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Before Getting a Rabbit….

This summer the ISPCA has been truly inundated with rabbits. The rabbits that have come in to our care are mainly pregnant females or unexpected babies.

The ISPCA National Animal Centre only has two outdoor hutches/runs, which have to be rotated, so all the bunnies can spend some time in the sun and nibble on the fresh grass.

The majority of rabbits that come into our care are a result of an irresponsible purchase.  90% of the cases solely because the rabbits where purchased without ‘sexing.’   The ISPCA then is left to deal with the babies; often the parents are passed on to us as well.

Please bear in mind:

Rabbits make good companions and smaller rabbits are easily handled by children. They are easier to handle than guinea pigs and live longer. Children need to be taught how to handle rabbits correctly to avoid harm and bad experience on both sides.

Rabbits need large hutches which are expensive to buy. Rabbits need plenty of space for exercise. Also hutches need regular cleaning and this is a big commitment.

A Rabbit Needs
- A mixed diet of oats, wheat, rabbit pellets, apples and carrots, together with some good quality hay.
- A mineral lick
- A supply of fresh water in a drinking bottle available at all times.
- A large hutch
- A clean hutch - cleanliness is very important
- A large enclosure in a garden for exercise. Rabbits burrow, so make sure the enclosure is escape-proof.
- To be looked after at holiday times.
- Your time and interest for the rest of its life.

Fact Sheet

Lifespan: 6 - 8 years

Sexually mature: 90 days - 120 days

Breeding: You should not breed your rabbit as it is very difficult to find good homes for the young. Remember that does (female rabbits) can become pregnant several times each year so a doe should never live with a buck (male rabbit) unless he has been neutered

In season (When female rabbit is fertile and can be made pregnant): Any time - in response to male

Gestation (Length of pregnancy): Approx. 31 days

Handling: Lift the rabbit using both hands. Take the weight of the rabbit on one arm and steady it by gently holding the scruff of the neck (loose skin behind the neck) or the base of the ears. Once in the arms, the rabbit can be held against the body with its head over one shoulder. Never lift a rabbit by its ears or by the scruff of its neck. Put the rabbit down hind legs first to avoid being kicked or scratched.

Companionship: Rabbits naturally live in groups called colonies and so they need lots of companionship. If the rabbit has to live alone, you must make sure that you spend lots of time with it.

However, it is not a good idea to put a guinea pig in with a rabbit because of the following reasons:

* They both have different diets; guinea pigs need a daily source of vitamin C, Whereas rabbits need extra vitamin D. The rabbit doesn’t need the  c and the guinea pig doesn’t need vit D.
* In the dry rabbit food there are antibiotics to prevent a common disease called coccidiosis; this antibiotic is fatal to guinea pigs.
* It is a common mistake to mix these different species, but please don’t mix them.



Symptoms include a yellow look, diarrhoea, dullness and loss of appetite. This is highly infectious and the rabbit should be kept away from any others. Seek veterinary advice immediately.

Constipation and Diarrhoea

Caused by not enough green food or too much green food. If this carries on for more than 24 hours, seek veterinary advice.

Fly strike

A summer problem especially for the long-haired rabbits. The 'strike fly' lays its eggs in faeces-soiled fur. Within 12-14 hours the maggots hatch and eat into the rabbit, eventually killing it. It is essential to stop this by daily cleaning of the hutch, replacing the bedding, and checking the rabbit is clean under its tail. Seek veterinary advice immediately.


Caused by too much food and not enough exercise

Overgrown teeth and claws

Teeth can become overgrown if there is a lack of gnawing material in the hutch. Lack of exercise causes claws to become overgrown and regular clipping may be necessary. Seek veterinary advice.


Fleas, lice, mites and ticks. Treatment is available from your veterinary surgeon.


This is similar to a cold. This is easily passed on to other rabbits and can lead to pneumonia. Keep the rabbit away from any others and seek veterinary advice straight away.

If your pet is showing unusual symptoms bring it to your local vet. 

Please think carefully prior to getting rabbits, as they deserve to be thought of more than toys living in a hutch.


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