Traditionally, rabbits have been seen more as a children’s pet, however their natural timid curiousity makes them better-suited to adult owners. Similar to house cats, more and more people are keeping rabbits as an indoor pet giving them free access to the ground floor of the house with access to an indoor litter tray while joining their owner as they relax on the family couch.
Rabbits make for very sociable pets and they enjoy the company of other rabbits and humans. Rabbits have often been housed with guinea pigs as they are seen as a compatible pet in terms of company, however the reality is that a pet rabbit can potentially harm a pet guinea pig during play-fighting or even trying to mate.
When housing your pet rabbit with other rabbits, be sure to check and double-check the sex of the rabbits as the meaning behind the phrase, ‘breed like rabbits’ will become all too clear when two rabbits quickly become twenty-two! As the sex of a pet rabbit can be difficult to determine, please call into us in Moycullen Vet Clinic and we’ll be happy to advise.
Even if your rabbit is predominately an indoor pet, all rabbits should have access to a large and secure outdoor run, ideally without without mesh flooring, as they can cause your pet rabbit foot problems.
To prevent spinal, obesity and behavioural problems in your pet rabbit, proper exercise is vital. Makes sure they have access to a large run or arrange supervised ‘hopping’ for them in an open garden.
If your pet rabbit is sleeping outside, make sure their rabbit hutch is dry, safe and secure. The hutch should be cleaned weekly with bedding changed daily and you should ensure that your pet rabbit always has access to clean hay and water.
While pet rabbits, especially the indoor type, are treated like house cats, their digestive systems are very different. Your pet rabbit prefers to constantly graze and their guts are constantly digesting making them more comparable to a cow or sheep.
Due to their grazing nature, rabbit food needs to be available at all times as a lack of it may cause the rabbit’s bowels to shut which, in some instances, can lead to death. If your pet rabbit has been off their food for more than 12 hours, you should immediately consider it an emergency and contact us at Moycullen Vet Clinic for assistance.
Pet rabbits are designed to eat grass and so grass and hay are the most suitable diets for them. Over-the-counter rabbit food of the pelleted and flaked food variety is effectively ‘fast-food’ for your rabbit – tasty but certainly not healthy – and so this type of food should be limited to 20% of their overall diet.
If you’ve mowed the lawn, try giving them the grass cuttings. Rabbits are also partial to dandelion leaves, green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower leaves, broccoli or try root vegetables such as carrots. All of these foods are great for variety and healthy nutrition for your rabbit. As a treat, you can also give your pet rabbit the occasional piece of apple, pear or strawberry.
As well as healthy food, your pet rabbit should also have some branches of wood available for chewing on which will help to keep teeth trimmed down. As with our own finger nails, rabbits’ teeth grow constantly.
If your rabbit’s diet is unsuitable, such as too much pelleted foods, then their teeth can overgrow as the rabbit is not required to chew sufficiently. A possible outcome of this is ‘kebabing’ of your rabbit’s tongue where the teeth on either side stick through the tongue or possibly a tooth spike may puncture the cheek.
Overgrown teeth can be filed down to a normal level by your vet but a suitable diet will ensure the prevention of ‘kebabing’ in the first place.
To help prevent the possibility of fur balls and gut obstruction, it is important that you give your pet rabbit a good brush regularly. Your rabbit will generally enjoy the attention as well so this shouldn’t be a difficult routine to establish.
As rabbits’ nails can get very sharp, nail trimming is also a key element of rabbit grooming. For advice on how to carry this out, call into us at Moycullen Vet Clinic and we can show you how.
At Moycullen Vet Clinic, we recommend that your pet rabbit is vaccinated at 10-12 weeks old, and then once a year, against two serious rabbit diseases:
Viral Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), also known as Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD), is a highly infectious and often fatal disease as it can cause respiratory and heart failure within 12-32 hours.
Myxomatosis is a viral disease which causes swelling of the lips, eyelids, ears and genitalia and also results in a fever. Myxomatosis is also usually fatal.
There are no effective treatments for either of these rabbit diseases. Both of these diseases are spread by insects (fleas and flies) so a flea treatment is safest approach as it will prevent the rabbit being bitten in the first place.
However some flea treatments for small animals can cause death in rabbits so please contact us at Moycullen Vet Clinic and ask one of our team for advice on parasite control for your rabbit.
Rabbits can reproduce from an early age and as rabbits are notoriously difficult to sex, you may find yourself with an unwanted litter before you realise that you don’t have 2 male or female rabbits after all!
Again, please contact Moycullen Vet Clinic should you wish to seek our advice on sexing your rabbit.
With male rabbits, neutering is a good idea male pet rabbits have a tendency to become aggressive as they get older.
With female rabbits, apart from preventing unwanted pregnancies, spaying can prevent the development of uterine cancer. Uterine cancer is nearly always fatal to rabbits and can occur even when they are young.
Neutering and spaying is especially beneficial if you have more than one indoor rabbit as it encourages a more harmonious shared living environment for both pets and owners.
Should you require any further information on rabbit healthcare, please contact any of our team at Moycullen Vet Clinic and we will be happy to provide you with advice.