Small Mammals

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Rabbit Care

Rabbits are quiet, friendly and intelligent pets. The average life span for a domestic rabbit is 7 to 10 years and the following information will hopefully give you some guidance to looking after your rabbit well.


Rabbits should never be completely confined to a cage. It is essential for a rabbit to allowed to exercise – they are designed to run, roam and jump in large areas. Confinement in a cage can lead to obesity, pododermatitis, poor muscle tone and bone density, gastrointestinal/urinary problems and behavioural problems.

A cage can be used as base/shelter for the rabbit for part of the day or left open within an exercise area. The cage should be tall enough for the rabbit to stand up on their hindlimbs, have a resting area and contain a litter box. It should be easy to clean and indestructible (preferably made of metal).The floor can be solid or wire (or a combination) and the cage should be kept in a well ventilated cool area. It is important to guard against fatal heat stroke especially in the summer months when the humidity is high.

Your rabbit should be allowed to roam freely for a few hours every day within an exercise area. An exercise area can be made out of gates or panels which prevent access for your rabbit to chew furniture, electrical cables and ingesting toxic materials.

Rabbits are easily trained to use litter boxes. By initially confining rabbits to a small area with a litter box in one corner (ideally with a little hay and some droppings placed inside) – rabbits will naturally use the litter tray. It is important to ensure the litter tray’s edges are low enough to facilitate easy access. Pelleted litter is the best bedding and preferable to corncob, wood shavings and cat litter (which can cause impactions in the gut if ingested).

Rabbits require a protected area to feel safe and secure. Empty large cardboard boxes or tubes and wicker/straw baskets full of hay provide excellent shelters. Also washable material, such as fake fleece or absorbant baby blankets, provide excellent flooring materials that are not abrasive to the feet and easily cleaned.

Toys can keep a rabbit mentally stimulated. Branches of trees, untreated wicker/straw baskets , cardboard boxes/rolls and wooden chew toys provide hours of enjoyment by chewing. Rabbits also like toys that make a noise like a set of keys, metal cans or hard plastic baby rattles. To make toys more interesting – food can be hidden inside to encourage their natural foraging behaviour.


When lifting a rabbit, it is important to support the hindlimbs to prevent serious spinal injuries. Rabbits’ spines are fragile and can easily fracture with one strong kick of the backlegs in the air. These serious injuries frequently lead to euthanasia of an affected rabbit. It is best to grasp the loose skin over the shoulders of your rabbit or lift under the chest and then place your other hand underneath the back legs to lift your rabbit from the floor. Be careful that your rabbit does not jump out of out of your hands leading to a serious fall! Wrapping a rabbit securely in a towel in an excellent way of restraining a rabbit.