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What really makes rabbits happy? The answer is simple - just think about the rabbit's natural life in the wild and the rest will follow...

What really makes rabbits happy?  The answer is simple - just think about the rabbit's natural life in the wild and the rest will follow...

Rabbits are designed to.... eat grass

In the wild, rabbits eat ONLY grass - no pellets, no vegetables, no fancy salads - and are perfectly healthy.  In fact, their teeth are specifically designed for a pure grass diet as they continue to grow over the rabbit's lifetime and need to be worn down by regular chewing on a fibrous material such as grass or, for domestic rabbits, hay.

By far the most common problem seen in domestic rabbits today is dental disease.  Overgrown or misaligned teeth lead to a variety of problems including abscesses, eye problems and, of course, lack of appetite and the resultant digestive problems.  For the lucky ones, it can be treated by regular trimming of the teeth; for the unlucky ones, it is a death sentence.

Feeding your rabbit a hay based diet (80% hay, 10% pellets, 10% veg) is the single most important thing you can do to keep your rabbit healthy and happy.

Rabbits are designed to... breed

And they do it very well!  The gestation period is only four weeks meaning rabbits can have several litters in a year.  While this may be necessary in the wild due to the high loss of life to predators, domestic rabbits should only be bred by experienced breeders.  The urge remains, however, and both males and females suffer from a range of health and behavioural issues if not de-sexed.

The risk of uterine cancer in unspayed does is up to 80% by the age of 5.  In the wild, this may be nature's way of keeping the population down but happily we can avoid this fate for our domestic rabbits by spaying them at the earliest opportunity (around 5 or 6 months old).

Unneutered males also have a risk of testicular cancer although this is much lower.  The main issue with males is the incessant courtship behaviour, such as spraying urine, which is distressing for both you and the rabbit.  A simple operation at around 3 or 4 months old eliminates the problem.

De-sexing your rabbit will make it healther and happier and also enable you to keep a pair or group of rabbits instead of just one.

Rabbits are designed to... live in large communities

In the wild, rabbits live very closely with each other in a large network of burrows called a warren.  They are highly social, reliant on each other - for example, rabbits will keep look-out and warn each other of approaching danger - and strongly hierarchical.

Domestic rabbits crave companionship as much as their wild cousins.  A lone rabbit will seek this out in humans or other animals and can form deep bonds which meet its needs.  In fact, some rabbits are so attached to their human owners that they may be jealous of or reject another rabbit when introduced.

In general, it is fair to say that most rabbits will be happiest in the company of another rabbit.  The best bonding is always neutered male, spayed female and a pair of bonded rabbits is a joy to behold - grooming each other, copying behaviour, competing for your attention and, most of all, snuggling up together for that most important rabbit activity... snoozing.

Rabbits are designed to... run around

In the wild, rabbits need to be able to run very fast in short bursts to escape predators - hence the powerful back legs.  Rabbits are designed to sprint, twist and turn and in fact need to do this to develop a healthy bone structure.  You will sometimes see wild rabbits, especially young ones, "practicing" this behaviour.

In domestic rabbits, this racing around, leaping and twisting is often called "binkying" and the rabbit is simply playing and letting off energy.  The best thing you can do is provide your rabbit with plenty of space, sit back and enjoy the show.

Rabbits are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.  In the wild, these are the safest times to emerge from the burrow and graze.  Domestic rabbits also follow this pattern to some extent and when they are active, they are very active!  Rabbits need a bolt hole (a 'burrow') to retreat to and plenty of room to run around, to play and explore... in a nutshell, to live as natural a life as possible.

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