Keeping Your Bunny Healthy: A Checklist for the First Year

Getting a pet rabbit is exciting, especially if you have children. You'll all be looking forward to welcoming your new furry friend to your home and enjoying caring for one of these unique little creatures.

It's an unfortunate fact that many people who choose to keep a rabbit don't know what they're getting themselves into, since rabbits need the same level of care as a cat or dog, and aren't as easy to look after as you might think. As long as you're prepared and you take the time to plan, you won't have any problems. To help, here are the things you should do leading up to and during the first year of rabbit ownership.

Before: prepare

Getting your new rabbit off to the best start means making sure you have everything you need. People increasingly let their rabbits roam free-range in the home, but they still need a place to hide if they want peace and quiet. If your rabbit is going to be caged, make sure you get one with, at a minimum, room for them to stand up on their hind legs, and long enough for them to hop four times – but the bigger the better.

Other essential items are bedding, a good quality grass hay for the rabbit to eat, toys, and – if you're getting a long-haired bunny – a brush to groom them with.

10 weeks old: flystrike prevention

Flystrike is a fatal condition where flies lay eggs near to a rabbit's bottom, and the maggots eat away at their flesh. Luckily, it can be prevented using a product containing cyromazine. Apply it at 10 weeks old, then every 8 to 10 weeks to top up.

10-12 weeks old: vaccinate

Talk to your vet about the vaccinations available in your area, and what they recommend. It's important not to delay, even if your rabbit is kept indoors and has no contact with other animals. Diseases can still be contracted through various means, such as insect bites.

3-6 months old: desexing

Male rabbits are normally old enough to be spayed at three to four months. Females need to be a little older – somewhere between four and six months is expected. It's vital that rabbits are desexed as soon as possible, even if they're kept alone. Not only does a sexually mature rabbit often have behavioural problems, they risk a range of health problems if left intact. In particular, female rabbits are prone to several different reproductive cancers that will significantly lower their life expectancy, so don't delay.