Hundreds of thousands of rabbits face a lifetime of endless isolation and loneliness, says veterinary charity PDSA.
Despite being incredibly social animals, PDSA’s PAW Report found that half (49%) of all UK rabbits live alone (equating to around 440,000 rabbits) and a quarter (25%, around 230,000 rabbits) are kept in inadequate housing conditions, such as cramped hutches.
The report also found that over a 24-hour period, rabbits spend an average of 11 hours inside their hutch. With one-in-ten (10%) rabbits not having a run, and living their lives in a hutch.
Pdsa revealed a further one-in-ten (11%) rabbits not having enough room in their runs to hop.
PDSA Vet Lynne James said: “During lockdown, many of us will have experienced feelings of isolation, boredom and loneliness. But while we can begin to ease out of lockdown into a new kind of normality, our PAW Report findings show the sad reality that thousands of rabbits will continue to face perpetual confinement, enduring inadequate spaces and a lack of companionship, which can cause immense suffering.
“Our research shows that 98% of rabbit owners said that their pet was loved, so it may be that most of the time owners are misunderstanding their pets’ needs as opposed to any intentional mistreatment.”
James added: “Rabbits are very social animals and need another cotton-tailed friend to be happy so it’s incredibly concerning that 65% of owners disagree that their rabbit is lonely. Rabbits should always be homed with one other carefully introduced bunny in a large enriching space.”
The news comes as earlier this year, 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.