Let’s Talk Rabbits!

By October 23, 2018Exotics
rabbit on grass

In this blog post, we will touch briefly on some important rabbits facts and important details of rabbit ownership.

Aside from dogs and cats, rabbits rank alongside hamsters as being the most popular small fuzzy pet in Canadian households! From their adorable little noses down to their soft fluffy tails, it isn’t hard to see why they make such a popular pet. Relatively inexpensive to buy, easy to find at essentially any pet store outlet, and seemingly simple to care for… rabbits are a common choice for many families looking to add a furry addition to their home. However, many people underestimate the physical and financial responsibilities associated with rabbit ownership.

Did you know…

  • Pet rabbits require regular vet check-ups, and they are very good at hiding their symptoms when they are sick!

  • Pet rabbits, just like dogs and cats, can vary greatly in personality! Ranging from very cuddly and friendly, to more skittish and aloof.

  • Pet rabbits require very specific husbandry and care.

The big question: Is a rabbit the right pet for me/my family?       

There is no question that rabbits make great pets, as they most certainly do! Here are some of the most important facts to keep in mind when considering adding a cute little bun to your family:

Temperament.

The personalities of pet rabbits are highly variable, even within each breed of rabbit. Some rabbits may be very calm, while others may seem to have endless energy! Some rabbits may be very cuddly, while others may be squirmy, prefer not to be held, and may seem more independent. Pet rabbits can often have the tendency to be curious, social, and playful. This can sometimes lead to them having a knack for getting into things they shouldn’t, such as chewing and eating things that they shouldn’t!

Finances.

It is never correct to say you have to be rich to own a rabbit, let alone any pet! However, it is VERY incorrect to say to own a rabbit (or any pet) is free or cheap. Initial costs of purchasing/adopting your pet rabbit will be considerable. This includes the cost of the rabbit itself, a proper rabbit enclosure with all associated dishes, toys, litter box, etc. Ongoing expenses will include proper nutritious food, litter, cleaning supplies, and replacement toys. As mentioned earlier, rabbits have a reputation for being a little naughty! If you aren’t careful, you may need to replace furniture or items around your house that get destroyed by your silly little critter.

One of the most significant expenses that should not be overlooked is veterinary bills. It is generally recommended to have your pet rabbit spayed (female) or neutered (male) when they reach 6 months of age. Having your pet rabbit sterilized comes with many benefits, which tend to outweigh the risks associated with the surgical procedure. In females, these benefits include prevention of unwanted litters, as well as the prevention of reproductive cancer. Uterine cancer is seen to affect 60% of female rabbits over the age of three years old, and is an aggressive and malignant form of cancer in rabbits. In both male and female rabbits, sterilization tends to improve overall behaviour of the rabbit, reducing the occurrence of unwanted behaviours such as biting, spraying, chewing and digging.

It is highly recommended that rabbits receive annual wellness examinations by a rabbit-experienced veterinarian to ensure that your pet rabbit is in good health. Just like us people, your pet rabbit can get sick and may require veterinary care to ensure it lives a long, happy, and comfortable life! Common ailments of rabbits will be discussed in the next blog post so keep an eye out!

Lifespan.

Rabbits are like a rat or a hamster where they live only a couple of years right? WRONG! Many people are surprised that rabbits can live up to 12 years of age, with some of the oldest rabbits reaching a shocking 14-18 years old! The lifespan of rabbits certainly can vary, and can depend on size, breed, proper care and husbandry, access to medical care, and various other factors. People should be aware that they are committing to at least 8 years of caring for their rabbit, and potentially longer. This needs to be kept in mind particularly for situations where you may have changes coming up in your life that may affect your ability to properly care for your rabbit. It is also very important when considering giving a rabbit as a gift, either to a child (as is often done at Easter Holidays) or otherwise.    Care and Husbandry.

That brings us to our next point, read on to find out what is involved in the care for a pet rabbit!

Housing:

Many people choose to allow their rabbit to free-roam at least part, if not all, of their house. It is encouraged that your rabbit be provided a space to call their own, and this involves a proper enclosure, such as a rabbit cage, a large dog crate, a rabbit/dog exercise pen, or a certain room in the house. The enclosure needs to be at least 36 inches high, at least 4x as long as your rabbit, and allow ample space for them to move around. A wire flooring of your rabbit’s home is not appropriate, and may lead to foot-sores. You will also need to “rabbit-proof” your home. This involves concealing cords, covering any open vents, and providing ample toys and safe chewables to distract your rabbit from chewing furniture. Provide a litter box in each corner of the spaces your rabbit is allowed to access and keep the box clean.

Diet:

Nutrition is very important for pet rabbits! Their diet must consist of unlimited grass hay, dark leafy greens and root vegetables, and less so other vegetables and a rabbit pellet. Timothy pellets high in fibre are recommended, with a standard feeding guide of 1/4 cup per 6lb body weight of the rabbit. Fresh timothy or oat hay should be provided at all times. A rabbit provided too many treats will be less inclined to eat the most important part of their diet, hay! A general breakdown for a healthy rabbit diet is 80% hay, 10% vegetables, and 10% pellet and occasional healthy treats. Provide clean, fresh water at all times.

Socialization:

Rabbits are social animals, which require regular affection. It is very important to socialize your rabbit by exposing it to many positive experiences. Never punish your rabbit.

There are many finer aspects to owning a pet rabbit as well. This includes regular nail trimmings, occasionally some rabbits may require aid with grooming, rabbit socialization and litter training, as well as the provision of proper enrichment such as treats and toys. At Scott Veterinary Clinic we would be more than happy to answer any questions or concerns you have about the husbandry of your pet rabbit, or if you wish to discuss further if a rabbit is the right pet for you!

Do you own a rabbit or are considering owning a pet rabbit and are concerned about what you should be watching out for with regards to common illnesses? Check out our next blog post for a discussion on the most commonly seen health issues that affect pet rabbits!

Some Rabbit Facts!

  • Rabbits have been domesticated by people for over 2,000 years. They were originally bred for their meat and fur. They began to gain popularity as a pet in the early 1800s.

  • A male rabbit is called a buck. A female is a doe. Young rabbits are referred to as a kit (kitten). The young can also be referred to as leverets, however this term tends to be used more commonly for their wild sometimes longer-eared counterpart, the hare.

  • When a rabbit launches itself into the air and does spins and twists, this is referred to as a BINKY!

  • Rabbits are one of the most commonly acquired pets for children, and often end up in shelters due to the misconception that they are a simple and cheap pet to own. If you are thinking about bringing a rabbit into your home, consider adopting a rabbit from a shelter or rabbit rescue group.

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