We’re Hopping Through the Years with Rabbit Awareness Week 2021!
Join us from 28th June - 4th July for this year’s Rabbit Awareness Week. Our theme is ‘Hopping Through the Years’ and we’ll be taking a look at how to care for your rabbits throughout their lives.
Kicking off the week will be preparing to own rabbits, examining everything new owners need to consider before they bring their bunnies home. For the next three days we will be taking you through each of the three life stages, from junior rabbits, through to their adult years and discussing all things senior rabbits.
We’ll be ending the week with a day dedicated to rabbit owners followed by rabbit rescues! Ever wanted to know how to adopt a rabbit? Or where the best place to adopt a rabbit is? Join us on Saturday 3rd July to find out with RAW’s Rescue Day.
The principles of great rabbit care lie in the five welfare needs. Check out our guide on how to meet these needs throughout your rabbits’ lives:
Don’t forget to follow us! Stay up to date with all things Rabbit Awareness Week on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Want to get really involved this year? Download your Rabbit Awareness Week pack today! With packs for owners, retailers, rescue centres and vets, you can help us spread the word of the best rabbit care.
Throughout a rabbit’s life, the principles of a great diet stay the same. Rabbits are herbivores, this means that rabbits can only eat a plant-based diet. Plus, they need lots of good quality fibre in their food. This is because a rabbit’s digestive system requires large amounts of fibre to keep their gut moving and help them digest all the essential nutrients they need.
Your rabbits’ diet should be 85-90% high quality feeding hay or fresh grass, supplemented with a small portion of tasty Excel nuggets, a handful of fresh greens and constant access to clean, fresh water. You can also give them the occasional Excel nature snack for a treat. The best food for your rabbits will involve all of these.
The Excel Feeding Plan will stay the same throughout your rabbits’ lives. However, as they grow from junior rabbits, to adult and into their senior years, they will have slightly different nutritional requirements.
What can junior rabbits eat?
Your junior rabbits are full of life! Constantly on the move, exploring the world and growing in confidence every day. They need a diet of 85-90% high quality feeding hay or fresh grass, supplemented with a small portion of nuggets, as well as fresh greens and fresh water.
Burgess Excel Junior & Dwarf Rabbit Nuggets with Mint are specially designed to feed to your junior rabbits. Their higher nutrient levels are tailored to faster metabolisms, and higher protein helps developing muscles. Plus, our recipe is high in beneficial fibre, great to help your junior rabbits’ digestive system.
Feed your adult rabbits with Excel adult rabbit nuggets – great from 16 weeks
Once your baby buns turn 16 weeks old, you can transition them onto Excel Adult Rabbit Nuggets. In two tasty flavours, mint and oregano, as well as light rabbit nuggets for overweight rabbits, tasty Natures Blend, and our indoor rabbit variety.
Don’t forget the hay! Continue to make sure 85-90% of their diet is high quality feeding hay or fresh grass.
The best food for senior rabbits
Your senior rabbits’ diet still needs to be 85-90% hay to ensure they get lots of essential fibre and to help support dental health. Continue to feed a handful of rabbit-friendly greens each day and ensure constant access to fresh, clean water. You can keep giving your bunnies the occasional Nature Snack too.
As your rabbit enters their golden years, they will start to slow down and become less active. You can help with the effects of ageing by feeding them rabbit nuggets specially designed for senior rabbits.
Burgess Excel Mature Rabbit nuggets with Cranberry & Ginseng contains special ingredients to help with some of the problems age can bring. The glucosamine in our recipe helps support healthy joints, while the added ginseng is there for increased vitality.
Did you know? In 2014, the University of Edinburgh published their research, which was supported by Burgess Pet Care, highlighting the risks of feeding rabbits muesli. The study found that feeding a muesli-style diet results in rabbits selectively feeding. This is when they pick out the high starch and sugary elements, leaving behind the high-fibre parts. Fibre is an essential part of a rabbit’s diet, so selective feeding leads to an unbalanced diet. Selective feeding may increase the risk of several health problems, including obesity related issues. Following the Excel Feeding Plan is a great way to help your rabbits get the best diet.
Where should my rabbits live?
Your rabbits can live outside or indoors and the principles of great housing are the same whichever option you choose.
The most important thing to remember is a rabbit hutch is not enough! The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund recommends a minimum enclosure size of 3m x 2m x 1m high for a pair of bonded rabbits. Your rabbits should be able to hop at least three times and lie stretched out. For more information on great rabbit housing check out RWAF’s website.
Some of the essentials for your rabbits’ housing are:
- Rabbit-proofed space
- Non-slip flooring
- Food bowl
- Water bowl
- Hay rack
- Litter tray and filling
- Hidey holes and tunnels
- Boredom breakers
- Bedding hay
- Lots of Excel hay!
- Excel nuggets
- Rabbit-safe cleaning products
The best environment for my junior and adult rabbits
For junior and adult rabbits, the main things to remember are:
- Enough space!
- Plenty of hidey holes for them to run to when they need to
- Constant access to fresh, clean water
- Hay racks and plenty of places to access high quality feeding hay or fresh grass
- Predator proof housing if they’re outside. RWAF have great advice on how to secure your rabbits’ housing.
- Regular cleaning with rabbit safe cleaning products
Housing for senior rabbits
Older rabbits will start to slow down as they age and may become less mobile. Despite this, they still need access to the fundamentals of great housing - you will just have to make a few adjustments! If your rabbits are indoors, make sure they have non-slip flooring such as rubber-backed mats. This will help steady them as they hop around.
Due to their more limited mobility, elderly rabbits may struggle to get in and out of high sided litter trays. You can normally find low sided litter trays to swap over. RWAF recommends using a plastic dog bed!
For outdoor rabbits, if they have a two-storey hutch or need to use a ramp, keep an eye on how they’re moving. They may begin to struggle and if so, will need steps in place of the ramp to help them with access.
Hay is a vital part of a rabbit’s diet. Placing hay in hay racks around their housing is a great way to ensure they’re getting enough. However, if your rabbits are finding it more difficult to move around you should consider making the hay even more accessible.
Did you know? There are an estimated 1.1 million pet rabbits in the UK! Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions about these brilliant animals. This is why we launched Rabbit Awareness Week 15 years ago – to help improve the health and welfare of rabbits across the world.
Your rabbits’ health
The average domesticated rabbit lifespan is between 8 – 12 years old! As we are learning more about the best care for our rabbits, they are living longer. To help keep on top of your rabbits’ health you should give them a regular health check.
Your rabbits’ daily groom is a great opportunity to check them over! Their body should be free from lumps and bumps, and their fur should be nice and shiny. Check that your rabbit’s eyes, ears and nose are free from any discharge. Your rabbit’s teeth should never become overgrown or misaligned so keep an eye on their mouth – just be careful of your fingers! Their bottom should be clean and free from droppings too.
When you bring your rabbits home it is vital that you register them with a rabbit friendly vet. Annual check ups throughout their life are a great way to keep on top of their health. You will also need to arrange their annual vaccinations for the life-threatening diseases myxomatosis, RVHD1 and RVHD2. We would strongly recommend investing in a good quality pet insurance for rabbits to help with some of their health costs.
The right diet and environment have a large contribution to your rabbits’ overall health. So, start on the right foot (or hock!) and give them great housing and a balanced diet, with lots of hay as soon as you bring them home.
The Rabbit Welfare and Association Fund states “neutering is vital for a long and healthy life.” As well as preventing unwanted litters, it will also prevent health issues. Unfortunately, up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits can develop cancer of the uterus by the age of 5.
You can get your male rabbits neutered as soon as their testicles descend, which is normally around 10-12 weeks. Generally, the ideal age to spay a female rabbit is around 16-20 weeks. The best thing to do is to speak to your vet. Every rabbit is different, and they’ll be able to advise you as to the best time for your rabbits.
Keep up to date with your rabbits’ vaccinations throughout their adult lives. These are essential to protect your rabbits and any they might come into contact with. Continue to keep an eye on their overall health, giving them a quick body condition check each day.
It’s also a good idea to regularly weigh your rabbits. If you notice that your rabbit is putting on weight, or if your rabbit is not eating and losing weight, take them to the vet for a check up.
Your senior rabbits’ health
Continue to check your rabbits over regularly and groom them daily. As your rabbit ages, they will become less mobile. The glucosamine in our Burgess Excel Mature Rabbit nuggets helps to support ageing joints. However, it is always a good idea to pay close attention to whether they are still able to each their caecotrophs – the sticky droppings that rabbits eat to digest all of the fibre from their food. Your rabbits will normally bend right over to eat them straight from their bottoms. However, an older rabbit might not be able to move in the same way. If not, you will need to help them so they can get all the essential fibre they need.
Although slowing down is a natural sign of ageing, it could be a symptom of arthritis. If you have any concerns, take your rabbit to the vet. They will be able to do an x-ray to diagnose any possible conditions. If they do have arthritis, they can take medication to improve the condition.
Giving them a friend for life: Rabbit companionship
Rabbits are social animals so need to be in pairs or small groups. Don’t forget to make sure they’re neutered! Not only does this have health benefits, it can reduce aggression and will prevent unwanted litters.
Rabbit should never be paired with guinea pigs or chinchillas. As the bigger species, rabbits can bully the others and can carry a bacteria that is harmful to the other animals.
Littermates will normally make the best companions - although they need to be neutered as rabbit siblings can mate! Never bring home a rabbit on their own unless you are bonding them with another bunny.
If you are adopting a rabbit, or introducing a new rabbit into a group, it’s important to leave plenty of time to complete successful bunny bonding. Introducing your bunnies to each other can be a slow process. Start with a barrier between them and then slowly build up time spend together supervised on neutral ground. Always make sure when they are getting to know each other there is two of everything; two water bowls, two hay racks, plenty of hiding places. This will help them to retreat to their own space.
Every rabbit is an individual, so it could take time to get used to each other. For full details on how to successfully bond rabbits, take a look at our blog.
Senior rabbits: Losing a companion
Unfortunately, when a rabbit passes away, they leave their companion behind. After being paired for life, this can be difficult for the remaining rabbit and, just like you, they will need time to grieve. RWAF recommends letting your rabbit spend a little bit of time with their body – this is their chance to say goodbye.
Senior rabbits can be bonded with a new companion. There are often lots of older bunnies at rescue centres across the country looking for a companion and a new home.
Rabbit behaviour: What makes your bunnies tick?
Understanding your rabbits’ behaviour is a great way to get an idea of how your buns are feeling. Learning the secret bunny code means you can catch signs of ill health early, find out what makes them happy, what irritates them, and monitor their overall wellbeing.
The main bunny behaviours will remain the same throughout their lives. Here’s some of the main ways that your rabbits communicate:
- Binky: If you’ve ever seen your rabbits jumping in the air and twisting it’s a great sign! This movement is called a binky and happens when your rabbits are happy.
- Biting: If your rabbit bites you, it is likely because they feel threatened, scared or stressed. If so, try to determine what might be making them feel that way and remove it. A small nip, like a pinch, is a sign that your rabbit wants your attention.
- Ears on alert: When a rabbit’s ears are up this means they’re on alert. They’ve spotted something and they’re paying very close attention. On the other hand, when your rabbit’s ears are down, they’re relaxed.
- Grinding their teeth: When rabbits grind their teeth it’s important to listen to how loud they are. Loud grinding is a sign that your rabbit is in pain and they need to see a vet as soon as possible. Gentle grinding can sound like a cat purring. This is often a sign of contentment.
- Licking you or each other: Rabbits show affection by licking, so this is a good sign!
- Thumping: Rabbits thump to show their companions that there is danger around. It’s also a sign that they’re annoyed.
Discover more during this year’s Rabbit Awareness Week. Hop through the years with us over on our social media pages and join the conversation.