What should I look for when choosing a rabbit as a pet?
Rabbits can be bought from pet stores or through breeders. Sadly, they are bred more for their appealing looks than for their good natures although there are more breeders out there breeding for temperament as you would a dog or cat. You may also wish to offer a home to a rabbit from a rescue centre.
Reputable centres will have done a full health check and most will neuter and vaccinate rabbits prior to rehoming.
When obtaining a new rabbit, there are certain things you should look out for. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
*The eyes and nose should be clear and free of any discharge that may indicate a respiratory infection.
*The rabbit should be curious and inquisitive rather than reserved and frightened. The latter do not make good pets.
*It should not be thin. Run your hands along the backbone to check this. The bones should not be too prominent and should be covered with a reasonable layer of muscle.
*Check for any wetness or caking around the anus, which is abnormal and could indicate teeth problems. Also check for any fleas or ear mites. Ear mites cause the production of brown wax in the ears.
*If possible try to lift the rabbit’s top lip to check for obviously overgrown incisors or front teeth. They normally do look rather long though, but if they are abnormal, they will appear assymetrical or broken.
*Enquire whether the rabbit has been spayed or castrated. Most will not have been until they are about 6 months old.
*Enquire whether it has been vaccinated against myxomatosis or viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD).
*Ask the seller if they offer any guarantee of health or a return policy.
*Finally, find out what the rabbit is being fed on. As you do not want to introduce a sudden change of diet when you get it home, feed it the same and gradually wean it off the food if you are not happy with its original diet. Sudden diet changes can result in gut disturbances and diarrhoea.