The vet's view
“Please Daddy, oh please can we get him? He’s so cute; look at his floppy ears… I promise to mind him and feed him everyday and clean out his hutch!” To many parents, this visit to a garden centre or pet store will sound familiar. Before you too get carried away and take the plunge, there are some serious considerations when getting a pet rabbit – or indeed any other ‘unusual’ pet, such as a guinea pig or a chinchilla.
Rabbits need adequate space, with a hutch and a ‘run’, that completely secure from outside intruders, such as dogs, cats, stoats and foxes. Rabbits love to dig and can easily climb, so it needs to be strong enough to keep them in too. Think also about the cost of vaccinations, bedding and food, as well as the presence of other pets (dogs and cats in particular). Also, rabbits are sociable creatures and need the company of others. On their own, they become wary and withdrawn. A lone rabbit is definitely not a happy bunny.
They need proper bedding and lots of access to fresh, quality hay as well as leafy greens, vegetables and ideally the branches of fruit trees in order to keep their teeth (which continue to grow throughout their lives) short and sharp. A continuous supply of fresh drinking water, regular feeding, daily cleaning and daily care are essential for a pet rabbit’s good health and longevity (they can live seven to ten years or more).
Remember too that rabbits are not cuddly toys; they are shy nervous creatures who can, if frightened, inflict a nasty bite. They really are not suitable for children under seven or eight years.
Rabbit fur, bedding and bagged commercial feed can be allergenic to humans, so that’s also worth look into. Consider too, who will look after your pet when you are away on holidays?
Rabbits can indeed make wonderful pets, but sensible decision-making and proper planning are vital for ensuring that your family and more importantly the rabbit(s) have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.