so that your rabbit can wriggle inside!  Bedding must be clean and dry at all times as wet bedding could freeze!
  • There are microwaveable heat pads available to give your rabbit extra warmth.  Never place a hot water bottle or a blanket in your rabbit hutch as your rabbit may chew it.  
  • When the temperature falls to 2°C or below your rabbit should really be brought indoors – a utility room, porch or conservatory will do if you can't have them in the house.  Rabbit hutches can also be moved into a shed or garage – but make sure the garage is not in use as car fumes pose a health hazard and could be fatal.  
  • View our rabbit Product section for our range of hutches, bedding, huggers and snugglers
  • Visit our rabbit Housing advice to learn more

Food and water in winter

  • Your rabbit will need more food during the winter months as they use up a lot of energy keeping their bodies warm.   Provide plenty of good quality hay all winter long and extra dry mix during cold spells.  Be careful not to let your rabbit's food to become frosted with ice.  
  • Water is very important to your rabbit in winter as they tend to be outside less and won't be eating as much grass – so make sure that they have a constant supply of fresh, clean water.   Water bottles can freeze solid and shatter in the cold.  There are special covers available to prevent your rabbit's water supply turning to ice.
  • View our rabbit Product section for our range of rabbit foods and water bottles
  • Visit our rabbit Feeding advice to learn more

Winter health and exercise

  • Rabbits still need plenty of exercise in the winter. You can still allow your rabbit access to their rabbit run as long as they have the option to retreat to a warm sheltered area if they need to (a small box or hutch inside the run is a good idea).   
  • Never put your rabbits outside in their run if the grass is frosted as eating frozen grass can lead to severe stomach upsets.  
  • Keep an old towel handy to dry your rabbit just in case they unexpectedly get caught in the rain or snow.
  • If the weather is too bad for your rabbits to exercise outside in their run you can play with them indoors.  There are lots of toys available to keep them happily occupied inside in the warm.
  • View our rabbit Product section for our range of rabbit toys
  • Keep an eye on your rabbit's health in winter as they can suffer from respiratory problems.  Symptoms include discharge from the nose, which might appear as dirt around the nose (and on the front paws due to washing), discharge from the eyes and noisy breathing.

Visit our rabbit Health advice to learn more