Noah's Ark Pet Shop

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Rabbits


Rabbits

Rabbits are clean, intelligent and friendly animals and, if properly looked after, make a lovely pet.

Rabbits are more demanding than smaller animals and are not really suitable for small children as they may bite and scratch. Each variety of rabbit has its own characteristics of size and temperament and living conditions must be tailored to the individual animal. With proper care rabbits will live for 8 – 10 years.

Housing

A rabbit can make a good indoor pet as they love company and can be house trained. If keeping a rabbit indoors you can keep him in a plastic cage and he should be let out everyday to run around.
It is essential to “rabbit proof” your house or the room it is free to explore. Rabbits like to chew and are particularly attracted to electric wires. Obviously, wires need to be kept out of reach to prevent harm coming to the rabbit. Also some house plants can be poisonous to rabbits, and they should also be moved out of harm’s way.

If you are considering an outdoor situation, we would strongly recommend that you keep more than one rabbit. Rabbits are lively sociable creatures who need companionship and a cage can turn into a prison cell if a rabbit is left on its own for periods of time. If your rabbits are to be kept outside, consideration must be taken of the current weather conditions and the environment they have been used to. It would be cruel to put young rabbits, straight from a pet shop into an outdoor cage when it is very cold, and any such transition should be done gradually. They should have a well insulated and waterproof wooden hutch with a solid floor and wire front. The hutch should be positioned out of direct sunlight and cold draughts and in a place where you will regularly see them. The hutch should be as large as you have space for, and a minimum of 5’ or a two storey. It must be big enough to allow the rabbits to move around and high enough for them to stand up on their back feet. The hutch must also be well protected from predators like foxes. There should be a run either attached to the hutch or in a separate part of the garden and the rabbits should be allowed into the run every day.

The cage or hutch should be lined with ample woodshavings as bedding and hay should be available at all times both for eating and bedding. There should always be a fresh supply of water.

Taking him home

Although rabbits are generally hardy animals, they can be sensitive to changes in their environment and suffer from stress. It may be frustrating especially for children, not to be able to play with the new pet immediately, but some patience and understanding at the start will go a long way to having a happy and healthy pet in the future.
If you have just become the owner of a young rabbit, it is essential he is given time to settle into his new environment and as few changes as possible are made to his current lifestyle.
The bedding and feed already used in the shop should be maintained for a minimum of 2 weeks or until the rabbit is at least 14weeks old, which ever is longer . The assistant will give you some of the current bedding from his cage, and this should be put into his new cage with him, to allow him to have something with his own scent on it. There should be a bowl of food and a large supply of hay put into his cage along with a bottle of fresh water.
Leave him in peace to settle into his new cage for at least 24 hours.
DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN TO HANDLE HIM AT THIS STAGE. Do not clean out his hutch for at least two days, and thereafter only do a partial clean, so he will always have something recognisable around him.
If he is going outside for the first time, ensure there will not be a considerable change in temperature and put a cover over the cage at night to help protect from predators.
Once you are happy the rabbit is eating and drinking healthily and has fully adapted to his new home, then you can begin socialising him. This should be done gradually over time, allowing him to get to know you before you attempt to pick him up. Children should always be supervised when handling an animal.

Handling

Rabbits enjoy human company, but will usually prefer to sit beside you rather than being picked up. They love being rubbed or scratched gently on the nose, muzzle and ears. To pick your rabbit up, place one hand under his chest and forelegs and the other hand under his bottom and gently scoop him up, holding him firmly, but gently, close to your body. Never grab them from behind or pick them up by their ears.

Feeding

Hay should always be fed to rabbits to ensure their digestive system works properly There are a number of foods on the market which provide the correct balance of requirements for your rabbit and they should be given in accordance with the rabbit’s weight and age. Pellets prevent selective feeding and help keep the rabbits teeth in trim. If we do not stock a food your rabbit particularly likes, we will be happy to order it in for you.
Any change of diet should be introduced very gradually, especially with young rabbits. They can very easily get digestive upsets which can be serious if not caught in time.
Fresh foods can be given to rabbits but again should be introduced very gradually and not given until the rabbit is at least 16 weeks old. Small amounts of apples, carrots and broccoli as well as edible wild plants like dandelions, chickweed or clover may be fed but always remember to wash them first. Do not feed lettuce. Rabbit treats like yoghurt drops or vegetable sticks are also available and may be given occasionally.

Health

Good nutrition and housing are the key to a healthy rabbit. Avoid sudden changes in diet and temperature and keep bedding clean and dry. The hutch should be scrubbed out once a week with warm water and a mild pet disinfectant. The feeding bowl and water bottle should be cleaned daily.
Rabbits’ teeth continue to grow throughout their lives and if they become too long, feeding can become difficult. Mineral stones, rabbit pellets and chew toys all help to keep the teeth worn down. If the bottom teeth grow over the top teeth, take your rabbit to the vet to have them trimmed.
Any change in behaviour should be investigated as should loss of appetite, runny eyes or sniffles. If there is a sign of diarrhoea, stop feeding any fresh fruit and vegetables and monitor closely. If the diarrhoea continues seek veterinary assistance.
Sometimes rabbits temperaments can change when they reach maturity. We strongly recommend all rabbits be neutered. This not only helps return them to being loving pets, but also can help keep them healthy in the future. Uterine cancer is very common in female rabbits and can be prevented.

Playing

Rabbits are intelligent animals who need to have some stimulation. As well as being able to run and jump about, toys will entertain them. Balls with food inside or some cat toys to nudge around make good toys for rabbits and provide them with some mental exercise. Also wooden chewing toys entertain as well as serve a purpose.

Summary care points

1 Strong weatherproof hutch in sheltered safe spot or indoor cage in rabbit proof house.
2 Woodshavings for bedding
3 Constant supply of hay and water
4 Young rabbits require peace and quiet when changing environment.
5 No sudden change of food.
6 Gradual introduction of human contact.
7 Seek veterinary advice if loss of appetite/diarrhoea or other symptoms.
8 Once socialised, frequent interaction with humans required.

Checklist of requirements

Hutch / Cage
Run
Earthenware dish
Large water bottle
Hay
Mixed food / pellets
Woodshavings
Disinfectant
Toys