Are rabbits the right companion animal for you?
Rabbits can make delightful pets, but before you decide to take on this new responsibility, please look into and consider carefully the needs of rabbits and remember that these animals will rely on you to meet their needs every day of the year. The average life-span of rabbits is around ten years.
- Rabbits must never be housed alone. Companionship of at least one other compatible rabbit is key to maintaining their welfare (unless there is a good welfare reason not to, as advised by a veterinarian or qualified animal behaviourist). Human interaction, even daily, does not make up for the need for rabbits to be housed with other rabbits. It’s important to your rabbits’ welfare that they live in pairs or groups and desexing as soon as possible allows them to do this. Be careful never to put undesexed rabbits of the opposite sex together – there are not enough homes for all the companion rabbits already in New Zealand, so please do not breed any more – and remember that rabbits can reproduce from a very early age.
- Rabbits should be desexed. Rabbits are prolific breeders, but it is also important that they are homed with other rabbits as companions; therefore, it is essential for your rabbits to be desexed to prevent pregnancies and unwanted rabbits. Desexing also brings a range of health and behavioural benefits.
- Guinea pigs must not be housed with rabbits. Guinea pigs and rabbits are not compatible species. They are different animals who have different nutritional and living requirements. Being housed together can be incredibly stressful for both species. Also, a kick from a rabbit can kill a guinea pig and a bite from a guinea pig can lead to infections for the rabbit.
- Rabbits need the right environment, especially lots of space. Rabbits are active and need opportunities daily to hop, run, jump, and dig. They need to be provided with a secure living environment large enough for them to stand fully upright on their back legs and stretch out fully when they are lying down. If they are housed in a hutch, they should be provided with an additional area in which to exercise.
- Responsible animal ownership is more than just having the right equipment. Rabbits need daily care, good nutrition, lots of attention, and regular veterinary care. The time and money involved in looking after rabbits is an important commitment that should be carefully considered prior to taking on the responsibility.
If you do decide to bring rabbits into your home or garden, please consider rehoming rabbits from the SPCA or another animal welfare organisation. There are more companion rabbits
without permanent homes in New Zealand than there are homes available and breeding irresponsibly or for profit is making the situation worse. Click here to contact your local SPCA centre who will be happy to assist.
If you need to purchase some basic supplies before bringing your new rabbits home, look at your local SPCA shops where many items are available. When you buy from the SPCA, you receive quality products and are also helping other animals in need, as all revenue goes back into supporting the SPCA.