It can be an exciting moment when you welcome a new pet into your home and there are no pets quite like a rabbit. Rabbits are intelligent and inquisitive, and they can also be very sociable 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 that come with caring for an animal. Rabbits come with their own unique needs and potential issues, so you should try to make sure that you are not only 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 you 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, in general rabbits are happier in the company of another rabbit. However, it is not as simple as picking two rabbits separately and putting them in a hutch 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 be an invitation for competition, so putting a neutered male and a neutered female together may be the best way to go. You should always try to make sure that they are neutered for the best chance at peaceful co-habitation. An unneutered male might still try mate with a neutered female which will cause her stress and may lead to fighting.
Try To Bond With Your Rabbit Early On
If you want to have the best chance at a friendly relationship with your rabbit, then you should try and socialise them as early as possible. If you don’t, then there is a good chance that they will find human contact difficult and upsetting later on.
Some important things to remember are to try and avoid sudden movements, so walk slowly around them and talk quietly. When you pick your rabbit up, try not to reach down from your full height. Consider thinking about 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. When you pick them up, you should try to be firm but gentle. Try to support their legs and their back, but also consider avoiding holding them on their back and especially do not pick them up by their ears. Try to 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 their own specific health requirements, issues that you need to watch out for and things that you need to keep out of their diet. If your rabbit is going to be spending a lot of time in your garden, you should consider researching which plants are poisonous. Try to keep in mind that there are also several houseplants that 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 own droppings. This is a normal activity, as they will gain the nutrients that their bodies were not able to absorb when they first ate them. Try to avoid feeding your rabbit muesli because it has high sugar content, which can lead to dental issues as well as 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 try to make sure 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, loss of balance and other changes in behaviour. A good diet should help to reduce the risk of dental and digestive issues, but it is always important 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 issues that a rabbit may face during their lifetime. You can learn more about rabbit insurance at Everypaw, which offers a range of different lifetime options including a choice to register multiple pets.
Give Them Enough Space
Rabbits are very active animals, and it is important that you give them enough room to run around in. They need to be able to exercise, but they also need space where they can rest and feel safe if they become agitated. If you are looking at buying or building your own rabbit environment, you should remember that combination of shelter and space is very important. However, they also like to be able to survey their surroundings and see what’s going on, so a small platform is an important addition.
Try to avoid separating their rest area and their exercise area as they may feel trapped if they can’t choose where they want to be. You also need to remember that rabbits are intelligent and if they are not given enough to do, you may start to see changes in their behaviour. With the recent UK heatwave, you need to try to make sure your rabbits can keep cool. Try to keep giving them plenty of fresh water when it’s very hot. Also, consider giving 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.