Myth #1 – Rabbits Eat Lettuce. We really don’t recommend feeding your rabbit lettuce. Apart from containing very little nutritional value some are actually harmful in large quantities – such as Iceburg lettuce. However, you can feed bunny the darker fibrous versions, such as Romaine lettuce. Don’t forget that new foods should always be introduced gradually.
Myth #2 - Rabbits are a low maintenance, cheap and an easy first pet! Although your bunny won’t need to be taken down the park for a walk each day like a dog, he will need daily cleaning, daily fresh food and water - including a good variety of healthy greens and gnawing toys, daily grooming for long-haired varieties, daily exercise in a suitable enclosure, daily interaction –play time, and basic daily health checks.
Vaccinations are recommended and they can develop expensive chronic conditions which require regular medical attention resulting in expensive veterinary bills. The minimum estimated annual cost of keeping one outdoor rabbit is over £1000 per year!
Myth #3 - Rabbits don’t live long so it’s not a big commitment.
The average lifespan of a well cared for, rabbit is between 8-12 years. According to the Guinness World of Records the oldest rabbit lived 18 years - Wow!
Myth #4 – Rabbits should be fed a large bowl of commercial food each day.
Overweight Rabbits are one of the main health issues that Vets deal with daily. Eating too much commercial food can cause weight gain so try to limit the pellets to 25g per kg of your rabbit’s weight. This is roughly an eggcup-full. Muesli mix is not recommended as it is linked to a painful dental disease and tummy problems. If you feed muesli, gradually transfer bunny onto a healthier pellet only diet.
Myth #5 – Hay is just for bedding Hay should be the main source of food for your bunny and be made available at all times. As a guide you should feed them a bundle of fresh hay that is equal to the size of your bunny every day. Ideally rabbits should also have access to growing grass for grazing too, but never feed your lawnmower clippings to them as this can make them ill. Hay not only forms 90% of a rabbit’s diet, but also helps keep their teeth from overgrowing. A rabbits teeth grow 3mm a week!
Myth #6 – Rabbits eat carrots. Rabbits do love carrots and apples, and blueberries, and grapes, and many other fruits but these are high in sugar and so they should only be fed in small amounts. Treat it like chocolate is to us – a sweet treat, but too much is bad for you!
Myth #7 - Rabbits love being cuddled
Most rabbits do not like being picked up and carried. They are a natural prey animal and so they are always wary and will feel threatened or vulnerable if mishandled. Most will tolerate being handled if it is done regularly and from a young age, but if they are not supported properly they may scrabble, scratch or nip the handler in order to get down. They prefer to cuddle up next to you or sit on your lap for a nice head rub.
Myth #8 Rabbits do not bite
Rabbits can bite and do so for several reasons. Yours is less likely to bite if you provide a large area as a home, learn to handle it safely and securely and have him or her neutered.
Myth #9 Rabbits are fine living in a small hutch in the garden
Rabbits need space! Their large back legs are designed for running and jumping at speed so they need ample space and daily exercise. Smaller breeds can be more active than larger rabbits and so contrary to popular belief they may need more space. Always try to ensure your rabbit can stretch out fully when lying down and stand up fully on their back legs without their ears touching the roof of the enclosure. They need to be able to perform at least three hops in a row, this can be 6-7 feet! They will also need a secure, draft free area where they can hide when they are scared. The Rabbit Welfare Association recommends a hutch is at least a 6ft x 2ft x 2ft. That is a minimum recommendation and so the larger you can provide then the better!
Rabbits love to play and explore so provide them with toys in the enclosure. If you can’t afford to buy them there are plenty of free toys you can offer. Try wrapping a favourite food in brown paper for them to unwrap! Cardboard boxes make lovely hiding places or tunnels and cardboard tubes stuffed with hay are also a good way to amuse your bunny. Some rabbits love to dig so why not provide them with a planter filled with soil? One last play tip is to try scattering your rabbit’s pellets around the enclosure instead of putting it in a bowl. This gives them something to do all day!
Myth #10 Rabbits are dirty and smelly animals An adult bunny will spend a large amount of time grooming. If you have a pair of rabbits you will often see them groom each other – so cute! They can be litter trained so that they always poop in a tray which not only makes it easier for cleaning daily, but also keeps their homes nice and clean. Sometimes a lack of care can lead to a dirty, smelly rabbit. If you do not clean the living space daily there is a risk that your rabbit will build up excess faeces on their hindquarters. This can clog onto the fur and if left untreated it can cause a condition called Flystrike which can be fatal. For further advice about flystrike: http://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/general/flystrike
Myth #11 A rabbit can be picked up by its ears. Outdated Images of Magicians pulling rabbits out of a hat by its ears have encouraged people to believe that this is the best way to handle them. Never pick rabbits up by their ears. It would be extremely stressful and is highly likely to injure them. Scoop up the front of the bunny and then support the rear with the other hand and bring him to your chest. Hold rabbits gently but firmly, ensure one hand supports their back and hindquarters at all times. Help them feel secure by holding all four feet. Always supervise children when they are handling Rabbits.
Myth #12 Rabbits don’t need much attention and are happy on their own. Rabbits are social animals and should always be kept in at least pairs when possible. Always ensure that both are neutered! Contrary to popular belief it is not best for rabbits to share a home with a guinea pig and there are several reasons for this.
Rabbits may injure guinea pigs, intentionally or unintentionally: -by kicking them with their powerful back legs, -trying to mate with them (e.g. could injure the guinea pig’s back).
Rabbits may bully guinea pigs, which can make them stressed if they cannot get away.
Rabbits behave and communicate in very different ways to guinea pigs, so if kept together they won’t understand each other’s behaviour and therefore do not make ideal companions.
What if rabbits and guinea pigs currently live together?If they get on well, it‘s best not to separate them as this could cause welfare problems.
Your pet rabbit's ideal companion is another neutered rabbit of the opposite sex.
For more rabbit keeping guidance visit the RSPCA Advice and Welfare pages