Rabbits make great pets – they are intelligent, entertaining and loving – but they are not toys.
Each year many people purchase rabbits as gifts at Easter not thinking through how much responsibility is involved in owning a rabbit. Often these animals will be surrendered to shelters and rescues in the following weeks or even ‘set free’ to fend for themselves, a situation in which they will not survive for long.
Rabbits need to be cared for properly and have their physical and emotional needs met. Plus, with the average life of a cross breed rabbit six to eight years, and smaller breeds like dwarf srabbits 12 years, they are a long term commitment.
Things to consider before getting a rabbit include:
- Care – rabbits require just as much care as a dog or cat including vaccinations and regular visits to the vet for health checks
- Companionship - rabbits need to be kept in de-sexed pairs, groups or as indoor, free range house rabbits who can become part of the family. Keep in mind though, solo bunnies require at least three to four hours of social interaction with their owners each day
- Handling - as prey animals, rabbits can become easily stressed by rough handling or cuddling and must be handled gently. Young children should always be supervised around rabbits
- Mental and physical exercise – rabbits need a large safe and secure enclosure and should not be kept in small cages or hutches. Rabbits need room to explore in order satisfy their inquisitive nature, lots of space to stretch their legs, and direct sunlight for 20 minutes at least two to three times per week
- Hygiene – rabbits need to be kept in a clean environment. Their surroundings require regular cleaning every day or every second day to get dust and ammonia levels down.
- Diet – rabbits require a daily diet of 80 per cent fresh hay and grass, a quarter cup of good quality rabbit pellets and one cup of veggies per day. Fresh water should always be provided.
If you do decide you are ready for the commitment of a rabbit, be sure to consider getting a rescue animal. It’s very likely your perfect bunny is out there at a rabbit rescue or the RSPCA, just waiting for a furever home with you.