RSPCA received more than 5,000 reports about rabbits last year

The RSPCA is shining a light on the plight of the Easter bunny as the charity received more than 5,000 reports about rabbits in 2019.

The typical image of the Easter bunny means that rabbits are more popular at this time of year and parents have found themselves buying a rabbit on impulse due to a little pester power from their children.

Despite rabbits often being perceived as an ideal ‘starter pet’ for young children, they actually have very complex needs and are one of the most neglected pets in Britain.

In 2019, there were 5,482 incidents reported to the RSPCA about rabbits and the animal welfare charity received over 900 neglect complaints about bunnies last year. There were also more than 300 abandonment complaints and 164 calls* from owners wishing to give up their rabbits.

Dr Jane Tyson, RSPCA rabbit welfare expert, said: “Sadly, when rabbits are bought in impulse, an owner may not realise how complex they are to care for and what a commitment caring for rabbits can be.

“Rabbits are arguably one of the most neglected pets in Britain despite being much-loved by many. Loving pet owners will understand their complex needs but unfortunately some of the common misconceptions about housing and diet are still prevalent today.

“We would like to see an end to rabbits being kept alone in a small hutch at the bottom of the harden as sociable and energetic creatures, this restricts their natural behaviours and has a negative impact on their welfare. Instead, we would like to see more people rehoming rabbits in pairs and providing them with plenty of space to exercise and do their binkies.

“Bunnies may look cute, but their needs are very complex and it’s important to do lots of research before buying or adopting pet rabbits to ensure that you can meet all their needs.”

The plight of the Easter bunny

The RSPCA advise that rabbits need a hutch or shelter which is large enough for them to stand up and stretch out fully, with an attached run so they permanently have access to an exercise area.

Rabbits need to eat a bundle of hay which is as big as they are every day – and owners should avoid commercial muesli-style food which is bad for their teeth and tummies.

Bunnies are incredibly sociable animals and need to be kept in pairs. Rabbits can form very strong bonds with each other and their welfare can severely suffer if they are housed alone.

Dr Tyson added: “For anyone who has done their research and is certain they can provide the time, space, money and care it takes to look after a pair of rabbits then please consider adopting rescue rabbits instead.”

The RSPCA rehomed more than 2,500 rabbits in 2019 and every spring the charity sees a spike in rabbit rehoming from its centres and branches with the most rabbits being rehomed in May (238). The charity has currently paused its rehoming due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but there are still lots of rabbits in RSPCA care being rescued and cared for during these challenging times.