Monday, October 5, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department
Domestic rabbits are all descendants of European species and have been domesticated since the 16th Century. Selective breeding has led to the creation of more than 100 recognized breeds. A house rabbit's life span is from 8-12 years. Rabbits are gregarious and live in large communities in the wild so companionship for a rabbit is vital for its quality of life. This can be provided by another rabbit, an engaged owner, or best of all, both.
Rabbits require a large, single-level cage. Exercise is necessary in order to avoid abnormal and destructive behaviors. The cage should be made of an open, small-grade mesh material. The floor should be solid to avoid damage to your rabbit’s feet. High temperatures and high humidity must be avoided. Do not place in direct sunlight.
Rabbits are neat and clean animals, spending much of the day grooming. However, due to the nature of their coat, additional weekly brushing will help eliminate any possibilities of hairballs. Nails will need to be trimmed regularly.
Rabbits require a large amount of free-choice hay daily. This should be combined with a minimal amount of pellets with fresh produce offered daily. Due to the social nature of rabbits, they will learn to beg for food from owners.
Rabbits are prone to gastrointestinal stasis (intestinal blockage or lack of bowel movements). The best way to prevent this condition is through diet. Make sure your rabbit eats a high-fiber diet and drinks plenty of clean water.
Their incisor teeth will grow throughout the life of the animal. Provide plenty of options for chewing to help keep these teeth worn down. A variety of options are available to rabbit-owners. Always check enrichment items to make sure that they are safe for your animal.
Rabbits, by nature, are latrine animals. This means they will eliminate in one designated area. Due to this built-in behavior, rabbits are very easy to litter box train.
Chewing and digging are natural behaviors and unfortunately cannot be controlled, but can be redirected into positive outlets. Always make sure that the areas in which your rabbit has access to are safe and secure (cords should be unreachable, outlets should be covered).
Enrichment will help keep various behaviors in check, while providing stimulation for your rabbit. Boredom is the main reason behind most behavior problems in rabbits. Various enrichment items include:
Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Be consistent with your day-night cycles as well as your feeding schedule, and this will eliminate many unwanted behaviors.