Rabbits make great pets, with a range of species available in New Zealand. They usually live for 6-8years. The following recommendations will help you give the best care to your rabbits.
Rabbits need a large hutch to allow exercising. It should also include an enclosed waterproof sleeping box and be covered with a strong mesh to protect from predators.
Rabbits will toilet in the same spot so a lining should be used to absorb urine as well as soft bedding like straw. Safe objects should be provided for gnawing. Sleeping areas and runs should be cleaned out at least once a week to prevent ammonia, moisture and bacteria reaching harmful levels causing illness.
Rabbits are herbivores that require a high fibre content in their diet which they get from grazing grass or hay. This should be fed with a small quantity of commercial dry pellet food and a small quantity of fresh veggies. Fruit should be kept as a treat - about 2 tablespoons a day. Avoid sudden diet changes as this can cause bad diarrhoea. Treats should be kept to a minimum (ie lettuce which can cause an upset stomach), and grass clippings should be avoided.
Rabbits always need to have fresh water supplied out of a bottle.
Calicivirus is common in wild rabbits and often transferred to pet rabbits, leading to death. For this reason rabbits should be vaccinated against Calicivirus (RHD). The vaccinations need to start from 10-12 weeks old with a booster 1 month later, and then yearly.
Good hygiene and diet usually helps prevent issues in rabbits but they can suffer from tapeworms, fleas and mites,coccidiosis, ringworm and hairballs. You also need to watch carefully for fly strike as this is common in rabbits. Routine treatment is often uncalled for but talk to one of our vets if your rabbit is scratching or losing weight.
Rabbits have teeth that continue to grow and are worn down as they gnaw on hard food/hay or safe wood. Sometimes they may need trimming if they overgrow and prevent your rabbit from eating properly. Signs often include salivating/drooling or not eating.