We love rabbits
In fact, we’ve been assessed by the Rabbit Welfare Association and are one of only 143 vet practices across the country to be deemed ‘rabbit friendly’ and be on their recommended vets list.
The met office is warning of another cold snap in March as cold air blows in from the continent, bringing snow with it. We know that very cold weather can be a tricky time for all of us, but rabbits in particular (and any other animals that live outdoors) can also find this a hard time of year.
Bunnies who live in the wild are outside all year, but they are able to behave differently to pets who live in a hutch. These sociable creatures dig burrows underground to protect them from the weather, and huddle together for warmth. This environment is quite different from a hutch, so they rely on us to meet their needs for shelter, warmth, exercise and food.
If your rabbit lives on their own, then we would recommend you consider getting them a friend. Even adult rabbits can bond with a new rabbit companion if the situation is handled well, and they’ll be a lot happier for it. Winter days are short, and that combined with bad weather usually means we spend less time outside where your rabbit lives, and they can become lonely and unhappy. It’s not natural for them to be on their own and have little to do. If you think this is the right route for you, do talk to us about how best to introduce your rabbit to a new friend to encourage successful bonding.
Housing your rabbit in winter
If your bunny lives in a hutch, make sure is strong enough to withstand wind and that it’s waterproof. If it’s not already, move it somewhere sheltered, so it’s protected from fierce winds as much as possible. You could move it to a corner of the garden or against a fence for example but do make sure there is still adequate ventilation around it.
You could put a tarpaulin or plastic sheet over the top of a hutch, or you can buy waterproof covers for them. It’s important that air can still circulate so damp doesn’t turn to mildew, and your rabbit can still breathe fresh air. Another option is to put a sheet of Perspex over the wire front of the hutch but make sure there is a good one-inch gap around it or a few inches at the top.
Inside the hutch, there are things you can do to boost the cosiness too. Large tubes called ‘bunny warrens’ and heat pads (we recommend snugglepads) are available to keep your rabbit’s sleeping areas warm and draft-free. Alternatively, you could use a cardboard box filled with straw as a snuggly bed to nestle in to and dig around in. Straw is warmer than hay as a bedding material so is a better choice in the winter.
Make sure that your rabbit’s bedding is cleaned out and changed regularly as damp bedding – either from urine or weather – can quickly go mouldy and cause health issues.
If the weather becomes particularly icy, then you could think about moving the hutch into a well-lit shed, garage or outbuilding. Just be aware that if the garage has a car going in and out, then that’s not going to be suitable as the fumes are highly toxic.
If an outside shelter isn’t an option, then you can consider bringing your rabbit inside, but this needs to be handled carefully as they’re very sensitive to sudden temperature change. Ideally, they should move into a cold room that has no central heating, but these are hard to find in modern centrally heated houses. If a cold room isn’t available, you should gradually increase the temperature in a room that you could use as a temporary holding area for them while they acclimatise.
It’s important to regularly check on the health of your rabbit during the winter.
Rabbits can’t make a noise so can’t call out or let you know if something is wrong.
They’re also prey animals so tend to hide any sign of weakness such as illness.
Look for changes in their behaviour, activity levels, the amount they eat, their weight and their breathing.
Regularly look at their teeth and make sure they aren’t causing any problems as they might not get worn down as quickly in the winter if they aren’t exploring as much.
To stay healthy and happy and keep their muscles working, rabbits need good daily run around regardless of the season. Make sure they have access to somewhere they can run, jump and dig every day. This could be their usual run with a cover on the top and tubes and boxes inside for warmth if needed, or a clean and safe shed.
Water bottles often freeze even if the hutch is in a sheltered area, so put bubble wrap or a thick sock over them and check them twice a day. It’s also a good idea to have two bottles. Keep one in the house so you can quickly and easily swap over a frozen one.
Rabbits often drink more in the winter than in the summer as they aren’t eating lush greens that contain water, so need to top it up themselves to compensate for a drier diet. It’s still important to make sure they have access to some greenery every day though. You could grow some grass in a tray or keep leafy greens in the fridge so you can give them a daily hand-full.
Our Rabbit Healthy Pet Scheme makes keeping on top of preventative healthcare and remembering regular check-ups easy. A small monthly payment of just £4.99 covers you for all of this:
- Two health assessments a year
- Annual vaccinations against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease Type 1 & 2
Further discounts on the cost of other preventative healthcare services including:
- Initial consultations (20% Off)
- Neutering (20% Off)
- Pet microchips (25% Off)
- Life stage and prescription diets
- Dental treatment
- Parasite treatment
- A selected range of chronic medication (25% Off)
As well as FREE…
- Nurse consultations (Unlimited)
- Regular weight assessments if needed
- Nutritional advice