Rabbit Fact file
- Rabbits belong to the lagomorph family: Lagomorphs are herbivores (they feed exclusively on plants) and include rabbits and hares.
- Rabbits are prey animals: They are most active at dawn and dusk, they have eyes located on the sides of their heads which gives them a very broad field of vision. They have large independently moving ears to enable them to hear really well; their noses are well developed to give them an excellent sense of smell and they have muscular hind legs. All of these physical adaptations are to help them avoid becoming another animal’s dinner!
- Rabbits are subtle communicators: their primary mode of communication is via scent. They deposit faeces, squirt urine and chin mark to message to other rabbits. They can also use different body postures and vocalisation.
- Rabbits are highly social: Wild rabbits live in large groups within a warren, which are divided up into smaller family units. Rabbits are territorial animals and form complicated social structures.
- Rabbits have an unusual digestive system: They feed on large quantities of low-quality food and extract as much goodness as possible from their food. Food passed through the gut and special droppings (called caecotrophs) are produced. Rabbits eat these, allowing the food to be re-ingested.
- Rabbits have continuously growing teeth: A rabbit’s top front teeth are called incisors and grow at a rate of 3mm a week! Grass and hay are abrasive and eating lots of this helps to wear their teeth down.
- Rabbits are highly productive breeders: A single female rabbit (a Doe) can produce approximately 30 young in a single breeding season in the wild and can become pregnant again within hours of giving birth.
Rabbits are intelligent: Pet rabbits can be taught to respond to commands using positive reward based training and can be house trained.
WHAT RABBITS NEED……………..
- We need: To be able to exercise, graze on growing grass, forage, hide and dig every day and be able to play with our friendly, neutered rabbit companions every day. Lots of safe toys to play with and chew and to be able to play with people who will be quiet and gentle with us and who won’t punish or shout at us.
HOME SWEET HOME
- We need: A large shelter where we can rest together with a large secure exercise area with places for us to hide when we feel afraid.
- We need: To be checked for signs of pain, illness or changes in our behaviour. To be vet health checked and vaccinated. To be neutered, as this stops us having unwanted babies and reduces the risk of fighting.
FOOD AND DRINK
- We need: Fresh, clean drinking water available 24/7. Lots of good quality hay and grass 24/7
FRIENDS FOR LIFE
- We need: Each other! A rabbit should be kept with at least one other rabbit. A good companion is a neutered male or female that have been brought up together. We also need people to spend time with us every day to get us used to be handled.
This list is not exhaustive; there is a longer list on the Rabbit Welfare Fund website.
asparagus, baby sweetcorn, beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, courgette, cucumber, curly kale, fennel, green beans, parsnip, peas,peppers, pumpkin, swede, turnip, squash, radish,rocket, lettuce, spinach, spring greens and watercress.
basil, coriander, dill,mint, parsley, oregano and rosemary.
apple, apricot, banana, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, kiwi fruit, mango, melon, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes.
Flystrike is also called ‘myiasis’. It happens when flies lay their eggs on your rabbit, and those eggs hatch out into maggots. Flystrike is a painful, sometimes fatal condition. If an animal becomes infested, seek immediate veterinary advice. Rabbits that are at risk of Flystrike are unable to clean themselves properly, are ill, they may produce abnormally smelly urine or have diarrhoea, are fed inappropriate diets, have an internal parasitic infection or have an open wound. Although clean, well kept pets can get Flystrike.
- Preventing Flystrike
- Check for signs of illness/abnormal behaviour daily
- In warm weather check your rabbit all over their body, especially around their rear end/tail area at least twice a day
- If your rabbits back end is dirty, clean immediatley. Ensure the area is fully dried. It may be necessary to clip the fur
- Clean toilet areas daily
- Clean housing and change bedding at least once a week
- Ensure your rabbit is not overweight and is fed the correct diet
- Consider insect-proofing the housing of pets living outside.
- Neuter female rabbits, entire females may be more prone to Flystrike
- What to do if you find your rabbit has Flystrike
Flystrike can occur in hours. Toxic shock and death can result very quickly. Flystrike is an emergency, do not delay. You need to get your rabbit to the vets immediately. Rabbits can make a full recovery if the condition is found and treated quickly.
For further information
The RWF Guide to feeding pet rabbits.