Keeping pet rabbits
Rabbits are rewarding and popular pets.They can become part of the family but, as sensitive animals, they are best suited to teenagers and adults. Children should only look after rabbits under parental supervision. Rabbits like companionship and prefer to live in pairs.
Feeding your rabbit
Hay or grass should be the basis of your rabbit’s diet, and a few fresh vegetables should be offered as well. Remember cereal-based diets (muesli) are high in sugar and low in minerals, and therefore should not be given. Small quantities of high-fibre – think natural. Good foods are carrots, spinach, watercress, broccoli, celery, apples and dandelion leaves. Never give rabbits grass cuttings as this will cause serious health problems. Dried ready grass is acceptable. Fresh water must always be available and changed daily.
A healthy rabbit is alert and lively. Check your rabbit every day without fail and look out for changes in appearance or behaviour. Symptoms of poor health include scaly patches inside the ears, a discharge from the eyes or nose, swellings or diarrhoea. Your rabbit’s back and front teeth must be checked regularly especially if they are beginning to lose weight for no apparent reason. Dental problems are common in rabbits.
All rabbits should be regularly vaccinated against the potentially fatal diseases, myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD). Rabbit vaccinations are an essential part of keeping your pet healthy. It is a good idea to have rabbits neutered as this lessens the risk of disease and behavioural problems. Neutered rabbits can also be easier to house train. Daily grooming is essential for long-furred varieties because the fur can become matted very quickly. Short-coated rabbits should be groomed on a weekly basis; grooming strengthens the bond.
When is the best time to buy pet rabbits
The best time to buy rabbits is when they have been weaned from their mother at about six to eight weeks old. Rescue centres such as Blue Cross usually have all ages of rabbits ready to be placed in the right homes, and adults can also make rewarding companions. The other alternative is to buy from a reputable breeder or a good pet shop where the staff are prepared to give you as much time as you need in order to make the right decision. There are many breeds to choose from, although a rabbit of mixed breeding can offer just as much fun and companionship.
Researched by Samantha Hallam.
For more information on caring for a rabbit and other pet advice you can visit: www.bluecross.org.uk