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.
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
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)
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%
66% of owners report that their rabbit is afraid of something.
31% loud noises
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.