\\\ New Pet Rabbit
\\\ updated September 2021
Welcoming Your New Rabbit To Your Home
Tips on how to prepare in advance + collecting your rabbit + first week in their new home
You may be a first time owner of a rabbit so there are a few practical details you need to know preparing to bring your new pet home
Buying a rabbit really means buying two rabbits as they require a partner. They suffer from depression when living alone.
It’s very important to be selective of where your pet rabbit, called a ‘kit’ when young, was born and raised. This often dictates the health of your new rabbit that it has been raised in a clean, friendly environment, been used to humans from a young age, been fed a good diet, and perhaps has a brother or sister, as a bonded pair.
It’s important that your new pet is alert, has clear eyes, no discharges from ears, nose, bottom.
Animal welfare charities rehome rabbits and can be a good starting point to finding your new pet. Friends may have had a litter and can offer a bonded pair. Pet shops offer live animals. Again, check out as much information as you can about the rabbit breeder, the conditions they were raised in, that they have been handled by humans, and of course, healthy.
Neutering And Spraying
Unless you are going to breed your rabbits, they need to be neutered or spayed, even pairs of rabbits if they are the same sex to stop fighting.
Males can be neutered as soon as the testicles descend, usually around 8-12 weeks. Females become sexually active around 4 months old, so this is an important time to discuss with your vet.
Vets And Insurance
You may not have even considered that rabbit insurance is available.
There are about 1 million pet rabbits living in UK households and a large proportion of owners insure their pets, with a small number of insurers offering policies.
Pet rabbits can live up to 10-12 years where most insurers do not insure rabbits over 5 years of age if there is a policy change. If you’re taking on a rehomed older pet, it can be a viable option.
Check out your local preferred veterinary practice before purchasing your pet as not all vets are specialists in rabbit health and welfare, or may not take your insurance plan.
Keeping your pet healthy with a well-balanced diet is very important, improves their dental health, obesity issues, and cuts down on vet visits.
Rabbits can catch fleas and other parasites, more often from other pets if in a mixed household. It’s important to keep up routine treatments, particularly if insurers can refuse insurance claims where it’s found the owner hasn’t.
Joining Other Pets In The Family
Is your pet an inside or outside pet?
Rabbits don’t like the cold and there is a growing UK trend to keep rabbits indoors with more than a third of a million now living alongside their owners.
Rabbits need to be introduced very carefully to existing pets such as cats in the home from an early age. There’s no guarantee they will get along but with carefully planned introductions it is possible. Dogs are more tricky. If they are typical prey hunters then it’s unlikely. If you already have a household of contented pets then it may be a better consideration to keep your pet outside.
Outside rabbits need a warm hutch as rabbits are not used to cold temperatures. They need to have an enclosed area for protection and sleeping and preferably an exercise area.
Rabbits are clean animals and they need their cages cleaned regularly, preferably daily, and a longer clean with non-chemical cleaners monthly.
Rabbits can poop up to 400 round pellet-like poops a day and these need to be removed, particularly when housed in small enclosures.
If you have an enclosed garden, then they enjoy the opportunity to be able to freely hop around and exercise in the garden under your guidance and watchful eye.
They can munch away and damage your favourite plants quickly, so it’s important not to leave them unattended. Likewise, there are plants that are dangerous to their health.
If you know your garden has been freshly sprayed with pesticides, don’t let them out of their hutch or the home as it can kill them. Lawns take at least 72 hours before they become less dangerous to their health.
If you have animals and children then don’t use pesticides in your garden.
The best time to introduce your pet to the garden is during Spring after the cold winter months have passed. Some owners keep caged rabbits in garages or sheds during colder weather.
Playing With Your Rabbit
Rabbits love to interact with their owners, even recognising their names. They will come to your command when using their name so teach them their name from day one.
They enjoy being cuddled and held carefully. Teach children to be extra gentle when handling their rabbits, stroking and cuddling them. Very young children should be discouraged from handling them.
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International Rabbit Day 25 September 2021
UK RABBIT AWARENESS WEEK
AUGUST 28 JUNE – 4 JULY
Rabbits are better in pairs and live 10 or more years. Are you prepared for this commitment?
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Preparing For Your Rabbit
Indoor Pets – Choosing A Room
It is best to designate a secure room where you intend to locate your rabbit’s hutch or bed.
The Litter Tray
Rabbits are generally very clean animals and prefer to use a corner of their hutch as a toilet.
Rabbits are better at being toilet trained once they have been spayed and neutered using an appropriate tray and litter which makes it easier to keep their hutch or inside area cleaner.
Where trays are too small they may not use them. Litter trays need to be deep and rabbits have no problems hoping 6″ into a tray filled generally with recycled wood or paper pellets available from the best pet shops.
Just like cats and dogs, rabbits like to play. It’s important to buy regularly new toys particularly when they live inside to stop boredom. Hanging baskets filled with their feeding hay, making them stretch to reach, rubber balls, balls with a bell in, they can nudge along, wooden balls, a stick bridge, hay tunnels they can run through, all made of environmentally and indestructible materials. Homemade toys can include strong cardboard tubes that they can run in and out of. They will try to munch through these, so buy the thickest possible.
It’s important to keep doors shut when your rabbit is living in the home. Open doors gently into their freedom room in case they are behind them if allowed to roam.
Rabbits love exploring and will examine all nooks and crannies of your room.
If given the freedom of the home make sure this includes closing doors to freezers, tumble dryers, drawers, even waste bins as they have been known to hop in.
It’s time to keep the loo seat down and teach the rest of the family to take extra care, particularly at low floor level, not to leave valuable items around that they may try and chew.
Check how many wires and leads could be accessible to your rabbit in your home and make it safe leaving nothing that can be chewed or allow your rabbit to strangle themselves.
Rabbits can eat a few human foods, as an additional supplement to their main diet of a quality feeding hay that isn’t mouldy or damp and popular shop-bought pellet brands balancing their diet, obtainable from good pet stores. They enjoy a high fibre diet. Check our Pet Foods page for more details.
Teach young children not to give tip bits to your rabbit as these can be toxic which kill especially sweets, and cause choking.
Try and avoid giving your indoor rabbit room to roam where there are open fireplaces.
Open fireplaces will need very secure fireguards to avoid any rabbit, or indeed, pet trying to access the fireplace. area.
Likewise never leave candles lit around the home unattended. Your rabbit can easily brush past candles and singe their fur causing damage or knock the candle over.
Detergents And Other Chemicals
Lock away all household detergents and chemicals in locked cupboards to avoid any danger occurring to your pet.
Indoor rabbits will use all the floor space so it’s important that nothing tiny is left on the floor that they could swallow or choke on accidentally. Check very frequently if you have small children and teach them not to leaves sweets ling around.
Collecting Your Rabbit
The ideal age for a rabbit to leave its mother is about 8 weeks old. They will be nervous being taken away from the litter and you need to be calm and confident when handling.
You’ll need to take a strong purpose-made carrier or cage to transport your pet safely home.
Never let your rabbit roam around your vehicle.
When back at home gently stroke your rabbit and talk to it quietly, letting it get to know you.
Gently introducing the family is best, particularly to young children who are excited. Make sure you put it in its new hutch, whether indoors or out, and let it quietly get to know it has a safe home ensuring it has some welcome food waiting and water accessible.
After a little time, take it out, stroking and cuddling it will help your pet realise it has a caring family, doing this in short breaks throughout the day.
Introduce other pets very slowly, and certainly not on the first day.
Never leave your cat or dog alone with your rabbit.
New Rabbit Checklist
If you are a new rabbit owner you’ll need these essentials to make your pet feel at home.
Rabbit essentials must-haves
- 2 part rabbit hutch
- Bedding Materials
- Hay and other food
- Water bowl
- Food bowl
- Cleaning products
There are a number of specialist firms online selling rabbit hutches, sizes, and prices to suit most pockets, as well as second-hand.
TIP When buying second-hand, ensure you clean thoroughly inside and out with a non-chemical cleaner before your rabbits arrive.
Shop For Rabbit Supplies
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