On the Hop.. Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK, but despite this, they are also one of the most abused and neglected. Every year, there are thousands of rabbits abandoned in rescue centres around the country due to the misconception they are cheap and easy to look after.
Rabbits can make wonderful companions. They are inquisitive, playful and as many of the bunny owners at my practice will agree, they have bags of personality. However, don't be fooled that they are a low maintenance pet to have. Before considering buying a bunny, here are a few things to consider. But they only cost a tenner!
Although relatively cheap to purchase, rabbits need to have the right housing, neutered, vaccinated and like any other pet, will likely require veterinary treatment at some point during their lives. A rabbit can live up to 12 years and it is estimated the costs of looking after a pair of rabbits over their lifetime can cost up to £10,000.
A Hutch Is Not Enough.... Rabbits in the wild can cover over the size of 30 tennis courts foraging and exploring. They are incredibly curious animals who need stimulation and movement in order to live a happy life. The Victorians began the trend to keep rabbits in small hutches for meat and this idea stuck. Often, the hutches you will see in some pet shops do not offer more than the minimum legal requirements for laboratory animals by the Home Office. These small hutches are inadequate for the wellbeing of our rabbits and should be avoided. At the very least, rabbits should have at least 10ft by 6ft and access to a living area.
Two's Company Rabbits are incredibly social animals- in the wild they live in large groups. Not only do they need companionship for survival and warmth, it has been shown that rabbits value company as much as food. Without a friend, they can suffer from chronic stress and anxiety which lead to serious health problems.
Rabbits are also prey animals which means when they are picked up, can react fearfully and can bite and scratch- they are not good pets for children. It takes a tremendous amount of time and patience to socialise a rabbit and children will often get bored, leading to a neglected bunny stuck in a small hutch, inadequate for its needs.
I hope I've given you a few things to think about before getting a rabbit. Your vet will be delighted to talk to you to help you make a decision about whether a bunny is right for you as we all strive to reduce the number of neglected bunnies forgotten in a hutch at the bottom of the garden. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund ( RWAF) is a great organisation and online resource for all things rabbit related. Your veterinary practice can become a member of the RWAF to ensure gold standards of care for your rabbit.
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