Rabbits need lots of space and stimulation but most people are unprepared to give proper care to their pets.
Subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest stories and updates.
The year 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit according to the Chinese lunar calendar. While it’s tempting for people to buy a rabbit or two to usher in good luck and fortune, the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) issued a statement to advise people against it.
This is largely due to people’s unpreparedness to properly care for rabbits in their own homes.
CAP worries that once the novelty dies off, the poor pet rabbits will be left in terrible and filthy living conditions.
To top it off, most people and pet retailers are misinformed regarding the correct upbringing for rabbits.
The common misconception is the belief that rabbits are low-maintenance pets, which is untrue.
Most people will keep their rabbits in wire cages with little to no space to run around and exercise.
Keeping rabbits in a wire cage will hurt their tiny paws and cause ‘sore hocks.’ Pet rabbits are also often only fed with pellets when they should actually be fed with hay, grass, and fresh greens (not only carrots!).
Rabbits are also social creatures and they live in groups. Without stimulation, they can get bored which can lead to aggression, depression, and self-harm.
Despite their popularity, rabbits are among the most neglected animals that humans have domesticated, insensitive to the suffering such domestication often entails. It is time for people to change their thoughts about keeping (them as) pets and tackle the ignorance that is so prevalent.CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader
For those who want to usher in good luck and fortune in the Rabbit year, CAP suggests consumers buy a toy rabbit or figurine instead so that live rabbits won’t be subjected to poor care and living conditions.
What do pet rabbits need?
If you still plan to have a pet rabbit of your own, here are some things to take note of so the rabbits can live happily and healthily:
- They should not be kept in wire cages at all times. They need space to run around and exercise. If you’re not keen to give your rabbits free rein in your home, you can mark or cordon off a large area at home for the rabbits to play in.
- Rabbits are herbivores (they eat plants). As such, they will need to feed on grass hay such as barley, oat, and rye. Contrary to popular belief, a carrots-only diet is unhealthy for rabbits. They’ll need a mixture of fresh fruits and greens too such as berries, collard greens, kale, and broccoli, which are good for their bladder, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract.
- Make sure to provide clean water for rabbits to drink.
- Remember to rabbit-proof your home. They can chew or nibble on anything such as power cords, furniture, and upholsteries. As such, you might want to cover your furniture to protect them from teeth or claws. You also need to remove toxic plants and pesticides from your rabbit’s reach.
- They can be trained to use the litter box. A word of caution: rabbits can poop a lot and can even do so while eating. The litter box needs to be low enough for rabbits to get in and out easily, and lined with some hay or pelleted litter. However, the clumping kitty litter or clay aren’t suitable because the rabbit might fatally ingest it.
- Rabbits also need some resting or hiding areas at home. To do this, you’ll need to provide some ‘hidey holes’ in the form of a cardboard box full of hay or an untreated straw basket.
- Rabbits also need plenty of toys for mental stimulation and to help wear down their teeth. You can also collect dry branches, wooden chew toys, toilet paper rolls, shredded paper, or air-filled balls for this purpose.
- Remember to pick up the rabbit the right way. It’s advisable to grasp the loose skin over the shoulders or scoop the rabbit up under the chest and support the bottom and legs with another hand, instead of grasping the ears.