Change one thing!

Published on: 05 May 2014

Rabbits are the third most popular pets in Britain but are often sadly neglected, having been sold as low maintenance ‘children’s pets’.  They do make lovely pets but still require the time and commitment to their care and welfare that every animal needs. Rabbits are not just for Easter, they are a ten year commitment!  

Did you know that rabbits should be fed at least their own body size in good quality hay every day?  Rabbits have a very different digestive system from our own and need a large volume of fibre in their diet to maintain dental and digestive health.  ‘Good’ bacteria in the rabbit’s caecum ferment the fibre, producing soft droppings called caecotrophs which they then eat directly from their bottom, digesting the food for a second time.  Rabbit’s teeth grow continuously; eating grass, hay and plants helps to wear teeth down, preventing painfully sharp spurs developing.  A diet high in fibre is also important for emotional wellbeing as wild rabbits are kept busy foraging for food for 70per cent of the time they spend above ground.

Many pet rabbits are not getting enough fibre; feeding too much concentrate food reduces the amount of hay/grass eaten and can lead to obesity, flystrike and dental problems.  An average sized rabbit should have an egg cup full of pellet food a day.  Never feed your rabbit muesli type foods, as this leads to selective eating and dietary imbalances, resulting in painful dental and digestive problems which require veterinary treatment. 

A wild rabbit’s territory is equivalent to around 30 tennis courts.  Traditionally rabbits have been kept in small hutches, quickly becoming bored, miserable and frustrated.  Pet rabbits like to stretch their legs too!  The hutch or sleeping area should allow access to a large secure exercise run to allow your rabbits to run, graze and play.  Try creating an interactive area with areas to dig, hide and explore, a few cardboard boxes and tunnels can become a playground in no time!  Companionship is important too, rabbits are social animals and get lonely on their own; ideally they should be kept in groups or pairs.  Guinea pigs are not suitable companions for rabbits because they have different dietary requirements and may get bullied by the rabbit. 

We are supporting Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) again this year at Avenue Veterinary Centre Ltd by holding free rabbit nurse clinics.  RAW is an annual event run by vets and partner organisations like the RSPCA, PDSA and Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund to raise awareness of rabbit welfare.  Our clinics are available for the whole of May and include a free health check and nail clip, it’s also a great opportunity to ask any questions you have about caring for your rabbit.  We are giving away goodie bags containing a voucher for 10 per cent off rabbit vaccinations, plus food vouchers and free samples.  

Take one small hop for rabbits and change one thing, for example by improving your rabbit’s diet or the space they exercise in, you can help to ensure your rabbit stays happy and healthy.  What will you choose?

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