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Abbey Veterinary Group
Your friendly independent two centre veterinary practice

Preventative Healthcare - Rabbit Behaviour

Rabbit Behaviour and Training

Rabbits can make wonderful companions both for adults and children. They are quiet, intelligent and enjoy company. Rabbits are sociable animals and if at all possible it is recommended that you keep at least two rabbits together. Litter mates can be kept together but should be neutered if of opposite sexes. Unrelated females will usually tolerate each other if they have sufficient space, but they can fight. The most stable pairing is a neutered female and a neutered male. Providing that you are patient and take the time to gain their trust, you will be rewarded greatly.

House rabbits

Should have a secure cage area where they can be safely left when the owner isn’t present. Exercise around the house should be encouraged but electrical cables need to be protected from chewing and poisonous house plants kept well out of the rabbit’s reach or not kept in the house at all.

Chewable toys are enjoyed as are cardboard boxes and some commercial toys.

Rabbits will readily learn to use cat flaps to gain indoor/outdoor access.

They are also easily trained to use a litter tray. Wood or paper based litter should be used as the clay types can be harmful if eaten. It may be necessary to add some of the droppings/soiled bedding, from the rabbit’s cage to the tray initially to encourage them to start using the litter tray.

Outdoor rabbits

Rabbits are generally hardy but need protection from extremes of weather. Exposure to direct sunlight without shade should be avoided as heat stress and heat stroke occur easily.

The hutch should be raised off the ground, with a solid front sleeping area and a mesh front living area. The mesh front should be protected with a cover or overhang to stop rain getting in.

The hutch should be at lease big enough for the rabbit to stretch out fully and stand on its hind legs.

An absolute minimum size for one small rabbit would be 60 x 24 x 42 inches. However bigger is better.

Abbey Vets Key Points

Behaviour and Training

• Although rabbits are small they need lots of space!!

• Socialise your rabbit as soon as possible

• Get used to handling your rabbit and your rabbit to being handled

•  House rabbits of any age can be toilet trained, but the younger they are the better

•  Rabbits need about 8 hours of exercise daily to stay healthy

• Ideally rabbit hutches or exercise runs should allow them to fully stand on their hind legs

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Treatment of sick and injured animals is obviously a very important part of our work, but we are great believers in preventative medicine.

and Training

Rabbits need daily exercise and to graze about 8 hours a day. So the hutch should be placed in a safe enclosure or a separate run provided. A minimum size run for a small rabbit would be 6 ft x 4 ft x 2-3ft high.

Don’t forget rabbits will burrow so precautions need to be taken to prevent escape. They can also jump so a mesh top for the run or pen will prevent escape as well as keep predators out.

They should be provided with “bolt holes” such as empty pet carriers or drain pipes to use if they are alarmed.

Toys and fruit tree twigs/branches can also be put in the run to entertain the rabbit.

To minimise the risk of disease, contact with wild rabbits should be prevented and fly and mosquito control should be considered in summer months.

Hutches should be cleaned and dried regularly.