Rabbits are one of the best pets you can ever get. Not only are they adorable, they are also affectionate and intelligent. Although they are not as smart or as vocal as other pets, each rabbit has a unique character of its own and can communicate in other ways through their body language. That’s what makes rabbits interesting and great companions to have!
If you’re a first-time rabbit owner, clueless and spending half of your time finding out about rabbit care, here is a guide for you.
Rabbits are not rodents. In fact, their anatomy is similar to cows and horses than rodents such as hamsters and chinchillas.
Some factors determine the life expectancy of rabbits. These include genetics, breed, gender, diet, living conditions, and healthcare. All these come together to explain how long they live. Nevertheless, a rabbit’s average life span ranges between 8-10 years depending on their quality of care.
Unlike us, rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk, and they sleep a lot during the day. Perfect for those working from 9 to 5 or those who needs a natural way of waking up!
Rabbits have three basic developmental stages: junior, adult, and senior.
Junior rabbits – Rabbits under the age of 12 months fall into this category. However, they are further divided into 3 sub-categories. 3 months and below: Juvenile
6 months – 12 months: Teenager
Adult rabbits – Rabbits from 12 months to 5 years old.
Senior rabbits – It starts around 5 years of age, also considered their “golden year”.
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not low maintenance pets. They require clean and stimulating environments for them to flourish and stay healthy. Here’s what you need to know before buying or adopting a rabbit:
The bulk of your rabbit’s diet should include unlimited hay and leafy greens.
Alfalfa hay is not recommended for adult rabbits as it is rich in protein and high in calcium, hence it is only fed to young, growing rabbits
Timothy hay and orchard grass hay can be fed once rabbits reach 6 months. They are high in fibre and low in protein, which is critical to maintaining a healthy digestive system for rabbits. The key difference between these two is the texture. Timothy hay is much courser and harder than orchard grass hay, which helps to grind down rabbit’s constantly growing teeth.
A variety of leafy greens should be fed to rabbits. A good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of vegetables per 2 lbs of body weight per day. Vegetables should be introduced in small quantities to avoid upsetting the stomach of your bunny.
Leafy Greens I
(High in oxalic acid content)
Leafy Green II
(Low in oxalic acid)
Leafy Greens I should be fed sparingly as they are high in oxalic acid content, but be sure to feed a variety of leafy greens to ensure your bunnies are getting the nutrients they need.
When choosing pellets for the rabbits, try to avoid the colorful ones with cereal flakes and those sprinkled with dried seeds, fruits, and nuts. This is to prevent a gastrointestinal imbalance, which can be potentially life threatening.
As a guide, the ideal pellets should have:
>22% crude fiber
Treats should be fed in moderation as they are high in sugar, which may cause obesity in rabbits. Some fruits that can be used as home-made treats are apple, banana, and mango. Ready-made treats that are healthy for rabbits include dehydrated fruits and baked hay cookies, as they have no added sugar.
Treats should be no more than 10% of rabbit’s diet. 1 teaspoon per 2 lbs of body weight should be serve as a guide.
Each breed differs in personality, but they can be shaped differently through socialization. Some are friendly while others are shy and retiring. Each rabbit is different on its own, but they are social animals hence it is usually recommended to buy or adopt them in pairs. However, single rabbits can live as enriching lives as rabbits in pairs.
Rabbits can sometimes be willful, bratty, vengeful, and destructive. They are one of the most abandoned pets in Singapore but can be lovely pets once you understand their true nature.
There are several rabbit behavioral issues. These may include destructive digging, excessive chewing, and bad litter box habits. In extreme cases, they may display aggression towards people due to health issues, hormones or being terrified. However, these behavioral issues can be improved or avoided through training.
A rabbit’s playpen or cage must be at least 1.5m by 1.5m for it to have enough space to roam and exercise.
Rabbits can be toilet trained as they tend to eat and do their ‘business’ at the same time, hence it is always recommended to put hay in the litter box. As a guideline, litter boxes should always be big enough for your bunny to turn 360 degrees in.
Next, paper litter and wheatgrass-based litter pellets are usually safe options for bunnies. If you’re looking for an inexpensive solution, newspapers can be used as bedding in the litter box. However, make sure your bunny does not ingest the newspaper as the ink may be toxic.
Like other furry companions, rabbits require enrichment to be happy. Chew toys are great in keeping rabbits entertained and can be beneficial to their dental health.
Ensure that toys are made from natural and untreated material before giving them to your bunny. Rubber items or plastic parts can cause gastrointestinal problems or blockages in rabbits, so redirect their attention if you ever witness them chewing on such things! Providing a good selection of toys is also important in keeping rabbits away from things you don’t want them chewing on such as electrical cords or doors.
The cost of sterilization is averaged at $250 and may vary depending on which vet you go to. Sterilization is strongly recommended by health professionals because it prevents them from contracting reproductive diseases. It minimizes territorial behaviour that occurs once bunnies become sexually mature at 4 months old.
Rabbits are considered ‘exotic’ pets that requires specialized veterinary care, hence it is important to visit veterinarians that are experienced in handling and treating rabbits.
Some ‘rabbit -savvy’ clinics recommended by Bunny Wonderland Singapore include: