rabbit

I have kept, bred, exhibited and rescued so many rabbits over the last 40 years that I have become quite a specialist and gained the slightly unflattering title of ‘The Rabbit Lady’.

I have been an animal fanatic since I was given my first cat at the age of 6, followed by a beautiful New Zealand White rabbit called Thumper (of course!). Since then, I have kept a huge menagerie of pets, growing in variety from the ubiquitous back garden tortoise called Swifty, a handful of guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, degus and rabbits to exotics like squirrel monkeys, iguanas, geckos and snakes. And up until last year, my rear garden was also inhabited by a collection of chickens, ducks, geese and our beloved family goat called Willis.

Rabbits have always been my favourites and in my heyday I often had more than 50 to care for. These days I only keep a few, including 8 rescued mini rexes, living in colonies and a huge Continental Giant who roams free during the daytime and I now offer a boarding service that provides expert care and attention for rabbits while their owners are away.

My experience has taught me that a few very important elements should be born in mind when boarding rabbits away from their home;-

  • Vaccinations – Although guest rabbits will not come into contact with wild rabbits, they may well be exposed to myxomatosisthrough biting insects and they must be vaccinated.  VHD or rabbit haemorrhagic disease, although far less common these days, also needs to be vaccinated against. There is now a dual vaccination available for both of these viruses and my vet charges £33.60 per rabbit. The dose needs to be boostered yearly and must be done at least 3 weeks before coming to stay as full protection is not achieved before this period.
  • A rabbit’s digestive systems is very sensitive, therefore it is essential to keep guests on their normal concentrated feed so I ask owners to bring enough of their own brand to last the holiday. In nature a rabbit will graze continually on grass and vegetation, maintaining digestive transit, so I ensure that plenty of hay is always available and I provide cabbage, cruciferous and other leafy greens. I feed carrot sparingly as I have found it can cause scouring (loose droppings) if an animal is stressed. Lettuce is a bit controversial for rabbits as some people believe that they can be toxic and as they have very little nutritional value, I have always played safe and avoided them.
  • Rabbits need to feel safe and secure within an interesting and spacious environment. While I have always felt that a hutch needs to be as big as possible for any rabbit, I have learned that size is not everything! Hutches need to have enough space for the occupant to sit up on their back legs and to hop 3-4 times to each end but they also need to have other interest and dimensions within them. I find that double decker hutches work really well for this, with logs or branches to chew and in single decker ones, arranging shelves or boxes for them to jump on, off and through, turns a boring square into a stimulating environment. My main holiday hutches are 6’ x 2’ double deckers which I find are perfect for up to 2 medium rabbits or 4 minis and are positioned in the quietest, shady spot of my garden, next to the house and inaccessible to my dogs and own rabbits.
  • The question of runs -without a doubt, the best quality of life for any rabbit is with access to grass and space to hop skip and jump. However, when he is away from home, access to a non-familiar run and surroundings may provide further exposure to stress, along with certain other risks that I have carefully assessed and, on balance, I believe it’s safest to keep my guest rabbits in a solid and secure, wooden hutch where they remain cozy, coddled and calm during their brief holiday interlude.
  • Transportation followed by introduction to a new temporary hutch must be kept as calm as possible as stress is a great health risk to rabbits.  I recommend an enclosed or covered travel box with bedding from their home hutch within it. Bringing their water bottle, dishes and dirt box (emptied but not cleaned), along with a bag of their sleeping compartment bedding, helps the rabbits feel more familiar in their new surroundings.
  • House rabbits – I have kept a couple of house rabbits and found it a particularly rewarding way to keep pets. However, they do get very fond of their freedom and familiarity within the house and can become a little territorial and destructive. For these reasons and the fact that it takes a considerable time for a rabbit to settle comfortably within a new human home, I do not offer this arrangement for boarders. In my experience I have found that it is either safer to ask a us to call in on the house rabbit daily or accept that for a few weeks, he will be happy to experience a slightly more restricted environment.

Quality of life is my greatest concern when it comes to the welfare of rabbits under my care and I will always strive to maintain this priority. I hope to make guest rabbits as comfortable and content as my own and provide peace of mind for their owners.

I am always happy to have prospective boarders visit and inspect the facilities that I have here, chat about any questions or concerns they may have or simply advise or help in any way I can with relation to pet rabbit keeping.

http://www.phg-crawley.com