Did you know that a rabbit’s diet consists of 85-90% fresh hay?
Maybe you did, but a lot of rabbit owners don’t know this information as most pet stores sell rabbits as a starter pet. Sold with a small cage, pellets and told to feed them lettuce and carrots. Wonderful! Not really, and this is why it is important we have Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW). This year RAW falls on the week of June 17-June 24.
Rabbit Awareness Week was started over 11 years ago in the UK as a campaign to shed some light on rabbit welfare. Over the years, RAW has been honored throughout the world thanks to the power of Social Media.
When I brought Cooper home, he was given to me in a small cage, with lots of gourmet pellets, cat clumping litter and no hay. Imagine my shock when I did research and truly educated myself on proper rabbit care. I was appalled at the instructions I was given, which is why I created this website. I found it extremely difficult to find the correct information online and even more difficult to find a veterinary that would see a rabbit. Thankfully, overtime things have changed and rabbits are now the fourth most popular pet to have. Meaning, there are more resources online and veterinaries that specialize in rabbits. But regardless, it is always important to share any information you have with those who need it.
You may be aware of a friend or neighbor that has a rabbit or recently brought one home. Befriend them, tell them you also have a rabbit, see where you or them may be wrong, share with them useful information. I use to carry around fact sheets with all bunny basic information on it, I shared it a few times with strangers, even at pet stores. Now, I just share with them my website, it’s my best tool as I have gathered information from personal experience and from Cooper’s vets.
Here are 5 important tips that are always very important to know:
1. Environment – Rabbits are runners and jumpers, they need lots of room for exercise. This is why a hutch is never enough!
2. Diet – Rabbits cannot regurgitate, meaning, unlike cats they cannot spit out hairballs. How do rabbits bathe? By grooming themselves with their tongues, this is why it is very important they have a high fiber diet. It is essential for their dental, digestive and emotional health. A rabbit’s diet should consist 85-90% fresh hay.
You must be saying “But Cooper doesn’t eat hay!” I know, I know, there are those stubborn few that will not eat hay. This is a struggle for quite a few people as I am contacted frequently about what to do with their non-eating hay rabbit. My suggestion to those who have reached out to me, talk to your vet and in the meantime check out my website as I discuss Cooper’s diet. Maybe share this information with your vet to see what they suggest for you. Of course, when you have run out of resources and you know your rabbit will not eat ANY type of hay. Which is my case with Cooper.
3. Behavior- In the wild rabbits rummage through all sorts of leaves, trees and branches. Make sure to keep their environment interesting and filled with toys to chew on and caves to hide in. A bored rabbit may lead to behavioral issues and health problems, like their teeth. Rabbits need to constantly chew on wood to wear them down.
4. Company- Rabbits are incredibly social, they need company and stimulation to keep themselves entertained. This can also be traced back to behavior, a rabbit left alone in a hutch will become aggressive towards you. It is very important to spend lots of time with them at their level, on the ground allowing them to sniff you and get used to your presence. They also have complex social needs which is why it is also best to keep them with another friendly rabbit.
Again, you’re probably saying “Hey but Cooper doesn’t have a companion!” I know, I know and trust me I tried. There is something about rabbit fur that terribly affects my asthma. I fostered a female rabbit a few years ago, in hopes of keeping her with Cooper, unfortunately I got terribly ill. I kept her for over a month but I couldn’t take of a surgical mask when I was at home, I could not breath because of all the rabbit fur. It’s unfortunate for Cooper because he bonds with any animal, he’s bonded with my sister’s dog, he tried bonding with our cat and he’s allowed several rabbits into his area throughout the years. I know Cooper has no issue bonding with another rabbit, but my lungs cannot handle too much rabbit fur.
5. Health- Keeping your rabbit fit and healthy should be your number 1 priority in order for them to live a long and happy life. It is important to groom them at least weekly and when doing so check their skin, teeth, eyes, nails and their bottom area. With good care and proper feeding you’ll have your rabbit in your life for possibly 10+ years.
To further learn more please check out RAW‘s website and remember to share as much information on proper rabbit care as possible!