It is estimated that there are between 1.6 and 2 million pet rabbits in the UK, and plenty of choice with 67 breeds and 531 varieties of rabbit, from the smallest, the Netherland Dwarf, to the largest, the Flemish Giant, weighing up to 6kg.
Rabbits usually live to about seven or eight years old, but many live for over 10 years. They are incredibly social animals and if left without appropriate company and things to do for a long time they can suffer. They are happiest when kept with another friendly rabbit, so rabbits should ideally live in friendly pairs or groups.
A good combination is a neutered male and a neutered female. Speak to your vet for advice about neutering.
Rabbits are known as ‘fibrevores’ because fibre is absolutely essential for their dental, digestive and emotional health. Good quality hay and/or grass should make up the majority of a rabbits’ diet and should be available at all times. Without adequate portions of the right kind of fibre, they rapidly succumb to illness. Rabbits fed on muesli-style foods will often selectively feed, picking out the starchy elements and leaving the rest, leading to an unbalanced diet. If you are currently feeding a muesli style food to your rabbits, gradually transferring them onto a hay and nugget based feeding plan over a period of 14 to 28 days will help balance their diet.
75% of rabbits seen by vets are diagnosed with dental problems – their teeth grow continuously, about 2-3mm a week. In the wild, gnawing on rough vegetation wears them down, but many domestic rabbits don’t get the opportunity to do this and their teeth often need to be filed down by a vet. If a rabbit doesn’t get enough exercise, their nails may also need to be clipped.
Lack of exercise can also lead to osteoporosis in rabbits, a condition which can also be caused by a diet low in calcium. At least 80% of rabbits in the UK are not being fed correctly and 30% of rabbits in the UK are obese, possibly due to their sedentary life as domestic pets. For advice on the care of your rabbit, call Clockhouse on 01453 752555.