Rabbits make great pets, and getting a new rabbit is an exciting experience for all involved. It can be overwhelming thinking about all the things your new addition needs to be happy and healthy. So we have put together a mini guide to help. 

What size enclosure does my rabbit need? 

The bigger the better! Rabbits love to explore and need to be able to move around and explore their environment. Traditional hutch style enclosures are not appropriate as they do not offer enough space for your rabbit to move around. And do not meet the welfare needs of your rabbit. Regardless of whether you are keeping your rabbit indoors or outdoors it is important the enclosure is a minimum of 3m x 2m x 1m in size. And that they have 24/7 access to this space. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) have produced in depth guidelines of setting up an appropriate enclosure for your rabbit. Read more about the welfare guidelines and recommendations for rabbit enclosures here.

Should I play with my rabbit when they first come home? 

Rabbits are shy animals. Being prey animals naturally, they are often scared of new environments. When your rabbit first arrives it is important they are left alone; and given time to relax and explore their new environment with minimal disturbance. Rabbits are very susceptible to gut stasis especially when stressed. Which is a serious disease that can be fatal. So it is important your new addition is left in peace to explore their environment and relax before they interact with you. 

Should I introduce my rabbit to my other rabbit and other pets straight away?

Your rabbit will need time to settle into its new environment and become comfortable in its surroundings. After this, your new rabbit will need a careful, slow, and staged introduction to your current rabbit. This is to ensure they both remain calm, happy, and healthy and avoid conflict and stress which can be detrimental to both of them. We’d recommend getting professional advice and help when thinking about introducing your rabbits to each other. Your veterinarian can offer you specific advice on this. And point you in the direction of local professionals who can also help. 

Other pets can be stressful to rabbits, as discussed above they are prey animals and naturally fearful. 

It is important to keep other pets away from your rabbit, both physically and visually; whilst they are settling into their new environment to avoid causing them unnecessary stress. Some pets may never be able to be introduced as they can pose too much risk of harm to each other. This depends on the individual animals. So it is important to consider this when deciding if you have the appropriate space and resources for your new arrival to keep all your pets separate long term if needed. 

When they are fully settled in you can slowly expose your rabbit to your other pets in a controlled fashion

This means that your rabbit remains safe and comfortable in their own environment. And can visually see your other pets for a small period of time. They should always be able to get away and there should always be a physical barrier between your animals so your rabbit is not at risk of injury and can hide if they want to. Slowly over time, this barrier can change to a barrier where your animals can smell each other. Then very slowly they can be introduced, with the time period of exposure increasing by small increments each time.

If at any point your animals become stressed or aggressive towards each other it is important to stop introductions immediately. As with introducing your rabbit to other rabbits, it’s important to get advice on introducing animals to avoid injury or distress. It can be a complex task and your veterinarian is a good first contact point for this. 

How do I choose a rabbit-friendly vet? 

It is important you register your rabbit with a vet as soon as possible. They will need regular check-ups including vaccinations and dental checks. If your rabbit gets sick it is important to have a vet you can call to get them seen to as soon as possible. 

All vets are capable of treating rabbits. But some vets have special interests in rabbit medicine or are specialist rabbit vets. The best way to find a rabbit-friendly vet is to do a search for vets who treat rabbits on the Find a Local Vet tool. You can then ring your preferred practice and ask if they have any specialist rabbit vets or vets with special interests in rabbit medicine. Ask them if they have any rabbit healthcare plans in place with their practice. And if they have quiet areas in their waiting rooms dedicated for rabbits and other small furries to wait away from other animals. Such as cats and dogs which can cause stress to rabbits. 

When you have found a practice that meets your needs, book an appointment to get your rabbit checked over. Meet your vet, and ask any questions you may have now your rabbit is settled in. It is advisable to do this within the first week of getting your new rabbit home. This is to make sure they are in good health and address any concerns as soon as possible. 

In summary: 

  • rabbits need space – a minimum of 3m x 2m x 1m at all times 
  • hands off – its important your rabbit has time to explore their new environment and get comfortable before they meet any other members of the family 
  • when thinking of mixing rabbits and introducing rabbits to other pets it is important to get professional advice 
  • register with a rabbit friendly vet as soon as possible and always contact your vet if you have any concerns about your rabbits health 

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