Congratulations on the arrival of your new family member! We’ve put together some basic rabbit information to help you get started.
Life expectancy 6 – 14years Adult body weight 2- 6kg
Breeding commences 4 – 10months Pregnancy 31 days
Litter Size 1 -12 Weaning 4 – 6 weeks
To safeguard your rabbit from Calicivirus, your rabbit needs to be vaccinated. This protects them from a virus that is spread via mosquitos and rapidly fatal. Rabbits in Australia cannot be vaccinated against myxomatosis. To further protect your rabbit from this insect-spread disease, keep them inside at dawn and dusk, cover outdoor enclosures and make sure your rabbit is up-to-date with flea and mite prevention.
We recommend the following vaccination schedule:
10-12 weeks First Calicivirus vaccination
Annually Annual booster Calicivirus Vaccination.
Flea / Mite protection
Rabbit-safe flea and mite prevention should be used monthly. There are no rabbit specific products however we recommend off-label use of products designed for dogs & cats such as Revolution. Discuss their appropriate use and dose with our staff.
Desexing is recommended for female rabbits at 5-6 months of age to help prevent unwanted litters and the development of uterine cancer which occurs in 50-80% of rabbits over 4 years old.
Desexing is recommended at 4-6 months for male rabbits to reduce aggression, territorial behaviour (including inappropriate soiling) and bullying.
Rabbits may enjoy being patted & handled, ideally start handling a rabbit from a young age. When handling a rabbit, support the fore & hind quarters from underneath rather than holding them from around the belly & chest. Rabbits are scared of heights, and often don’t like to be ‘picked up’. It is often safer to hold a rabbit on your lap whilst sitting at ground level. Rabbits can kick out very strongly with their legs & scratch you & also cause themselves serious injury in doing so, therefore supporting their hind legs is paramount.
Nutrition – a healthy diet
Feeding is perhaps the single most important factor in maintaining a healthy rabbit. Rabbits are herbivores (plant eaters) so a diet high in fibre is required. In the wild, rabbits eat grass! They may graze for 6-8 hours plus per day. Their whole digestive tract – from teeth to gut end is adapted to this diet & eating habit. Rabbit teeth grow continuously throughout life. They depend on their diet to help wear down their teeth & keep all their teeth in good shape. Without healthy teeth a rabbit will not lead a happy & healthy life. Rabbits are also naturally ‘coprophagic’, meaning they eat some of their own droppings. They need to do this to keep themselves and their digestive tract healthy.
Hay or grass should comprise 80% of their diet. Provide your rabbits with a constant supply of good quality fresh grass or grass hay eg; Timothy, Oaten, Pasture, Paddock, Meadow or Ryegrass hays. (Not Lucerne or clover hays as they are too high in protein and calcium). This is paramount in providing the ‘complete’ diet and encourages ‘chewing’ for long periods of time.
The other 20% should be made up of fresh leafy greens and vegetables. As a guide, feed around 2 packed cups of leafy greens per kg (at least 3 different varieties) per day, some examples are;
- Vegies: broccoli, cabbage, celery, endive, beet/carrot tops, brussels sprouts, spinach leaves, Kale, bok choy/other Asian greens, dark leafed lettuce varieties
- Herbs: parsley, dandelion, coriander, basil, dill, mint, etc
Many commercial ‘rabbit’ foods do NOT contain enough fibre, which is essential to good pet rabbit
health. The fibre content of your pet rabbit’s diet should be greater than 18-20%. Rabbits should NOT be fed solely on ‘pellets’ or ‘mixes’. Many commercial rabbit pellets do not meet the nutritional analysis as set out below. If pellets are offered, consider them as treats. They should only be offered in treat quantities. There are however some very good products such as ‘Oxbow’ rabbit pellets available in Australia. These can be offered as a dietary supplement (<5% off daily food intake).
Treats such as apple or carrot should be kept to a minimum i.e. <5% of daily food intake.
Try to keep feeds & feeding habits consistent. Any changes made should be made gradually (over a 2-3 week period) to minimise digestive upsets.
Water is best offered in a bottle for young rabbits and a water bowl and bottle should be provided for adult rabbit. All food and water should be fresh and changed daily.
What not to feed
Cereals, grains, nuts, seeds, corn, beans, peas, breads, biscuits, sweets, sugar, breakfast cereals, chocolate!
Rabbits can be kept indoors or outdoors provided they are protected from the extremes of heat and cold. They are extremely sensitive to heatstroke as they can neither pant nor sweat and temperatures above 26ºC should be avoided.
If living in a hutch, ensure that the floor is made of solid material such as plexiglass or wood with a thick layer of regularly changed straw or hay to prevent foot trauma or dirty bottoms. A concealed area is also important to allow the rabbit to feel secure. It needs to be safe & secure for the rabbit & provide protection from predators. It should be large enough to allow the rabbit to exhibit its normal behaviours. All pet rabbits should be given the opportunity to exercise outside of the hutch for a few hours each day. Hutches should be easy to clean. Remove soiled bedding daily & totally clean the hutch at least once weekly. Suitable bedding includes hay, straw or shredded paper.
If kept outdoors ensure that the hutch is rain proof & avoid extreme weather conditions. Hutches need to be well ventilated. Mosquito proof the hutch using fly-screen wire.
Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box, and this should be changed daily to prevent urine scalding. Suitable litter materials include hay, straw or some cat litters (avoid clay types).
Exercise is important. Allow rabbits to exercise freely. This promotes good physical & mental health. Provide your rabbit with access to unfiltered natural sunlight regularly. Provide rabbits with ‘play time’ – toys can be wooden toys/cardboard boxes to chew & boxes etc to crawl around in. Try hiding treat items amongst boxes and hay.
When rabbits are indoors, be aware of them chewing electrical cords & furniture! Rabbit proof your home!
If you intend to keep more than one rabbit (which is recommended as rabbits are sociable animals), suitable mixes include 2 females or mixes of neutered rabbits. Please be aware if you have an undesexed male and female they will breed very frequently. It is not advisable to mix guinea pigs with rabbits as guinea pigs can get diseases from rabbits. Also, their dietary requirements differ and they may bully each other.
Identification and Microchipping
Microchipping is available for rabbits and we do recommend this for all pet rabbits to ensure they are returned to you if lost.