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What care does my rabbit need?

Posted by Claire Cable on 13 June 2017

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Rabbits are great pets that have character, are extremely sociable, enjoy the company of humans and are a great way of introducing young children to pet ownership. They are quiet, clean and are easily toilet trained.

While rabbits love company, they can be left alone during the day and are therefore suitable for people who work or are away from home.  A rabbit can be housed indoors (secure any cables!) or in a predator-proof enclosure: Ensuring their safety is essential.  An appropriate enclosure is a hutch that is divided into two connecting compartments, one a wire mesh to allow access to natural light and fresh air, while the other is enclosed to provide protection against weather and a secure sleeping place.  The floor of your rabbit's hutch should be covered with newspaper, with a layer of bedding material like straw, grass, hay or shredded paper for warmth, comfort and to prevent pressure sores on your bunny’s feet.  Consider extreme weather conditions and ventilation when choosing a location for your hutch.

Rabbits should have at least two hours outside of the hutch for exercising each day.  Handling them will also be of benefit in keeping them tame.

Using a firm brush to remove dead hairs, tangles and pieces of garden matter should form part of your daily routine.  Grass seeds can commonly become stuck in their eyes, ears and nose, causing irritation or even infection.  Check your rabbit’s rear end daily to make sure it is clean and dry, if soiled it is very prone to fly strike in summer.

Feeding and nutrition is the most important factor in making sure your rabbit stays healthy.  Many commercial rabbit foods don't contain enough fibre (18-20% is required) and are too high in fats and sugars.  Rabbits are herbivores so their diet should consist almost entirely of vegetable matter.  Pellets and mixes should not form the main part of the diet.  Grass and or hay is an essential dietary component to ensure your rabbit’s health.  Apart from providing a high fibre diet, chewing hay and or grass wears down their continuously-growing teeth and keeps them occupied, preventing boredom.  Ideally, feed your bunny 85% grass and or hay and 15% dark green leafy foods such as Asian greens, endive, rocket, parsley, carrot tops, dandelions etc (lettuce and cabbage can cause diarrhoea).  A good rule of thumb is about 1-2 cups of dark green leaves per one kilogram of bodyweight per twenty four hours.  Treats such as fruits, carrots, capsicum and pellets should only be offered in very small amounts (1-2 tablespoons per day per rabbit).  Fresh water should always be available using both a drip feed bottle and an open container.

Routine veterinary care for rabbits includes vaccination against Calicivirus and de-sexing (females can become quite aggressive when mature and are very prone to reproductive cancers). Like all animals, rabbits should have regular veterinary checks, especially to check their teeth and claws.

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Click here for more information on Rabbit Vaccination

Click here for more information on Rabbit De-sexing

Click here for more information on the new strain of Rabbit Calici Virus