Home » A to Z » General rabbit information » The Key Facts About Rabbits

Rabbits at a glance - including companionship, accommodation, exercise, handling, feeding, healthcare, common behaviour and common problems

Simple facts

  • Rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents
  • Rabbits are crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk
  • Rabbits produce both hard droppings and caecotrophs - soft poo they take from their bottoms and swallow
  • Rabbits teeth grow continuously through their lifetime
  • The average lifespan of a rabbit is 8 to 10 years
  • There are more than 60 rabbit breeds worldwide
  • Rabbits have 360 degree vision, except for a blind spot in front of their noses
  • Rabbits are gregarious and have a strong sense of hierarchy


  • Rabbits need constant companionship - from you or another rabbit
  • Unneutered males will fight
  • Unspayed females will usually fight, not always
  • Best pairing is neutered male and spayed female
  • Introducing rabbits is known as bonding and can take a few days to a few months
  • Rabbits will usually bully guineapigs
  • Rabbits can live indoors with cats and dogs if they are not aggressive
  • A single rabbit will bond with their human owner and/or other animals
  • Rabbits feel grief and mourn the loss of a partner


  • Minimum hutch / cage size is 6ft x 2ft x 2ft
  • Pine/cedar may cause liver disease - use wood pellets or paper pulp bedding
  • Outdoor rabbits
    • Need biggest hutch possible and attached exercise run (c. £200 - £300)
    • Rabbits suffer from extremes of temperature – keep warm in winter and cool in summer
    • Must be kept safe from predators
  • Indoor rabbits
    • Can be kept in a cage or free range (house rabbit)
    • Rabbits can very easily be trained to use a litter tray
    • Rabbit proof your house by protecting cables and plants

Exercise and handling

  • Rabbits need to exercise frequently to maintain a healthy bone structure
  • Rabbits like to play with toys, cardboard boxes and tunnels – they are curious and love to explore
  • Rabbits don’t like being picked up and prefer to be petted at ground level
  • Rabbits should not be handled by young children – if they kick out or are dropped they can break their backs
  • Rabbits should be picked up by placing one hand under their bottom and the other under their tummy
  • Rabbits should not be laid on their backs – this is stressful for them


  • Rabbits need lots of fibre to wear teeth down and keep digestive system moving
  • Rabbits need to have access to unlimited hay (any kind, only feed alfalfa up to 1 year old) and should eat their own body volume in hay daily
  • Rabbits should have approx. 1 eggcup of concentrate food daily (nugget, not mix)
  • Rabbits should have a variety of fresh food daily, approx. 1 to 2 handfuls
  • Good foods are dark, leafy vegetables such as spring greens, savoy cabbage
  • Foods high in sugar e.g. carrots, apple, banana should be fed only as a treat
  • Never feed ‘human’ food e.g. bread, biscuits, chocolate


  • Rabbits need regular veterinary healthchecks and/or emergency care
  • Rabbits must be neutered or spayed to avoid health and behavioural problems
  • Rabbits must be vaccinated against VHD (yearly) and myxomatosis (6 monthly)
  • Rabbits need their nails trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks
  • Rabbits need daily brushing when moulting
  • Rabbits can develop gut stasis and die within hours if they stop eating
  • Rabbits should not be starved before an operation and must be syringe fed if not eating
  • Most common health problems such as obesity and dental disease can be prevented by proper care

Common behaviour

  • ‘Binkying’ – rabbit leaps in the air, twists and kicks legs out – an expression of happiness
  • ‘Bunnyflopping’ – rabbit rolls on side or back when very content and secure
  • ‘Thumping’ – rabbit thumps hind foot on ground when alarmed, to warn of danger
  • ‘Nudging’ – rabbit nudges your hand or foot to request food or attention
  • ‘Chinning’ – rabbit rubs underside of its chin on objects to mark its territory
  • ‘Circling, Mounting and Honking’ – rabbit mounts or circles feet / object / other rabbit and honks (grunts) – rabbit wants to mate.  De-sexed rabbits may honk and circle to request food / attention

Common problems

  • Aggressive behaviour when adolescence hits – can be eliminated or greatly reduced by neutering / spaying
  • Obesity – caused by too much concentrate food and not enough exercise
  • Dental disease – caused by lack of hay in diet or genetics – more common in dwarfs and lops
  • Flystrike – if rabbit has dirty bottom caused by obesity, flies lay eggs which hatch into maggots and eat flesh – check rabbits daily in the summer months, keep litter area clean and hang fly strips
  • Destructive behaviour – caused by boredom, rabbit may overeat, pull its fur out, gnaw on hutch – provide a companion rabbit, more hay, exercise and toys

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