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Caring for your rabbit

Posted on March 23, 2015

Pet rabbits can live as long as 12 years, so it is very important to ensure that your pet has both a long and healthy life. Rabbits have many of the same basic needs as us, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, and to be the cute and cuddly family member you want them to be, they also require lots of attention and handling.
 

Exercise

Rabbits require exercise daily for good cardiovascular health and muscle development. It is up to you to ensure that your rabbit is able to get the exercise it needs.
If you have an outdoor rabbit, choosing a hutch that is big enough for your rabbit will ensure it is able to get enough exercise. A good hutch will have an area for exercise that is separate from the sleeping area, and allow the rabbit space for 2-3 hops in each direction, as well as be tall enough so your rabbit can stand comfortably on its hind legs.
If you have a small hutch, ensure that you have a safe exercise area where you can leave your rabbit for a couple of hours every day.
Rabbits can live for up to 12 years, so keeping your pet healthy and well exercised means not just a long, but also a happy life.
 

Companionship

Everyone loves a placid, gentle bunny that doesn't wiggle free or scratch those who are trying to hold it. To allow your rabbit to become comfortable with your family, as well as new visitors, it is important to handle them daily, particularly when they are young. Hold the rabbit close to your chest, with the bottom of its feet supported, so it does not feel as though it will fall. Holding it while you are sitting is a good idea while the rabbit is young- if it manages to escape, you will not drop it on the floor. Playing with your pet regularly will help avoid having your valued possessions such as books or furniture chewed. Some bright toys and a game of tug-a-war will keep your rabbit safely occupied and stimulated enough to ward it away from the furnishings!
 

Regular Health checks

To keep track of your companion's health and well being, conduct regular health checks. Give your rabbit a cuddle for reassurance, and ensure he or she is relaxed. Check their eyes for any filming or milky appearance, specks or spots, and wipe away any build up in the corners of the eye. Have a look in the ears for any mites or minor abrasions. Clean dirt from abrasions with a cotton bud dipped in olive oil.
 

Vaccination

Calicivirus was recently introduced into Australia to control wild rabbit populations. Pet rabbits can be vaccinated against calicivirus annually. Ask your vet for more information.
 

Diet

It is imperative to your rabbit's health that it is fed a balanced diet. A good diet ensures your rabbit enjoys the best gastrointestinal function as well as maintaining good dental health, and overall wellbeing.
Ensure your rabbit is never without access to fresh water, and remember that carrots and apples are a treat, not a staple, and your rabbit should not be eating these foods on a daily basis.
For fresh vegetables, many veterinarians recommend asian greens such as bok choy. Feed your rabbit about 1.5cups per kilogram of body mass per day.
While fresh food is great, it does not look after all your pet's needs. Pellets and rabbit feed that are specifically tailored to the nutritional needs of your rabbit are available from leading brands, and should be the primary food source for your companion.