Congratulations on the addition of your new family member. Owning a pet rabbit is equally as important and rewarding as owning a dog or a cat. We have put together some common questions that you may have regarding the healthcare of your rabbit.
When should I take may rabbit for his first check up to the vet and does it involves?
Rabbits are very susceptible to stress to we recommend waiting a few days after your rabbit has come home before making an appointment with a vet for a check up. The first check up will take approximately 30 minutes. The vet will give your rabbit a physical examination to ensure their heart, teeth, ears, eyes and nails are in good condition and depending on your rabbit's age, he may also require a vaccination.
Does he really need a vaccination?
Yes! Rabbit Calcivirus is a respiratory tract infection and is usually fatal. We recommend vaccinating your rabbit at the ages of 8 and 12 weeks of age, then annually. Your pet can also contract Calcivirus if it comes into contact or close proximity with the feral rabbit population.
Rabbits are also susceptible to Myxomyotosis, a disease carried by mosquitos and is always fatal. Unfortunately there is no vaccination against Myxomyotosis in Australia and so it is important to mosquito-proof your rabbit's hutch with fly screen wire.
When should I desex him or her?
The ideal time to desex your rabbit is between 5-6 months of age. Desexing your rabbit will prevent unwanted pregnancies and also help reduce aggression and territorial behaviour. Female rabbits that are not desexed also have a high incident of uterine cancer and mammary cancer.
Can my rabbit get tick poisoning?
Yes they can. Unfortunately there is no prevention against ticks for rabbits so it is important to check them daily for ticks.
Do I need to worm or de-flea my rabbit?
Prevention against gastrointestinal parasites is not routine performed in rabbits. They can however get external parasites such as fleas, mites, lice and ticks. Revolution and Advantage are two produces on the market which can be used safely on your rabbit and help control some of these parasites.
Where should my rabbit sleep?
The size and type of hutch will largely depend on the breed and size of your rabbit. Ideally your rabbit's hutch should allow him to stand up fully on his hind legs and be able to take at least 3 successive hops. As a guide, a hutch that is 1200mm (L) x 60mm (W) x 60mm (H) should suffice for a single rabbit.
The ideal material for a hutch is untreated pinewood. Although metal hutches are easier to clean, they can become too hot in summer and the wire mesh flooring can lead to pressure sores on your rabbit's feet.
The flooring of the hutch must be protected with a thick layer of suitable bedding such as hay, straw, wood shavings or shredded paper and changed regularly.
The hutch should be well ventilated and if kept outside, ensure that it is rain proof and mosquito proof. Rabbits are very sensitive to cold and hot weather so they must be kept in a protected area away from the cold in winter and the hot midday sun in summer. Your rabbit's hutch should also be secure and provide protection against predators.
What should I feed my rabbit?
Feeding and nutrition are the most important factors in making sure your rabbit stays healthy. Many commercial rabbit foods do not contain enough fibre (18-20% is required) and are too high in fats and sugars. Rabbits are herbivores so their diet should consist almost entirely of vegetable matter. Pellets and mixes should not form the main part of the diet. Grass or hay is an essential dietary component to ensure your rabbit remains healthy. Apart from providing a high fibre diet, chewing hay wears down their continuously growing teeth and keeps them occupied, preventing boredom.
Not all hays re the same, Grass hay should be fed and NOT Lucerne hay. Lucerne hay is too high in calcium and protein. Grass hay may also be known as pasture hay, meadow hay and timothy hay.
Ideally, fed your bunny 85% hay and 15% veggies. Suitable vegetables include broccoli, celery, endive, bok choy/other Asian greens and herbs (lettuce and cabbage should be avoided as it causes diarrhoea). Treats such as fruits, veggies (carrots), capsicum and pellets should only be offered in small amounts (1-2 tablespoons per day per rabbit). Fresh water should always be available using both a drip feed bottle and an open container.
Rabbits are very sensitive creatures and it is important to avoid any sudden changes in feeding regimes.
Foods to avoid feeding?
Cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, beans, peas, biscuits, sweets, sugar, breakfast cereals and chocolate!
Does my rabbit need exercise?
Yes! Exercise and "playtime" outside of the hutch will promote good physical and mental health. Ideally your rabbit should be let out of the hutch to exercise daily for approximately 2 hours. Rabbits are inquisitive characters who love to investigate new areas. Provide an upturned cardboard box to allow them to burrow into, or even an old telephone book to chew on as well as additional wood rabbit toys.
Rabbits love chewing so ensure all electrical cords are kept off the ground and your furniture is protected.
Can I toilet train my rabbit?
Rabbits can be readily toilet trained as they generally like to use the same area each time. Place a cat litter tray in the area where they have previously chosen to urinate and defecate. You can even purchase corner style trays which have higher sides to prevent spillage. Suitable litter materials include hay, straw and some types of cat litter (avoid the clay base type).
What is the best way to hold my rabbit?
It is important to pat and handle your rabbit from an early age. Always make sure your rabbit is calm before picking it up. For the safety of your rabbit and yourself, always hold your rabbit firmly and close to your body (see image below). Ensure you are supporting his fore and hind quarters from underneath and NEVER hold a rabbit from its ears!!
Does my rabbit need a friend and what should I choose?
Rabbits do like companionship, however it is not essential they have a mate. If you are considering a companion for your rabbit, your current rabbit should be desexed and the likelihood of fighting is reduced if you chose a rabbit of the opposite sex. Keep in mind, your rabbit may not appreciate another rabbit if it has been by itself for a while.
Rabbits and guinea pigs should not be kept together. Rabbits tend to bully guinea pigs and can injure them. Guinea pigs also require additional vitamin C in their diet which consequently can make your rabbit sick if it has had too much. Rabbits can also carry Bordetella, a disease that has no vaccine and is fatal to guinea pigs.