a rabbit looks very grand

Facts about rabbits

Rabbits remain one of the nation’s favourite pets - and no wonder as they are amazing animals. But these cute smallies remain one of the most misunderstood pets. Here, we bust some rabbit myths…

1.    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. Bunnies 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 why they’re so often misunderstood, particularly by children.

2.    These masters of hearing can turn their ears 180 degrees. Wow.

3.    And that impressive rotation can pinpoint the exact location of a sound

Bunnies love company and become lonely and sad when they don't have companions of their own kind

4.    Pet bunnies may come in domesticated colours and breeds, but their perspective on the world remains ever so close to that of their wild relatives. Because they are a prey species, 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 nip if you try – your hands are not too dissimilar to a bird of prey swooping down to catch them.

5.    Baby rabbits are called ‘kittens’

6.    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.

7.    Rabbits are banned from some ferries. Legend has it that bunnies 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 bun 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.)

Rabbit - sniff
A rabbit's diet should be 90 per cent hay. Access to a constant supply prevents their teeth overgrowing, like this...

8.    Most overgrown tooth problems are preventable. Many owners see making multiple trips to the vet because their bun has developed a tooth or associated mouth problem, like abscesses, as part and parcel of giving a rabbit a home. But the vast majority of rabbit tooth troubles can be prevented simply by feeding them the right diet. 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 are essential if bunnies are to maintain digestive and dental health. Note: freshly cut grass is toxic to rabbits, so should not be fed to them.

9.    Bunnies ‘binky’ when they’re happy. You’ll know a rabbit is binkying because the happy hop in the air, twist of the body, and kicking of the feet look unmistakably like pure joy.

10.    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.

11.    Rabbits have almost 360 degree vision but they are born with their eyes shut

a rabbit sits on the lap of a person for a fuss
a rabbit has a wash
A rabbit has a wash. Very cute!

12.    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. Recent studies have found hypnotised, or tranced, rabbits show physiological responses similar to those who have experienced a traumatic event.

13.    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…!)

14.    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.

15.    Rabbits and guinea pigs don’t make good pals. These sweet small pets are similar in size and used to be touted as a perfect match, but experts now agree that the species should generally be kept apart. Both animals use different methods of communication, so they can’t understand each other and they need different diets. Plus, rabbits can and do injure guinea pigs.

a rabbit peeks out over a tunnel
— Page last updated 06/08/2020

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