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1 in 5 vets concerned about lonely pet rabbits

A recent BVA survey shows that 1 in 5 British vets are concerned about rabbits kept as pets. BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey asked companion animal vets what types of pets the general public should be discouraged from keeping.

Surprisingly high on the list were rabbits, with 22% of vets saying that people should be discouraged from keeping rabbits unless these animals can be properly looked after. Overwhelmingly, the message from vets is that while many people think rabbits are easy to look after and ideal pets for children, rabbits have complex needs and the traditional idea of the rabbit in the hutch can mean misery for these pets.

Many of the vets who responded to the survey voiced concern about single rabbits kept in hutches by themselves. Being kept on their own causes these animals to experience boredom, frustration and fear.

The most recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing report highlights how widespread and serious this ‘Bugsy Alone’ syndrome is, reporting that in 2013, 65% of pet rabbits were living alone. 

The vets surveyed also commented on poor diets and poor husbandry as problems they commonly see when treating pet rabbits.

BVA President and small animal vet Robin Hargreaves commented: “Pet owners, particularly parents trying to buy a suitable pet for their child, have the very best intentions. But I would urge them to stop, think and ask before purchasing any animal, and give careful consideration to their ability to fully provide for its welfare needs as well as the child’s relationship with the animal.

“Rabbits need the companionship of other rabbits and should never be kept alone or with guinea-pigs. The best combination is a neutered female and a neutered male rabbit. 

“We know as vets the pleasure that pet ownership can bring to the whole family, including children. But the golden rule is always to put the animal’s welfare first so that you have a happy, healthy animal who is part of the family.”

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