Like humans, rabbits and guinea pigs need exercise! If your doctor recommends 30 minutes of exercise a day, know that the same goes for your small pets. So rabbits and guinea pigs, get your little paws ready, it is high time to get back to sport! First, let’s take a look at why exercise is so important for rabbits and guinea pigs.
Physical and mental well-being
Exercise is necessary to keep your rabbit and/or guinea pig healthy. Movement contributes to your animal’s mental and psychological balance. It is therefore essential, in addition to the balanced food you provide, to devote time to physical exercise.
The muscles of your rabbit or guinea pig need to be trained. Your pet should be able to test their abilities, their limits, practice, have fun, and jump around. A stimulating environment will offer your animal dynamic days, without monotony, allowing it to flourish. Why not personalise your rabbits’ play area; add toys, create several spaces for it on raised platforms? They will thank you for it!
When your pet starts to play and run, it is a sign they’re happy and having fun. Get involved and engage with them in play to stimulate their senses and reflexes.
Prevent the risk of injury and obesity
Unlike a life in the wild, full of twists and turns, life for our domestic pets is a little different, with less movement and activity, rabbits and guinea pigs are at risk of becoming ill. Obesity is a common example of this. In the wild, they tend to run, to flee dangers, to fight against bad weather and to test their reflexes. They have to work hard to get food, dig a shelter, watch out for predators that are both high up (raptors and other birds) and on land. Their metabolism is used to such conditions, so they naturally have less weight problems.
Domestic rabbits and guinea pigs sometimes live in small places. As well as their daily feed, pets are also given extra treats throughout the day. Without exercise, they can easily gain weight. They must therefore be stimulated, otherwise a vicious circle sets in. By not exercising, your pets gain weight and the more weight they have, the harder it will be for them to engage in play and movement. Exercise is therefore recommended as soon as your rabbit or guinea pig arrives in your home.
A little tip to find out if your rabbit or guinea pig is the ideal weight: you should lightly feel your animal’s ribs by pressing on its belly.
In addition to obesity, a lack of exercise could lead to urinary problems, osteoporosis or even fractures. Rabbits and guinea pigs are therefore more fragile when raised in apartments and homes. By training your rabbit or guinea pig you are helping to strengthen its heart and to reduce the risk of injury from lack of movement. It’s not about overtraining, but allowing it to let off steam and move their bodies! Like humans, rabbits and guinea pigs experience problems relating to old age: strained muscle, wear and tear of the skeleton. The solution to try to get around your problems: exercise!
How do I keep my rabbit and my guinea pig occupied? What exercises are recommended to keep my pet in good health?
Platforms: a multitude of possibilities
Platforms are the ideal solution for keeping your pet healthy. They allow you to create different levels and customise your pet’s play environment as you see fit. By jumping up and down on organised level platforms, your rabbit or guinea pig will keep their bones and muscles in good shape. The platforms allow adaptation to the natural behavior of rabbits and guinea pigs.
The levels allow your rabbits and guinea pigs to exercise their muscles, jumping up and down the ramp. By reproducing natural climbs and descents, just like in the wild, your animal can, in complete safety, strengthen their core muscles and stimulate their minds.
The creation of a platform on several levels, allows you to vary the daily exercise of your pets, keep them in good health and in addition to that, it allows you to optimise the space. Completely modular and customisable, the Zippi Platforms from Omlet offer your pets new sensations and allow them to experience new adventures.
Vets and animal experts also recommend the use of different levels to stimulate small pets. Your rabbit or guinea pig may need some encouragement to begin with, but if you choose a sturdy and safe structure, your pet will soon realise taking their playtime to new heights is a lot of fun!
Zippi Platforms from Omlet are non-slip and allow your beloved pet to hop without fear of slipping. Always be sure to choose platforms that ensure your pet’s safety.
This multi-functional play area is suitable for all breeds of rabbits and all breeds of guinea pigs. It’s up to you to organize the space and platforms as you see fit according to your pet’s preferences.
Here are some ideas for setting up the platforms in the Zippi runs.
Nothing prevents you from adding many accessories to further personalize your pet’s play area: tunnel, shelters … You have endless possibilities! Your rabbit or guinea pig will feel comfortable to indulge in their favorite activities: jumping, running, skipping over obstacles and hopping around!
Perching high up, your animals can see the world around them from a new perspective. Curious by nature, they can finally enjoy their environment.
Platforms: an easy way to have fun together
What could be more important than enjoying this new play environment together? Your animals love to be admired and encouraged, and will love to spend time with you!
The height of the platforms will allow you to enjoy your animals from a new angle. Platforms allow you to sit down and be at their eye level, making interaction much easier. Comfortable for your back, of course, but also a new way to spend time and have fun with your rabbit or guinea pig. The possibilities to stimulate your pets will be diverse and you will be able to teach them how to use their new platforms.
Your children will be able to enjoy their pet in complete safety. This will make it much easier for them to play together. Interaction will be easier thanks to a height that will suit your pet as well as your children.
Exercise is essential for your pets. Don’t neglect this aspect of their lives: making an exciting playground they will love, can be great fun for you too!
Compared to a one-level play area, having an additional floor height in your rabbits’ enclosure boosts exercise opportunities, helping your rabbit activate muscles that they would use in their natural environment to climb up and down underground warrens. Jumping on and off a platform helps to keep muscles and bones strong, which is why platforms are recommended as an essential rabbit accessory by vets and pet charities.
Providing rabbits with a fun environment
As a rabbit owner, it is your responsibility to provide your rabbits with everything they need, and that includes a safe enclosure, where they can play, exercise, eat, and clean themselves. Providing a range of toys for play and exercise will help keep your rabbit happy and healthy, and Zippi Platforms are a great way to give your rabbits a playground they will love.
How can I give my rabbits more space?
Platforms are also an easy way of giving your rabbits more space to move around and explore. By positioning a platform in your rabbit’s enclosure you can make better use of the height to give an even bigger area for toys and exercise. The platform gives a look out for rabbits to examine their environment from a height, plus a more exhilarating way to exercise. While the area beneath feels safe for rabbits to relax and graze on hay or if they need to shelter from bad weather.
What are the Zippi Platforms from Omlet?
The Zippi Rabbit Runs and Platforms from Omlet are designed to offer a modular system that you can adapt at any time. The platforms fit securely to the Zippi rabbit enclosure so they feel safe underfoot, and are waterproof so they are easy to clean with just a garden hose and pet-safe disinfectant. Start small, and add more extensions and platforms at any time to build an amazing play area for your rabbits
5 Ways to Use the Zippi Rabbit Platforms
Need some inspiration on how you can use platforms with your pet? Take a look at our ideas below to create a fun and safe area for your rabbits to exercise.
Take shelter to new heights!
The Zippi Platforms offer shelter below for bad weather days, but your rabbits can still make the most of the second level in their enclosure during wind and rain, with the Zippi Shelters and Play Tunnels.
With a 3 panel wide rabbit platform, you can even position a Zippi Shelter at either end and connect them together with a Play Tunnel. Or position one rabbit Shelter on the platform and one below. Don’t forget to pop some hay inside the Shelter on the platform so your rabbits can nibble away on a snack while they wait for the storm to pass!
The Corner Platform for rabbits with a multi panel platform pack can be used to create an L shape mezzanine area with 2 ramps. Depending on the length and width of your Zippi enclosure you can either position both ramps in the same direction, or create a slight spiral effect like in the image below.
In a longer Zippi run, around 4 or 5 panels in length, you can position Zippi Platforms opposite each other so your rabbits can run straight down one ramp, and back up another for a loop-the-loop circuit! Don’t forget the Zippi Platforms are strong and sturdy so your rabbit will feel safe to jump and hop up and down the ramp.
Lunch on the balcony, sir?
Position Caddi Treat Holders to hang over the platforms so your rabbits can enjoy their lunch with a garden view. Mix up the ingredients in the slow release feeder to keep rabbits excited, and ensure a 5 star rating for your new bunny bar! These feed toys can also be used as a hay rack to keep the floor of your rabbits’ house or play area clean.
Zippi Tunnel to the first floor!
Combine the Zippi Platforms with our popular Zippi Rabbit Tunnel System by positioning your Zippi Tunnel entrance up on the platform level. This means your rabbits can hop up and down the Zippi Tunnel to get from one enclosure to their platforms, down the ramp and into another Zippi Run.
Any rabbit owner looking for more space for their pets will be delighted to receive this 2×2 Outdoor Rabbit Run. The run is extremely stable and secure, and can be connected to an existing Eglu Go Hutch with or without run with a simple connection kit.
This is perfect if you, or the person you’re buying a gift for, want to give rabbits or guinea pigs a bit more space to play on in the garden. Choose between the full or low height, both are currently 10% off in the Omlet Winter Sale!
Zippi Tunnels, Play Pens & Runs
Zippi is the perfect way to enhance your pets’ life. The amazing tunnel system allows you to create a burrow-like path in your garden that your rabbits and guinea pigs will love exploring. Expand with corners and T-junctions, and add intrigue with hayracks and lookout towers!
The Zippi Tunnel System also makes it super easy for your pets to independently move between their hutch and a remote run or playpen, so that they can come and go as they want throughout the day.
This is the perfect opportunity to extend an existing system, or to start a completely new one! All Zippi Tunnel System parts are discounted by 20% in the Winter Sale, and the Zippi Run and Playpens are currently 10% off!
The Caddi is the perfect stocking filler for any small animal lover. This interactive treat holder can be hung from the roof of any hutch or run, and can be filled with fresh vegetables or hay for rabbits and guinea pigs to enjoy.
It’s super easy to refill, will keep the pets’ snacks fresher for longer, and they will love the challenge of the swinging Caddi as they go in for a bite!
Rabbits make great family pets, and there are many different breeds to choose from. Some are suitable for first-time owners, while others require a little more expertise. The following list includes rabbits that can be kept by families or individuals with no previous experience of rabbits.
There is one golden rule that covers all rabbits – they are not suitable for young children. Most rabbits do not like being constantly picked up, they are naturally nervous, and they need gentle but confident handling. They are also quite fragile animals, and can easily break limbs, or even their backs, if they fall from your arms.
So, as long as you handle them with care and give them plenty of space to run around in, these seven widely available breeds will soon be firm family favourites.
If they have not become accustomed to people in their first few months, Dutch Rabbits can be very jumpy, and may bite and claw. When buying from a pet shop, always ask how old the rabbit is, as animals more than 12 weeks old may be tricky to tame.
This comes back to that central point – most rabbits don’t like being picked up. If your pets are going to be spending their time in a run, though, without being handled all the time, age is not an issue.
Being small, these rabbits used to be popular gifts for children. However, small does not mean easier to handle or easier to look after – in rabbits or any other type of pet. Dwarf Lops are fine for children who are able to learn how to handle rabbits correctly, and who are happy to groom their pet regularly to prevent the long fur from tangling. They are not suitable for small children, though.
The English Spot is a black and white beauty, instantly recognisable due to its Dalmatian-like spots. They are placid rabbits, and if they are stroked and petted from a young age, they become very happy in human company. Children should still be supervised when interacting with these rabbits, though, as even a chilled breed like the English Spot can become skittish if there is too much noise or inexpert handling.
Netherlands Dwarf Rabbits
One of the great things about the Flemish Giant – and it really is huge – is its chilled-out temperament. If socialised while they are still very young, they can be taught to use a litter tray, and can live in a house like a pet dog. However, they still need to be treated with respect and handled correctly, to prevent them panicking and using those big teeth.
Netherlands Dwarf Rabbits
This breed is increasingly popular, and a lot of that popularity is based on the rabbit’s super-cute looks. No matter how old it gets, it always looks like a baby. As a result, it is often bought for children, but this sometimes results in a very nervous and skittish pet that never properly settles down. This is because the rabbit is naturally timid, and unintentionally rough, noisy, excited handling can turn it into a nervous wreck.
The Netherlands Dwarf is an intelligent breed, though, and responds well to gentle handling. It is therefore essential that children should handle the rabbit gently, and an adult should be present during handling sessions. The patience pays off in the end, as this clever little rabbit can be litter trained, and can even be taught to respond to simple commands.
There are several different types of Rex, all with a genetic quirk that makes their short fur stand up rather than lie flat. This makes them very ‘strokable’, and fortunately, the rex is a rabbit breed that really doesn’t mind being stroked a lot. Their placid nature makes them popular family pets – although, once again, younger children will still need supervising when making friends with these bunnies.
The key takeaways here are that rabbits are not the easiest pets to look after, but with patience and appropriate handling they can become very attached to their human friends. It’s also worth remembering that, unlike smaller pets such as gerbils and hamsters, rabbits can live for eight to 14 years, so being an owner is a big commitment.
We often get questions from new rabbit owners about how to care for rabbits in the winter and asking if their pet rabbits will be happier inside during winter. We’ve put together the advice we normally give in this blog, so that everyone can make their own decision about whether bringing the rabbit into the house or keeping your pet outside is the best option for you.
Can rabbits live outside during the winter months?
Yes, as long as your pet rabbits are healthy and have a hutch that will keep them warm and dry, letting your bunnies stay outdoors for the winter months shouldn’t be a problem.
Both wild and pet rabbits cope relatively well with colder temperatures (they actually struggle a lot more with heat), as long as they have a dry and sheltered area where they can hide in cold weather. For wild rabbits, this is their underground warrens, and for your pet bunny it will be a well designed hutch and run.
It’s important that you make sure that your rabbits’ home has got everything they need to keep warm and dry while it is still nice and warm outside. If the hutch is damaged in any way you will want to have time to fix it, or to get a completely new house for your bunnies, before it gets too cold.
The Eglu Go Rabbit Hutch with insulated walls will protect your rabbits from the wind and rain, and keep them warm even when the weather gets really bad. The draft free ventilation makes sure fresh air moves around the hutch, without making it damp or cold.
But will they be happier inside?
Not necessarily. Indoor rabbits will need to adjust to their new home, and if it’s the first time they are taken indoors, this can be a bit distressing to start with. You will need to provide them with a safe area where the temperature won’t fluctuate massively they will get enough exercise and mental stimulation throughout winter.
The important thing when it comes to keeping rabbits in winter, whether you decide to stick with the outdoor hutch or let them come inside the house, is to make a decision and stick to it.
When summer is over and the temperatures start dropping, the rabbits will grow a thicker winter coat and fur pads on their feet. This will gradually get thicker as the months go by. The coat is great at keeping the rabbit warm outdoors, but once the rabbit is fully prepared for winter, you will have lost your window of opportunity to move them indoors.
A rabbit with winter fur should not be taken indoors unless absolutely necessary. Rabbits can’t sweat, and the sudden heat will quickly raise the rabbit’s body temperature to dangerous levels. In serious cases, this temperature shock can be fatal, so make sure you make a decision about where the rabbits live, and keep them there permanently.
How cold is too cold for rabbits?
It’s difficult to say a specific temperature at which you should start worrying about the wellbeing of your bunnies. If it has gradually got colder over a longer period of time, your pets will have thickened their coat, and will be fine in temperatures as cold as -10. It’s more problematic if the temperature suddenly drops, as the rabbit will not have had enough time to get used to the cold.
If you’re worried, consider the option of moving the hutch into a shed or garage. Rather than moving the bunnies indoors straight away, you can keep them covered and sheltered for a bit before you decide if they can go back out into the garden, or if they need to move inside permanently.
If you let the rabbit live in a warmer area, he or she will within a few days start shedding its thick fur, and after about a week you will not be able to move them out into freezing temperatures again. This is another reason it’s important to choose a course of action and stick to it.
Any animal in distress should be taken straight to the vet to get help and advice. The main worry for a pet rabbit living outside in cold weather conditions is hypothermia and pneumonia. To prevent these owners must check on their pet regularly and make sure their home is safe, warm enough and free from damp areas.
What can I do to help my rabbits in winter?
This advice applies if you keep rabbits in an outdoor rabbit hutch and run. If you’re moving your pets inside you won’t have to worry too much about protecting them from bad weather.
The rabbits still need to run and exercise as much as they do in summer, but make sure you’re also giving them the opportunity to go inside the hutch and rest if they need. The Eglu Go Hutch with run connected to a Zippi tunnel with additional runs and play pens lets the animals run between different areas as and when they like. Moving about will help your rabbit stay warm, and will keep them physically and mentally stimulated. Provide a few extra toys, tunnels and hidey-holes that they can run between.
• Position and cover
Move your outdoor rabbit hutch to a sheltered area of the garden, facing away from the prevailing wind and rain.
During the day, cover the roof of the run with a clear cover that will prevent your rabbits getting wet and damp, while still letting the light in.
Provide plenty of extra bedding in the hutch, and put an extra layer of newspaper and straw at the base of the hutch if you’re worried moisture and cold air will get into the hutch that way.
Regularly check the hutch and make sure your pets have plenty of dry, warming bedding. Blankets or hot water bottles are not a good idea as the rabbits are likely to chew them, but you can put a microwavable heat pad in with the hay that will provide extra warmth to your pet.
• Food, water and treats
If they are living outside, your pet rabbits need to eat more in the winter to stay well. Digesting food will heat their bodies and help them keep warm.
We advise giving your rabbits more food gradually as the weather gets colder. Check if anything has been left at the end of the day, then you are giving them too much. Give them plenty of treats, both healthy vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, and shop bought chew treats that will wear down their teeth. Always make sure they have a good amount of hay in the hutch, as hay should make up a high percentage of your bunny’s diet.
Check your rabbit’s water bottle regularly to make sure the water is fresh and hasn’t frozen. It may be good to have two bottles, so you can swap them every time you go outside to see your animals.
Autumn is the perfect opportunity to take some time to make sure your bunnies are happy with their setup in the garden. Whether you’re planning to let them stay outside over winter or move them inside before the real winter chill, there are still a few months left where your bunnies might need a bit of extra help and support. Here are some easy ways to upgrade the rabbit run!
First of all, take a good look at your run and assess if it is good enough for your beloved bunnies, or if there is room for improvement. Whether they have an Eglu Run, Outdoor Rabbit Run or Zippi Run, you can make it larger with practical and easily assembled extension panels. That way your bunnies have more space to run around on, and you can add more fun accessories that will keep them busy in the colder months.
Omlet’s herbal Pet-Pourri is a carefully selected blend of dried herbs and flowers that will add a summery touch to an autumnal run. You can sprinkle the mixture on the floor of the hutch, or mix a handful into the hay, and your rabbits will love the scent and taste of the delicious blend.
The different components of the Pet-pourri are also said to have medicinal properties that will help them stay clear of the coughs and runny noses associated with autumn. You can read more about the health benefits of the Pet-pourri here.
Leftover food and treats lying around the run not only makes it look a bit sad and untidy, it can also attract rodents and other pests, and if you’re not vigilant with your cleaning your rabbits might accidentally ingest something that has gone mouldy.
A great way of upgrading your run, and feeding your pets yummy and nutritious treats, is to get a Caddi Treat Holder. Fill it with fresh grass, allotment veg or some chopped up fruit, and hang from the top of the run. The rabbits will love the swinging motion of the holder as they try to grab a delicious mouthful, and the spillage will be minimal. Additionally, you will be able to keep track of when you gave your rabbits which treats, so you can alternate between different ones and make sure nothing that has gone off is still in the run.
The Zippi Shelters will be a great addition to your run this autumn, as they provide both (surprise surprise) shelter and an invitation to stimulating play. Rabbits have a natural instinct to seek a hidey hole, and in the wild they create ‘rooms’ in their warrens where they can come to relax and have a nap. The Zippi Shelters will provide exactly this, but in your pet rabbits’ run. They will also love running in and out of, or jumping on top of the Shelter to survey their surroundings.
Although the rabbits will always have their hutch to retreat to when it gets wet or windy, it’s great to have another spot where they can get away from the inevitable autumn showers. The shelters are sturdy and waterproof, and your rabbits will love hopping in to relax.
As it gets colder your rabbits will use more energy to stay warm, so it’s the ideal time to stock up on treats for the cupboard. Make sure you find a good balance between fresh fruit and veg and shop bought treats to put on the run, like these Nettle and Dandelion roots that are full of vitamins and minerals, or the Beaphar Crunch Sticks that encourage healthy dental wear.
Here’s why the Caddi is the perfect choice for your treat-loving pets…
The Caddi Treat Holder decreases the rate at which your pets will eat their treats. Slower treat release through the gaps in the holder means more satisfaction for longer, and prevents over indulgence.
The Caddi Treat Holder swings around and creates a rewarding, interactive game to keep your pets entertained, which is especially great for rainy days! Your pets will love the stimulating experience of foraging for their treats, and enjoy hours of rewarding fun.
The Caddi allows you to feed your pets treats without having to throw them on the ground. This improves run cleanliness, reduces food waste and prevents pests, as well as being a healthier solution for your pets. Simply hang the Caddi from the roof of your pet’s run with the plastic hook and use the string to adjust the height to suit your pets.
Endless treat opportunities! With the Caddi Treat Holder you can feed a range of fresh greens, fruits and vegetables to your pets, you can use it as a hay rack for rabbits, or fill it with pecker balls for hens. Get creative and reward your pets with exciting new flavours in the Caddi.
You can save 50% on the Caddi Treat Holder until midnight on Monday, just by signing up to the Omlet newsletter. It’s a great deal for you, and an exciting new treat dispenser for your pets! Enter your email address on the Caddi page to claim your discount code.
Now available for just £4.99 if you sign up to the Omlet newsletter!
Terms and conditions This promotion is only valid from 12/08/20 – midnight on 17/08/20. Once you have entered your email address on the website you will receive a unique discount code that can be used at checkout. By entering your email you agree to receive the Omlet Newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any point. This offer is available on single Caddi Treat Holders only. The offer does not apply to Twin Packs or bundles with Omlet Peck Toys or Feldy Chicken Pecker Balls. Offer is limited to 2 Caddi Treat Holders per household. Subject to availability. Omlet ltd. reserves the right to withdraw the offer at any point. Offer cannot be used on delivery, existing discounts or in conjunction with any other offer.
Rabbit owners often ask us if pet bunnies can swim. The answer is yes – but in many ways, it’s the wrong question. If you ask “Do rabbits enjoy swimming?”, the answer is definitely no.
Most mammals are capable of swimming, but not many actually take a dip unless they are forced to. We all know that cats hate water – but they can and will swim for safety if they have to. Rabbits are the same. In times of flood, or if chased by predators, they will sometimes jump in at the deep end and swim for it.
Which brings us to one of many rabbit myths. Bunnies have webbed feet – surely a sign of an animal intended for swimming? Well, no. The webbed feet are there to help rabbits hop and run – not swim.
What about all those swimming bunnies on YouTube?
A quick YouTube search will produce a list of video clips showing bunnies apparently enjoying themselves in garden pools; but you will struggle to find a clip in which the rabbit voluntarily enters the water. Some can be trained to do so, in the same way as a circus can train animals to do all sorts of things they wouldn’t otherwise choose to do. And that’s the main point – turning your pet rabbit into a circus act is inhumane.
In the various videos of swimming rabbits, the animals don’t appear panicked or distressed. But that’s just the rabbit’s way of surviving. It knows it can float, and it knows it can paddle to safety. It’s not going to thrash around and drown, and nor is it going to give any clues to how it’s feeling in its facial expressions. A rabbit serenely gliding across a garden pool is doing one thing only – surviving.
This has become a contentious issue, and there are even online petitions to prevent swimming bunny videos being posted online. As far as the signatories of the petitions are concerned, this is animal cruelty, nothing more and nothing less.
Healthy Swimming for Rabbits?
There is circumstantial evidence that some rabbits like to float in the water to ease arthritic problems, or simply to clean themselves and/or cool off. The only advice that can be given here – after taking such evidence with a pinch of salt – is to let the rabbit lead the way. A bunny who voluntarily takes a dip does not necessarily need dragging from the water and locking away somewhere dry and safe. The swimming is, no doubt, great exercise, just as it is for humans.
However, the fact that a rabbit enters the water may indicate an underlying problem – perhaps they do, indeed, have joint problems, or maybe their enclosure has an outbreak of fleas, lice or mites, something that might lead a bunny to desperate measures in the garden pool!
And the fact that it’s a garden pool presents another potential problem. Pools tend to have chlorine and other chemicals in the water, and these can irritate a rabbit’s eyes, nostrils and skin. Even untreated water can cause skin irritation if a rabbit remains wet for too long. Rabbits have very small lungs, too, and even a small amount of water breathed in by mistake can prove fatal.
If your pet rabbits voluntarily take to the water, dry them thoroughly after they’ve finished exercising. If you’re considering aquatherapy for rabbit joint-related problems, speak to a vet first.
The rule of thumb on this issue is simple – don’t put rabbits into pools or other bodies of water. Yes, they can swim; but no, they don’t like it. Usually!
Omlet’s new herbal Pet-Pourri is the perfect way to treat your pet rabbits. The carefully selected blend of herbs and flowers will make the hutch smell lovely and fresh when mixed in with the bedding or hay.
Rabbits are known to nibble everything that comes in their way, so all ingredients are completely safe in moderate doses. In fact, they are all nutritious and flavoursome, and are thought to have medicinal properties that can support your rabbits’ skin, bones, immune system and respiratory and digestive organs. Here is a list of the ingredients of Omlet’s Pet-Pourri, with a short introduction to why they might be beneficial to your rabbit!
There is no data to show to what degree these ingredients might be beneficial to rabbits, neither that they will be effective for all individuals. If you think your rabbit is not well, please contact your vet immediately to get help and advice.
Nettle – This green plant is one of the richest sources of chlorophyll around, and is high in iron, sodium and chlorine. Apart from repelling intestinal worms, it can also prevent many contagious diseases, and is said to be useful when your rabbit is battling eczema or arthritis.
Marigold Flower – Marigold can be good for wounds, bruises, ulcers and other skin problems. It also settles an upset rabbit tummy.
Hibiscus Flowers – Contains large amounts of antioxidants, and is a great source of vitamin C, something rabbits need on a daily basis. It has been shown to help prevent bladder infections as well as constipation.
Dandelion Leaf – This weed is quite the superfood for rabbits! It is said to help with respiratory ailments and bladder infections, is anti-inflammatory and can stop diarrhea. It is also recommended to give dandelion to a doe just after she’s had a litter, as it stimulates milk flow.
Chamomile Flower – Chamomile is a great treat for a nervous rabbit, as it is believed to have a calming effect, and can also work to help relieve pain. Made into an infusion with water it is great for washing weepy eyes.
Dried Carrot – Carrots are high in fibre, calcium and vitamin A, and will be a great treat for your pet.
Parsley – Apart from being flavoursome and crunchy, parsley enriches the blood and helps treat urinary problems. It has anti-inflammatory properties for the bladder and kidneys, and can help boost fertility.
Peppermint – Mint is said to be good for colds and eye infections, and can have a relaxing effect on the digestive tract, which is useful for problems with indigestion.
Basil – Some say this herb has cancer-preventing properties, and is believed to be good for problems with joints and muscles.
Fennel Seeds – Fennel is used to boost milk production for nursing does, and is thought to help calm a bloated stomach.
Some pets are pretty obvious with the way they show love and affection. A dog might be the best example of this; with a wagging tail, smiling face and licking tongue, dog owners rarely have to guess if their dog is excited to see them when they get back from work in the evening.
With rabbits it’s a bit more complicated. First of all, it often requires a bit more work to get your pet rabbit to trust you. As prey animals, they are naturally shy and cautious, and it may take a while before they warm up to new people. However, once they know you and trust you, they are extremely affectionate animals that love spending time with their owners. They might just have slightly different ways of showing it!
If your rabbits do all or some of the following things, you can be sure that they feel genuine affection for you.
They stop being nervous
When the rabbit is new to you, it’s normal that they seem skittish or jumpy. This is to be expected, and it may take a while before the rabbit realises that they are safe in their new home. The first signs that your rabbit is warming up to you is that they stop some obvious nervous behaviours. Maybe they no longer jump back when you reach your hand towards them with some treats, stop running into the hutch whenever you approach or start to relax their body language. These may seem like small things, but they are steps towards your bunny feeling true love for you.
They groom you
When two rabbits live together, they lick, nibble and groom each other as a way of showing love and affection. If your rabbit likes you, he or she might start to lick you or your clothing, nudge your arm or nibble on your finger. This is a sign that you are seen as part of the rabbit’s family, and that they care about your health and cleanliness.
They want to be stroked
If you rabbit comes up to you and starts pushing their head against your hand or put their head on your arm it’s a sign that they love you and want to spend time with you. It means your rabbit trusts you know what you’re doing and won’t hurt them, and is a true signal that they love being around you.
They come and lay next to you
A rabbit that approaches you while you’re spending time with them in their run and lays down next to you is showing extreme trust, especially if they’ve got their legs sprawled out under them. This is a very vulnerable position to be in, so it’s clear that your rabbit trusts that you will look after them.
They run around your feet
The closest you will probably get to a dog jumping up to greet you when you get through the door is your rabbit running in circles around your feet, sometimes doing figures of eight between your legs. You might have seen this behaviour when you approach your rabbits with food or yummy treats, but many will also do it just out of excitement of seeing their favourite human.
Although it’s actually not purring in the same way as cats purr, but a grinding of the teeth that makes a soft humming sound and causes the rabbit’s head to vibrate slightly, it’s a clear sign that your rabbit is content. Normally this occurs when you’re stroking or grooming your rabbit, a time when your pet doesn’t have to worry about anything.
They do a binky
A binky can be described as a jump up in the air with the legs stretched out. It’s an expression of excitement and exhilaration, and sometimes you will see your rabbit doing this in your company. We dare you not to smile when you see a binky!
Why should you forage for treats to give your rabbits? Well, even if there are plenty of great pre-made treats for your pets, it’s sometimes fun to know exactly what you’re giving them. Wild plants are nutritionally balanced, high in fiber and really yummy. Apart from that, they’re also free!
Before we get going, here are some things to think about:
If you’re not completely sure that you have identified a plant correctly, don’t pick it. It’s useful to have photos of the plants you’re looking for at hand, and compare what you find with them.
Try to avoid collecting treats for your rabbits by busy roads with lots of emissions from cars. It’s best to find spots where you’re relatively confident no pesticides or other chemicals have been used, and where cats and dogs will not have peed or pooed on the plants.
If you want to you can wash your finds when you get home, but in most cases this is not necessary. If you’re introducing something new to your rabbits, start slowly and give only small amounts of the new food at the time. Some treats can upset the rabbits’ very sensitive stomachs. Also remember to only feed these greens in moderation, as a treat on top of the rabbits daily amount of pellets and hay.
Now we’ve got that done, here are 6 plants that most people will be able to identify, that can easily be found on most country walks, and that rabbits of all sizes and ages will love!
Most people will be able to recognise this very common plant. Lion teeth leaves, thick, hollow stems and yellow flower heads that turn into spherical clocks after flowering. Rabbits can eat the whole plant: leaves, stems and flowers, and they are great for drying if you want to keep them for winter.
The less pleasant aspect of the nettle, the sting, doesn’t deter rabbits from this lovely green. Although you will need gloves to pick the nettles, the rabbits don’t feel the sting, and will munch through both leaves and stems. Stinging nettles can be found in most hedgerows or woodland, and you will recognise them by the serrated leaves and the tassel-like flowers at the top. They also dry well for your winter supply.
Blackberry bushes flower from early May with pale pink flowers that turn into small green berries that then become shiny black. Brambles grow high in hedgerows and ditches, and have prickly thorns, so be careful when picking. Rabbits can eat the stems and leaves, you don’t even need to remove the prickly bits.
Plantain grows low among grass, and has broad or long light green leaves. The leaves have three or five parallel veins running through them, and if you tear it apart it’s stringy, almost like celery. Plantain is a hit with most rabbits, and can be served both fresh and dried.
This is another common weed that is often found in lawns and other places with slightly moist soil. It has sleek stems that can grow up to 40cm in height, and small while flowers. The whole plant can be given to your rabbit in moderation.
Goosegrass is the long hairy plant that sticks to your clothes, and is one of many types of grass that rabbits love. It spreads incredibly quickly, so shouldn’t be difficult to find, even in your own garden. Although maybe not the easiest to pick, it’s both nutritious and delicious for rabbits.
We often get asked which is the best cover for an Eglu run to keep pets comfortable all year round. Read our simple guide below so you know how to help your pets in all weathers!
These shades are a thinner cover material which offers protection from the sun, without creating a tunnel where heat can build up inside the run. These are smaller than the winter covers to allow better airflow through the run for ventilation. Move the summer shade around the run to suit the time of day and your hens’ routine. You may wish to change this for a Clear or Combi Cover in summer when there’s rain on the way!
The Clear Covers allow for sunlight to flood your pet’s run, while also offering protection from rain. This makes them ideal for spring and autumn, so the run is light and warm with sun, but also protected from unpredictable wind and rain.
Get the best of both worlds, with shade from the sun on one side and light coming in the other, as well as full wind and rain protection on both sides. The Combi Covers are half dark green, heavy duty cover for extreme wind and rain protection, and half clear cover to let in sunlight and warmth and to let your pets see when you are bringing them treats!
Heavy Duty Covers
For strong, hard-wearing protection against the worst of winter choose heavy duty covers. Even when the temperature drops to single figures, the rain and wind batters your pets home, or a deluge of snow covers your garden, the dark green, impenetrable heavy duty covers offer sturdy weather protection. Your chickens or rabbits will be able to hop around the Eglu run in complete peace, without getting cold, damp or wind-swept!
Extreme Temperature Covers
Chickens and rabbits are very efficient at keeping themselves warm in cold weather, and the Eglu’s twin wall insulation will assist them by keeping cool air out and warm air in, but when temperatures plummet below freezing for multiple days in a row, they may appreciate a little extra support. The Extreme Temperature Blankets and Jackets add another insulating layer, like your favourite wooly jumper, without compromising the ventilation points around the coop.
Rabbits and chickens are two of the nation’s favourite pets, and while there are many things that set them apart, they also have a lot of similarities, and if you are careful and manage to cater for their different needs, they can actually live together in harmony.
Both chickens and rabbits are very sociable animals that like spending time together with others, and it doesn’t matter too much if the company is of another species. They also have similar requirements when it comes to space, temperature and attention. Apart from that, having the two live together will also be more space efficient for you, as you won’t have to create two living quarters, but can focus on one larger area instead.
There are however things to think about if you’re considering keeping rabbits and chickens together – just putting them together in a run and hoping for the best will probably not end well. Chickens may carry diseases that are latent and symptomless, but that will make the rabbits ill, and they are also by nature scared of fast-moving things (animals included), and having speedy rabbits racing around their feet might create a lot of stress if they are not used to it.
So while it’s not problem free having the two live together, it’s definitely possible. Here are some things to think about:
You are more likely to succeed if you start introducing the animals to each other when they are young, so that they are raised together and don’t really know a life without the other. Start by keeping them on different sides of a fence or a run, so that they can get used to each other (Omlet’s partitions for the Outdoor Pet Run will be perfect here). Move on to keeping them together, but in a very large enclosure, so that no one feels threatened by the other species. Make the enclosure gradually smaller, until they are all in the run where you are planning to keep them permanently.
The chickens might try to peck the rabbits while they are getting used to the fast movements. This doesn’t hurt a fully grown rabbit, and it will pass after a few days, but never put a baby bunny in with a flock of adult hens, as they are much more vulnerable.
Give both a place to retreat to. Chickens and rabbits are both nervous and vulnerable animals that will benefit from having their own space to return to when it all gets a bit too much.
They also have different requirements. Chickens need perches to roost on at night, and rabbits will need plenty of hay in the hutch to both curl up on, and to eat. Keep this away from the chickens to avoid contamination. You will also need to feed them separately; chickens will try to eat everything, and rabbit food will make them ill.
Rabbits are known to be extremely cleanly animals, a reputation you rarely hear about chickens. To keep your rabbits happy you will therefore need to clean the run and the hutch and/or coop more often than you would if you only had chickens. The rabbits will not be impressed with chicken poo in their home!
Make sure there is plenty of room for all. Having two species in one place might be space efficient on the whole, but make sure the run is big enough and equipped with toys and hiding places to entertain and calm your pets. The Caddi Treat Holder is a perfect food toy for both rabbits and chickens, and the Zippi shelters will be perfect as a den for a tired bunny, or a lookout tower for a curious hen.
If you’re planning to have rabbits and chickens living together, we would definitely suggest neutering male rabbits. Even if he doesn’t live with female rabbits, unneutered bucks are notoriously known for mounting everything that comes in their way, including feathered friends.
It’s never a good idea to keep one single rabbit in a flock of chickens, or vice versa. Despite being part of a group, they will feel lonely and stressed without a friend of their own species.
Spring might be the best time of year for rabbits! The sun is returning, the grass is fresh and luscious, and they can finally spend most of their time outdoors without you having to worry about rain storms and cold spells.
That wonderful time of year is nearly here, so now is the perfect time to look over your pets current set up and make sure they have enough space to play on and that it’s safe and stimulating enough to keep them entertained and relaxed.
If you already have a run, go over it and make sure it’s holding up and will keep your bunnies safe. You might need to replace some run clips, grease some locks or possibly change a panel. If you’re new to keeping rabbits or looking to extend, it’s important to find a safe and spacious solution that suits your garden. The Omlet Outdoor Rabbit Run is a great alternative if you want to create a large, secure area where rabbits can spend their days. It can easily be connected to your Eglu Go Hutch, so that your rabbits can nip into their cosy home for a nap or a snack. The generous height of the run also allows you to go in and spend time with your pets.
The Zippi Runs are also a great solution for rabbit owners. These secure runs give your pets more exercise space, and they can be customised for your needs with two heights and optional roof panels and underfloor mesh.
You will most likely be spending more time in the garden as the weather gets warmer, and if you have kids they will want to join in and play with the rabbits. The Zippi Playpens are super easy to move around the garden and allow you to spend quality time with your rabbits.
If you have a hutch and a run but are tired of having to carry your pets between the two, the Zippi Tunnel System might be the perfect solution for you. By connecting the tunnels to the different areas you allow the rabbits to move between their different habitats at their own pace. They can be locked at the end of the day to secure your pets in their hutch. You can adjust your Zippi Tunnel System to fit your garden by adding connectors, corners, hay racks and lookout towers. It is also super easy to add extra tunnels at a later date if you want to make your pets’ playground bigger!
You can make sure your rabbits stay dry from those inevitable April showers by adding covers to the roof of your run. We have got plenty of different kinds of covers to suit your setup and protect your pets from the elements. The clear covers are perfect for early spring days as they let in light on the run even in rain, whereas the heavy duty versions will provide your pets with a shady spot in warmer weather.
SHELTERS & PLAY TUNNELS
Next step in creating the perfect run is to add some entertainment for your pets. Designed to mimic an underground rabbit warren in the wild, the Omlet Play Tunnels are the perfect accessory for your run. The rabbits will love chasing each other through the tunnels or stretching their long legs and jumping over their toys. Thanks to the anti-chew rings at both ends of the tunnels, they can also be securely connected to the Zippi Shelters.
The Zippi Shelters are another fun and practical addition to the run that allow rabbits to live out their natural instincts. They can use the shelter as a place to relax on the run, or hop on top of it to get a better view of their surroundings.
Another way of providing your rabbits with entertainment and stimulation is to make snack time slightly more challenging. The Caddi Treat Holder can easily be filled with nutritious veg or hay and then hung from the top of the run. It will slowly swing as the rabbits nibble away at their tasty greens, adding an interactive element that is also more hygienic than putting the food straight on the ground.
If you want to make sure you have everything sorted for the outdoor months ahead you can print screen the list below and tick off all rabbit run essentials!
All rabbits, whether they live in burrows in the wild or in a comfy hutch and are kept as pets, are herbivores. This means that they exclusively eat things that come from plants, mainly grasses, seeds and vegetables.
The largest cause of illness in pet rabbits can be traced back to dangerous or wrongly proportioned feeding. Apart from life threatening gastrointestinal diseases, a poor diet can also cause teeth problems and weakened immune system, so it’s very important that you learn how to feed your pet properly.
A wild rabbit’s diet will consist almost exclusively of grass that they find on and around their warrens. As grass contains very little nutrition, they need to eat large amounts to survive, and spend most of their days looking for and munching fresh grass. Pet rabbits won’t be able to eat this much in a day, so their diets must be supplemented with dry food, vegetables and hay to get the calories, vitamins and minerals they need to stay happy and healthy.
A good rabbit diet should consist of about 80% good quality hay, and they should always have an unlimited amount available to them. They hay does not only give the rabbits the nutrients they need, it also helps them wear down their constantly growing teeth. It’s not enough to just make sure the rabbits always have access to hay; you must also limit other types of food, as they will often be prioritised at the expense of hay intake.
The most common types of feed for pet rabbits are pellets and food mixes. Pellets are always the better option here, as it has a higher fiber content (at least 18%, ideally 20-25%) and is not as high in fat and unhealthy carbohydrates, like sugar. Pellets also prevent selective feeding, as the nutrients are evenly spread in each pellet, so that you can be sure all your rabbits get the same food.
Only feed a small amount of pellets every day. As mentioned earlier, a rabbit that is fed too much other yummy things will prioritise these over the very important hay.
Fresh greens are a great source of nutrients for rabbits, and the different chewing motions will help with wearing teeth down. Try to give your pet a wide variety of greens throughout the week, and aim for three different types per day. Some good examples include grass, clover, dandelion leaves, leaves from fruit trees, carrot tops and parsley. Spinach, chard, cabbage and sprouts are also nutritious, but must be given in moderation. In general, introduce new vegetables slowly, and look out for any signs of an upset stomach.
Make sure that the greens you feed your rabbits stay fresh by putting them in a treat holder, like the Caddi. This makes feeding your rabbits easy and hygenic, while also providing your pets with a fun and interactive experience of foraging their treats.
Other vegetables, fruits and berries can be fed in small amounts every now and then. Avoid any “human food” containing sugar or salt, as well as nuts and seeds. It’s tempting to spoil your pet, but if it’s not done in moderation, your rabbit might end up obese and ill. It’s also important to note that some fruit and vegetables are dangerous or even toxic to rabbits, and must be avoided at all times. Before you try something new, make sure you check that it is okay for rabbits.
In order to get the most nutrients out of the food they eat, a rabbit will produce small, dark, grape-like balls, different from the normal pellets, that they eat straight from their bum. It may seem strange to us, but it’s very important that they eat these extremely nutritious snacks.
If you notice lots of these caecotrophes scattered around the hutch, or if they are getting stuck in the fur around the rabbit’s bottom, it’s a sign that the rabbit’s diet is too rich. Try cutting down on pellets and add more hay, and contact your vet if the problem persists.
Many people bring their pet rabbits indoors during the winter months. That’s certainly one way of helping them cope with the cold. But is it necessary? After all, wild rabbits survive the winter without having to ask us to turn up the central heating.
However, wild rabbits have a very important trick up their furry sleeves. They live in burrows, protected from the weather in the confines of a cosy rabbit warren. Pet rabbits don’t have access to this comfortable underground lifestyle, so you’ll need to simulate it in other ways.
The key to underground living is insulation. In the same way as an igloo creates a relatively warm space in a cold environment, a burrow provides an insulated living space with a constant temperature. Not exactly a hot spot, but somewhere that can be warmed up by lots of furry bodies, dry grass and compacted earth.
Hutch insulation can be reinforced by adding extra bedding materials. The paper lining commonly used at the base of rabbit bedding soaks up urine, and so it gets wet very quickly. Anything wet can soon become cold, and can even freeze if the temperature really plummets. In really cold weather – anything below zero degrees C – change the paper lining daily.
The real key to cold weather comfort is hay. Double, or even triple the amount you normally use in the rabbits’ sleeping area, and they’ll be snug through the night.
Not All Hutches Are Equal
An old wooden hutch with gaps and cracks for the cold wind to blow through is always going to be a lot less cosy than something more windproof. The ideal hutch has all-round insulation, like the Eglu. This will still need its thick mattress of hay, though.
There comes a point when cold weather is actually dangerous. If temperatures plunge below minus 5 C, wild rabbits hunker down and lie close together to share and conserve body warmth. In a garden hutch they will struggle when things get this cold. Not many pet rabbits can cope with sustained temperatures below minus 5, even in something as well-insulated as an Eglu.
In these extreme temperatures, there are two choices: bring the bunnies indoors, or use a heat pad in the hutch.
It will also help, of course, to keep the hutch in a sheltered spot, away from the worst of the winter winds.
How To Fight The Freeze
Rabbit water bottles freeze when the temperature falls. You can help prevent this by wrapping insulating material – bubble wrap is good – around the bottle. The water bottle in the Eglu, for example, comes ready-insulated from the cold. But even this will freeze when it gets really cold. You’ll also need to make sure the water bottle nozzle stays unfrozen, which involves changing the water bottles a few times each day. Always have a couple of spares, for this purpose.
The hutch itself can be made cosier by adding insulation to the outside. Extreme temperature jackets are a much better option than a thick blanket, as the latter will get wet and then freeze.
If the weather forces you to bring the bunnies indoors, keep them there until things warm up again. It’s not good for their health if they are forever going back and forth from cold winter to centrally heated house or shed.
Eating To Keep Out The Cold
Outdoor rabbits, like all small mammals subject to the whims of the seasons, have to eat more during the winter. This enables them to stoke their internal central heating. We humans tend to forget that the food we eat is largely fuel to heat us up from the inside out – part of being a warm-blooded mammal rather than a cold-blooded fish or reptile.
A cold rabbit will shiver. If, in spite of your insulating efforts, you notice a whole lot of shaking going on in the hutch, you need to take action. Heating pads, or the great indoors – those are the options.
It’s important to remember, though, that rabbits love having access to fresh air. They are hardy creatures, and you don’t need to keep them cooped up until the spring. As soon as the cold snap passes they can move to their outdoor quarters again.
If you’ve ever needed to get inside your Zippi run to refresh food and water, or pick up your pet, you will likely have noticed the smaller openings make it difficult to reach inside, and removing a whole panel is rarely worth the hassle. The Zippi Locks have been designed to solve this problem.
Available in varying pack sizes to suit your needs, the Zippi Locks allow you to replace clips between mesh panels on three straight edges of any panel you wish to open up.
The Zippi Lock encases the edge of two mesh panels and secures them together in the same way as a run clip, however, once unlocked both mesh panels are still held in position until all locks are opened to lift open the panel you wish to use as an entry point, without it collapsing into your run and endangering your pets.
You can even use multiple Zippi Locks to convert adjoining panels of larger runs so you can open up a larger door or run roof. Simply follow these handy diagrams to see how many Zippi Locks you need to create your desired run opening.
With this improved accessibility to your run it is much easier to reach or climb in to feed your pets, tidy and clean the run floor and accessories, pick up your pet to take out of the run, or play with them inside. Making it easier for adults and children to access the run and play with their rabbits and guinea pigs inside ensures pets get as much playtime as possible to be happy, healthy and closely connected to you.
The Zippi Locks are durable, predator resistant and super simple to operate – even little hands can do it! The integrated safety button requires you to push and turn simultaneously in order to open the lock, making it harder for unwanted visitors to gain access.
Watch the Zippi Locks in action in this YouTube video…
The new Zippi Locks are now available online, from £2.75 each.
Rabbits will most likely not show any signs of illness or pain before it is really serious, as any weakness would mark them as an easy target for predators in the wild. It is therefore important that you, as an owner, carry out regular health checks on your pet, so that you are able to spot potential problems while they are still treatable.
Always take your rabbit to the vet as soon as you suspect something is not right. A rabbit’s health can deteriorate very quickly, so don’t lose any time wondering if it’s worth it or not.
Put a towel on your lap and place your rabbit on top of it. Stroke him or her to calm them down. When your rabbit has settled, you can start examining their body.
Feel the stomach to make sure it’s not swollen or distended, and go through the rest of the body for signs of cuts, bruises or lumps. Feel the muscles in the legs, they should be strong and firm. Any wincing or unexpected movement from the rabbit could be a sign that the body part you’re touching is causing your rabbit pain.
Check your rabbit’s breathing; it should not be laboured. Wheezing or clicking noises from the lungs can be signs of illness.
It is worth getting a set of scales and regularly weighing your rabbit. Sudden weight loss is a serious sign of illness, and a lack of appetite is a strong indicator of poor health.
Mouth and nose
The nose should be dry and not have any discharge. Check that the rabbit is not dribbling, and that it doesn’t have any sores or cuts around the mouth. The gums should be pink (a red or purple colour is a sign of illness).
Make sure the teeth are not overgrown or damaged. They should also be growing straight, and be uniform. You won’t be able to see the back teeth, but if you move your fingers over the cheek you can feel for lumps, and make sure that everything is symmetrical. Overgrown teeth are a serious problem as this can prevent your rabbit from eating, which is why it is very important to give them plenty of good quality hay to wear the teeth down with.
Check your rabbits eyes to make sure they are clean and clear. You shouldn’t see any discharge or dirt. If you do, carefully pull back the eyelid to see if you notice any redness or pus in the eye; it is possible that the rabbit has scratched its eye. The eyes should also be dry; runny eyes can be a sign of teeth problems, or possibly ingrowing eyelashes or blocked tear ducts.
Rabbit ears should be free from any dirt, wounds, lumps, wax, discharge or parasites. Look inside the ears; you can use a torch if it’s difficult to see. Take extra care if you have a lop rabbit as they are particularly prone to abscesses around the ears. Carefully massage the base of the ears, where lumps can sometimes occur.
Watch your rabbit move around to make sure it’s not limping and doesn’t have any lameness in the legs. Pick up your rabbit and put him or her on your lap. It’s not a good idea to put a rabbit on its back, so hold it against you with one hand under its bottom. Try spreading the toes to check for scabs, abscesses or a build up of dirt. Also check the heels on the back feet. These should not be red or swollen. Check the fur on the feet and brush it if it’s matted.
Check the fur around the bottom. It should be completely clear from faeces or other dirt. A dirty bottom can be a sign that the rabbit’s diet is too rich and that they are not eating all the caecotrophs they produce.
During summer you should check for any build up of dirt at least once a day, as a dirty bum can attract flies that lay eggs in the damp fur. This causes a condition known as flystrike, which can kill a healthy rabbit in a matter of days.
Also check the rear end for any swelling or redness.
With your rabbit sat on your lap, part the hair with your fingers and check for cuts and wounds, bald patches, anything moving, small brown dots or white flakes.
Even if you don’t have a rabbit that requires grooming on a daily or weekly basis it is good to get your pet used to brushing from an early age. Rabbits moult regularly, and you might need to help them get rid of dead hair from their coat during this time.
Changes in temperament
Sudden changes in temperament and behaviour is never a good sign. Maybe your rabbit doesn’t come running when you approach it with food in the morning, or is suddenly aggressive. These might be signs your rabbit is in pain.
Rabbits who reach sexual maturity can sometimes act very differently. Spraying is a common problem, as is aggression. Your rabbit might not be in pain, but it can be very distressing for them to go through this ‘puberty phase’. This might be a good reason to get your pets neutered as soon as they are old enough.
Many people with indoor rabbits would like to let them roam free in the house, giving them more space and including them in daily family life, but worry that they will have to spend their time picking up droppings and wiping up wee. They might however not realise that rabbits, like cats, can be trained to use a litterbox.
If you haven’t already done so, you will need to spay or neuter your pet, as an unspayed or unneutered rabbit will be almost impossible to litter train. You will also need to keep the rabbit in a confined space until they’re fully grown. Unlike with dogs and cats, it’s much easier to train older rabbits, as their attention span and learning abilities are very limited when as babies or very young.
Litter training a rabbit can take some time, and accidents will most certainly happen, so make sure you have enough patience to get through the process with your pet. Rabbits, like most animals, will not respond well to any type of punishment, so never tell your rabbit off when he or she has done something wrong. This will only make them forget what they have learned, and they will be more reluctant to try again.
Choose The Right Place
While the rabbit is learning, you will need to keep him or her in a confined space in the house. Bathrooms or utility rooms are good places, but you can also set up a playpen, ideally in a room that is not carpeted.
You will most likely be needing several litter boxes further along in the training process, but start with one. If you notice that the rabbit keeps going into a different corner to wee or poo, move the box to their preferred place.
The Litter Box
Rabbits want space to stretch out in the box, so make sure you get one that is big enough. You will be able to find boxes specifically designed for rabbits, but the best option is normally a simple medium sized tray-type cat litter box. Just make sure the rabbit can easily hop into it.
Prep the box with a layer of absorbent litter. Carefresh is a perfect alternative as it soaks up any unwanted odeurs, but you can also use shredded paper or wood based solutions. Don’t use anything that will be dangerous for the rabbit to ingest, as they will nibble on the bedding. Make sure to also stay away from softwoods like pine or cedar, as well as clay-based or clumping litter, as they can be harmful to your bunny.
Put a good layer of good quality hay on top of the bedding, and add some of the droppings and urine-soaked bedding. This will guide the rabbit to the right spot.
Try It Out With Your Bunny
Let the rabbit into the training room or area, and stay with him or her. When you see them leave droppings or urinate, immediately lift them up and put both the bunny and the droppings in the tray. Talk softly and pet him or her. This should after a while hopefully get the message across that the litter box is the right place to go. Spend as much time as possible doing this over a few days. When you need to leave, put the rabbit back in the hutch or smaller enclosure. Repeat daily until you can trust them to know where to go.
When you think you rabbit is ready to move on you can gradually expand the area where the rabbit is kept. Don’t overwhelm them with the whole house at once, as that will only mean that the rabbit will forget where the litter box is, and all that hard training will go to waste.
Notice where accidents tend to happen, and put out extra litter boxes there. This might mean you have to move the rabbits cage or rearrange some furniture, but once you have got it right it will be worth it.
It’s important to note that very few rabbits are 100% reliable with their litter box. Accidents will probably keep occurring throughout the rabbit’s life, and that doesn’t mean that the training has failed. It is also normal for the rabbit to leave a few droppings right next to the box or sometimes urinate on, or over, the edge of the tray. Put a mat or some paper under the box to make it easy to clean.
Rabbits, as prey animals, tend to hide their illnesses as much as possible, and they are very good at it. This is why it is important for all rabbit owners to keep a close eye at your rabbit and do regular health checks, so that you can spot problems as early as possible.
Checking your pet rabbits’ poo is a brilliant way to see how they are doing, and from just having a little look and possibly a little feel, you will be able to tell a lot about your pet’s health. But before we start exploring the wonderful world of rabbit poo, it’s important to mention that if you’re ever worried or unsure, it’s always best to consult your vet.
Different types of poo
Rabbits produce two types of droppings:
Faecal pellets. This is what most people think of when you say rabbit poo. They are small, round balls made up of mainly undigested hay. These droppings are relatively firm and more or less completely dry, and they don’t smell. There will be lots of these to clean up in the hutch, so take the opportunity to see if they look normal.
Cecotropes. These are not actually poo, but little balls of nutrition that the rabbits will pick from their bottoms and eat again. We know, not very nice, but they are a vital part of the rabbits diet, and if you see your bunny munching on these poo bits you should be comforted and proud, as it’s very important that your rabbit eats these. Cecotropes are formed in a part of the digestive system called the caecum. After the food has gone through the small intestine, it is separated. Food matter that has been digested or doesn’t contain any nutrients will go through the large intestine and come out as pellets, whereas undigested food will be sent through the caecum. There, plenty of healthy microorganisms and bacteria will break it down to a form that the body will actually be able to digest, and the rabbit will dispose of the cecotropes and munch away at them again. Most of the time the rabbit will eat the cecotropes straight away. If you have a healthy rabbit with a good diet, you might not ever notice them, but they are soft and shiny black balls that sit together in a cluster, almost resembling a blackberry (sorry to ruin blackberries for you!).
Check your rabbit’s poo regularly to see if you notice anything new or irregular. Are the faecal pellets too small, too hard or not uniform? Are the pellets strung together by hair? Are they a weird colour?
The main reason for poo related problems is an unbalanced diet. Try changing a few things in the way you feed your rabbits, but make sure you never make any big changes too quickly. A balanced diet for a rabbit consists of roughly 90% good quality hay, a small handful of pellets and some fresh fruit and vegetables (how much depends a bit on the size of your rabbit). He or she must also have unlimited access to fresh water at all times.
If you think something might not be right you can try changing the vegetables you give your pet. Instead of peppers and carrots, try vegetables with less sugar and more fibre, like broccoli, cabbage, spinach and other leafy greens. You might be giving your rabbit too much food, or food that is too rich. Try limiting the amount of pellets the rabbit is given, and make sure the feed you give them has got everything they need, and a good amount of fibre.
If you have long-haired rabbits it’s inevitable that they sometimes ingest some fur, which will inevitably need come out the other way. If you see a string of pellets connected by hair every now and again it’s nothing to worry about, but if it happens several times a week, it might be a good idea to groom your rabbit more often.
Diarrhea is very serious in rabbits, especially during the warmer months of the year when flies are attracted to damp and dirty fur. They lay their eggs in the rabbit’s bottom, and when the larvae emerge they eat the rabbit’s flesh and release toxins into their bodies. This can kill a rabbit in only a few days, so if you notice your rabbit has a soggy bottom it’s important to clean it, and to check on them several times a day. If the diarrhea lasts for more than a few days it’s best to take your pet to the vet.
Rabbit droppings as manure
Rabbits and gardeners are not always the best of friends, but your pet rabbits, and their droppings, will really help your plants. Unlike most other fertilizers, rabbit droppings can be spread on flower beds or veg patches straight away, as it breaks down quickly and doesn’t burn the plants or roots in the process.
Rabbit manure contains 4 times more nutrients than cow or horse manure, and twice as much as chicken manure, but it doesn’t have as much nitrogen in it, which means that you don’t have to compost it if you don’t want to. Another benefit of the rabbit’s pellets is that they continue to release nutrients as they break down, and will improve the structure of the soil.