There’s more to rabbit ownership than you think!

Rabbits have been a popular pet in the UK for a number of decades. According to the 2019 PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report, 2% of the UK population own a rabbit with an estimated number of 900,000 pet rabbits. This makes them the 3rd most popular pet in the UK but often one of the most neglected. Rabbits are very intelligent and sociable creatures, whose basic needs are often misunderstood leading to a high number (~67,000) of them ending in rescue centres around the country. 

Luckily, rabbit ownership is changing as we learn more and more about these wonderful animals. Charter Vet Diana Cubillos BVSc MRCVS is a rabbit owner herself, and shares a few tips to help guide existing and prospect rabbit owners on how best to care for them and how to enrich their lives. 

Housing: A hutch is not enough 

It is still very common to find very small hutches/cages for sale deemed to be suitable for rabbits. However, they need  considerably more space than you would imagine. According to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (the leading rabbit welfare organisation in the UK), an average size pair of rabbits needs an enclosure of 1.8m x 0.6m x 0.6m as a minimum. This should be their sleeping quarters which should allow them to take 3 hops and stretch upright. This should be attached to a secure enclosure of at least 3m x 2m x 1m tall for exercise. Garden sheds/aviaries can be adapted as suitable accommodation. Some owners prefer to have their rabbits living free range indoors in certain areas of their house.  

Any set up should always be made secure against predators and any other hazards. As rabbits express natural behaviours such as digging and gnawing, it is imperative to provide appropriate enrichment to their living areas to avoid damage to household items such as furniture (indoors) or plant pots/trees (outdoors). Rabbits can be litter trained from a young age, which can help with keeping their environment clean. 


Rabbits are very sociable animals and thrive with companionship of their own. Once bonded, rabbits can remain lifelong companions. They should always be kept in bonded neutered pairs (male and female is recommended) wherever possible. If you currently have a lone rabbit, you should strongly consider a companion for them. Make sure they’re neutered first (if not already) and wait 8 weeks before attempting to bond to a new companion. Bonding rabbits can be a lengthy process so be patient. The best place to get a new rabbit would be from reputable rabbit rescue, which can help with bonding advice and have the advantage of already being neutered and vaccinated. Microchipping is highly recommended as sometimes rabbits can escape from enclosures. This increases their chances of being reunited with their owners. 

Rabbits are great children’s pets: but are they?

Rabbits have been traditionally thought to be great pets for young kids but unfortunately this is far from true. Rabbits are prey animals and prefer to stay firmly on the ground. They find being picked up very stressful and can be very prone to injury if mishandled/dropped.  Rabbits are more suited to adult only households or those with older children (12+).


As with cats and dogs, rabbits can be insured against veterinary costs. Rabbit medicine and surgery is advancing every day, which means there are more treatment options available for either illnesses or injuries. As rabbits can live around 8-10 years, having insurance can provide peace of mind should your rabbit become unwell. 


Ditch the rabbit muesli and lettuce! A rabbit’s diet should be around 90% good quality hay/access to grass, 5% extruded pellets, and 5% leafy green veg. This will ensure your rabbit stays healthy and prevent health issues such as abnormal teeth growth and obesity. 


Young rabbits can seem really docile and co-exist with litter mates with no issues. However, when puberty hits their behaviour can change dramatically. As well as preventing unwanted litters, neutering helps with bonding and preventing perceived undesirable behaviours towards owners such as biting and scratching. 


There are 3 main endemic diseases in the UK that affect pet rabbits: Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1&2. Clinical signs can be often severe, and some can even cause sudden death. Vaccinations are therefore crucial as wild rabbits, fomites and vectors can act as means for transmission.

This guide is just a snippet of the fountain of up to date information that is out there. For more information, please visit or please contact me at Charter Vets Roundswell.