Rabbits as pets: is a pet rabbit right for me?
Rabbits make great pets. They’re docile, sociable, and can be trained to use a litter tray. But they do require a lot of love, care and attention.
It’s easy to be seduced into buying a rabbit without thinking through the decision — and many people fall into this trap. Because it’s always better to make an informed decision before you welcome a new pet to your home, here are some of the things you need to know before buying a rabbit.
A few things to consider:
Before deciding to purchase a bunny, it might be useful to know the following things:
- Healthy rabbits can live for up to 12 years
- Rabbits have delicate digestive systems
- They're prey animals, so can be nervous
- They're not fans of being held or picked up
- Rabbits who haven't been neutered might spray urine to mark their territory
- Like any pet, too much stress can lead to ill-health
- Boredom is also associated with stress — enrichment is key to rabbit happiness
What age of rabbit should I choose?
Rabbits change dramatically when they reach sexual maturity — typically between three to six months — so it's often best to get an older rabbit, such as a rescue, so you will know their character. Rabbits below this age may lack human socialisation and may start to exhibit behaviours you're not used to when reaching sexual maturity.
This depends. If you’re used to keeping rabbits, you can choose from the full range of breeds, from small breeds to the larger, heavier breeds. But be aware that some, such as miniature lop-eared, English lops and all giant breeds, may have breed-inherent health issues, including ear abscesses, dental malocclusion, spondylosis, nasal infection, tear duct issues and breathing problems.
It's worth remembering that long-haired rabbit breeds need to be brushed daily while larger rabbits need more food. If you’re new to rabbit owning, or you have children, you need to consider all of these issues and whether rabbits are right for you.
A well cared for, vaccinated and neutered rabbit who lives in clean, spacious accommodation — and receives regular check-ups at the vet — can live for between eight and 12 years. The secret to a long, healthy life is good owner care.
Where should I buy my rabbit from?
While rabbits are available in pet shops and directly from breeders, it may be more advisable to re-home a rescue rabbit. Rescues are generally always health-checked, sexed, neutered and vaccinated — and the rescue will home check you and your accommodation as well as provide sound advice. They will also take the rabbit back if things do not work out.
What should I feed my pet rabbit?
Rabbits need a high fibre diet, and 80 to 90 per cent of your rabbit’s diet should be loose hay and grass. For almost all owners, pellets are essential to ensure a healthy intake year round. Avoid sweet fruits such as apple and carrots and buy dried forage instead.
Never buy a rabbit without handling it first. A healthy rabbit should exhibit the following signs:
- A sleek and glossy coat, with no matted fur
- Bright eyes with no stickiness
- Clean ears
- Teeth that aren't misaligned
- Clean bottom
What sex of rabbit should I buy?
Rabbits are happiest with company so, if you do decide to opt for rabbits as a pet, you should always get two. One male and one female is the best combination (though it’s important they’re both neutered).
Rabbits who haven't bonded may fight, so it's often best to get two already bonded rabbits from a rescue centre.
Need advice on choosing or caring for a pet rabbit?
For expert advice on buying and owning rabbits, and the importance of vaccinations and neutering, get in touch with your local vet.