VET’S VIEW: Is your pet rabbit a ‘Bugsy Alone’?

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RABBITS being kept alone is a concern which has been raised by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

It follows a recent survey of veterinary surgeons, which found that one in five vets were concerned about the welfare of this popular pet.

A 2013 report from animal charity PDSA highlighted that 65 per cent of pet rabbits are kept alone.

If these rabbits are kept in a traditional hutch with limited human contact, it can be seriously detrimental to their wellbeing, because rabbits are sociable creatures and thrive on companionship. In the past, it was not uncommon to see rabbits and guinea pigs kept together, but nowadays experts agree that such combinations can lead to problems.

An ideal set-up is to have a neutered male and female rabbit together. That way, you avoid the obvious problem of unwanted babies while reducing the risk of fighting. Neutering can also help to prevent some medical problems in later life.

Pay attention to the size of the enclosure, too – it should provide enough space for the rabbits to move around freely, stretch out fully and stand up on their hind legs. And, of course, the run should be secure from predators, with somewhere for the rabbits to hide away and feel safe. It’s possible to keep rabbits indoors, but they should have some exposure to direct sunlight to help them make vitamin D.

In the home, they can prove real characters, interacting with their human carers – but remember that rabbits like to graze and they could turn their attention to furnishings and even electric cables, so please do take care!

The BVA’s Animal Welfare Foundation produces an excellent leaflet, Caring for Rabbits, and it is well worth reading if you are considering them as pets. You can download it from fom the website www.bva-awf.org.uk. And don’t forget, you can always ask your local veterinary practice for advice, too.