International Rabbit Day is celebrated on the 4th Saturday of September, so it will be marked on September 22nd this year (2018). There’s something special about any animal species; perhaps this is why there are so many stories written about them? I can recall reading “Black Beauty” as a child, the wonderful story about a Black Horse’s life, and also “A Ring of Bright Water” and “Tarka the Otter” about Otters.
Rabbits are universally popular and have enjoyed many moments of written and film glory, and quite rightly so. I’m sure I’m not alone in loving the Beatrix Potter tales about Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, and the rest of the gang. And who suffered from *something in their eye* whilst watching the incredible “Watership Down” film, living every moment with Hazel, Fiver and Bigwig? To this day, just hearing the song Bright Eyes transports me back to my younger days 🙂
We see lots of lovely bunnies here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre and one of life’s simple joys is watching their cute noses twitch. You can see the intelligence in a rabbits’ eyes I think, and I’m pretty confident when I say that we all find ourselves mesmerised by the soft liquid Amber colour of them. Their ultra soft fur just invites you to touch it, and if rabbits are handled regularly they make fantastic childrens pets. It is important to respect their space too though.
Wild rabbits are fairly hardy little creatures and build quite astounding warrens that house each colony/family group. Domestic rabbits, on the other hand, do require a bit of thought towards their upkeep and environment.
The Warren, a rabbit’s home, is a prime example of the care needed; in the wild, a warren is underground so it stays fairly dry and warm. Pet furries will need you to keep their hutch (man made home) slightly above the ground to prevent it from getting wet, and will need it placing out of direct sun and perhaps draping with blankets at night over the winter.
Rabbits need a lot, and I mean a LOT of space to move about in – and in the wild they are free to roam as and when the mood takes them. Domestic rabbits don’t have this luxury, so it’s important that their hutch is large enough that they can hop several times in all directions and also stand on their rear legs without having their delicate ears touching the roof.
I mentioned their intelligence earlier on, and it’s really important that pet rabbits are given plenty of stimulation. Clearly, in the wild this isn’t an issue as they always have to keep a look out for potential predators and danger – when they’re not busy running and jumping about! Tunnels and pipes provide our furry family members with something to occupy them, as does a simple box that they can climb about on and launch themselves from.
In their natural habitat Rabbits live in groups and are incredibly sociable. When intended to be kept as pets, I always advise clients to home them at least in pairs; in isolation, they can become quite grumpy and/or introverted. A common myth is to keep them with a Guinea Pig – please don’t; they actually don’t make good bedfellows at all, and poor piggy may well get bullied.
No doubt many of you watched the brilliant Peter Rabbit film earlier this year and laughed at the antics they all got up to whilst raiding poor Mr McGregor’s vegetable patch. I know I was in stitches! In all seriousness though, rabbits do need careful attention given to their diet when they’re in
captivity. The most common mistake is to not give Flopsy enough fibre (hay or grass) in their diet; this should account for at least 80% of what they eat. Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you can’t give your beloved pet treats. A little bit of pelleted foods or fresh veggies will be a most welcome tit-bit every now and then – and fresh Dandelions are definitely appreciated when they’re seasonal.
Keeping your rabbit in its ideal weight range makes it a doddle for them to keep their cotton tails and botties clean, and fibre isn’t particularly calorie-laden (unlike manufactured foodstuffs) so a roughage based diet will make it easy to keep them healthy.
I have addressed rabbit care in a couple of previous blog posts, so please feel free to read through those at your leisure. If you have a rabbit already, or are thinking of getting one (have a look at animal rescue centres first), then don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of the SLVC team – it’s why we’re hereJ.
Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be (hippity-hoppity) happy! 🙂