Before you buy a rabbit make sure you know all about how to keep your new pet well and happy.
You will need lots of time – rabbits like companionship, they are intelligent and friendly when well handled. If you don’t get to know your rabbit and hand feed him and fuss him, he will revert back to the wild. A tame rabbit makes a wonderful pet but you have to give him lots of time. Even if your rabbit lives outdoors most of the time he will enjoy coming into the house and might even watch a bit of television with you! Just as your garden will have to be safe for the rabbit, so will your house. Rabbits do like to chew!
Characteristics – Rabbits are basically timid, years of being hunted by many predators and having no defense except flight has made this a trait. They are easy to tame however and make delightful pets. Rabbits are vegetarian and they are gentle creatures. They like to be stroked and petted and will bond with their carer. These gregarious animals need their friends, it’s sad to see a rabbit on his own, although a human companion can be a good substitute. Most rabbits don’t mind being picked up when they are accustomed to it, although this isn’t natural for them. Put one hand under their tummy and the other under their hind feet and gently lift them up. Never pick them up by their sensitive ears which is cruel. They like to be held close or to sit on your knee. If your rabbit doesn’t like being picked up then leave it at that. You might find that if you are sitting on the ground your pet will come to sit with you of his own accord.
Housing – your rabbit will need a large wooden hutch or a shed is good. It should have a separate sleeping compartment, filled with soft, sweet smelling hay and also a feeding room and a separate toilet with either a litter tray or sprinkles of wood shavings. This has to be cleaned out regularly, every day if possible.
Food – no, it’s not the stuff in packets that the pet food manufacturers want you to buy – rabbits need fresh natural food and hay should make up most of their diet. As they nibble it their teeth are ground down. If you don’t give them plenty to chew on you’ll be taking your rabbit to the vet to have his teeth cut. Hay keeps the rabbit digestive system in good order, you can supplement with a very small amount of cereal and plenty of brambles and dandelions. A raw vegetable or fruit treat is alright but not too many carrots as they are high in sugar. Our rabbits like a small piece of toasted brown bread for breakfast or a piece of Ryvita which is very popular. Best of all is a large piece of bramble, it’s very prickly so how do they eat it? They love it.
Exercise – Rabbits sleep a lot of the day and in their natural world would dash out to feed early morning or at dusk. They need a large run attached to their hutch so that they can come and go when they want. If you can let then loose in the garden it is a lovely for them and you will enjoy seeing them – just make sure there are no poisonous plants and that the fencing is high and secure. Dogs can jump and foxes can pull wire down so it has to be extra high and strong.
Friends – two rabbits are best, a singleton will be lonely. Make sure you either get the same sex or have the male neutered. Rabbits tend not to get on with strangers so it’s best to get members of a family or those in an established group. Sometimes you can get two to be friends with each other but it takes time and patience and doesn’t always work. Always remember that rabbits breed amazingly quickly!