Pet owners can make the most of free rabbit health checks this May as Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) springs back into action at the London Pet Show. This year’s RAW (9th – 17th May) focuses on ‘Room for Rabbits’ and improving the environment for the nation’s estimated one million pet bunnies.
Recently published research by the University of Bristol, commissioned by RAW partner, RSPCA, revealed that many rabbits could be living in conditions which are potentially detrimental to their welfare. Dr. Jane Tyson, Rabbit Behaviour and Welfare Expert at the RSPCA, said: “The study showed that 59% of rabbits live in hutches and less than a quarter of rabbits have continual access to an exercise area*. Rabbits should have constant access to an appropriate exercise area to allow them to exhibit their natural behaviours and for their mental and physical wellbeing.”
Following RAW’s biggest year ever in 2014, veterinary surgeries across the UK have pledged once again to offer free health checks throughout the month of May, rather than just the week of RAW. Pet owners can also hop onto www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk for more information, tips and advice on how to take care of their rabbits and to find their nearest vet practice taking part in RAW.
As well as veterinary practices, other supporters of the national campaign include leading pet food company Burgess, MSD Animal Health – the producers of Panacur Rabbit, an aid to the control of E. cuniculi in rabbits, RSPCA, PSDA, Blue Cross, Wood Green and RWAF (Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund).
TOP FIVE TIPS FOR PROVIDING RABBITS WITH THE BEST POSSIBLE ENVIRONMENT
1. Think Outside The Box – A ‘hutch’ is not enough! Rabbits are active animals so attaching a large exercise area to their shelter gives them permanent access to all areas of their accommodation. The shelter doesn’t have to be a traditional hutch; it can be anything from a shed to a child’s play house.
2. The Right Spot – The housing area should be dry, draught-free, well-ventilated and out of direct sunlight. The housing area needs to be secure to prevent your rabbits getting out and predators getting in. Areas of shade must be provided at all times for your rabbits.
3. Clean Bunnies – A rabbit’s house should be cleaned at least once a day, by removing any bedding that is wet or dirty and any uneaten fresh food. A more thorough clean should take place every week. Check your rabbits for signs of flystrike every day (at least twice a day in warmer weather); check them all over their body, especially around their rear end and tail area.
4. Safe Haven – Make sure your rabbits have access to safe hiding places. As they are a prey species, they need somewhere secure to hide from things that scare them.
5. Play Time – Willow balls or toilet roll tubes stuffed with good quality dust-free hay are mentally stimulating and encourage natural foraging behaviour whilst being a form of exercise as rabbits have to work to get the food out.
For more information visit, www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk or tweet your rabbit related questions using #RoomforRabbits.