Rabbits are the third most popular pets in Ireland. Rabbits have different needs to cats and dogs and it is important to thoroughly research how to take care of them as many can end up with preventable health care problems. Here are some of the most important things we at Paw Paws Vet Clinic think you need to know before getting a pet rabbit.
What do Rabbits eat?
Unlike dogs and cats or ourselves, rabbits’ teeth grow continuously through, meaning their teeth need to be continuously worn down. For this to happen they require a lot of fibre in their diet. The best form of fibre for rabbits is grass or good quality grass hay. Grass and hay are not only very important for rabbits’ teeth but they are also essential for maintaining gut health. The fibre keeps the rabbits gut moving and also helps create a feeling of fullness in the rabbit’s stomach and help prevent over eating, which can lead to obesity. A small amount of commercial pellets can be fed, but not make up more than 5% of your rabbit’s overall diet. Their intake should be limited as they contain too much carbohydrate and not enough fibre, so can lead to stomach upsets or more seriously to gut stasis.
Two to three different types of leafy greens can also be added to the diet daily and should make up about 15% of your rabbits diet.
Fruit and carrots should be only offered as a treat due to their high sugar content. The best treats for rabbits are parsley, mint, basil, coriander and dandelions. Bread and cereals are not recommended, as they are too high in carbohydrates for your rabbit and they may cause gastric upsets.
Rabbits drink a lot of water compared to dogs and cats. So plenty of drinking water should be available at all times in a heavy bowl preferably and also a water bottle in case the water bowl gets knocked over. Water should be changed daily. This will also help you see how much water they’re drinking, so if there is a change you will notice it.
Neutering is advised for both males and females to prevent unwanted litters, aggression in males and prevention of uterine cancers in females. Your rabbit can be neutered from 4 months of age. You can make an appointment at the clinic to discuss neutering your rabbit or to check the sex of your rabbit if you are unsure of the gender.
Details of costs involved are on our Neutering Page
Companionship for Rabbits
Companionship is very important for rabbits’ as they prefer to live in groups in the wild. This is important for safety and pet rabbits are no different in their need for another rabbit companion. The ideal pair is a neutered male and a neutered female introduced on neutral territory.
Environment for Rabbits
Rabbits may live indoors or outdoors. The hutch should be large enough to allow them to stand up on their hind legs. There should also be enough space for a litter box and a resting area. The hutch should be placed in a cool and well ventilated area if indoors or a sheltered and protected area that is safe from threats from predators. The cage should be kept clean and checked regularly for parasitic insects. Straw may be used for insulation as well as bedding. Your rabbit should not be left in the cage all day, as they need exercise to stay healthy and prevent physical and behavioural issues from developing.