Are you thinking of keeping a pet rabbit?

image1 (9K) Or maybe you already have one. Either way you are one of the millions of pet lovers who think of rabbits as ideal pets. This is not surprising as they are endearing, affectionate animals that easily sway us with their charm. But just like any other pet, keeping a rabbit is a big commitment. So, please take a moment to read this webpage to find out exactly what is involved in providing top quality care for your rabbit and how your hard work can be rewarded with a devoted and happy pet.

Most people keep their bunnies outdoors and if you are planning to do the same, then have you got around 10 square feet to dedicate to a proper rabbit hutch and run? About £500 to buy the bunnies and set them up properly and have you got around £50 per month spare and can afford to properly care for them? If you can not answer yes to these questions then you really should think carefully about taking on rabbits, and consider other pets, that require less space and finance.

Bunny Basics

Although they are different shapes, sizes and colours, pet rabbits are closely related to their wild cousins. Their basic nature and needs are the same as a wild rabbit.

Rabbits are active!

They need plenty of space, a spacious run outdoors or freedom to run around the house for several hours every day. Cages should be burrows to rest in, not prisons!

Rabbits are sociable!

Wild rabbits live in colonies, never on their own. Your pet will need plenty of company either from you, a bunny companion or preferably both.

Rabbits are someone else's dinner!

Preyed upon by many other species, rabbits are naturally shy, quiet animals who hate being held above ground level. Gaining the trust of a rabbit takes time and effort.

A Good Home for a Rabbit

image2 (6K) You'll need to keep these basic facts about rabbit nature in mind when deciding how best to keep your pet. Keeping a rabbit alone in a hutch is not acceptable and doesn't meet many of the fundamental needs of the species. A rabbit kept in this way will be a bored and distressed pet. As a caring owner you'll need to look at alternatives.

Outdoors

Two or more rabbits (provided they are neutered to stop fighting and breeding) living in a permanent enclosure in the garden with suitable shelter (which can be a hutch).

Two rabbits sharing a hutch/shed with access to a large exercise run (or garden, if you don't mind your plants being nibbled!). Remember, gardens and runs need to be secure against foxes, cats and dogs! Both these options offer a good quality of life. You will enjoy watching your rabbits behave in a natural way, but make sure the enclosure is safe and will protect them from predators.

Indoors

If you want a closer relationship with your bunny then why not keep him as a houserabbit? Rabbits are very clean animals and, if neutered, can be trained to use a litter tray.

One rabbit will live happily in the house with plenty of human company but they are usually happier with the company of another rabbit

Two rabbits will be very content if you lead a busy lifestyle with less time to devote to them. Many houserabbits will watch TV from the sofa, flop out in front of the fire and run to greet their owners when they come in from work! However, houserabbits are not suitable pets for everyone. Just like cats and dogs, they can be demanding and destructive, especially as youngsters. Even after thorough training and "bunnyproofing" some wear and tear on the furnishings as well as a bit of mess such as pet hair is inevitable.

Neutering

Rabbits are social animals and should not be kept without the companionship of their own kind as they do suffer from stress if lonely.

Mixed-sex pairs usually work best, so if you are thinking of getting rabbits for the first time, itıs advisable to get a male and female.

Adult rabbits adopted from rescue centres are usually neutered before re-homing, but if you are buying baby rabbits, you will need to have them neutered to avoid accidental litters (rabbits can breed when they are 4 months old!) or fighting (which is why same-sex pairs also need to be neutered as soon as possible). When you take your new rabbits to the vet for their vaccinations as soon as possible after buying them, discuss neutering with your vet.

We recommend having male rabbits castrated by 16 weeks of age at the latest, and ideally, have the female spayed at the same time but even if they are not neutered on the same day, they should remain together whilst in the veterinary clinic.

It is possible although uncommon - to have rabbits neutered as young as 10 weeks of age, so you should be able to find a vet who is happy to perform the operation at 16 weeks.

Some vets prefer to wait a little longer to spay females (e.g. 20 weeks or when she weighs 1kg, whichever is first). If this is your vetıs policy, and you have a mixed-sex pair, be sure to have the male castrated before this, as they can breed from 16 weeks of age.

If you are having difficulty finding a vet happy to neuter your rabbits, please get in touch with our Helpline and we will locate a ³rabbit-friendly² vet in your area who will be confident to neuter your rabbits by 16 weeks of age.

More information about choosing a vet

You and a pet rabbit: a marriage made in heaven?

So, you think a bunny is the right pet for you?..... read on to be sure.

"For Better, For Worse"

Your rabbit will be completely dependent on you. That means arranging holiday care if you want to go away. He will need affection and attention every day. Houserabbits are a bit like toddlers that never grow up. Can you cope?

"For Richer, For Poorer"

Pet rabbits are usually inexpensive to buy, however they will need to be neutered and vaccinated and this can cost up to £100 per bunny, with vaccination costs around £40 per annum per bunny. The initial set up costs are considerable if you do it properly, you will need a large hutch and run (we recommend a 6ft hutch and 8ft run) or you could build a safe, attractive outdoor enclosed complex plus you'll need food bowls etc. To set up, you are not going to have much change out of £500. "Starter kits" are temporary homes for young rabbits. You'll need to budget for a bigger, better quality hutch and runas your rabbit grows up. Your bunny will need regular supplies of a quality rabbit food, hay, and bedding. We estimate it can cost around £11,000 to care for 2 rabbits properly for thier natural life of 10 years. Dont think of cutting corners and doing it on the cheap because your rabbits health and welfare will suffer and you could end up with huge Vet bills as a result. See costs breakdown on the next page.

"In Sickness and in Health"

Your rabbit will need to be neutered and to have annual vaccinations against VHD and six monthly for Myxomatosis. Veterinary fees for a rabbit are very similar to those for a cat, so pet health insurance cover is strongly recommended in case of serious health problems.

"Till Death do us Part"

The average life span of a rabbit is 7-10 years. You are taking on your pet for around a decade. If the rabbit is for the children‚ they may be gone before the bunny!

Costs

Many people are surprised at how much it costs to properly care for two rabbits, so here is some information that everyone who is considering getting a rabbit should read before they take the plunge.

Initial set up costs
2 rabbits £60 - £100 (Rabbits should never be kept alone, they do get lonely)
Neutering of 2 rabbits - up to £180 (rabbits need to be neutered to live happily together and prevent accidental litters of rabbits)
Hutch / Run / Enclosure - £200 would be the minimum but could be up to £500. (We recommend a 6ft x 2ft x 2ft hutch as a minimum with an attached 8 ft run, and you will really have to be lucky to get this for less than £400)
Bedding, bowls etc - £30
Toys £10
Hay / food - £20

Total initial set up costs - allow £930

Then monthly costs of
Hay - £15 (if buying pre packed, dust free from pet shops)
Good quality food £10
Bedding - £10
Fresh Vegetables - £20
Insurance - £15
Total Monthly costs - £70.00
Per annum this is £840


Then annual costs of
2 x myxi vaccines per year, per bunny - £100 on average
1 x VHD vaccine per annum per bunny - £50 on average
2 weeks in bunny boarding while you have your annual holiday - £70
Total annual costs in addition to usual monthly costs - £220

Added to usual monthly costs per annum the cost is £1060

Rabbits should live on average for 10 years, so including the set up costs, to keep 2 rabbits properly will cost you on average over £11,550. Are you sure you still want to buy the children a pet rabbit now?!

Rabbits and Children

Rabbits can make good family pets if parents respect the needs of the rabbit and the limitations of the children. Adults need to accept all the responsibility of caring for the rabbit. Please do not buy a rabbit solely as a child's pet.

  • Small children with rabbits need supervision.
  • Rabbits are rarely cuddly!
  • Rabbits can scratch and bite if harassed.
  • They do not like to be picked up and can easily injure their backs if they fall or are dropped
  • Children may not have the patience necessary to establish a relationship with a rabbit

It's a good idea to choose a large breed of rabbit if you have young children as they are generally quieter, sturdier and too large to be picked up. Children don't pick up the family dog and they should learn to respect the rabbit in the same way.

Where to get a Rabbit

  • Why not adopt a rescue bunny? Britain is flooded with unwanted pet rabbits awaiting new homes in rescue centres and if you adopt an adult bunny you can be sure of its personality.
  • Many pet shops sell young rabbits but if you want a particular breed or colour, locate a reputable breeder via the RWA Helpline 0870 046 5249.

Wherever you get your rabbit you can be sure that with care, love and respect your rabbit will become a loving member of your family.

Recommended Reading

There is a great selection of books covering all aspects of rabbit care available from our shop:http://www.bunnybazaar.com/default/off/category/Books_and_Free_Leaflets/Books