The BVA has revealed that 42% of the pet rabbits seen by vets spend their life alone, despite evidence showing they are “healthier and happier” when housed with a companion.
The group is now urging potential owners to consider taking on more than one pet rabbit due to the “importance of companionship” for their physical and emotional health.
The BVA warned that rabbits’ needs remain “very misunderstood” despite the popularity of the pet. In a recent BVA vet survey, 73% of respondents said that pet rabbits did not have their welfare needs met, while 42% were housed alone.
Companionships see rabbits benefit from better physical and mental health, behavioural opportunities and emotional health. As an animal that lives in colonies in the wild, research shows that they actively seek out the company of other rabbits in preference to food.
Alongside the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) and British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), the BVA are now calling for “greater awareness” of the welfare benefits of housing rabbits in compatible pairs or groups.
Daniella Dos Santos, president of BVA, said: “Whether they are outside or inside, pet rabbits are highly sociable animals and benefit from buddying up with a suitable companion, so it’s a big concern that so many in the UK still live alone.
“It’s important to acknowledge the significance of companionship and adequate housing space to keep rabbits happy and healthy. We aim to create better awareness of both the physical and emotional health and welfare benefits to rabbits of keeping them in compatible pairs and want to spread the word that #ItTakesTwo.”
She added: “Anyone thinking of taking on a pair or group of rabbits should seek expert veterinary guidance to help make sure that the match is successful.
“For example, if you’re starting from scratch, a neutered pair is ideal but if you already have a lone rabbit and you’re wondering whether you should get a companion, ask your vet what your options are, what companion would be best suited to your rabbit’s health and welfare needs and the safest way to introduce them.”