Adopting a rabbit is a wonderful thing to do, but these small creatures come with a big responsibility. Sadly, rabbits are regularly neglected and not given the complex care they need…
Just like cats and dogs, rabbits are protected by the UK’s Animal Welfare Act. This means you’re legally obliged to give your rabbit:
So, to help you keep your new pet happy, healthy and safe, we’ve created a list of 5 things you must do before they arrive. Our vet Harriet has also made this video. It’s full of advice on how to prepare for your rabbit:
If your rabbit has been living outdoors, you should house them outside. And if they’ve been used to living indoors, you should set up their home inside. Either way, their home must be safe, spacious, dry, clean, quiet and partly sheltered.
Their enclosure needs to offer separate spaces for hiding and sleeping, playing and exercising, eating and drinking, and going to the toilet.
The more space your rabbit has, the better. At the absolute minimum, a pair of small-to-medium sized rabbits should have a space that’s at least 3m x 2m x 1m or 10ft x 6.5ft x 3.5ft (length x width x height).
If your rabbit lives indoors, you’ll need to rabbit-proof your house by putting houseplants, wires and other dangerous objects out of their reach. If they live outside, they must be safe from predators like cats, dogs and foxes at all times.
Sudden changes in your rabbit’s diet could make them unwell. So find out what your rabbit has been eating from their previous owner and stock up.
Rabbits need constant access to clean, fresh water so make sure you buy a water bottle or bowl.
As a general rule, a rabbit’s diet should be 85% dust-free hay and / or grass, 10% leafy greens and 5% rabbit nuggets. That’s roughly a handful of leafy greens and a teaspoon of rabbit nuggets a day. However, this may vary depend on things like their age and health. To make sure your rabbit has the best possible diet, speak to a vet as soon as you can.
Rabbits are active, athletic and intelligent. To keep them happy and healthy, give them plenty of physical and mental stimulation.
They should have constant access to their exercise area and be able to forage, dig and hop around whenever they like. Equally, they need access to their resting and hiding places at all times, too.
Enriching your rabbit’s environment can be fun for you, too. Why not make them a digging box or a tunnel using things like shredded paper and cardboard? The RSPCA has lots of great ideas for safe, DIY rabbit toys: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rabbits/behaviour/enrichment/toys
Remember that rabbits don’t like being picked up. It stresses them out and makes them more nervous. If you want to interact with your rabbit, sit on the floor and let them come to you in their own time.
Rabbits are social creatures who like to live with other rabbits. If you’ve adopted a single rabbit, you should consider finding them an appropriate companion as soon as possible. Or perhaps you’re adopting a rabbit as a companion for an existing pet. Regardless, it’s really important to make sure your rabbits get along and have time to bond.
Both of them should be neutered and it’s better if they’re opposite sex.
For more about rabbit companionship, watch our vet Harriet’s video.
And there’s also lots of great advice here
As part of your duty to keep your rabbit free from pain, injury, suffering and disease, register with a vet as soon as possible. They’ll make sure your rabbit has the right vaccines and tell you everything you need to know about diet and routine care (like how to check your rabbit’s teeth).
Our vet Harriet tells you how to get the most from your vet in her video
The more information you have about your rabbit’s health from their previous the owner, the better. So find out what you can before your new pet arrives.