There are over 20 different breeds of rabbit in New Zealand, and colour variations within those breeds, but the most popular pets are the Lop (including mini and dwarf), Netherland dwarf, Californian, Angora and Flemish Giant.
Like a dog, a rabbit is smart, loves to run around and play, and is a social animal that adores the company of other rabbits and its owners. However, would-be owners may mistake the rabbit as a low or no-maintenance pet.
Most rabbits don’t like being picked up and cuddled, and should be handled in a specific manner, which can be difficult for young children.
Rabbits have special diet requirements, need a quality (and spacious) run or a rabbit-safe home, vaccinations, and yearly vet dental checks.
Desexing is important, but can be more expensive than desexing cats or dogs cost more than for a cat or dog. Rabbits, like cats and dogs, can get a variety of diseases where some may even require intensive care at a vet hospital. Be prepared and make sure you have an emergency fund or sign up for pet insurance in case your rabbit is ill.
The house bunny
If your rabbit is going to live inside your home, you will need a night-time pen, a litter tray, food and water bowls. Portable pet pens for puppies and kittens are cheap and work for rabbits. Move them outside so your rabbit can enjoy grass under its paws.
It’s vital to bunny-proof your house. Get down to rabbit height and check for potential chew toys for your rabbit like wooden furniture, and power and computer cables. Either restrict your rabbit’s access to some rooms or lift cabling off the floor and cover anything you don’t want scratched or chewed.
Grass hay, such as timothy or oaten hay, is the main food for any pet rabbit and should always be on offer at all times.
A rabbit is designed to eat grass, vegetables, greens and herbs. This fibrous diet is an important component in keeping their teeth and digestive system healthy.
Leafy green vegetables, about the size of the rabbit, should be offered daily. A healthy rabbit diet should contain 85% hay or grass, 10% leafy green vegetables, and less than 5 % pellets or nuggets.
The following are vegetables and herbs that are recommended for rabbits:
- Apple leaves and twigs
- Beetroot greens
- Blackberry leaves
- Blackcurrant leaves
- Cabbage (dark green varieties)
- Cauliflowers including leaves
- Curly kale
- Radish greens and root
- Roses leaves and flowers
- Squash (including cucumber)
- Strawberry greens
- Shepherd’s purse
- Willow leaves