Do you have a rabbit or are you thinking about getting one or two? If so, here are a few pointers about how to go about improving or developing your relationship with your bunny.
Rabbits are beautiful, curious animals that deserve to live full and enriched lives. Here are some basic bunny requirements that will make him content as opposed to stressed and unhappy, and will therefore increase your enjoyment of being the owner. There are many misconceptions about rabbit care but we will concentrate on the dos rather than the don’ts!
- Have at least two rabbits. Rabbits are sociable creatures designed to live in groups. They become very unhappy if they do not have a bunny friend. Other species just will not do!
- Have your bunnies neutered. They are much happier without the stresses associated with hormonal fluctuations and typically live longer.
- Provide them with an environment that will allow them to display their natural behaviour. Remember a hutch is not enough.
- Clean them out and check them over every day.
- Take them to the vet for vaccinations, check-ups, and for any treatment they might need. When your rabbit is a member of the Healthy Pet Club, vaccinations, a 6 month health check and much more is included for just £10.49 per month, join today!
- Feed them properly; their own size daily of good quality hay, some fresh veg and rabbit pellets (not muesli). For further rabbit diet advice >
Once you have the basics sorted you can improve your relationship with your rabbits by spending time with them. Most people still keep their rabbits in some sort of a run/ hutch combination outside but there is an increasing number of house rabbits in the UK. To find out more about house training your rabbit >
Grooming your rabbit
One of the things we can do to bond with our rabbits is grooming.
Grooming gives us quality interactive time and also gives us a chance to spend a few minutes checking our bunnies to make sure they are healthy. Like cats, rabbits spend a huge amount of time grooming. Keeping clean is very important to their health.
At this point it is worth remembering that rabbits are ground dwelling creatures and they really hate being above ground. Just think about it… domestic rabbits are basically wild rabbits in a posh fur coat. The only time in the wild that they get lifted up is just before they become someone’s dinner. They are hard wired to hate being picked up - especially being turned on their backs which makes them play dead. People often use this position for grooming as the rabbit lays quietly but it is actually petrified and this practice should be avoided as it causes distress.
So, it is best to groom your rabbit either on the floor or on the sofa beside you if your rabbit is used to this. Do a little mini health check when your bunny is relaxed and then you can get on with getting any excess fur out.
Mini health check
- Eyes should be clean and bright
- Ears should not be smelly or have any discharge or flaky skin inside
- Feet should not have any sores or cuts
- Bottoms should be clean and dry without faeces stuck on or any sign of fly strike
- Nails should be sharp but not too long or overgrown
- Body condition should be not too fat and not too bony
- Nose and mouth should be dry without excessive saliva production/ wet under chin
- Check for lumps and bumps on jaw and body
- Check skin for excessive dandruff/ signs of parasites.
You may notice that your rabbit is moulting. They will do this about twice a year but some do it continually! Choose a comb/brush that is specifically designed for rabbits. They have much more delicate skin than cats and dogs which can be torn easily. When rabbits are moulting, an enormous amount of fur is shed and it will come out in huge tufts, leaving a new sleek rabbit behind!
When they groom themselves they swallow a lot of fur and if they swallow too much it can cause their gut to slow down which can be very dangerous. Unlike cats, rabbits cannot vomit, so it’s beneficial to remove as much fur as possible. If the fur has become tangled and matted and you cannot obviously and easily cut the matt out, then don’t try. It is very easy to cut rabbits skin and much better to take your bunny to the vets where they can usually clip out the matt, although this will sometimes need sedation.
So ideally try to groom your bunnies daily. It will get them used to it and at the same time help you and your rabbit become the best of friends!