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QWhy is it that people get rabbits as pets for their children and then leave them in a tiny hutch at the bottom of the garden, getting looked at once a day if they are lucky? I help out in a rabbit rescue centre and we see some appallingly treated rabbits, obese, flystruck or desperately thin and weak. Surely there needs to be more education in order to help these poor animals?
Roberts says: I do agree that rabbits are the most commonly neglected pet. I also see a lot of them which have been badly treated, mostly through ignorance, but that is never an excuse. They are more difficult than other animals to keep with good welfare than people realise. An escape-proof garden with free range is the best environment for pet rabbits, but those people who obtain a couple of house rabbits (company is important for them) have the most wonderfully characterful pets which don’t need walking. These rabbits are pampered (sometimes a little overfed!) and have great interaction with their owners and are usually very fit as they have lots of exercise. Rabbits have strong personalities and, like dogs, need to know who is top of the pack. They also have very sharp teeth, so electric flexes have to be protected from them. They will use a litter tray and are very clean. Some people who are allergic to cat or dog fur can tolerate a rabbit as they usually only moult once a year. Proper food needs to be given to the rabbits, preferably the homogenous pelleted sort as rabbits will pick out the food they like and leave the food they need if the multi-coloured muesli type of mix is provided. Lack of the correct proportion of minerals leads to deformed tooth growth, causing serious problems later. They have evolved to survive on a high fibre diet, so hay ad lib plus vegetables, herbs and a small daily amount of concentrate food will suit them better than a dish of pellets kept continuously topped up. Obesity in rabbits leads to flystrike as the bunny cannot reach to keep its rear clean, or to ingest the caecotrophs, a vital part of their digestion. Female rabbits are very territorial and areprone to uterine cancer, so they are generally spayed at around four months to prevent disease and reduce aggression, neutered males are more friendly after neutering.