That lovely ball of fur with his cute ears can melt any animal lover’s heart. Bunnies have starred in many stories, from Peter Rabbit to Bugs Bunny, and have entertained people both young and old. No wonder people consider rabbits as pets, but it is only in the past 50 or 60 years that they have been kept purely as pets. There are even shows where people can show off their rabbits.
Before setting out on the journey to find a rabbit as a pet for yourself or your child, consider the following to ensure a healthy and happy pet.
1. Is it a fad?
First of all, make sure getting a rabbit isn’t just a fad or phase that you or your child is going through. That lovely ball of fur will grow up and is a big responsibility.
2. Whose responsibility?
Even though the rabbit might be obtained as a pet for a child, it is ultimately the responsibility of the adult to ensure that the rabbit is taken care of.
3. Cage size
As a general rule, a rabbit of 3kg needs about a 50cm square cage. The more space you allow, the better. If the cage is outside, ensure that your rabbit is protected from the elements, with enough shade from the sun and a place to hide in if it’s cold or windy – and always bring him inside if it’s very cold. Rabbits are social and need exercise, so they should be taken out of the cage every day – especially if they are kept individually.
4. All-wire cage
An all-wire cage with small mesh holes to keep out predators is more suitable than the wooden hutches used overseas. Wire cages can be placed under a tree for good airflow during the hot summer months.
Bedding needs to be placed in the cage and changed regularly. Pine and sawdust are best avoided. Straw is the better option.
Hay should form the basis of your rabbit’s diet. He should have an unlimited supply of hay throughout the day for good gut health.
7. Dark leafy vegetables
Extra dark green leafy vegetables can be offered in moderation. Lettuce and cabbage are best avoided.
8. Daily pellets
Quality rabbit pellets must be fed daily, but be sure not to overfeed. Also ensure that your rabbit has fresh water every day.
The grooming needs are determined by the breed of rabbit. Rabbits with longer hair need more regular grooming.
Always ensure that your rabbit is healthy, and take him to the vet if you suspect that something is wrong. Ensure that your rabbit eats the best possible food that you can afford, and if your rabbit stops eating, gets constipated or has diarrhoea, take him to the vet as soon as possible.
11. Sparkly whites
Check your rabbit’s teeth regularly. It is not always easy to see the inside of the mouth, but do try to see if his teeth are healthy.
12. See the vet
It is essential to take your rabbit to the vet once a year for a check-up, so that potential problems can be dealt with as soon as possible.