Caring for your new rabbit

                                                                                      Rab

Biological facts 


Weight: 900g-9 Kg
Average lifespan: 6-8 years
Sexual maturity: 4-8 months                                                                                                                                                                                 Gestational period 28-32 days                                                            
Respiratory rate: 30-60/min
Heart rate: 180-300/min

General Care

Rabbits are social animals and like to be kept in groups of at least two, unless owners can spend a reasonable amount of time with them each day. Being a “prey” species, it is important that rabbits be kept in an environment that is physically protected from predators. A hutch with a place to sleep, eat and exercise is required. The flooring of the sleeping area should consist of hay, straw, newspaper or cat litter. If housed outside, the hutch should be situated to prevent full exposure to sun, predators and provide good ventilation. The hutch should be cleaned at least weekly. It is also important to give rabbits safe items to chew such as bird toys bought from the pet shop or cardboard.

Feeding

Like any animals rabbits need access to fresh water. Depending on the owner’s (and rabbit’s) preference, this can be provided as a water sipper or in a bowl. Take care with new rabbits as they may not recognise water placed in a different type of container and can dehydrate quickly.

Rabbits have a strict requirement for a high fibre diet. Improper feeding is often the cause of disease. The most important items to feed your rabbit are hay and grass. A rule of thumb is: 80% of the diet should be hay, 20% of the diet should consists of vegetables such as greens and carrots. It is very important that no more then 2-3 tablespoons of pellets be offered a day. Breeding or baby rabbits can be offered a diet high in calcium such as lucerne, meadow (pasture), hay and vegetables. Adult rabbits should have a limited amount of lucerne hay and the majority of the hay offered should be grassy or meadow hay.

Neutering and sexual maturity


Female rabbits reach puberty at 4-9 months of age and male rabbits at 4-7 months of age. Smaller breeds usually mature faster than larger breeds.
Neutering is important in rabbits. It prevents the development of uterine infections and cancer that can affect up to 80% of females over 5 years of age. It also assists in the control of aggression and fighting in both sexes. Neutering is recommended at 4-5 months of age.

Health checks and vaccinations


It is advised to have your rabbit checked at least once a year in order to ensure maximum health and longevity.
It is strongly recommended that rabbits be vaccinated against Calicivirus. This viral disease is untreatable and results in fatal bleeding. We recommend that the course be initiated with a course of two vaccinations, one month apart. The immunity is maintained with yearly boosters. We recommend vaccinations start a 8-10 weeks of age, with a repeat booster at 12-14 weeks of age. There is no available vaccine for the myxomatosis virus, which is usually transmitted by fleas or mosquitoes. Prevent mosquitoes from biting the rabbits with the use of mosquito netting around the hutch.

Common problems


Dental disease is very common in rabbits. Any rabbit not eating or drooling should immediately be brought to a veterinarian. Prevention is by allowing access to unfiltered sunlight, ensuring adequate calcium in the diet and providing sufficient abrasive food items in the form of hay and greens.
Hairballs can be prevented with regular brushing and increasing the fibre in the diet.
Any faecal caking or urine staining around the bottom can indicate a problem and should be investigated. Additionally, in the summer, dirty bottoms are prone to becoming fly blown. This is best prevented by daily examinations of your rabbit, along with rigorous cleaning in the event of soiling.
A rabbit that is not eating or defecating is an emergency. Their gastrointestinal system needs to be continually moving. Any slowing or stopping of the system is likely to result in overgrowth of certain bacteria, some of which produce toxins. This enterotoxaemia can rapidly cause serious illness and even death. Any rabbit that is producing abnormal, fewer or no droppings, or is off its food, should be immediately taken to a veterinarian.

If you have any problems do not hesitate to contact our dedicated team!