Section 2: Thinking about keeping rabbits
If you are considering rabbits as pets, there is a lot to think about. You should do your research first, and make sure you know how to care for rabbits and that you can meet their welfare needs. This guidance provides lots of information to help you to decide whether or not rabbits are the right pet for you. It is also a good idea to have a pre-purchase consultation with your local vet, who will be happy to discuss with you how best to meet the welfare needs of rabbits, and whether or not keeping rabbits will suit your lifestyle. The organisations listed at the end of the guidance can also provide information to help you make up your mind.
If you decide to go ahead and give some pet rabbits a home, you'll want to make sure that the rabbits you choose are right for you. Whether you decide to buy rabbits from a reputable pet shop or breeder, or adopt them from an animal welfare organisation or rescue centre, the staff should be able to provide you with information about the rabbits available, to help you make up your mind.
Importantly, you should be satisfied that the rabbits you are thinking of getting are old enough to be rehomed – at least 8 weeks old. Spend some time observing the rabbits. They should be bright and alert and should not appear stressed or lethargic. Remember, though, that rabbits can be shy, especially with new people. They should have clean eyes, noses, coats and bottoms. It is good if you are able to see them in the environment in which they have been living, as this will allow you to see the conditions in which they have been reared, and the general health of any other rabbits there.
You should find out as much as you can about the rabbits, such as whether they have been vaccinated or had any medical treatment, what they have been fed, whether they have any particular likes or dislikes, and whether they are used to being handled. If possible, you should find out what breed they are so you know how big they will be when fully grown and what they require in relation to diet, husbandry and environment. Some breeds are particularly predisposed to certain health conditions, so it is useful to find out about this before opting for a particular breed. Being able to see the parents, at least the mother, is helpful in this regard.
Every animal is different and as you get to know your pets, you will recognise their own characteristics. It is important that you do take this time to get to know them, so that you are able to notice any changes in their behaviour which might indicate that they are bored, distressed, injured, ill, or in pain, or are not having their needs met in some other way.