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Rabbit Care

Rabbits make fantastic, inexpensive pets which are great for young children.

They also develop wonderful personalities and can become very affectionate.

These pets generally need a very hardy structure called a hutch, with two sections:

  1. A fully enclosed area for protection from the elements and for sleeping.
  2. An activities section.

Ensure your pet’s hutch has good ventilation and allows them to avoid direct sunlight, as they are much more sensitive to heat than cold and are susceptible to heat stroke. It is best to position the hutch off the ground, with adequate shelter.

The rabbit’s hutch should be long enough for three hops (approx. 1.5 - 2m) and high enough for them to stand upright. A wire or solid bottom is required to stop them burrowing out. If wire is chosen you need to disinfect regularly and it is best to cover with hay or straw as the wire can hurt their feet.

If indoors, rabbits just need a secure cage to restrain them at night or when you are not present. Litter trays can be provided as rabbits can be trained to use these. Wood or paper based litter is best.

NOTE: Mosquito proof your hutch!

Ensure your rabbit is kept in a mosquito proof enclosure if you live in an area where Myxomatosis is present (your local vet clinic will be able to inform you). Mxyomatosis is very contagious and there is no treatment or vaccination to protect against it in Australia. If your rabbit is free roaming, try to keep them away from water where mosquitos are likely to be breeding and limit their access outside at dawn and dusk, when mozzies are most active.

Rabbits will chew carpet, furniture, shoes and more. Serious hazards include electrical wires and poisonous plants. Rabbit teeth grow continuously and they need to chew to wear them down so the mouth closes properly. Always provide gnawing toys, available at PETstock.

Rabbits and guinea pigs love the company of their own kind, however never put two intact males together as they will fight. The females will tolerate each other. Rabbits can also live happily with birds and well behaved dogs. Cats are unpredictable with rabbits and they shouldn’t be left alone together. Rabbits can pass on serious bacteria to guinea pigs, so it is not good practice to house them together.

Rabbits should be held firmly with one hand under the chest and the other cradling and supporting the back legs and rump. This is extremely important as rabbits can kick out and break their backs. Never hold them by the ears.

Your rabbit must have a constant supply of fresh water and be fed a daily diet of hay and high quality rabbit pellets (with ratio 80% hay and 20% pellets).

Fresh vegetables should also be fed daily. It is recommended you offer three types from the following list: broccoli, carrots, cucumber, brussel sprouts, capsicum, dandelion greens and parsley.

NOTE: Rabbits should not be fed cabbage, cauliflower, raw beans and rhubarb. Do not feed your pet lettuce. It is non-toxic but often causes diarrhoea.

Fruit such as bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries and raspberries are good treats however feed only small amounts of fruit to rabbits (one – two teaspoons) as it can cause diarrhoea. Additionally, your rabbit can be fed fresh grass, however if your pet is under six months old it should not be fed much grass as it causes gastrointestinal upsets.

Vitamin drops for small animals should also be administered in their water on a daily basis.

TIP: Ensure fresh water is available in special, non-drip bottles with stainless steel nozzles, as wet bedding may cause moist dermatitis and coccidiosis.

The flooring should consist of hay or soft straw (please be mindful that hay bedding may be eaten away and will need replenishing). Sawdust should be avoided as it is too fine and can irritate the eyes, nose and ears. Create a sleeping area with something like a bird nesting box, filled with hay or soft straw.

Play pens and exercise pens are available from petstock, which are ideal for rabbits to run around on grass on a daily basis.

NOTE:Ensure you keep your rabbit under constant supervision if bringing them inside to run around.

Vaccination: It is important to vaccinate rabbits against calicivirus, which causes a severe respiratory disease, of which there is no cure and death is the common outcome.

Calici vaccinations should be administered yearly or, if your rabbit is under 12 weeks of age, booster vaccinations are required every four weeks.

This can be done in any PETstock store with a PETstock VET clinic.

Mites: Regular examination for fur and ear mites is required. Mite and lice sprays can be used in minor outbreaks; however veterinary treatment must be sought if the condition worsens.

Nail Trimming: Rabbits nails can grow very long and sharp, they need to be checked on a regular basis and trimmed as necessary.

Heat stroke: Rabbits do not tolerate heat well and can die from being overheated. On very hot days provide relief through frozen plastic bottles of water, a fan and frozen fruit and vegetables.

De-sexing: Female rabbits have a high chance of getting endometrial cancer if they are not neutered. De-sexing males will limit aggression. Males and females live very well together if both are de-sexed.