Bunnies make great pets. They have an abundance of character, are extremely sociable, enjoy the company of humans and are an ideal way to introduce children to pet ownership. They are quiet, clean and are easily toilet trained.
Bunnies love company, but can happily be left alone during the day if necessary, so make great pets for busy families. A predator-proof enclosure such as a hutch is essential to ensure their safety. Ideally the hutch should be divided into two connecting compartments, one with a wire mesh to allow access to natural light and fresh air and the other enclosed to provide protection against weather and a secure sleeping place. The floor of the hutch should be covered with newspaper and then a layer of bedding material such as straw, grass or hay for warmth, comfort and to prevent pressure sores on your bunny’s feet. The hutch should be located in a cool, shady position during summer since bunnies are extremely sensitive to the hot temperatures we experience in Australia and may die of heat stroke.
Feeding and nutrition are the most important factors in ensuring your bunny stays healthy. Rabbits are herbivores, so their diet should consist almost entirely of vegetable matter, ideally 85% meadow hay (not lucern hay which is too rich) and 15% veggies such as Asian greens or endive. Hay really is an essential dietry component and apart from providing the necessary high fibre, chewing the hay wears down the continuously groiwng teeth and keeps them occupied so prevents boredom. Fresh water should always be available using both a drip feeder bottle and open container. Treats such as carrots, fruits, capsicum and commercial pellets can be offered in small ammounts such as 1-2 tablespoons daily.
In general, commercial pellets do not provide the 18-20% dierty fibre requirement and are too high in fats and sugars. Lettuce and cabbage can cause diarrhoea.
As part of your daily care routine, rabbits should:
- Have at least two hours of exercise out of their hutch
- Be handled for companionship and help in keeping tame
- Have dead hair, tangles and pieces of garden matter removed from their coat using a firm brush
- Have their bottoms checked to ensure they are clean and dry
Routine veterinary care for rabbits includes checking teeth and claws, annual vaccination against calicivirus and desexing.