Improving rabbit care & welfare – still so much needs to be done!

Here is an essential insight into the wellbeing of rabbits in the UK.  The following statistics show how UK pet rabbits are being cared for. All information has been provided from the PAW PDSA animal wellbeing report 2018. We hope this blog will help raise awareness that still so much needs to be done when it comes to caring for rabbits the right way.

Key findings

28% of rabbits live in a hutch or cage that’s too small.

54% of rabbits (540,000) live alone

13% of rabbits owners have provided no preventative healthcare for their rabbits

20% of rabbits are fed Muesli mix

77% of rabbit owners don’t know their pet’s current weight and/or body condition score

Environment

61% of rabbits live outdoors

39% of rabbits live indoors

28% of rabbit owners chose accommodation that’s too small

When asked to choose an image that most closely resembled where their rabbit lived…

28% of rabbit owners revealed inadequate housing provision – either a small outdoor hutch (15.54%) or a small indoor cage (12.73%)

Although this figure has improved since 2017 (when 36% of rabbits were living in accommodation too small) further education is still needed around providing suitable housing for rabbits.

Rabbits in the wild have a territory equivalent to around 30 tennis courts, so to be housed in a small hutch or cage will have a negative impact on both physical and mental health.

98% of vets agree that rabbit hutches and cages smaller than the min recommended should be banned.

The RWAF and PDSA think the minimum set up for rabbits is a 6 x 2 x 2 ft hutch and an 8ft run. The run must have room for toys, digging places and tunnels. Rabbits can run and display normal behaviours in here.

Rabbit owners were asked… In a 24-hour period, how long does your rabbit spend in the following areas?

In their hutch (12 hours)

In a run in the garden (3 hours)

Free roaming in the garden (2 hours)

Free roaming in the house (3 hours)

In a run in the house (1 hour)

Spending time interacting with owner (2 hours)

Diet

77% of rabbits are being fed hay, as part of their main diet.

Hay being fed as main part of diet has increased from 62% (2011) to 77% (2018)

But still more needs to be done.

Optimum diet: Mainly hay with additional fresh fibrous veg & small amount of pelleted food (As per RAW campaign)

20% are fed Muesli (a mix of cereals and flakes) as part of their main diet.

When asked if food stuffs that are bad for rabbits’ health, such as muesli, should be removed from sale…

81% of rabbit owners agreed

79% of professionals agreed

83% of rabbit owners say that their rabbit is the ideal weight, but 77% of owners don’t know their rabbit’s current weight or body condition score.

Daily treats and not enough exercise time is the main cause of obesity in rabbits

From BVA & BVNA surveys…

Vets and vet nurses estimated that 30% of the rabbits they see in their practice each week are overweight.

Most common weight-related health issues for rabbits identified by vets & ver nurses are:

Grooming/self care issues 93%

Musculoskeletal problems 42%

Respiratory problems 11%

Most common reasons for excess weight:

Inappropriate choice of food 58%

Lack of exercise 54%

Owner’s lack of recognition that their rabbit is overweight or has obesity 49%

Behaviour

66% of owners report that their rabbit is afraid of something.

31% loud noises

18% fireworks

16% travelling in car

17% unfamiliar people

12% the vet

8% Thunder and lightning

Rabbits displaying unwanted behaviours could be doing so for a number of reasons, including ill health, stress, loneliness and boredom

54% of owners report that their rabbit displays at least one behaviour that they’d like to change. Despite this, the majority (78%) of owners don’t think their rabbit is stressed.

Rabbit owners were asked which of the following behaviours does your rabbit display that you would like to change?

18% Thumping of back feet

17% Digging ground and/or carpets

15% Chewing furniture

8% biting bars of run/hutch repeatedly

8% Hiding

3% Hissing, growling or muttering

3% Fighting with other rabbits

43% of rabbit owners would seek help from a veterinary practise to change unwanted behaviours. However, just 11% of veterinary professionals report that their practice offers behaviour clinics or specific advice on this topic for rabbits.

Companionship

Rabbits are highly sociable animals and when bonded with a compatible, neutered partner or partners, they enjoy a much better quality of life than when kept alone.

54% of rabbits (540,000) live alone.

39% of rabbits live with one or more rabbits which is higher than first reported in 2011 (27%)

62% 0f owners disagreed that their rabbit was lonely

91% of owners say their rabbit is happy

68% of veterinary professionals say that they routinely recommend another rabbit as companionship for rabbits kept alone

Health

34% of rabbits (340,000) are not currently registered with a vet.

33% believe they can just turn up at a vets

29% say it’s not necessary as their rabbit is fine

10% said they haven’t got round to it yet.

10% report it’s too expensive

 

Rabbit owners were asked… Which of the following do you regularly do with your rabbit?

82% Talk to her/him

71% Check him/her for signs of ill health

64% Brush or groom him/her

56% Clip his/her nails

54% Check his/her fur around bottom for maggots

52% Check his/her teeth

Neutering

46% of rabbits in the UK are not neutered.

Top reasons given by owners for not neutering their rabbits…

38% the rabbits live alone

17% of rabbit owners hadn’t thought about it

15% said because their rabbit doesn’t go outside

Vaccinated

Almost half (49%) of rabbits had not been vaccinated with a primary course when young.

Further to this, 58% have not had regular booster vaccinations

Top reasons for not vaccinating rabbits

28% said they do not come into contact with other animals

20% said it’s not necessary

13% said it’s too expensive

 

91% of rabbit owners say their pet is happy.

 

The above information was provided from the PAW PDSA animal wellbeing report 2018

Click here to read the full report

Summary

Although there have been some improvements, still so much needs to be done in educating people when it comes to a rabbit’s basic needs and how to care for them the correct way. The main areas for improvemnt are better knowledge of what makes an ideal home for rabbits, what the best diet is and the fact that rabbits need company. You can read the summary of the PAW PDSA animal wellbeing report 2018 in full here

Here at Best4bunny we will continue to help raise rabbit awareness in the best way we can. One of the reasons why we wrote & self published our very own Best4bunny handbook is to help educate people on the right way to care for rabbits today. You can buy a copy here.