Rabbits are social animals, and it's better to have more than one. Ideally, they should be of similar sizes, to stop bullying.
Rabbits from the same litter get on well, but should always be neutered. Un-related females generally tolerate each other given enough space, but may still fight. Un-related males will almost certainly fight and can inflict nasty injuries. In both cases, neutering is recommended by vets to improve the situation.
Never keep rabbits with guinea pigs or chinchillas. They have very different food and housing needs and may fight.
Whether your rabbits live indoors or outside, a hutch is the perfect home. But there are many designs, shapes and sizes, so choosing the right one is essential.
LAYOUT – there should be separate eating and toilet areas. If you have more than one rabbit, there should also be somewhere for them to be alone.
LINING – line the floor with newspaper.
BEDDING – cover the lining with bedding material of hay, barley straw or dust-free wood chippings. This helps to absorb urine and keep the hutch comfortable.
TOILET – rabbits are clean animals by nature, so make a separate litter area, deep-sided and lined with newspaper and hay, which you should change regularly.
LOCATION – the hutch should always be dry, well-ventilated and kept cool – heat can be fatal to rabbits. Indoors, avoid sites next to radiators. Outside, avoid south-facing walls and direct sunlight. In the colder winter months, add extra bedding to an outdoor hutch and move it into a garage.
CLEANING – rabbits leave scent markings which extreme cleaning can remove. This may cause them stress, but hygiene is important. Spot clean soiled areas when needed, but change all bedding and clean thoroughly every two or three days – always leaving a small corner untouched so it smells familiar.
It's also important to consider the surroundings when your rabbit is out of the hutch.
Rabbits love to chew and gnaw, so when they're living indoors, the house needs to be rabbit-proofed. Wires are an easy target, so metal ducting may be useful to cover them up. Also, be aware of wooden and laminate floors which can easily cause your rabbits to slip, injuring the lower back.
For outdoor rabbits, it's important to rat-proof the area where they're living. Fear of predators – like dogs, foxes and birds of prey – can cause stress, so try to minimise it. If a neighbour has a noisy dog, for example, house your rabbit as far away as possible. Ideally cover the hutch at night so that the rabbit cannot see outside should any predators enter the garden.
You should also make sure the garden is free of plants that are poisonous to rabbits.
In females, it prevents unwanted pregnancy and eliminates cancer of the uterus, but it can make both sexes calmer and less aggressive.
Plus eliminating the chance of unwanted litters!
What is often not understood is that rabbits need to keep their digestive systems busy with a mix of two kinds of fibre – digestible and indigestible –moving through the gut at all times.
Rabbits can’t get enough nutrition from fibre as it first passes through the gut. So they pass it through the gut again. Indigestible fibre is moved through their digestive system and excreted as separate, round, hard droppings. This acts to keep the digestive system moving and stimulate appetite.
Digestible fibre is moved up into an organ called the caecum – this is like a giant appendix. Good bacteria in the caecum ferment the fibre (making it easy to digest) which then emerges in the form of clumps of sticky droppings – called caecotrophs. Rabbits then re-eat the caecotrophs and their systems extract essential nutrition as the digestible fibre passes through for the second time.
Failing to provide adequate portions of the right kind of fibre can rapidly lead to illness or death.
That’s why muesli-style foods are such a problem. Rabbits can become fussy eaters, and will eat sweet foods as an easy way to get a glucose fix. As a result, they can pick out unhealthy elements of muesli-style foods and leave the rest. This is called selective feeding and will inevitably lead to an imbalanced diet, lacking in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Above all, this behaviour can lead to a lack of fibre with potentially fatal consequences. When taken with the fact that muesli-style foods are commonly low in fibre to begin with, the problem is compounded.
And finally, the unhealthy ingredients in muesli-style foods are high in sugar and starch. These are difficult for rabbits to digest and can lead to health problems and obesity. Rabbits eat caecotrophs directly from their bottoms –obese rabbits often cannot reach the caecotrophs which can lead to malnutrition and death.
We recommend SUPA RABBIT EXCELL
There are many different health problems that rabbits face, but most can be avoided – either by regular vaccination or by good diet and a healthy lifestyle.
There are four main vaccinations and some simple preventative measures to keep your pets free from infectious diseases. always keep up to date with vaccinations.
Here's a brief guide to the four main infectious diseases. But if you are in any doubt whatsoever, it is vital that you consult with us as soon as possible.
Myxomatosis – this disease spreads via blood-sucking insects, like fleas. Even house rabbits are not immune, because the disease can be spread by mosquitoes.
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) – a very serious condition which causes internal bleeding and shut down of internal organs. This disease kills – and there is no cure.
Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi) – a microscopic parasite which affects many internal organs like the kidneys and brain.
Flystrike – a disease which occurs when flies lay their eggs around the rabbit's anus.
There are two major problem areas which can be avoided with a good diet, plenty of exercise and regular health checks.
Dental problems – a rabbit's teeth will continue to grow around 10-12cm a year all its life. Vets say that three-quarters of the rabbits they see have problems with their teeth - the most common problem being overgrown molars and spurs which can cause extreme pain.
Problems like these generally develop because rabbits aren't eating enough hay – naturally abrasive fibre-rich food that helps to wear down the teeth. Feeding Excel Herbage combats this problem.
Common symptoms are excessive drooling and loss of appetite. Check your pets’ teeth on a weekly basis but you can visit us for a dental check every six month as you will be unable to check their back teeth.
Obesity – rabbits kept as pets are much less active than those which live in the wild, so being overweight is always a risk. Obesity puts pressure on the heart and joints, can create 'bed sores' on the hind legs and may shorten your rabbit's life. Some obese animals find it hard to clean themselves, which can lead to flystrike. But more importantly, if they can’t reach their bottoms they can’t re-ingest caecotrophs – the sticky droppings they need to eat as an essential aid to survival.
Prevention is better than cure, so ask us about your rabbits’ ideal weight. Weigh them regularly to make sure they fall into their target weight. All rabbits, but especially those which spend most of their time in hutches, should have as much exercise as possible.
If your rabbits do become overweight, see us for advice. A calorie-controlled food, such as Excel Light Tasty Nuggets, may be suggested.
Never withhold food from your pets – your rabbits must have some fibre in their digestive systems at all times or risk becoming ill.