Facts about rabbits
Rabbits remain one of the nation’s favourite pets – and no wonder as they are amazing animals. But they're also one of the most misunderstood.
Here, we bust some rabbit myths…
1. A single bunny is a lonely bunny
Rabbits are social creatures and are happiest in the company of their own species. The best combination is a neutered male and neutered female. They can become extremely sad and depressed if kept on their own.
More on rabbit companionship.
2. They can live for up to 12 years
Pet rabbits can live between eight to 12 years. So it's good to think about whether you can look after them for this amount of time before getting rabbits.
3. They're masters of hearing
Most rabbits can actually turn their ears 180 degrees. This rotation can pinpoint the exact location of a sound. Wow.
4. Their eyesight isn't bad either
Rabbits have almost 360 degree vision, but they are born with their eyes shut.
5. They're closer to wild rabbits than you might think
These pets may come in domesticated colours and breeds, but their perspective on the world remains very close to that of their wild relatives. Because they're a prey species (they're hunted by other animals in the wild), life is all about survival and they are in a constant state of alert. This explains why many rabbits don’t like being picked up and may run away, hide, nip or bite if you try – your hands are not too dissimilar to the claws of a bird of predators swooping down to catch them.
6. Rabbits communicate using a secret code
Well, it’s not actually a secret code, but you could be forgiven for thinking it is because their body movements are so subtle. Rabbits clench their facial muscles and change their body position when they are feeling worried; signs you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking out for them. This is one of the main reasons they’re so often misunderstood and don't get the correct care.
7. Baby rabbits are called ‘kittens’
Cute. Female rabbits are called 'does' and male rabbits are called 'bucks'... in case you're wondering.
8. Rabbits and guinea pigs don’t make good pals
These small pets used to be sold as a perfect match. But experts now agree that the species should be kept apart. Both animals use different methods of communication, so they can’t understand each other and they also need different diets. Plus, rabbits can and do injure guinea pigs.
9. Rabbits are banned from some ferries
Legend has it that rabbits being transported for food chewed through the hull of a 17th century ship, causing the deaths of many sailors. To this day, you cannot bring your rabbit with you should you wish to cross the Channel on Brittany Ferries. (Not that you would want to as rabbits find travelling even on short car journeys extremely stressful.)
10. Overgrown teeth are common in rabbits
But most overgrown tooth problems are preventable. Many owners end up making multiple trips to the vet because their rabbit has developed a tooth or associated mouth problem, like abscesses. But the vast majority of rabbit tooth troubles can be prevented simply by feeding them the right diet, although some are genetic.
Rabbits need a constant supply of hay or fresh grass to nibble on – in fact, 90 per cent of their daily diet should be made up of the stuff. An endless supply of hay and grass is essential if they're to maintain digestive and dental health.
Freshly cut grass is toxic to rabbits, so should not be fed to them.
11. Bunnies ‘binky’ when they’re happy
You’ll know a rabbit is binkying because of the happy hop in the air, twist of the body, and kicking of the feet look unmistakably like pure joy.
12. They need lots of space to stay healthy
Young rabbits that don’t have enough space to run about are more likely to break bones, according to studies. This is because they don’t get the right opportunities to build up their bodies properly. Find out about how much space rabbits need.
13. Hypnotising a rabbit is actually really traumatic for them
Sometimes called ‘trancing’, the action of placing a rabbit on their back and stroking their back legs was thought for a long time to make them happy and relaxed, and recommended to help develop a bond between pet and owner. Sadly, the total opposite is true. When a rabbit is held in this position they go into ‘tonic immobility’. They are trying to convince the predator (in this case the person ‘hypnotising’ them) that they are dead, so they will be let go. Studies have found hypnotised, or tranced, rabbits show physiological responses similar to those who have experienced a traumatic event.
14. They're very clean
When rabbits grab their ears and bring them down across their faces to give them a wash, you are officially watching one of the cutest animal behaviours in existence. (Blue Cross cannot back this statement up with any scientific fact, but we defy you watch a rabbit doing this and disagree…!)
If your rabbit has poo around its bottom area it may be a sign of a health problem, so it's a good idea to take them to the vet for a general check up.
15. Carrots aren't the best food for them
Bugs Bunny has a lot to answer for. Root vegetables aren’t a natural part of a rabbit’s diet, and carrots are high in sugar so should only be fed occasionally and in small amounts.
16. Rabbits are crepuscular
This means they're mostly active at dusk and dawn and certain periods during the night. At other times, they love a good snooze.
17. They are very social
Rabbits enjoy being around people and can usually recognise their owners by sight and sound. But because they're prey animals, they prefer to have all four feet firmly on the ground. That being said they can make wonderful pets and can even be trained.
18. Rabbits eat their own poo
Don't worry – it's completely natural. Because of their clever digestive systems, they produce droppings, called caecotrophs. By eating these they make sure they get the most nutrition possible.
19. Their ears aren't meant to flop down
Ever seen a wild rabbit with floppy ears? Breeding and our obsession with making rabbits look as cute as possible has meant that some breeds of rabbits have floppy ears and flat faces. Although you might like this look it can cause health problems.
We educate people about pet welfare and ensure they get the right environment and care to live happy, healthy lives.
Read more about looking after rabbits.