You may already have a rabbit (or rabbits) or perhaps you’re thinking of getting one or some. There are some simple things that you can do to give your rabbit the best possible life. Here are 14 of the best ways to make your rabbit happy!
Best ways to make a rabbit happy
1) Make sure you want one in the first place!
This may seem the most obvious but it’s also the most over-looked. Don’t rush into the decision just because your child suddenly has an interest. Domesticated rabbits can live for around 10 years so this is a big commitment (wild rabbits will only live for a couple of years btw). How will having a rabbit impact your way of life?
Who will look after her when you’re not around? Do some research first (reading this article might be part of that research so if so, good work!) and look at all the negative impacts as well as the many positives ownership will have. Look at the rest of these tips and make sure you not only want to do these things but you can do these things.
2) Are you sure you can afford a rabbit?
Again, something a lot of people don’t think about. Are you prepared for the expenses of ownership? The initial outlay will be somewhere between £200 and £500 ($250 to $675) but the annual costs may be around £500-£1000 ($675-$1300).
That’s a sizeable amount and if you multiply that annual cost by around 10 years then, well – you can do the math but you can see where I’m going with this. It is possible to make some savings on this by not taking up Insurance (more on that later) and you may also be able to make your own food. If you live on a farm then you hay and litter.
But, I don’t think many people that live on a farm would have a pet rabbit. My point here is, don’t go into this blind. Spend some time doing the research so you know all the facts, then you won’t get any surprises.
3) Have somewhere nice to keep her
Do you have somewhere in mind where you will keep it? Most rabbits are of course kept outside but more are being kept inside these days. The thought is that a lot of cats are kept inside, so why not rabbits? Some people think they smell but as long as you keep their bedding and food refreshed this just isn’t the case.
You will need to dedicate a fair amount of time to your rabbit if you keep it indoors, perhaps more so than if they are outside, so think about this carefully. If you are keeping her inside then you’ll need quite a large area for the hutch and also, when you eventually let her out to play she will want to nibble at your nice new furniture. There are things you can do about this, but be prepared!
4) Create a nice environment for the rabbit to live
Of course, if you’re keeping them primarily inside then they need to be safe from any other animals that you have. Outside though, the hutch needs to be big enough for them to run around in. The absolute minimum size is 12 square feet for their main living/sleeping area but there must be a play area connected to this of around 32 square feet.
You must see this as absolute minimums though and really you should be thinking, “What’s the biggest I can afford and fit in my garden?”.
The play area that’s connected to the main living area isn’t optional. The rabbit has to be able to run around an exercise. Without this, you could argue it’s a form of cruelty, more of a prison than a home. The height should be a minimum of 2 or 3 feet but again, the bigger the better.
Next, think about security. It must be safe from foxes and there can be no way in for them, as there’s a good chance they will try. Another idea is at night to cover the front of the hutch so not only the fox can’t see in but the rabbit, that’s trapped inside, can’t see the fox outside.
You can imagine how scary that would be for the rabbit, with nowhere to run they are relying on the security and construction of the hutch to keep them safe.
Next, the weather. Depending on where you live it can get too hot, too cold, windy, rainy, etc. You can protect your rabbit with a cover, many choices are available on the internet. It needs to be kept warm so lots of nice bedding and no gaps in the rabbit hutch construction for the wind to get through. If you can keep the temperature as stable as possible inside then this is a good idea.
You can get temperature sensors these days that you can remotely view on your phone, a great addition to be able to keep track remotely of the conditions outside. Also, whilst you’re investigating tech, how about you get a webcam? You could get one overlooking the hutch and configure it so a notification would be sent if it detected motion nearby. Or, you could even get one for inside – how cool would that be?
The rabbit hutch should be cleaned daily, although this doesn’t need to take you very long. In fact, just a few minutes a day is usually enough to ensure that there is no soiled material left inside. If you leave this in there for too long it will not only start to smell but the rabbit will become anxious and you will see a change of behavior if the uncleanliness continues.
At the same time, remove any uneaten food and ensure you have also removed any dirty hay and fur that has come off the rabbit. This is a good opportunity to give your rabbit a quick once-over to ensure they are looking in a healthy state and there is nothing obviously wrong with them. Also, while you’re up nice and close, check the hutch. Is there any damage to it and is it still secure?
Every week you should remove your rabbit to a temporary (safe) location and clean the hutch properly. This should include disinfecting, there’s no need to do this more than once a week but don’t leave it much longer than this. Don’t use a chemical disinfectant though, a vinegar-based solution will suffice. You should scrub the inside of the hutch well to ensure it is clean as old food and droppings may have moved around and will start to smell if left untreated.
If possible, let the hutch dry in the sunshine (easier said than done!) but don’t put the rabbit back until it is perfectly dry again.
6) Rabbit-proof your home
It’s so easy to miss something. First, look for any wires – they will home in on these and gnaw through them quicker than you can stop them. Not only can this ruin the appliance it can connect to it can also seriously injure your rabbit as they can be electrocuted. If required, you can purchase rubber tubing online that will fix this little problem.
Anything can be chewed, such as table legs or the edges of doors. Protect them if necessary with plastic guards. This may look a little unsightly but what you’re trying to do here is allow your rabbit an area of the house, inside, where they can play. Both you and the rabbit will get a lot out of this so it’s worth it if you’re going to put her high on your priorities list.
You may need to block off some areas of the house if you deem them too dangerous. Get down on your knees and pretend you’re a rabbit (or get someone else to do it, take a video of it and upload it to facebook, I’m sure they’ll see the funny side). If you have house-plants then make sure she can’t access them. Most are toxic to rabbits so you don’t want her nibbling away at these.
To give your rabbit the best chance of a long, happy life, you should get them vaccinated. This will protect them from myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (types 1 and 2). These are both particularly nasty and can be life-threatening.
However, you can now get a combined vaccination and this can be administered by your vet anything after five weeks, the sooner the better though.
The vaccinations are cheap and literally take a few seconds, they have next to no risk associated with them. They will also require boosters annually, which can be part of your annual vet check-up (more on this later).
Getting these vaccinations done is really a no-brainer, you protect your rabbit from the nasty diseases, you give them a better chance of living a longer life and also you save having to get your wallet out for some expensing vet fees if you don’t have insurance. Which actually brings me nicely to the next point.
Now, this is something that not all of you will take up, and I can kind of understand why. It’s like house insurance, we have to pay hundreds every year just in case our house catches fire and needs to be totally rebuilt. It’s frustrating and as annoying as hell as really, what are the chances of that happening?
Many people don’t bother with pet insurance. Some say that if something does happen that needs veterinary assistance then they’ll just pay for it at the time.
But vets bills can quickly go into the thousands if an operation is required. I actually know people who have told me if something like that happens then they’ll just have to put the animal down as they won’t be able to afford it. Maybe it’s me but this attitude drives me crazy. My opinion is if you can’t afford the insurance then you should think about whether this is the right thing to do for the animal and your family.
Can you imagine telling your kids that unfortunately, they will have to say goodbye to their pet now as you can’t afford to make them better? It’s a sad reality of life that we need to pay for these things but we do and you need to make the call. Okay, I’m getting a little on my high-horse now I know but I love animals and always try and see things from their perspective and also I try and do the right thing.
9) Give your rabbit the correct diet
Such a key factor when it comes to the lifespan of your rabbit. You should include some very good quality pellets with some fresh hay, have some fresh vegetables and don’t forget the water. This should be considered their staple diet and anything in addition to this is a treat.
The hay is vital to the rabbit’s health as it reduces the chances of hairballs and provides roughage. If you want to incorporate some twigs into this roughage you can, but be careful where you source them from, apple tree twigs are fine.
Make sure that when providing the pellets you pay careful attention to the instructions as they do vary.
Note that the teeth on rabbits continually grow and they need to wear them down to keep them at the correct length. This is achieved by the rabbit eating leafy green plants, hay, and grass. If you notice her teeth getting too long, it could be a clue that they’re not eating the right diet.
It is, of course, a myth that rabbits eat carrots all the time. These are a treat and should only be used as such. The same can be said for fruit.
10) Spay / Neuter
There are several reasons why spaying / Neutering (collectively known as ‘altering’) a rabbit can improve their lives and allow them to live longer. Some cancers associated with reproduction is all but eliminated in the female. For the male, they will be less aggressive and won’t be tempted to fight with other animals that come close (such as cats).
Like cats, they make better pets when altered. You will find them a lot calmer and more likely to cuddle up to you than before. They are (you will be pleased to hear) a lot less likely to gnaw at your furniture also! They are easier to train (for instance to use the litter tray) and a better friend for children.
It also means you can introduce a friend to them. If you want more than one rabbit so they have someone else to play with when you’re not around then you can do this. They are very sociable little creatures but you can only have one if you don’t go down this route as can become aggressive sexually which is related to their hormones.
The procedure is very common and safe and the chances of something going wrong is very slim. If you weigh up the risks of the operation against the improvement to their life, it’s a no-brainer.
11) Play with your rabbit, a lot!
As I said in the last section, rabbits are very sociable animals and they will want you to spend a lot of time with them. In fact, if you don’t their anxiety levels will be raised and it will have a direct impact on their health. Playing with your rabbit serves several purposes. It helps them keep fit and reduces their stress levels. It’ll help you reduce yours also!
Exercise is very important to the rabbit’s state of mind and not allowing them to get out of their hutch and rub about a bit is such a shame.
Rabbits just love to play games. They’re cheeky and will knock things over with their nose if you stand them up. If you’re holding something little in your hand and not paying attention, they’ll grab it from you and run away. Now whether they think this is a game or not is debatable but they do seem to be happy when they’re scampering off!
Buy some toys for your rabbit as when you’re not around they’ll still like to play and also they’ll find it comforting as they’ll smell a little of you! If you have room, find something they can climb through and on top of, they love this.
I mentioned earlier you should consider getting a webcam, imagine reviewing the footage and watching her playing with the toys whilst you’re away.
12) Company for your rabbit?
I mentioned previously that rabbits are sociable animals, that doesn’t mean just other rabbits. Now, I’m not saying you should get another pet and stick it in their hutch! The point here is if you have a cat (or even a small, well-trained dog) then they should all be able to get along. Of course there are a lot of variables involved here but generally, it’s the case.
Your rabbit would rather have company than not so don’t worry if you already have a cat, they can get along – you just might need to give them a little time!
13) Check them physically for injuries
Every time you change their bedding and clean their hutch or play with them, this is an opportunity to give them a once-over. Check for any obvious injuries to their bodies. If cleaning out their hutch then check for any signs of problems, such as vomiting or blood.
Remember, what we’re trying to do here is lengthen the life of your rabbit and one way we do that is the prevention of problems rather than cure. It’s much better to discover a problem earlier than later when it might be too late to do much.
14) Annual vet check-ups
You can do as many checks as you like but you’re not the expert here of course. It’s a great idea to have an annual check-up with your vet and I would suggest this is mandatory. The vet has seen hundreds of rabbits and will know what to look for. If you’ve encountered any unusual behavior then this is the time to share that with your vet.
Your vet will weigh your rabbit and keep track of any fluctuations. They will also use this as an opportunity to provide the boosters required for vaccinations.
So, there you have it. Common sense? Yeah, maybe but important none the less. If you’re thinking of getting a rabbit then it’s great that you’re doing some research. If you’ve already gone one then it’s great that you want to live them a long, happy life. Either way, you’re awesome. Fact.
Finally, if you’ve ever wondered why your rabbit thumps – check out the reason why in the article.