Orchard Vet's Blog

Rabbit Awareness Week


This week is Rabbit Awareness Week.

The fourth most popular pet in the UK, there are 800,000 domesticated rabbits. It's really important therefore to continue driving the messages about welfare for rabbits – especially for those pet owners who have got rabbits or are thinking about getting one! As with all pets, rabbits have five basic welfare needs:

  1. Environment: a wild rabbit’s territory is equivalent to around thirty tennis court? Running around such large areas every day keeps wild rabbits fit and healthy, so we need to give our pet rabbits the opportunity to have lots of exercise. They should not be confined to a hutch!

  2. Diet: rabbits need fibre; it's absolutely essential for their dental, digestive and emotional health. Good quality feeding hay and fresh grass should make up the majority of a rabbit’s diet and should available at all times. A rabbit’s diet needs to be made up of 85 - 90% feeding hay and grass (that equal to their body size every day).

  3. Behaviour: rabbits want a ‘wild’ environment! In the wild they have plenty to keep them occupied, from foraging to reproduction to territorial defence. Pet rabbits, on the other hand, often lack stimulation, which can lead to behavioural problems and poor health. Much like humans, they need to be kept physically and mentally active.

  4. Company: people don’t realise that rabbits are incredibly social animals and need appropriate company and things to do. They can suffer if left alone in a hutch. Rabbits have complex social needs and are happiest when kept with another friendly rabbit, so ideally they should live in friendly pairs or groups. However, keeping the wrong pairings together can lead to unwanted babies and/or fighting. Neutering is recommended to prevent unwanted babies.

  5. Health: Keeping your rabbits fit and healthy is vital to ensure a long, happy and fulfilling life. Rabbits can be prone to some health issues which can prove challenging to treat, but can often be easily prevented if you know how. Good care, appropriate feeding and other appropriate measures such as vaccination are key.

These needs are enshrined in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (UK). Pet owners are legally obliged to make sure they can provide these needs to ensure a happy and healthy pet rabbit! If you're thinking about buying a rabbit and want to discuss anything, please come in and have a chat with one of our veterinary staff.

You can read more about Rabbit Awareness Week here. §