FAQs About Rabbits

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Dwarf rabbits

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  • How big do rabbits grow?

    Pet rabbits come in all shapes and sizes. Some larger breeds can weigh between 2.5kg and over 7kg. There are however smaller breeds, such as the Netherland Dwarf and the white Polish rabbit, on the other hand, which generally weigh no more than 1.25 to 1.5kg.

    As no particular standards need to be observed when breeding smaller size rabbits, it may be that now and then a larger one is produced. On closer consideration, however, whether or not a pet rabbit actually belongs to a particular breed is irrelevant. In fact, mongrels can often be the most lovable creatures and will often look particularly pretty!

  • Is there a "rabbit language"

    Rabbits only very rarely make a noise that we as people can hear. Nevertheless, there is a kind of "rabbit language", even if much of it is made up of body language. One exception is growling: if you hear that noise, it's best to leave your rabbit alone.

    Thumping with its rear paws is very noticeable and the rabbit's way of signalling that it senses danger. A rabbit thumping its paws is unsettled for some reason, even if we ourselves cannot identify the cause. Animals that are very timid and fearful can often thump so often that the paws suffer as a result. Such animals need a particularly quiet place for their cage and lots of soft pet bedding.

    If a rabbit licks the hand of its owner, however, this can be taken as a very affectionate gesture. The rabbit will often respond in this way to being shown love and care. And of course it's also a signal that the animal wants to continue to be stroked.

     

  • How do you tell if your rabbit is pregnant?

    Pregnancy can only be established with certainty by a medical test. There are, however, a number of clues that can offer a relatively reliable indicator of pregnancy in a rabbit: around a week before the birth, the female will begin to build a nest. Hay or straw will be gathered and piled up into a little nest, which is then lined with fur. In the final part of pregnancy, the female rabbit will also become somewhat fatter and you will sometimes be able to feel if the young rabbits are moving around. It's impossible to be really sure, however, until the young have been born.

    And what's more, in a pet rabbit, pregnancy lasts between 28 and 31 days. Shortly before the provisional birth date, the cage should be cleaned again because the female should not be disturbed after the birth.

     

  • How did rabbits become pets?

    The original home of wild rabbits is the Iberian peninsula and parts of North Africa. Rabbits, however, have also been kept and bred as pets for thousands of years. The Romans kept them as sources of meat and hunting objects in "leporaria", outdoor enclosures surrounded by walls in which the animals could move freely and dig proper burrows. In Europe's monasteries, the monks later devoted themselves to rabbit breeding, meaning that there were soon rabbits that were much more trusting and, above all, bigger than their wild ancestors.

    The smaller rabbit breeds, however, were first bred at the beginning of the twentieth century. Until then, larger breeds were preferred as sources of meat. The oldest small rabbit breed is the white Polish rabbit. These animals and the other smaller breeds introduced later quickly became popular as pets and companion animals. Nowadays, smaller rabbit breeds have become very popular pets.

     

  • Does the mother rabbit need help?

    The most important thing the mother rabbit needs when raising her young is peace and quiet. A few days before the young are born, you should clean the hutch thoroughly and line it with lots of Comfort classic bedding. A large hutch serves as a replacement for the burrow in which the young are born in the wild.

    For as long as the young rabbits are still in the nest, you should disturb them as little as possible. The strange odour would irritate the mother and, in the worst of cases, even lead to her abandoning her children. An occasional look into the nest just to check is enough and, while you're doing it, the mother can be distracted with a special treat.

    From about the third week, the young animals will begin to consume solid food. From that point on, you can give them for example VITA® SpecialJunior. This food gives young rabbits the right start to what will hopefully be a long and healthy life!

     

  • Are rabbits rodents?

    Rabbits are actually not rodents at all, although this is often falsely assumed.

    The order of rodents includes several types of hamster, but also mice and squirrels. Rabbits, on the other hand, together with hares, form a biological species called "lagomorphs". They do have one very important characteristic in common with rodents, however: the incisors, which continue to grow throughout the animal's life. These need to be filed down and looked after by eating hard food, for example Kräcker®. Otherwise, the teeth would become too long and make it difficult for the animal to eat.

    Although the teeth of rodents and "lagomorphs" are very similar, there is one important difference: directly behind their upper incisors, rabbits and hares have an extra pair of tiny incisors, called peg teeth.

     

  • How do rabbits live in the wild?

    Although the breeding of rabbits in captivity has been going on for a considerable time, they remain very similar to their wild ancestors. We must all of us have seen rabbits in the wild, which is hardly surprising since they are highly adaptable animals and have even followed humans into major cities!

    In the wild, rabbits build warrens underground with lots of interconnecting passageways and several entrances and exits. In them, the rabbits live together in a colony – governed by a dominant buck and a dominant doe.

    In their natural habitat, rabbits prefer dry, hilly terrain with sandy or gravelly earth. The young are born and suckled in a special nursery burrow, which is around 200 metres away from the rest of the warren and has just one entrance. It is visited just once or twice a day by the mother to suckle the babies.

     

  • Can I keep a dog and rabbit together?

    All pets are individuals, with their own personalities, so it is never easy to say with certainty how specific animals will react. However, you should of course always be cautious when introducing a dog and rabbit for the first time, as rabbits still count among the typical prey of wild dogs.

    There are, however, many dogs that do not have a particularly strong hunting instinct. Naturally, that makes living together easier. Some dogs will have already underestimated a rabbit and got a hefty punch on the nose for doing so. After that, in most cases the pets will tend to avoid one other.

    If they are allowed to get to used to each other from a young age, they can become real friends and even cuddle up alongside each other when sleeping. You should, however, only leave the two animals together unsupervised if you are completely sure your dog will behave.

     

  • How do I housetrain my rabbit?

    Many pet rabbits are house trained. With some, you don't even have to use a litter box. In the wild, rabbits repeatedly seek out the same spot to go to the toilet, and this behaviour is echoed in many pet rabbits.

    If the animals are able to access their hutch while running free, many of them will use the toilet corner in it.

    Some may also use a cat litter tray. Put pet bedding and a little used straw from the toilet corner in a flat plastic tray of your rabbit's cage and the smell will often be enough to explain to the pet what the tray is meant for.

    If the rabbit has already used a certain corner of the room several times as their toilet, this is the best place to put the litter tray. Once a rabbit has found its preferred place, it can sometimes be very difficult to get it to change its habits.

     

  • What should I do if my rabbits fight?

     

    Rabbits are social animals that don't like to be alone. Nevertheless, dominance fighting can break out, especially between animals of the same sex. In the wild, the defeated animal can simply get out of the way of one with a higher rank. Of course, this is not possible in a rabbit hutch.

    Pet rabbits will get on better if they have known each other from a very young age, in which case you may be able to keep two females or even two males together in the same hutch. It is, however, a good idea to have male rabbits in particular neutered.

    If you want to get two grown-up animals used to each other, you'll need a lot of patience. Ideally, the rabbits should first get used to the smell of the other. The first meetings must take place on neutral ground, otherwise the "first" animal will seek to defend its territory against the newcomer.

     

  • When do rabbits freeze?

    Rabbits are not particularly sensitive to the cold – even temperatures significantly below freezing point won't bother them. What they don't like so much is intense heat, when they will tend to lie in a corner, avoid any movement and pant a lot.

    In fact, rabbits can be kept outdoors all year round as they live outside in the wild. Outdoors, however, rabbits have underground structures in which it is a little warmer. Rabbits in outdoor enclosures should therefore be given a hutch for sleeping in and lots of warming Vita Verde® Alpine meadow hay. When it gets very cold, however, you should remember that fresh food quickly becomes indigestible and drinking water freezes. That's why, in the cold winter months, it's better to feed your rabbit small quantities several times a day, filling the drinking bottle each time with warm water.

     

  • What makes a good outdoor run?

    A sturdy construction made from wooden slats and a little chicken wire provides a suitable basic outdoor run, enabling the animals to eat fresh grass from the garden and exercise, but preventing them from escaping into the bushes.

    If the enclosure is open at the top and bottom, however, it is important to keep an eye on your pets: from above, the main danger is from predatory birds. With a little run-up, a rabbit might also manage to jump over the edge of the enclosure. Only a fixed roof can prevent this.

    To prevent unsupervised rabbits from digging deep tunnels, you can also cover the floor in chicken wire, for instance, although this is only a stopgap measure. Another, if much more expensive method, is to use special stones to cover the floor of the enclosure. These stones have large holes in the centres and/or are laid with large gaps between each other, allowing grass to grow between the stones, but preventing the rabbit from burrowing.

  • Do rabbits need help looking after their fur?

    Rabbits are tidy animals that like to groom regularly and keep themselves clean. Nevertheless, you can always give them a little help in looking after their fur: short-haired animals should be groomed once a week, long-haired ones more frequently. You should also brush more frequently during moulting to get rid of loose hair and, at the same time, massage the skin. Removing loose hair prevents the animal from swallowing too much when cleaning itself, which can lead to digestive problems. Plus, better circulation helps it to grow a new, magnificent coat of fur. Plus: most rabbits really enjoy such a brush massage!

    One precondition for healthy skin and beautiful fur, however, is a balanced diet. Skin and fur problems can often be manifestations of deficiency. Vitakraft's varied range of products makes it very easy to give your pet rabbit an appropriate, healthy diet.

     

  • How do I keep my rabbit clean?

    Keeping your pet rabbit in hygienic surroundings is easy with the many Vitakraft products available. Wooden crates are not suitable as rabbit hutches and should be avoided nowadays. Rabbit hutches need a plastic floor, as wood absorbs urine and can then become a feeding ground for bacteria.

    Depending on the size of the rabbit's hutch and the number of rabbits you are keeping, it should be cleaned once or twice a week, soapy water can be used. In the clean rabbit hutch, you can then apply a thick layer of Comfort classic bedding. A natural product made from untreated soft wood, it absorbs odours and moisture. Vita Verde® Alpine meadow hay can also be added to the rabbit's cage – for eating, however, it is best placed in a hay rack.

    Soft underlay is very important for pet rabbits since they have very sensitive paws despite their thick coats.

     

  • How can I clip the nails myself?

    At first, nail clipping should ideally be left to the breeder, a pet supplies retailer or vet. You can, however, also start to do it yourself later.

    A special pair of nail clippers is used for clipping the nails of your pet. The nails contain delicate blood vessels which you should take care not to damage – so under no circumstances cut too much off! With animals with clear paws, you can even see the veins. With dark-coloured animals, you have to be more careful and ideally proceed bit by bit. What's important is to hold the rabbit firmly enough when you're clipping to prevent it from struggling. That's why it's easier to have some assistance: with one person holding the animal and the other clipping the nails.

    And what's more, if you can allow your rabbit to run free in the garden, you don't have to clip its nails so often, because running on a natural surface and burrowing in particular helps to keep the claws short.

     

  • Do rabbits need a hutch?

    In the wild, rabbits dig underground warrens into which they can flee from danger. Our pet rabbits, too, like to have a hollow into which they can retreat. A hutch is therefore an essential piece of equipment in which to keep pet rabbits.

    A rabbit that is still a little timid will at first certainly tend to withdraw into its hutch more frequently. With a little patience and love, however, it will soon gain trust in people. Removing the hutch of a timid animal so it can't hide in it is definitely not the way to go. It doesn't mean that the pet will automatically become tamer.

    And what's more, curious rabbits like to leap onto the roof of the hutch and use it as a lookout!

     

  • How do I transport a rabbit?

    Sooner or later, every rabbit owner will need to transport their pet over a short or long distance, whether after they have bought it, to take it with them on holiday or to the vet. If the pet is to survive these journeys unharmed, you need to keep a few things in mind. Pet stores, for example, sell a range of very good transport boxes. A small rodent cage can also serve as an excellent transport box. For the rabbit to feel safe, the transport box needs a dark corner into which the animal can retreat. A little used bedding from the right rabbit hutch will provide a familiar smell.

    Long car journeys can be an ordeal for some rabbits. Given their fine sense of balance and hearing, they can suffer from severe travel sickness, lie limp in a corner and pant. That's when it's time to take a break. It's better not to give your animal water during the journey as it is likely to be spilled. A few pieces of fresh succulent food are a suitable alternative.

  • Are cardboard and paper toxic?

    In principle, paper and cardboard are not actually dangerous. The fibres they are made from are similar to those of hay.

    However, as paper often also contains dyes and adhesives which might be consumed by the rabbit, frequent feeding or large quantities can indeed be harmful. To be on the safe side, it is therefore a good idea not to leave printed paper or paper containing adhesives lying around if the rabbit is running about the house.

     

  • Can I gather wild plants to feed my pet?

    Wild plants, which can be gathered from outdoors, can provide a valuable supplement and add variety to the diet of our pet rabbits.

    It is very important, however, that these plants are free of pollutants. Plants that have been sprayed with pesticides and those you might gather by the side of the road should therefore be avoided. The toxins and car exhaust fumes would damage the rabbit.

    Dandelion is particularly popular with rabbits and relatively easy to recognise. But there are also lesser known plants which are also perfectly suitable, for example bishop's weed, sorrel, plantain, chickweed, daisies and, of course, all kinds of grass. Never give your pet any plants you are unsure of, as toxic plants could harm the rabbit.

  • What is the best food for my rabbit?

    Healthy food created specifically for rabbits is the key to giving your rabbit a long, healthy life.

    Like all pets, rabbits are descended from wild animals. Over time, wild rabbits have evolved a certain way of eating and living. Despite having been bred in captivity for many years, pet rabbits still share a great many similarities with their wild ancestors. Nature should therefore always be the model when feeding pet rabbits. 

    Vitakraft main foods cater specifically to the natural needs of the animals and contain all the essential nutrients they need. In addition, pet rabbits also need succulent foods, such as carrots, apples or dandelion. Free access to hay and fresh drinking water should always be self-evident.

    Because rabbits are, by nature, used to investing a lot of time, strength and energy into finding their food, when kept as pets they need something to substitute for this; otherwise, they may become bored and lethargic! Original Vitakraft Kräcker® sticks are ideal for this purpose, because chewing on these delicious sticks makes the pets work harder to get their food.

     

  • Why do rabbits eat droppings?

    A rabbit's digestive tract produces two different kinds of droppings: normal faeces, which are firm and round, and caecotrophes, which are somewhat softer. The caecotrophes, also known as night faeces, are usually expelled at night and eaten immediately by the animal. Such droppings contain important nutrients, such as vitamin B, which the rabbit can only really absorb once they have passed through the digestive tract a second time. Should you prevent a rabbit from eating its caecotrophes, it may start to exhibit signs of deficiency.

    In addition, they contain valuable gut bacteria, which are reintroduced to the body by eating. These gut bacteria, too, are very important, as without them the rabbit would not be able to digest its food properly.

     

  • My rabbit has a double chin. Is it too fat?

    Not necessarily. This is known as a dewlap. In some breeds of rabbit, the dewlap even forms part of the breed standard and is therefore not necessarily a sign of that your pet is overweight.

    Smaller or dwarf rabbit breeds typically weigh up to about 1.5 kg. However, many rabbits kept as pets are not always smaller or dwarf rabbit breeds and may therefore grow significantly larger than this.

    If a rabbit really is overweight, you can reduce the amount of food you give it – but only slowly and by a little, to avoid digestion problems. Sufficient hay, such as Vita Verde® Alpine meadow hay should always be available to the animal. Rabbits need this kind of roughage for their digestion. Exercise is of course also very important for overweight pets, so letting your pet out of its cage to run around every day is vital.

    For animals with a tendency to put on weight, we particularly recommend: Emotion® Sensitive Selection. Due to the lower energy content of these foods, it is not necessary to reduce the quantity of food you give to pet and they can therefore continue to eat their "normal" portion.

     

  • Why does the information on the packaging sometimes differ to that given on the website?

    We may occasionally change the recipe of our products for example, to comply with legally prescribed changes, or to make the food even more tasty for the animals. Such changes in composition naturally mean that the packaging in question needs to be revised. It can also be the case that new provisions in the laws governing pet food apply only to the food declaration, while the recipe remains unchanged. The product packaging will be changed in this case too.

    While we are able to update online information very quickly, including changing pictures where necessary, it takes longer with retail stores, and for a time, you will often find both the old and new recipes, as well as the old and new packaging, available in stores.

  • Sugar in rabbit food? Is that allowed?

    Did you know that most Vitakraft products for rodents and rabbits are manufactured using sugar-free recipes? In fact, 95% of our main foods contain no added sugar!

    To be able to consider sugar and its importance objectively, however, it is first important to be aware that there are many different types of sugar. Those generally known include fructose, dextrose and lactose. In addition to having different origins, they also have different chemical structures. Sugar is naturally present in virtually all foods, as it is the natural product of the photosynthesis of plants and is required as a source of energy by all living creatures. The sugar is either consumed directly or released by other carbohydrates during metabolism.

    Even hay contains sugar (fructans), which are the principal energy storage polysaccharides in grasses. Some grasses found in the wild can have a fructan content of more than 10%. It is therefore not possible to feed rabbits a sugar-free diet – nor would it be suitable or healthy for them. What is important and key is always the overall composition of the food and the quantity of the individual nutrients.

    If, for reasons of principle, you would like to use only food with a sugar-free recipe, Vitakraft offers an enormous selection! No sugar is added to most Vitakraft products, particularly those fed in larger quantities; the main foods in other words.

    If sugar is used – which may sometimes be necessary, for example for technical reasons – we pay very close attention to ensuring that the sugar content/overall amount consumed is kept low and appropriate. In addition, our recipes and the raw materials and types of sugar we use guarantee easy digestibility.

     

  • Can pet rabbits eat cereals?

    Yes, cereal can be a very valuable source of nutrition for pet rabbits in particular. From a scientific point of view, there is also no real reason to leave cereal out of rabbit food completely. Despite statements to the contrary, looked at from a physiological and nutritional perspective, cereal is demonstrably not harmful, provided it is given in the right quantities. And of course we pay a lot of attention to that! What's key is the overall composition of a product and the pet’s diet as a whole.

    In humans, it is widely accepted that various diet options are available. Some of us, for example, are vegetarians, others practice food combining and others eat quite conventionally. In the right combination, any food can be healthy and appropriate. And it's just the same with animals: depending on the nutritional and physiological needs of the species in question, various foods can be considered which have to suit both the animal and its owner.  

    With this in mind, Vitakraft manufactures an enormous range of products to be used as pet food. To enable every pet owner to find the right product, which suits the feeding regime that he or she has selected for their pet. For example, rabbits can also be fed an entirely no-grain diet with Vitakraft; that is, a diet containing no corn, cereal flour or brans. For this kind of feeding, we recommend Emotion® Sensitive Selection, Emotion® Pure Nature, LIFE Wellness or items from the Vita Verde® range.

     

  • How big should a rabbit hutch be?

    As big as possible! Rabbits like to move around a lot, run and jump. The bigger the space available to do this in, the better.

    Some rabbit owners keep their pets in large enclosures in the garden, or even have a room set aside for them. Where this is not possible, however, a large and suitable cage can give the rabbit and secure, fine home. But don't forget: plenty of exercise is essential!