How long do pet rabbits live?

The answer to this question depends on the breed;  smaller breeds of rabbit can live up to 12 years old, whereas larger rabbits may live only 5 years.

Rabbits are clean, friendly intelligent creatures that can bring years of joy to any family.  With space, food, bedding and the right living accommodation rabbits are happy living indoors or outside. Do remember that rabbits do require more attention than most other small pets and can occasionally scratch or bite. For this reason you may decide rabbits are an unsuitable pet for smaller children, however with adult supervision they make the perfect pet for older children.

Types of rabbit
There are many types of rabbit available and each has their own characteristics and traits. Here are a few general tips to get you started thinking about which type of rabbit is best for you:

  • Male rabbits are more predictable and even-tempered
  • Giant breeds require more space and food
  • Dwarf breeds can be slightly temperamental and are less suitable for small children
  • Long haired breeds need daily grooming
  • Common breeds, Dutch, English, Netherland Dwarf and Dwarf Lop eared are more docile.
  • Don’t be fooled by the name! – Despite what some breed names may lead you to believe some rabbits can grow quite large! Do your research before buying your bunny.

Living Space
You can decide whether you keep your rabbit indoors or outside, they’ll be happy either way! If you decide to keep your rabbit in the garden you will need to purchase a hutch which must be weather proof and have a separate nesting area where your rabbit will sleep. Rabbits are happy to sleep in clean straw which must be changed on a regular basis to keep your hutch fresh and your rabbit happy!
Ideally, for a medium sized rabbit, the hutch should measure at least 150 x 60 x 60cm, however if you have purchased a smaller hutch this will still be fine just make sure you add a run to the hutch so that your rabbit has enough space to exercise in a safe environment.
Keep the hutch in a shady spot so that your rabbit does not overheat on those hot summer days and keep it sheltered from any strong winds in the colder months.
Include within the hutch a pipe so your rabbit can use it as a burrow or a box with shredded paper so your rabbit can practice digging. Each of these items will encourage your rabbit to carry out its natural behaviours giving you a far happier balanced pet!

As I mentioned earlier,  rabbits can also be kept indoors and will love the company of having you and your family around them. You will need to make a straw filled nest box which can be kept in a quiet area of the house for your rabbit to sleep in and also provide a litter tray which your rabbit can quite happily be trained to successfully use! Your rabbit will still need to spend time outdoors as they require a certain amount of time in the sunshine in order to obtain vitamin D and for this you can purchase a simple run for your lawn.

Jacks Top Tip – You should also consider ‘rabbit proofing’ your home and by this I mean moving any cables or house plants off the floor and out of your rabbits reach.

Your rabbit will require a constant supply of fresh water which must be changed daily. A healthy rabbit’s diet will contain 75% hay and a good quality pellet will provide all the additional nutrients they require. Rabbits do love fruit and vegetables especially carrots spinach, watercress, broccoli, apples and dandelion leaves. It is fine to feed them food like this just be careful not to over feed them.
Avoid feeding them grass clippings, potatoes or lettuce and each of these can cause health problems.

Young rabbits will be nervous so allow them to gradually settle in to their new home. For the first couple of days spend time with your rabbit and talk soothingly to him or her so your rabbit can get to know and trust you. The next step is to slowly introduce your hand to the hutch; you will find your rabbit will increasingly become more confident around you. After a week or two depending on your progress try to pick up your pet using both hands, placing your thumb across its shoulders and your fingers gently wrapped around its ribs. Your other hand needs to be beneath the hindquarters to support your rabbit. Also begin to introduce grooming at this stage as this will need to be done daily.

Rabbits are very sociable animals and can become quite lonely on their own, keeping two or more will lead to a happy animal. If you are not planning to breed your pet neutering and spraying will prevent any unwanted litters and fighting. Two neutered males or two un-neutered females can happily live together as can a neutered male and un-neutered female.

A happy healthy bunny will be alert and have clean discharge free eyes, nose and a shiny coat. Breathing should be regular and quiet. If you have any concerns over your rabbit’s health do contact your local vet for advice and assistance.

Top tips for a healthy life

  • Give your rabbit time and attention – Your pet should be checked at least twice a day
  • A good balanced diet with no sudden changes
  • Clean dry living space that is cleaned once a week with a mild rabbit friendly disinfectant
  • No extreme changes in temperature
  • Clean water changed daily
  • Fresh food supplied daily
  • Provide gnawing blocks or chew toys to wear their teeth which will grow continually
  • Daily grooming especially if your rabbit is long haired
  • Your rabbit will pass two types of faeces. In the day time the faeces will be hard little pellets of poop. At night time they will pass faeces known as Caecotrophs which is far softer pellets that they will eat directly from their bottom. Don’t worry this is perfectly normal rabbit behaviour the only time you need to be concerned about this is if your rabbit is obese as they will have a problem with this.

Good luck

Gardener Jack

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