Tips for Keeping Rabbits

Rabbits are intelligent and docile pets with many socio-positive behaviors. They need a lot of space and a high-fiber diet.

Rabbits are popular pets that have been domesticated for a long time. They do not belong to the rodents, but the order of the lagomorphs. Although they are sometimes referred to as “hares,” they are always rabbits because hares were not domesticated. In the past, rabbits were mostly kept in cages and pens that were far too small, often individually, and mistreated. In the meantime, however, the situation in pet keeping is changing, people are moving away from keeping them in cages, and the owners are increasingly concerned with these interesting and docile animals.


Order of the hares (Lagomorpha) – Family hares (Leporidae) – Genus Old World rabbits (Oryctolagus) – Species wild rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus) – Domestic rabbit O Oryctolagus cuniculus form Domestica

Life expectancy

approx. 7-12 years (depending on the breed), in some cases up to 15 years


from the 3rd to the 8th month of life (depending on breed)


The domestic rabbit descends from the European wild rabbit ( Oryctolagus cuniculus ) (original distribution area of the Iberian Peninsula and northern Italy) and was already domesticated by the Romans. Targeted breeding for different coat colors and appearances took place in the Middle Ages. Today there are very different breeds, some of which are associated with animal welfare-relevant characteristics (“tormented breeding characteristics”) such as ears that are too small or too large, hanging ears (rams), dwarfism, “short nose” or hair anomalies (angora and teddy). Before purchasing a rabbit, you should therefore be well informed and not choose any animals/breeds with health restrictions.

Social behavior

Rabbits are social animals that should not be kept alone. They exhibit many socio-positive behaviors including contact lying (resting with physical contact) and grooming each other. Groups should be formed early: rabbits are unproblematic to socialize up to the age of three months. Intolerance reactions are to be expected in older animals. When assembling the group, it must be considered that bucks are often incompatible after they have reached sexual maturity, can seriously injure themselves, and therefore have to be castrated. Favorable are e.g. B. group constellations of a castrated male with z. B. two females.


Rabbits need a species-appropriate diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber. They should primarily be fed high-quality hay and fresh fodder (green fodder, leafy vegetables, and some fruit). Hay has to be eaten blade by blade and chewed intensively, so it serves to wear down teeth and promote healthy digestion as well as species-appropriate activity and utilization of the animals since a lot of time is spent eating. Pastries, hard bread, muesli, crackers, green rolls or yogurt drops, corn, popcorn, or potato skins are not suitable.


If possible, rabbits should be kept in outside enclosures outdoors or indoors in indoor enclosures with free range or in “rabbit rooms” and not in commercial cages. The minimum area for two rabbits should be 6 m2 (TVT recommendation). The housing area must be structured in a rabbit-friendly way, ie contain “houses” and shelters, elevated levels, interspersed toilet areas (e.g. plastic bowls with wood shavings), and varied activity materials. This includes cardboard boxes, hiding places for food, etc. Elevated places must be secured against falling, and there must be no bottlenecks or dead ends so that the animals can easily avoid anywhere.

Behavioral problems

Inadequate housing conditions can lead to the development of stereotypes such as gnawing bars, scratching at the corners of the cage, excessive licking of the walls, circular movements, or eating of one’s hair (=abnormal-repetitive behaviors, AVR). Behavioral problems include intraspecific aggression (intolerance), lack of tameness or aggression towards the owner, problems with nibbling on objects (wallpaper, cables, etc.,) or uncleanliness/marking behavior. With all behavioral disorders and problems, the attitude and feeding must first be critically examined and, if necessary, improved.

Since it is normal for rabbits to defend their territory and their group from intruders, care must always be taken when socializing. Scent marks play a special role here so the exchange of scents between the enclosures is an important element in careful familiarization training.

A lack of tameness towards the owners can be avoided if young animals are accustomed to humans at an early stage. Otherwise, habituation training should be carried out in small steps using positive reinforcement with food. This is also indicated in the case of aggressive behavior.

Frequently Asked Question

How should dwarf rabbits be kept?

You can only do justice to the animals by keeping them in a well-designed, spacious enclosure with enough freedom of movement, and opportunities to dig and contact other animals. In addition, you should clarify before purchasing who will take care of the daily care and look after the animals during the holidays.

How do keep rabbits in the apartment?

Rabbits need a lot of space to be able to move in a manner appropriate to their species and not get bored. At least 6m² of floor space (e.g. 2x3m, without floors) should also be available day and night in the apartment. The unobstructed area should not be less than 4m².

When does a rabbit freeze?

The good news first: rabbits are not sensitive to cold. If they were introduced to winter outdoor housing in the fall or by slowly getting used to them and living in a large, species-appropriate enclosure, they can tolerate sub-zero temperatures very well. Rabbits have more problems with intense heat in summer.

How can I make my bunnies happy?

Feed your rabbits hay and greens! Then they have something to munch on that is healthy and tasty. The long ears like to eat herbs, dandelions, and daisies. They also like some vegetables.

Is it cruelty to animals to keep a rabbit alone?

Veterinarians, biologists, and veterinary associations all agree on this point: rabbits are social animals that need contact with other dogs. A single attitude is not animal-friendly!

Can you cuddle with rabbits?

Even if rabbits trust you and genuinely love you, you should refrain from holding onto them. Stroking and lying snuggled together and cuddling is of course allowed. However, your rabbit should always be able to distance itself on its own!

What do rabbits like and don’t like?

Rabbits don’t like being picked up. It always reminds them of a bird of prey and they get scared when they lose their feet. They often start scratching and kicking violently or freeze with fear. It is better to put them on the ground and lure them with food.

How much do two rabbits cost a month?

On average, two rabbits cost €125 a month if you feed them in the meadow in summer and pay attention to the prices. The costs for diseases of an animal are not included here, but should not be overlooked! 125€/month/2 rabbits are realistic!


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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