It can be exciting when you welcome a new pet into your home, and there are no pets quite like a rabbit. Rabbits are intelligent and curious, and they can also be very friendly by nature. They are popular, too, with an estimated 1.1 million rabbits kept as pets in the UK between 2020 and 2021.
However, as with any pet, you should try to be aware of the tasks, responsibilities and challenges of caring for an animal. Rabbits come with unique needs and potential issues, so you should try to ensure that you are prepared with the right equipment and supplies but with an understanding of their behaviour and how to behave around them. This can be especially important if you have a family and want to introduce your younger children to their first pet.
With that in mind, here are some essential tips to help you care for the new rabbit in your family’s life.
Think About Who They’re Sharing Their Space With
While there may be some exceptions, rabbits are generally happier in the company of another rabbit. However, it is not as simple as picking two rabbits separately and putting them in a cabinet together. Siblings can sometimes be the best option as they will have already bonded, but as rabbits get older, they may begin to dislike each other’s company.
Putting two males together may invite competition, so putting a neutered male and a neutered female together may be the best way. It would be best if you always tried to ensure they are fixed for the best chance at peaceful cohabitation. An unneutered male might still try to mate with a neutered female, who will cause her stress and may lead to fighting.
Try To Bond With Your Rabbit Early On
If you want the best chance at a friendly relationship with your rabbit, you should try socialising with them as early as possible. If you don’t, there is a good chance they will find human contact difficult and upsetting later.
Some important things to remember are to try and avoid sudden movements, so stroll around them and whisper. When picking your rabbit up, try not to reach down from your height. Consider how much bigger you are and try to picture something that much taller reaching down to grab you, and you’ll see what we mean!
Try to crouch down as close to their height as you can. This may also lower the risk of injury if they wriggle out of your grip or if you drop them. It would be best if you tried to be firm but gentle when you pick them up.
Try to support their legs and back. But also consider avoiding holding them on their back. Especially do not pick them up by their ears. Remember that this may be stressful for them at first, so support them by keeping all their feet against you and using the minimum amount of restraint necessary. You should also think about showing your children the correct way to handle the rabbit before they pick them up themselves.
Keep Tabs On Their Health And Diet
Every animal has specific health requirements, issues you need to watch out for and things you need to keep out of its diet. If your rabbit spends a lot of time in your garden, you should consider researching poisonous plants. Remember that several houseplants are toxic for rabbits, so be sure to remove any dangerous greenery before you bring your rabbit home.
When it comes to diet, there are some rabbit-specific issues that you should try to be aware of. Don’t be alarmed if you see your rabbit eating their droppings. This is a regular activity, as they will gain the nutrients their bodies could not absorb when they first ate them.
Avoid feeding your rabbit muesli because it contains high sugar, which can lead to dental issues and obesity. The bulk of your rabbit’s diet should be high-quality hay and fresh grass, with the occasional healthy snack such as broccoli, curly kale and parsley. Last but not least, you should ensure that your rabbit has access to lots of fresh water.
When it comes to health issues, you should also keep an eye out for swellings, loss of appetite, balance, and other behavioural changes. A good diet should help to reduce the risk of dental and digestive issues. However, it is always essential to contact the vet as soon as possible if you notice anything unusual. Registering with a vet should be high on your to-do list.
Pet insurance can also help cover you for any unexpected issues. Rabbit insurance will be tailored specifically for the kinds of problems that a rabbit may face during their lifetime.
Give Them Enough Space
Rabbits are very active animals; you must give them enough room to run around. They need to be able to exercise. But they also need space to rest and feel safe if they become agitated. If you want to buy or build your rabbit environment. You should remember that a combination of shelter and space is essential. However, they also like to survey their surroundings and see what’s happening, so a tiny platform is an important addition.
Try to avoid separating their rest and exercise areas. They may feel trapped if they can’t choose where they want to be. You also need to remember that rabbits are intelligent. If they are not given enough to do, you may start to see changes in their behaviour. With the recent UK heatwave, you must ensure your rabbits can keep cool. Keep giving them plenty of fresh water when it’s very hot. Also, consider offering your rabbit’s outdoor area plenty of cover. So they can get shade in hot weather and won’t get soaked if it starts raining.