Rabbit Care Guide

Rabbit Food and Nutrition

Rabbits have very different nutritional requirements to humans, they are essentially ‘fibrevores’ as fibre is the key part of your rabbits diet above all other nutrients Rabbits require a high quality food which provides them with two types of fibre: inigestible fibre and digestible fibre. Indigestible fibres help maintain the digestive system and keep your rabbits teeth to a healthy length. Digestible fibres provide your rabbit with essential nutrients. Your rabbit may not get all of the nutrients on first eating a fibre as this passes through his system as ‘caecotophs’- sticky droppings that he ingests to get more nutrients from. These are different from the solid hard droppings of indigestible fibres. A high quality herbage or forage is the cornerstone of your pets diet. You should supplement this with a good dry rabbit food, greens and snacks for extra nutrition. Avoid feeding excessive fresh vegetables or fruit as this can cause stomach upsets. For a treat and variety you can give them a fruit stick. Provide fresh water and remove uneaten food daily.

Rabbit Housing

Rabbits need as much space as possible and are best kept outside, except in winter when they should be housed in a garage or shed with natural light and ventilation. Ideally rabbits should have a separate sleeping area that is closed in and an area that they can run about in. Timber rabbit hutches with an area where they can forage on grass are ideal but have a sleeping area that has a solid floor so they can stay dry. Your hutch should have enough space so that your rabbit can stand on his back legs and a separate living area and bedroom. For bedding it is best to provide a lining of newspaper covered with hay, straw or dust free wood. To absorb urine and keep the hutch clean and dray. It is extremely important that a rabbits bed is kept dry. Rabbits can get a soiled bottom which will attract flies especially in the summer so watch out for this and clean if necessary. You should clean and disinfect your rabbits hutch at least once a week.

Rabbit Healthcare

Rabbits can live 6 to 8 years when properly cared for. Apart from providing adequate, clean housing and good quality diet. There are some other things you should know about rabbit health. Rabbits teeth are constantly growing so you should provide gnawing timber toys or mineral stones to gnaw on. If the teeth grow too long it will be necessary to take your rabbit to a vet to get them trimmed. Daily grooming helps keep their coats in good condition. Grooming is also a great way of bonding with your rabbit and will allow you to conduct a regular health check on your pet. If you notice anything unusual when grooming you should consult your vet. Healthy rabbits have bright eyes, dry noses and shiny coats. Rabbits need to be vaccinated for Myxomatosis and Haemorrhagic Disease. Rabbits do not need to be vaccinated annually like cats or dogs but you should take the rabbit to your vet for regular check ups.

Rabbit Socialisation

When introducing your rabbit to its home you should not disturb it for 2 days so it gets used to its new surroundings. You can start then talking to your rabbit and introduce your hands into the cage and lift it by gently placing one hand under its bottom and another under its chest. You should handle your rabbit regularly and never surprise it as they can struggle quite a lot and may scrape if its nails are sharp. Rabbits are happiest when living with a companion rabbit. To avoid breeding pairs it is best to have the rabbits sexed although this may not always be definitive in some breeds. Rabbits can be neutered from 5 months of age. Male rabbits should be neutered unless you intend using them for breeding, this will also cut down on anti social behaviour such as fighting. You should house young rabbits separately until they are old enough to be neutered. A vet will spay a female rabbit when it is around 6 months and neuter a male rabbit around 5 months.

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