Q. My daughter is rabbiting on about getting a pet bunny. Can you tell me if they’re easy to keep, what I can feed them and how long they live? Sarah, Darwin, NT.
A. Rabbits are timid, gentle and curious creatures. Their soft coat and gentle temperament make them seem appealing, but they’re not great pets for kids. This is because children naturally want to cuddle their bunny, but rabbits don’t like being held. Rabbits are also a delicate animal and can easily become stressed or injured.
However, rabbits can be great pets for adults, and in a quieter household, as long as children are taught that a rabbit must be treated differently to a cat or dog (although it will start enjoying affection with time).
The average life span of a rabbit is between five and 10 years, and all pet rabbits should be desexed at around four to six months of age.
There are many breeds of rabbit, ranging in size from smaller rabbits (under 2kg) such as Dutch and Polish breeds, to the larger breeds (5kg and over) such as the Flemish Giant, which weigh up to 8kg – large enough to intimidate the cat! Crossbred rabbits (often found in pet shops) generally grow to around 3kg.
Like cats, rabbits can be trained to use a litter tray and can be very successful indoor pets. Put their litter tray in a quiet area of the house, away from their food and water bowls. If you strategically place some droppings and urine in the tray, most rabbits will almost certainly start to use it.
Rabbits should be fed a diet of hay and vegetables. Grass hay, such as meadow, pasture, oaten, cereal, or Timothy grass, should be available at all times. This type of diet is better for their digestive health, weight and teeth than pellets.If you’re in Queensland, please note that keeping rabbits as pets is currently illegal under the Land Protection Act.