Guidelines for Keeping Rabbits as Pets

They are fluffy and cute – but there are one thing rabbits certainly not: cuddly toys for the nursery. PetReader gives tips on how to keep rabbits really appropriate to their species.

A dwarf rabbit that crouches in a cage all day, can hop on the lawn in the small run in summer, or is constantly carried around by children: For many, this was a completely normal form of keeping rabbits for a long time.

“Thank God, the attitude is increasingly moving away from children and also from the nursery,” says Gerda Steinbeißer, chairwoman of the Rabbit Aid Germany. Because rabbits are pure observation and not cuddly toys. And the typical cage is anything but appropriate to the species. After all, rabbits have at least the need to run and jump like a cat.

Henriette Mackensen from the Animal Welfare Association is also pleased that rabbits are now more and more often running around in large enclosures or gardens. “The year-round outdoor housing is absolute to be welcomed,” she says.

How Does Species-appropriate Rabbit Husbandry Work?

But what is needed there for species-appropriate accommodation? “The most important thing: two are a must,” emphasizes Loewe. “Individual keeping for these social animals is a no-go!”

She recommends an enclosure made of weatherproof, unpainted wood that is roofed over and covered with aviary wire. It not only has to be burglar-proof against predators such as fox and marten but also escape-proof for digging friends – for example with stone slabs or aviary wire in the ground.

Because: Rabbits love to dig – to do justice to this, a digging box with toy sand or mother earth is a good choice.

In their enclosure, the animals should have at least six square meters available at all times. If a rabbit only wants to hit three hooks, it needs a length of 2.4 meters. Therefore, an additional run is ideal. The more the better. “Domestic rabbits are no different from wild rabbits: They want to jump, throw their feet back, and hit hooks.” All of this contributes to their well-being.

Rabbits Tolerate Cold Better Than Warmth

The exercise area should be designed as exciting as a leisure park: with hiding spots and shady places. Because the animals can tolerate cold much better than warmth. That is why it is not a problem to keep them outdoors even in winter. “It’s a pleasure to watch them romp in the snow,” says Loewe.

More and more animal lovers are also moving towards accommodating the long-ears in a complete room or, like a cat, in free housing. Like Bettina Weihe in Iserlohn, who happened to come across her rabbit, Mr. Simon, five years ago. “He runs around freely everywhere and enjoys it too,” she says. And every morning he hops into the kitchen to beg. “He then scurries around my feet until he gets a piece of parsley root,” says the 47-year-old. “Those are the little special moments with a fluffy flatmate.”

Regardless of whether it is indoors or outdoors: The environment should be designed as varied as possible for a rabbit. This includes not only digging boxes but also branches in which you hang food, which the animals then have to work for.

There are various intelligence and activity games to buy. And the more conspecifics there are, the more exciting it is of course for the animals.

Male Rabbits Should Be Neutered

The two animal rights activists agree that bulls should definitely be neutered – Rabbit Aid recommends this for rabbits as well. Mackensen recommends discussing this with the vet individually.

In any case, she warns against teasing and petting female rabbits often: “Apart from the fact that it is stressful, it can also trigger health problems,” she emphasizes. Because rabbits do not ovulate regularly according to the season, but only get it when they mate. Or through similar stimuli such as firm pressure on the back or stroking.

Corresponding pseudo pregnancies can lead to tumorous changes in the uterus and the uterus in the long term. “It has to be clear that stroking it just doesn’t work,” stresses Mackensen. Therefore, from their point of view, rabbits are not suitable pets for small children.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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