The secret to happy bunnies
Our rabbit fosterers have been sharing their nuggets of advice and revealed that one of the secrets to a happy bunny is...hay!
From severely neglected rabbits, abandoned bunnies or healthy rabbits who are in need of a new home - rabbit fosterers see them all. Through years of fostering, they know the dos and don’ts for keeping rabbits happy.
Guildford fosterer, Anna Hull, has been fostering rabbits for years and has become an expert in bonding bunnies.
The secret is actually hay and grass. It’s the crux of everything for helping to keep bunnies happy and healthy, with a good gut and good teeth. Chewing hay and grass also keeps bunnies occupied, so helps stop them getting bored.
Much like rabbits in the wild who spend several hours a day grazing, pet bunnies also need to sit, sift through and munch on hay or grass.
A rabbits’ diet should be mostly good quality hay and/or grass
Good quality hay and/or grass should constitute the majority of a rabbits’ diet. Rabbits’ digestive systems need grass and hay to function properly and this is much more important than commercial rabbit pellets or nuggets.
Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously and need wearing down. As grass and hay are abrasive, eating lots of it helps to wear down their teeth. Not eating the right food can result in serious dental disease.
Anna also stressed the importance of rabbit bonding which has given her many sleepless nights over the years.
Rabbits are naturally sociable and prefer other rabbit company. It's not advised to have just one rabbit as bunnies can develop abnormal behaviour and may suffer if left alone for long periods.
I always sleep on the sofa for the first night so I can keep an eye on them.
Pet rabbits aren't that differwent from wild rabbits
Some negative behaviours are normal during introductions but these should not be allowed to escalate. A familiar person, like Anna, should supervise these first interactions.
Anna also reminds families who are looking to adopt rabbits that they are not as cuddly as their reputation might suggest. She tries to manage children’s expectations on what their pet rabbits will be like and advises them that they shouldn’t pick them up and cuddle them.
This is something that Suffolk fosterer Deb Williams stresses is very important. She has been a rabbit fosterer for us on and off since the 1990s, and says our pet rabbits are not so different to their wild cousins.
I think they are the most neglected pet we have due to a misunderstanding of their needs. I want to educate people on how it isn’t enough to keep them in a hutch or pen at the end of the garden. They need lots of space to be able to exhibit their natural behaviours.
Rabbits are more of a spectator pet. Often they don’t want to be stroked or cuddled but it’s great fun to have them in the garden and watch them interact and play amongst themselves.
Volunteer fosterers play a vital role
Deb’s garden has been transformed into a small community for rabbits. She says it’s very rewarding to see rabbits who have been living in cramped conditions make the most of the space in her garden and are now free to hop and jump around.
We rely on our volunteers, frontline staff and rabbit fosterers like Deb and Anna play a vital role in helping us continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care. If you're interested in volunteering take a look at what your local branch has available or upcoming events.
Rabbit Awareness Week runs from June 17-25.
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