I always think that rabbits are misunderstood little creatures who aren’t given the credit they deserve as sociable and intelligent animals and the high levels of care they need is often unrecognised. I have re-homed a few rabbits over the past 10 years and each one has had their own individual personality and needs. Murphy, our houserabbit, is very bright and incredibly cheeky.
So how can a rabbit be green? Well the main reason is that from their eating habits to their entertainment they’re happy with simple, natural, low processed stuff. Here’s how…
Hay, hay and more hay
The majority of a rabbit’s diet should be hay, hay and then some more hay. Hay is vital for their dental and digestive health. Because in their natural habitat a rabbit would graze on grass all day, their continually growing teeth are ground down and kept short. Hay also keeps their delicate digestive system in check because it is high in fibre, if a bunny’s tummy stops moving you’ve got big troubles. Did I mention how important hay is?
So, straightforward hay. No preservatives, no colours, nothing and you may even be able to buy it from a local farm. Many farms shops do sell hay but you need to check with them that it is ‘clean’ and suitable as food. Luckily we have a farm just down the road which sells organic, dust-free hay and straw especially for animal food and bedding – www.dustfreehay.co.uk. It even comes in hessian sacks or cardboard boxes rather than those nasty plastic bags.
Seasonal fruit and veg
Aside from the staple hay rabbits have a wide and varied taste when it comes to fruit and veg and the great thing about this is you can give them locally grown and in season greens. At the moment Murphy is enjoying curly kale! If your garden is free from other animals like cats and dogs (who are prone to pee on unsuspecting plants) you could even give your rabbit home grown treats like parsley or spinach or grass and dandelions which take no cultivating at all. What’s more local than that?
Rabbits are also strict vegans (although sometimes I wonder when Murphy tries to wrestle a chocolate bar out of my hand!) so you don’t need to buy them meat or dairy products and they will never prey on local wildlife or drop a dead bird at your feet.
To find out about rabbit diet from the experts read the Rabbit Welfare Association guide to feeding your pet rabbit.
Environment, bedding and litter
Whether your rabbit lives indoors or outdoors they will need space to move around as well as places to hide. How you might provide this for your bun may vary in lots of ways. However, one thing I would stress is if your rabbit lives in your house keep them away from electrical cables. I don’t know why but they always make a beeline for the first cable in a room and chomp straight through it. Aside from being dangerous this is costly and wasteful. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Since rabbits like to chew give them things that won’t harm them and lets you recycle at the same time. Cardboard boxes, old phone books, blocks of untreated wood and the insides of loo rolls all make good toys and boredom breakers.
Bedding and litter
Murphy is a house rabbit and is never locked in his hutch so his bedding is whichever carpet he decides to sleep on. However, if your bun lives outside or if like Murphy he uses a litter tray you’ll need something nice for him or her to sit on and to make a comfortable loo.
There are commercial rabbit litters available but I’ve never bothered with them. Since rabbits like to nibble whilst they’re on the loo better for them to munch on something that won’t harm them. I line Murphy’s litter tray with old newspaper (donated to me by my mum’s neighbour who cannot live without his daily tabloid) or shredded office waste paper and straw. When the tray needs to be cleaned the paper and straw (and poop) can go in the compost bin. I’ve also just discoverd that white vinegar is great to rinse out the tray and eliminate nasty smells. No chemical toilet here!
Companionship and care
Without sounding too cheezy your rabbit needs lots of love and companionship and those are not finite resources. Caring for another creature is sustainability at its best.
Ok, this is the serious bit but I think it needs saying. Although it’s easy for your your rabbit’s green lifestyle to fit alongside your own they are not easy pets to keep. Slight changes in their diet, wrong amounts of types of food and a stressful environment can (amongst other things) cause your rabbits serious health problems and lots of distress for you both. Don’t take a rabbit into your home and family unless you have read lots of information from those in the know (like the Rabbit Welfare Association) and thought about it carefully.
Finally, I would never advocate buying a rabbit from a pet shop. In all likelyhood these animals have been bred purely to make money and there are plenty of them sat in rescue centres waiting for a home. If you really have your heart set on giving a rabbit (or two) a home check out some rescue centres, ask lots of questions and have fun making a green, healthy life for him or her!