At Animal Lovers WEb.com, we have three beautiful male rabbits, Phil, Snowy and Charlie. Currently about 1 year old, they (and we) have had a roller-coaster of a relationship since we got them as 8-week-old bunnies.
We did initially have four rabbits – Charlie was bought with his sibling, Gemma. Sadly and tragically, we lost Gemma after she escaped and was “found” by our dog, Molly – I’m sure you can imagine the rest!
We were under the impression that Snowy was a male rabbit and both Charlie and Phil (formerly Poppy!) were female. At the age of about four months we were shocked to find that all the rabbits were in fact male and were starting to display distinctly testosterone-filled aggressive behaviour towards each other.
In an attempt to restore harmony to the hutch, all three rabbits have been castrated and are currently living in separated cages but where they can still see each other until their testosterone charged behaviour calms down!
Following the initial expense of purchasing a rabbit, one of the most costly aspects of rabbit keeping is their accommodation. Gone are the days of keeping rabbits in tiny hutches at the bottom of the garden, where they never eat a fresh blade of grass and are lucky if they get cleaned out more than once a fortnight!
It is now recognised that rabbits need a considerable amount of space and stimulation to lead happy, healthy lives. Being able to stand on their hind legs and hop freely should be a minimum requirement for any bunny – many hutches also have runs that can be attached so that your rabbit has access to grass and an area to exercise in.
Owing to the unexpected gender problems that our rabbits have had, you can imagine that accommodating three rabbits separately has been somewhat more expensive than we anticipated – and cleaning out three separate hutches each week is a little more time-consuming too!
I suppose it does go without saying and, from our own tragic experience, safety aspects of your rabbit’s hutch and run cannot be taken too seriously. If there is ANY way that your rabbit could escape, then it probably will. If there’s ANY way that a predator can get to your rabbit – it probably will. For rabbits that are kept indoors (as many are) then this may not seem as great a worry – however, an escaped rabbit inside a house can do just as much damage to itself AND the home (chewed cables and floorboards…).
Phil, Charlie and Snowy are really quite inexpensive to feed. Any good dietary advice for rabbits should now always be promoting the importance of hay as the main food source - not only is it good for the digestion but also is great at helping to keep their front teeth short.
Rabbits, although not rodents, do have similar dentistry in that their front incisors just keep on growing throughout their lives. A diet high in fibre/roughage (as well as safe “chews”) is essential to counter balance this tooth growth and prevent severe dental problems.
Although you may read conflicting advice, as a general rule, rabbits diet should really comprise at least 75% hay (which, when bought in bales from a local farmer, is dirt cheap) and the remainder can be in the form of a rabbit pellet feed, complemented with OCCASSIONAL treats such as carrots or apples.
Our rabbits really do enjoy some variety in their diet but their bowels often don’t! Try not to be tempted to spoil your rabbit and think that you’re showing it lots of love by giving in to their greediness – a bout of diarrhoea all over the cage is how they may end up showing their gratitude!
One Rabbit or more?
Rabbits are sociable animals that, as a general rule, need companionship. A lonely rabbit is usually one unhappy bunny. At Animal Lovers Web.com, we wanted our rabbits to benefit from having companions but, as highlighted, our plans have not exactly gone smoothly as male rabbits do have very significant diffuculties getting along together.
If you don’t want an unexpected litter of bunnies, a male/female partnership, whilst generally a good choice in terms of compatibility, would need to be carefully managed and ideally both the male and female rabbits should be neutered.
Rabbits reach sexual maturity from about four months - you only need to contact any animal welfare charity to realise that really, more baby bunnies in this world, is not desirable. Female rabbits also benefit enormously from being neutered in terms of their own health. Approximately 80% of un-neutered female rabbits will die from gynaecologically-related diseases.
Castrating a male rabbit helps to reduce its territorial tendencies (spraying urine everywhere for example) and possible aggression. It also make “toilet training” much easier (yes – you can litter-train a rabbit!)
As our own experience has shown, it can be difficult (even for the experts) to correctly sex a young rabbit and the problems that this can cause could last the lifetime of each bunny. We are keeping our fingers crossed but realistically know there is no guarantee that our rabbits will ever get on and be re-introduced. For some rabbits a solitary life with human companionship is their preferred choice.
There are many rabbits that are in need of re-homing that are already in well established partnerships, with companions for life – if you are tempted, why not give your local animal charity a call?
Although Phil, Snowy and Charlie would probably like to kill each other at the moment, they are in very good health!!
An appropriate diet; clean, good sized accommodation; stimulation and timely veterinary care are all importance factors in ensuring that rabbits remain happy and healthy.
All our rabbits have visited the local vet – who I think we really should consider applying to for a loyalty card!! One of the main reasons for this has been for a general health check, which most pets should have but also for essential vaccinations.
All rabbits, ESPECIALLY those kept outdoors as ours are, need to be vaccinated for myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease – two fairly common disease afflicting rabbits and present in our wild rabbit population.