Rabbits are all herbivores, but by far the most important thing that they absolutely must have to stay healthy and happy is fibre.
Hay should form most of your pets diet at approx 80%. Hay should be eaten constantly through the day and will help to maintain dental, digestive and emotional health.
Nuggets should form only about 5% of your pets diet. Nuggets are small pellets which contain all the nutrients they need as well as more fibre. Being fed on nuggets prevents selective feeding as all nuggets contain exactly the same. This ensures that they are getting everything they need.
Fresh Greens should form about 15% of their diet. Including dandelion leaves, cabbage and spinach again good source of fibre which helps with digestive health.
Not forgetting fresh water which must be available all the time.
It is very important that rabbits exercise every day to ensure their muscles and bones remain healthy and to remain physically fit. Lack of exercise can lead to problems like arthritis and obesity which in turn can lead to a large number of problems.
Rabbits love to play so make sure they have plenty of toys. Play is very good for rabbits as it keeps them physically active and mentally stimulated. Which will prevent any destructive behavioural problems.
You can buy specific rabbit toys from any petshop or you can use household items. For example large pieces of plastic tubing, big enough for your rabbit to fit through are great as activity tunnels. Toilet rolls stuffed with hay are good activity feeders and even just a simple cardboard box will provide hours of fun; jumping, hiding and chewing. Also hiding your rabbits favourite treat under yoghurt or plant pots spotted around the run is a great game for them. But best of all, the thing they like to play with the most are their buddies!
Obviously the best way for your rabbit to get enough exercise is to make sure they are not kept in their hutch/cage constantly. If indoors having a specific room means that your rabbit can move around as much as they want to. If outdoors having a run permanently attached to the hutch means they can go out and exercise when ever they want.
Rabbits are very social animals and should therefore not be kept on their own. Many people unfortunately keep rabbits in a hutch on their own, which will make the rabbit very miserable. They are happiest when with another rabbit companion. The best pairing of rabbits is a neutered female and neutered male. You are more likely to get fighting within same sex pairings but siblings (if neutered) are usually okay.
It is not recommended to keep rabbits with guinea pigs as their needs are so different. They have different dietary requirements and communicate differently too. Rabbits can also occasionally bully guinea pigs, and can also pass on a bacteria to them, which can result in respiratory disease.
Humans can provide great company to a rabbit, and you can build a great relationship together; have lots of fun playing, bonding and interacting together, however it will not replicate the important companionship that another rabbit would offer.
It is very beneficial for rabbits to start interacting with people and other rabbits from an early age. Being familiar with people will help your rabbits develop trust in people and be a much better pet. Also getting them used to everyday sights and sounds early will mean they can be more relaxed if they do encounter them in their environment at a later stage.
Rabbits can be housed indoors or outdoors but they must have plenty of space. The ideal housing is a large hutch permanently attached to a run this way they can exercise when they want.
The ideal housing is a large hutch permanently attached to a run this way they can exercise when they want..Suitable bedding materials would be newspaper, dust free straw and dust free wood chippings, which should be changed and hutch thoroughly cleaned every 2-3 days.
The hutch should be big enough for each rabbit to stretch out fully, stand up on hind legs and be able to do 3 hops. Obviously the more rabbits you have the larger the hutch. The recommended sizing is 6ft x 2ft x 2ft but bigger is always better
It should have a covered area to hide if they feel threatened and should have separate feeding and toileting areas.
If outdoors: it needs to be secure from predators e.g foxes and cats. Needs to be positioned so that it is not in constant direct sunlight, rabbits can over heat very easily. It should also be covered and padded during winter and where possible moved to a garage or other building.
If indoors: Any areas your rabbit has access to must be rabbit-proofed! Rabbits love to chew, and that includes wires. It is best to allocate a specific room to your rabbit which you know is safe, in which should be their cage, somewhere they can hide and sleep in. You might find it easier to litter train your bunny if keeping them inside. Cages should not be placed directly next to fires or radiators and the room should be fairly cool. If housing your rabbit indoors it is still recommended that your bunny has outdoor time so they can get some fresh air and natural sunlight.
Humans and Rabbits can have great relationships but it takes time to build. They will be very wary of you until they learn to trust you which is why they need to be handled very often to gain trust. It is advised to let your new rabbit settle in for a few days before starting to handle them.
When handling Rabbits we need to remember that they are a prey species and try our best not to startle them – this will increase fear of us. It is best to approach rabbits from the side, so that they can see you coming. It is recommended to start with just sitting next to and talking to your rabbit whilst in their hutch so they can get used to the sight and sound of you, then gradually progress with stroking your rabbit whilst they are sat next to you until they are happy with this. Then progress to picking your rabbit up.
Correct handling not only improves the relationship between you and your rabbit but also allows you to easily perform tasks that are near impossible in an unhandled rabbit.
You will be able to groom your rabbit and clip their claws, you will be able to check your rabbit daily for any problems. Handling your rabbit daily will mean you are very familiar with your rabbit so you will easily notice if anything has changed. Being able to do these things will not only reduce the amount you need to visit the vets with your pet but also makes it much less stressful for your pet when they do need to come.
But best of all you will be able to have great cuddles with your cute ball of fluff – which is the main reason you got your rabbit in the first place!