With twitching noses, soft tails and a spring in their step, rabbits make excellent pets. There’s a lot to know about our small furry friends before committing to 12 years of rabbit ownership (or more!), so ask the question: is a rabbit the right pet for me?
Considerations before adopting a rabbit
When cared for correctly, rabbits have long life spans between 8-12 years. This is something to bear in mind when adopting a bunny for a child. They may want a rabbit now but when they become a teenager will they be as interested?
Living in Australia, rabbit owners must be mindful of temperatures. They are sensitive to both heat and cold therefore their enclosure must be suitable for where you live. Be ready to adapt to changes in climate during the winter and summer months. It is best practice to have two areas set up for your rabbits both indoors and outdoors so they can be comfortable, whatever the weather.
Most rabbits get along well with children and other pets however they do need to be handled gently, s. It’s important to keep in mind that some breeds of cat and dog instinctively hunt small animals like rabbits, so make sure you understand the temperament of your pet before introducing a rabbit into your household. A small drop could break their fragile bones and they are known to scratch when frightened or angry.
Before welcoming a rabbit in to your family, learn about what makes the best environment so you can keep your pet healthy and happy for years to come.
The best rabbit enclosure
The ideal rabbit enclosure is one that is suited to you and your home. There are two options available to you: An indoor rabbit pen or an outdoor rabbit hutch.
Indoor rabbit enclosure
- Better for hot and cold climates, providing a refuge for your pet during extreme temperatures.
- Creates a more comfortable and safe environment for your rabbit.
- Your rabbit won’t be directly exposed to diseases, predators or pests.
- Can create mess in home.
- Exposed to indoor pets such as cats, which could cause stress.
With an indoor rabbit enclosure it is important to provide your rabbit with a litter tray that you should empty every day. Rabbits are clean animals but if you let the mess build up, their cage will begin to smell!
Indoor enclosures are commonly made from plastic, which is easy to clean with a rabbit safe cleaning product. Also remember that rabbits like to toss their litter and it may end up on the carpet outside the enclosure. Try putting up small barriers around the sides to prevent this.
For exercise you can let your rabbit run around your house. If you want to do this, you must make sure that your house is rabbit proofed. This means removing, hiding or fencing off any parts of your house that may pose a threat to your pet.
Outdoor rabbit enclosure
- Natural environment.
- Have access to fresh grass.
- Can be put in a run for exercise.
- Exposed to the weather.
- Exposed to outdoor animals such as foxes and birds.
- Not as involved with family.
An outdoor hutch must be secure and waterproof. It should also be in a shady spot that's cool for the summer, but can be protected from wind and rain in winter.
It needs to be fully enclosed so that your pet can’t escape. Ideally you should install a fly wire screen small enough to prevent mosquitos and flies from entering into the hutch. Mosquitos have the ability to spread disease and cause a world of pain for your pet.
Both indoor and outdoor rabbit enclosures must be large enough for your rabbit to stretch out in all directions. A suggested minimum size is 6ft x 2ft x 2ft however can be smaller providing that your rabbit gets plenty of daily exercise outside of the hutch.
Friends for Your Rabbit
Rabbits can be happy on their own however they are social creatures and sometimes you can see their personality come through more when they’re in the company of a mate. Your rabbit will need to do some ‘speed dating’ to ascertain whether or not another particular rabbit is the right mate for them. Not all rabbits will get along; in fact many will clash, indicating that perhaps they’re not entirely compatible. Many rabbit rehoming shelters and adoption groups will offer this, so you can either take home a new mate for your rabbit for a couple of nights to see if they get along or alternatively you can bring your rabbit to the shelter to spend time with other rabbits. It’s critically important that rabbits sharing a living space get along amicably, as two rabbits fighting for dominance will not contribute to a harmonious environment.
Allowing your rabbit to bond with another rabbit can prevent this from happening since they'll have a companion even when you're away on holiday or at work. Rabbit toys and wood chews also work well to prevent boredom and keep their brain stimulated.
Rabbits that aren't socializing pull out their fur, overeat or won't eat at all, tear apart their cage and gnaw obsessively on cage bars.
What foods are appropriate to feed my rabbit?
Despite what cartoons show you, carrots aren’t the only food that rabbits eat! Rabbit pellets provide a good source of nutrition but although they are specifically created for them, pellets do not provide all of the necessary nutrients.
The only way to meet a rabbit's dietary needs in full is by providing several different types of food. This includes:
- Rabbit pellets
- Fresh veggies
These items provide rabbits with the variety they need and also provide the correct amount of fibre, nutrients and hydration. Vegetables and hay also allow rabbits to keep their teeth sharp and even. Variety is the spice of life: for rabbits as well as for humans.
Treats like fruit, should be offered only in moderation and corn and other seeds should not be offered to rabbits because they cannot digest it.
New rabbit checklist
The list below details several items you will need to purchase before you can adopt a rabbit. This checklist will help you to budget and see if you (or your child) are ready to welcome your new pet.
- Hutch or cage
- Rabbit pellets
- Food bowls and water bottle
- Hay and hay rack
- Hidey-house or tunnel
- Wood chews and toys
- Pet carrier
- Litter tray and litter
- Nail trimmers
- Grooming brush/comb
- Rabbit safe cage cleaner
- Things to rabbit proof home (indoors)
- A run (outdoors)
- Fresh food
Anyone can have a pet rabbit if they're prepared to provide the proper diet, socialization and living space. Bunnies are social creatures and once you have bonded with them, they make loyal and fun companions.