A recent BVA survey has revealed that 1 in 5 UK vets are concerned about rabbits kept as pets.
The association’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey asked companion animal vets what types of pets the public should be discouraged from keeping.
High on the list were rabbits, with 22% of respondents stating people should be discouraged from keeping the animals unless they can be properly taken care of.
Many vets who responded to the survey voiced concern about single rabbits kept in hutches by themselves.
Rabbits are very social animals and need contact with their own kind. Vets argue being kept on their own causes these animals to experience boredom, frustration and fear.
Survey comments from vets included:
- “Rabbits should not be solitary animals left in the hutch 23 hours a day.”
- “Rabbits often get forgotten and are kept as single pets.”
- “Rabbits are often bought for children who grow bored of them – rabbits can live for a very long time in a small hutch and often get quite neglected.
Outgoing BVA president and small animal vet Robin Hargreaves said: “Pet owners, particularly parents trying to buy a suitable pet for their child, have the very best intentions. But I would urge them to stop, think and ask before purchasing any animal, and give careful consideration to their ability to fully provide for its welfare needs as well as the child’s relationship with the animal.
“Do your research first – ask your vet and read through helpful documents such as the Animal Welfare Foundation’s free Caring For Rabbits leaflet.
“Rabbits need the companionship of other rabbits and should never be kept alone or with guinea pigs. The best combination is a neutered female and a neutered male rabbit.
“Potential rabbit owners also need to think about where their rabbits will live and what they eat. As prey animals, they need to be able to hide from danger and they need to be able to run, jump, and dig as they would in the wild.
“Rabbits eat grass in the wild and pet rabbits need a similar diet. Therefore, the bulk of your rabbits’ diet should be grass or good quality hay and a rough guide is that they each need a pile at least the size of their own body a day.
“We know he pleasure pet ownership can bring to the whole family, including children. But the golden rule is always to put the animal’s welfare first so that you have a happy, healthy animal that is part of the family.”