Choosing a Rabbit

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It is easy to be bowled over by the first fluffy rabbit seen in a pet shop, but it is better to be prudent before buying. Sadly, many pet shops and garden centres source their animals from people who breed commercially. As such, your new pet may have been breed purely to maximise the number of rabbits in a litter and not for health or temprement.

The main things that you should consider when acquiring a rabbit are outlined below.

As with new cats and dogs, we are always happy to perform a 'new pet' health check free-of-charge on a newly purchased rabbit.

Age: The best age to acquire a rabbit is when it is between 9 and 12 weeks old, when it will be easy to handle and tame.
Breed: Small and medium breeds, such as the Netherland Dwarf and Dutch, are usually better for the inexperienced rabbit-keeper or for children. Heavier breeds, such as the Californian or Flemish Giants, or Angoras make ideal pets for the more experienced handler.
Sex:

Rabbits are social animals and should be provided with a companion wherever possible. Littermates can be kept together, but should be neutered if of opposite sexes. Unrelated females will usually tolerate each other if sufficient space is provided, but they can fight, inflicting nasty wounds. Un-castrated males will fight and inflict severe injuries.

Which ever you choose, it is essential to check that your rabbit has been correctly sexed. Even pet shop keepers and vets have been known to make mistakes in sexing an animal, so, to be on the safe side, double check for your self.

Health:

Always handle a rabbit before acquiring it. This will allow you to assess how tame the rabbit is, and to check over the following points:

  • The rabbit’s coat should be sleek and glossy, the ears clean right the way down the inside and the eyes bright, with no discharges.
  • Claws should be neither too long nor torn at the ends, and the teeth should be clean and also not too long.
  • There should be no visible wounds or abscesses on the body, and the back should be firm, without a protruding backbone.
  • Beware of any rabbit with a runny nose or diarrhoea – check for signs of diarrhoea, staining or matting of the fur under the tail.
  • Equally, there should be no signs of discharge from eyes or nose, nor should the rabbit be sneezing.
  • The fur around the nose and on the inside of the forelegs should not be matted.

Sources

Where to buy a rabbit depends partly on whether a purebred is wanted for showing, or whether a healthy, attractive pet will do just as well. A top quality show rabbit will have to be acquired from a specialist breeder, who can be contacted through rabbit clubs or by way of specialist magazines.

Many local pet shops also sell rabbits, which may be either pedigree or of indeterminate breed.

Alternatively you may like to offer a home to a ‘rescue’ rabbit, as sadly, like cats and dogs, many rabbits end up in rescue centres. Please ask at the practice for contact numbers of rescue centres and individuals who re-home rabbits, or see the ‘Rabbits - Further Information’ page at the end of this section.