As February draws to a close, Easter eggs are beginning to fill our supermarket shelves. It’s over a month away but will be here sooner than we think. With that in mind, it’s time again to think about the Easter bunny. He delivers us chocolate and keeps us busy with egg hunts, all the while putting rabbits in the limelight.
In fact, did you know that because of the extra attention given to rabbits during Easter, the demand for companion rabbits soars? It is a common misconception that they are easy to look after, and as such, they are often bought as presents at this time of year. If this is something you are considering, read on and please think again. Domesticated rabbits have a lot in common with their wild relatives, and they have complex needs that you need to consider before inviting them into your home.
Rabbits need more space than you think
If you are giving a home to rabbits, you need to think beyond a hutch. Rabbits need more space than that; they need to be able to run free, jump and stand up on their hind legs. They like to dig and will take shelter if something scares them. English charity the RSPA say rabbits need a space that is at least 3m x 2m x 1m high, though they really recommend bigger purpose build areas, suggesting sheds or children’s playpens for shelter.
Besides space, rabbits also need entertainment and enrichment, such as toys to play with and things to chew. Otherwise, you may find they take their irritations out on your fingers or furniture. A rabbit whose needs are not met can become difficult to handle and aggressive. If your rabbit shows signs of behavioural issues, looking at their living environment is a good place to start to help them feel better.
Rabbits need company
Rabbits are intelligent social animals. They like company, so if you are looking to bring a rabbit into your home, you need to make sure you can accommodate two, which means more space and higher costs.
Rabbits can live for 10-12 years
Rabbits live for longer than you may think. They are a long term commitment and they require care and attention throughout their whole life. You will need to consider who will look after them if you go away and be able to cover the costs of looking after them long term, including vet bills should your companion rabbit get sick and need treatment.
Rabbits are house proud and need regular cleaning
Rabbits are very clean animals. They need fresh bedding including dust-free hay and a dedicated place to go to the toilet that needs cleaning out every day. Their whole area also needs a full clean at least once a week.
Rabbits won’t always want a cuddle
When we invite an animal into our homes, it is often because we want cuddles and love from them. Rabbits are prey animals that are naturally weary. They spook easily and like to hide from danger. While many rabbits will over time, learn to trust you and come for cuddles and attention, many may not and they all need their own space. This is especially true if you have young children that are over excitable, noisy and haven’t yet learnt not to grab and pull fur. They will need supervision at all times and it’s important to consider the welfare of your rabbits when letting them play together.