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13 Tips to Keep your Rabbit Happy and Healthy

Monday November 7th 2016

Whether you’ve newly adopted a baby bunny or you’re just looking for hints to care for your beloved family pet, here are 13 top tips to make sure your long-eared friend is content and in top condition.

Keep a tip-top hutch

If your bunny is kept outdoors then its hutch should be at least four feet long, two feet wide and two feet deep and should have a solid bottom. You should also make sure it is cleaned regularly and packed well with straw.

Stay on top of your bunny’s diet

Rabbits have an unusual digestive system and re-ingest their droppings. This is why it’s important to give your bunny all the nutrients it needs.

Hay or grass are better for digestive health than nuggets (commercial rabbit pellets) and is needed for their gastrointestinal system to function properly. It should form the majority of your bunny’s diet.

Washed leafy green vegetables and herbs are safe to eat and can be given to your rabbit daily. However, root vegetables – such as carrots – and fruit, should only be given as a treat and in small amounts.

Top tip: Avoid giving your rabbit muesli-style foods as they can cause serious teeth and tummy problems, and never give your rabbit grass cuttings.

Encourage plenty of exercise

Not getting enough physical activity can put your rabbit at risk of developing a condition called GI Statis, a potentially deadly condition in which the digestive system slows down or stops completely.

A lack of exercise can also cause your furry pet to become overweight, which can prompt urinary tract disease and a weakening of the bladder that can result in bladder stones.

Make sure you take your rabbit out of its cage at least once every day, either in a run or to run around the room. And use playtime as a way of encouraging exercise.

Did you know rabbits have long, powerful hind legs and can reach sprinting speeds of up to 50 miles per hour?

Check for signs of illness or injury

Rabbits don’t show any outward signs of being in pain and can often be suffering unnoticeably. Look for changes in your bunny’s behaviour which can indicate illness or pain.

In warm weather, it’s important to check fur/skin around bottom/tail areas at least once, if not twice a day. Urine staining and droppings that get stuck can attract flies, causing flystrike, which can prove fatal.

Playtime is important

Preventing boredom is an important way of managing your bunny’s stress levels. Playtime will not only manage the mental wellbeing of your rabbit, it also encourages exercise which will help your bunny fend off disease and stay healthy.

Try and spend 15 minutes in the mornings and evenings having some playtime with your rabbit. Build an obstacle course for your rabbit out of cardboard boxes, or newspapers and allow them to let loose.

Bunny-proof your home

If you have a house rabbit, or even when you bring your outdoor rabbit inside during cold weather, it’s important to address safety hazards around your home and protect against damage.

• Neatly cover your electric cables with wire covers
• Raise house plants out of reach – they could be potentially toxic
• Protect the legs of wooden furniture with plastic corner protectors

Spay or neuter your rabbit

As well as the risk of having an unwanted litter, unneutered females have a higher risk of developing cancer of the uterus. Vets prefer to spay a female rabbit at around six months.

Males are usually neutered at around three and a half months and this makes them less aggressive and easier to handle.

Keep a clean hutch

Bedding that clumps into larger pieces can block the intestines if your rabbit tries to ingest it. Make sure you change the bedding every couple of days and clean the cage out completely at least once a week.

Top tip: Some rabbits can be litter trained, particularly if they live inside the home.

Stay aware of the weather

If your rabbit lives outdoors, either in a hutch or a run, then being aware of the weather conditions should be a priority.

A swift change in temperature could be fatal for your poor bunny if its hutch is not properly insulated.

Consider bringing your pet inside during cold weather and make sure an outdoor hutch is packed warm with clean straw that is changed every couple of days.

Train your rabbit

You can stimulate your bunny’s mind and stop them from getting stressed through boredom by teaching your pet some new tricks, like coming to its name, using a litter tray or jumping into your lap.

Rabbits are very motivated by treats, like small pieces of raw carrot, and can be taught to respond to commands using positive reward-based training.

Guard against predators

Your rabbit needs a secure home to protect against an array of crafty predators. Cunning foxes can usually open insecure latches on a hutch, while a neighbour’s dogs will make light work of digging into a rabbit run.

Then there are also large birds, rats and even snakes in certain areas, all on the lookout for a meal. Keeping your fluffy pet in insecure outdoor housing is practically serving it up on a plate.

Raise the hutch off the floor to make it harder for predators to reach and make sure you use wire mesh with tiny holes for outdoor housing, rather than large holes that let predators reach, crawl or slither inside.

Top tip: Always make sure you provide lots of clean straw that provides a safe material for your bunny to burrow into and hide if it feels threatened.

Check your bunny’s gnashers

A rabbit’s top front teeth grow at a rate of 3mm a week! Have their choppers checked at their annual veterinary check up and make sure you give your bunny’s mouth a regular once over.

Rabbits are good at hiding signs that they are in pain so look out for a lack of interest in food or digging at his mouth with his paws.

Plan for the long term

In the 1980s and 90s, pet owners didn’t expect a rabbit to live past a couple of years. Thanks to a lot more information on bunny care, rabbits are living longer, healthier lives and the RSPCA says the average rabbit lives for eight to 10 years.

This is why it’s important to be prepared for a long-term commitment if you’re thinking of adding an adorable new addition to your home.

Get annual vet check ups

Like any other pet, your rabbit will need to check in with the vet every so often.

Not only should you be prepared to take your bunny to the vet if you see any unusual behaviours, but you should also have an annual veterinary check up to make sure your bunny is in tip top condition and identify any possible signs of disease. It’s also a good way of getting some up to date pet care tips.