Chosen to have a rabbit as a pet? Great! However, there are many things you need to know about their upkeep and care, one of which is how to house them correctly. Rabbits are not happy living alone; studies have shown they value companionship almost as much as food and so they must be kept as a bonded pair. They also require a large area to exercise in and a place to feel secure and safe at night. Then, a rabbit should be cleaned out, fed fresh hay and given fresh water daily so will need accessories such as rabbit bowls, huts and rabbit bedding. Toys, such as willow balls and tunnels are needed to provide your energetic pet with enrichment and prevent boredom as well as give your rabbit something to chew on - something that they do constantly.
In the FirstVet shop, you can find just what you need to keep your rabbit comfortable, happy and healthy.
Rabbits were first kept in small hutches at the end of the garden for easy access as they were a source of food for many people. Now, as they are viewed and kept as much-loved pets and we know more about their habits and needs, we can provide much better accommodation for them. Welfare organisations agree that a hutch is not enough. Rabbit hutches and huts should only ever be used as a shelter and never the sole or main source of accommodation. Keeping a rabbit by itself in a hutch without the ability to exercise or display its normal behaviour is unacceptable.
You may choose to keep your bunny indoors, this can be a fun and rewarding experience for you both but you must make sure items such as electrical cables and wires are kept out of reach as rabbits love to chew. Indoor rabbits still need their own safe area to sleep in at night and just like outdoor rabbits, they need to display their natural behaviours such as digging, jumping, running and hiding so bear this in mind.
As a prey species, rabbits are perfectly designed to run, jump and hop away from the predators that would chase them in the wild. Pet rabbits still retain the need to run and jump so must have access to the space to do so. Ideally, a large open space with secure boundaries is a good way to allow your rabbit to exercise.
Rabbits love to race around their open spaces and a happy rabbit will even perform a special jump called a ‘binky’ which is very rewarding to watch. Rabbit runs provide security whilst allowing an ample exercise area and can be attached to your rabbit’s resting area too.
The resting area needs to be warm and comfortable, especially if you keep your rabbit outside. There is a wide range of different rabbit beddings all of which must be absorbent and non-toxic, specifically designed for rabbits. To prevent them from getting cold, place thick rabbit bedding in their chosen sleeping place so they can snuggle down and get cosy.
Feeding your rabbit from a bowl is a good way to keep track of how much they are eating; this helps to ensure they maintain a healthy weight and gives you peace of mind that they are eating enough as rabbits are designed to hide any illnesses. Rabbit bowls should be cleaned regularly to get rid of any leftover stale food and if you are using a bowl for water, these must still be cleaned and fresh water replaced daily. Your rabbit will also need to eat their body weight in hay every day to maintain good gut and dental health on top of pellets and green, leafy vegetables and herbs.
Keeping these inquisitive, sociable and highly intelligent creatures as a pet is a big responsibility but one that can be very fulfilling.