Good morning and welcome to another Rabbit Awareness Week! We’ve got lots of rabbit-themed posts coming up for you on our Facebook page, but first let’s talk a little bit about Rabbit Awareness Week, what it is, and what it means for you and your bunny.
What is Rabbit Awareness Week?
Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) was set up by a group of rabbit loving businesses and charities 12 years ago. The idea is to spend a week encouraging better care of rabbits, from their housing to their diet, to promoting understanding of certain diseases. Each year, the campaign focus is on a different part of rabbit welfare.
Why do rabbits need an awareness week?
Rabbits are one of the most common pets in the UK, but their welfare can be poor. For years, people had a poor understanding of what rabbits needed in order to be happy and comfortable, and it was common for rabbits to suffer whilst not having their needs met. It doesn’t help that, as prey species, rabbits often hide signs of stress and pain, meaning they suffered in silence. RAW set out to change this. As well as providing excellent, up-to-date, evidence-based information on the best care for rabbits, they also focus on one part of rabbit welfare each year with the hope that if the whole country pulled together on the subject, the information would get out there more easily. In 2018 they asked people to scrap muesli-style diets, and in 2017 they promoted the importance of hay.
Rabbit Awareness Week 2019
This year RAW runs from 1-9th June and will focus on the importance of vaccination, specifically vaccination against Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2). RVHD2 is a new variant of haemorrhagic disease that has come over from Europe. It causes sudden death and is highly contagious. Vaccinations are available and we recommend vaccination at least yearly against RVHD2 as well as Myxomatosis and the original viral haemorrhagic disease RVHD1.
The Five Welfare Needs of Rabbits
In UK law, all animals have to have their five welfare needs met. These include proper companionship (or solitude as applicable), proper diet, freedom to express normal behaviours, a suitable environment, and their health looked after. For rabbits, the following apply:
Mainly hay, as this is closest to their natural diet of grass. Rabbits should eat roughly their body size in hay daily. They can have small amounts of nuggets to provide vitamins and minerals, and small amounts of herbs and vegetables as a treat. Don’t forget they need access to fresh water at all times! Read our rabbit diet guide for more advice.
Rabbits are very sociable and need other rabbits in order to be happy. Most rabbits are kept in bonded pairs, and both should be neutered in order to reduce the risk of upsets.
The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund uses the tagline “a hutch is not enough”. A hutch is sleeping quarters only, and rabbits should have access to a much larger exercise area. Hutches have minimum size standards and at the very least your rabbit should be able to stand up and stretch without their ears touching the top (2ft for an average rabbit) and have 2ft space from front to back. Don’t forget that since you should keep two rabbits together, the hutch needs to be big enough for both to stretch out. More information on hutch design can be found here.
We recommend check ups at the vet every 6 months, to include a full dental check up and parasite prevention plan. Rabbits are experts at hiding pain, so you should learn the signs of a problem in order to spot them as soon as possible. We’ve got a blog coming up that will talk more about pain and diseases in rabbits.
Rabbits need room, diet, companionship and good health in order to express normal behaviour, so if you’re getting the other things right they’re probably doing pretty well. Give them toys to play with and rabbit-safe things to chew, as well as tunnels to race around in and boxes to play on. Rabbits ‘binky’ when they’re happy, so keep an eye out for this tell-tale sign that they’ve got everything they need.
How can you help Rabbit Awareness Week?
Rabbit Awareness Week is there to spread the word on good rabbit care. If you’ve got friends or family with rabbits you could direct them to the website for more information, or if you teach in a school you could talk to children about pets and their welfare needs. And if you’ve got a rabbit, don’t forget to check in for our rabbit-focussed blogs this month!