A rabbit is a small mammal known for its distinct long ears and short tails. They are found all over the world in meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands.
Rabbits are popular pets because they are social and adapt to humans well. They are herbivores that prefer green, leafy vegetation and feed mainly at night. They typically live in wild for 10 years. In the wild, rabbits have plenty to keep them occupied, from foraging to reproduction to territorial defence. Captive rabbits, on the other hand, often lack stimulation, which can lead to behavioural problems and poor health.
Rabbits have an excellent sense of smell, hearing and vision. They have nearly 360° panoramic vision, allowing them to detect predators from all directions. They can see everything behind them and only have a small blind-spot in front of their nose. Rabbits have extremely strong hind limbs which allow them to leap great distances. They can jump up to one metre high and three metres long. Rabbits are territorial animals which live in loosely organised social groups. They live in warrens comprising of an intricate series of underground tunnels with different entrances and exits.
When rabbits ‘binky’, this is an expression of joy. They will run, jump into the air, twist their body and flick their feet. Rabbits are affectionate social animals that enjoy the company of other rabbits. They will perform allogrooming where two individuals will simultaneously groom each other. Although typically very quiet, rabbits do communicate vocally, with varying types of vocalisations communicating different messages, e.g. low humming when running around an individual is a signal of affection. Rabbits stand upright on their hind legs to give themselves a better vantage point to look for predators. They alert other rabbits to the presence of danger by thumping their hind legs. For the last 60 years rabbits have been increasingly commonly kept as pets in the UK and other countries. In the last ten years there has been an especially big increase in the UK making them the nation’s third most popular furry pet. In 2010 about 1 million rabbits were kept as pets. However, before taking on the commitment of caring for a rabbit as a pet consideration should be given to whether its physical and emotional needs can be met. Properly caring for an animal as a pet can have significant time and cost implications. For example caring for a rabbit is likely to cost more than £3,000 over the course of its lifetime.