Rabbit being fed hay

Rabbits as pets: is a pet rabbit right for me? reading-time-icon 2 min read

Rabbits make great pets for families and those with busy lives. They’re docile, sociable, and can be trained to use a litter tray. And, of course, they’re super cute!

For that reason, it’s easy to be seduced into buying a rabbit without thinking through your decision. 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 very fragile digestive systems
  • They're prey animals, so may be nervous before getting to know you
  • They're not fans of being held or picked up
  • Older rabbits might spray urine to mark their territory
  • It isn't adviced to bring an indoor rabbit outside as this could make them vulnerable to parasites
  • Too much excitement can shock a rabbit easily, often causing a heart attack

What age of rabbit should I choose? 

A rabbit aged between nine and 12 weeks old will be tame and easy to handle and train, though you may prefer to give a home to an older, rescue rabbit.

What breed of rabbit is right for me?

If you’re used to keeping rabbits, you can choose from the full range of breeds, from small breeds, such as the Himalayan rabbit, Dutch rabbit or miniature lop-eared (also known as the mini lop), right up to the larger, heavier breeds, like the angora, Californian giant or English lop. 

Long-haired rabbit breeds need to be brushed daily, so may not be the best choice if you’re short of time. It’s also worth remembering that larger rabbits need more food – as well as more space to live and exercise – while very large breeds are more likely to develop health problems. 

If you’re new to rabbit owning, or you have small children, you might prefer to opt for one of the smaller, more playful breeds. 

How long do rabbits live?

A well cared for and neutered house rabbit can live for between eight and 12 years. Rabbits kept outdoors in hutches tend to have far shorter lives, often between three and five years.

Where should I buy my rabbit from?

You can buy a rabbit from a pet store or breeder, or you may prefer to adopt an older rabbit or even a rescue rabbit. Always follow our tips below to choose a healthy pet.

What should I feed my pet rabbit?

Rabbits need a high fibre diet, and 80 to 90 per cent of your pet rabbit’s diet should be loose hay and grass. Avoid commercial treats in favour of a slice of carrot or apple. 

What to look for when choosing a healthy rabbit

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
  • Neat claws 
  • Clean teeth
  • Clean bottom
  • A firm back

What sex of rabbit should I buy?

Rabbits are happiest with company, so you may want to consider buying two, if you can. One male and one female is the best combination (though it’s important that they’re both neutered, otherwise you can expect your pet family to grow rapidly!). 

It’s common for female rabbits to fight, so avoid buying two girls. Even pet stores can make mistakes with the sexing of rabbits, so always be completely sure what you’re buying! 

Need advice on choosing or caring for a pet rabbit?

For expert advice on buying and owning rabbits, get in touch with your local vet.

Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.