Rabbits make intelligent and friendly pets. The following information is to help you enjoy a happy and healthy relationship with your new rabbit. In addition to this handout there are a number of excellent books on the topic of rabbit health care available from Petmania.
Rabbits should be vaccinated against dis-eases including haemorrhagic viral dis-ease (HVD) and myxomatosis. These dis-eases are highly contagious and almost always fatal. Vaccination is done at 10 – 12 weeks of age and then annually.
It is very important to support a rabbit’s body, particularly the hind limbs, when holding it. Place one hand under the tummy and the other under the tail and hold it close to your body. Check your rabbit daily to get it used to handling. Examine the mouth, ears, eyes, coat and skin regularly, which will help recognise an abnormality if one occurs.
Rabbits are herbivores and the best diet is grass and/or meadow hay with small amounts of pellet mix and mixed vegetables. This provides enough essential fibre. Lack of fibre leads to lack of wear on the cheek teeth and dental disease, and also causes the bowel to stop working properly. Introduce any vegetables on a gradual basis to avoid bloat and diarrhoea. Occasionally fruit can be given as treats.
Neutering is recommended for both males (bucks) and females (does) as rabbits are prolific breeders. Neutering also makes does and bucks less aggressive and less territorial. Does have a very high risk of developing uterine tumours which can be prevented by neutering. Males and females can be neutered from 5 months of age.
Rabbits have open rooted teeth which grow continuously. This should not be-come a problem if your rabbit has a proper diet. Make sure the rabbit has some branches or wood available for chewing on to keep teeth trimmed down.
A large secure grazing run with a hutch attached for privacy is best. Rabbits need to be able to stand up on their hindquarters and hop around. Large pipes can be used to simulate burrows. Rabbits may also be kept indoors if provided with a large hutch and a litter tray.
It is very important brush your rabbit daily. If not groomed, rabbits will groom themselves, ingesting the fur, which often leads to hairballs and possible intestinal obstructions. Nail trimming is also essential as rabbits’ nails can get very sharp.
Rabbits are very sociable creatures and like other rabbits and human company. It is best to house rabbits with rabbits. Do not mix rabbits with other small mammals such as guinea pigs as rabbits can seriously injure them when play-fighting or trying to mate. If you mix un-neutered bucks and does baby rabbits will be born in about 3 weeks. The doe can have several litters a year and early born does can also have litters in the same year.