Small Animal Focus: Rabbits & Guinea Pigs

Posted by Clare Porter on 29th May 2019 to News Articles, Small Animals

Small Animal Focus: Rabbits & Guinea Pigs

Bunny Header

Rabbits as pets – Wellbeing and Health

Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK. Owning a rabbit requires certain health and wellbeing needs to be provided to ensure they lead a healthy happy life. When thinking about buying a rabbit for the first time - think rescue first. Rescue centres often pair rabbits so this relationship is already established.

  • Although normally nervous creatures, strong bonds can be encouraged between you and your rabbit if you handle them from an early age. It is important to be calm and relaxed and in a quiet environment. Be patient and do it slowly to ensure the rabbit remains calm. This can reduce the rabbit panicking and encourage them to get used to being handled.
     
  • To ensure a rabbit is happy we must provide them with an environment that allows them to display their natural behaviours. For example a run space which has places to hide and also space where they can dig. If keeping indoors ensure they have enough space outside the hutch to run.
     
  • Social Creatures – a group of rabbits is called a colony or nest and naturally wild rabbits live together so you should also have at least two. Studies show that rabbits value companionship almost as much as food!
     
  • A good pairing is a neutered male and a female together. When introduced for the first time this should be done carefully and slowly and be supervised for the whole time.
     
  • Rabbits hutches and space should be regularly cleaned. With a thorough clean once a week. This mean clean and disinfecting the cage and replacing all hay and bedding. They need annual vaccinations and can be susceptible to medical problems.

 

Rabbit Checklist:

Housing
Whether the animal is to be kept indoors or outdoors you need to provide the rabbit with enough space to do all their natural habits of sleeping, hopping, digging and grazing.

Hutches should allow them to make at least 3 hops and lie stretched out. In practice this means a minimum of 6ft x 2ft. The floor space needs to be at least 2 feet from front to back.

Safe outdoor areas can be created with the use of runs / playpens for good exercise.
 

Bedding/Litter

Using plenty absorbent bedding materials such as dust-extracted shaving & straw, newspaper (shredded and non-shredded) and hay with provide your rabbit with a comfortable and warm environment.
Remember in winter to pack with extra straw to keep the cold out.

 

Dietary needs

Rabbits are herbivores and require a balanced diet that has a high fibre content. Diet changes must be slowly introduced to avoid upset.

Hay & Grass – must always be available as not only does it provide a source a fibre, it also keeps rabbits teeth in check as they’re always growing.

Specialist Food – Balanced nutrition not found in hay and grass. Types of specialist food out there are Muesli based or Pellets/Nugget based.
Pellets /Nugget based food can be good as it prevents selective feeding from happening meaning no essential nutrients are missed.

Veggie – Nice leafy greens are best (broccoli, Curly Kale, fresh herbs and fresh dandelions that haven’t been in contact with pesticides).
Fruits and root veg like carrots are high in sugar so remember to limit the amount given to a treat rather than a staple. Do not give frozen foods!

Water – fresh water daily is essential. Check twice a day
This can be given in either a heavy-based bowl or a bottle.
Remember to check bottles for algae and water being frozen in the winter months.

 

Boredom Busters

Rabbits enjoy being entertained and here are some ideas:

  1. Forage:
    hide treats in different areas of the hutch. Treat balls are another good way to make a rabbit forage and it also provides a form of exercise.
  2. Graze:
    Scatter feed around the hutch rather than in a bowl, that’s in one place.
  3. Chew:
    Provide safe-wood toys, blocks we suggest ones made out of apple, willow, aspen, pine firewood.
  4. Hide:
    Provide cardboard/willow tubes, piles of straw
  5. Dig:
    Provide a decent sized area where they can dig.
    Rabbits will try to dig out of outdoor run areas so provide a safe place where they can dig with escape.
  6. Run, hop and jump:
    Provide long runs which allows them space to hop and run. A secure and covered run is a good idea to keep them safe from prey.

 

Welfare Needs

  1. Fly Strike
    Products available in store

    Fly Strike Products
    We have produced an article on this subject matter - Click here to read.
     
  2. Dental Care
    Regular checks of the rabbit’s teeth, coinciding with a good quality hay and chewing toys will help in this case.
    Hay & Chewing Toys
    Always seek help from a vet if you feel you have an issue.

     
  3. Grooming & Nail Clipping
    Our Stores with Salons and some other selected stores offer this service. Check your local store to find out.
    Use small animal nail clippers to trim claws.

    Small Animal Nail Clippers

 

 

Guinea Pig Header

Guinea pigs as pets - Wellbeing and Health

Guinea pig or Cavy are a domesticated species of rodent (Cavia porcellus). They were originally native to South America (particularly the Andes).

Like rabbits, owning a guinea pig requires certain health and wellbeing needs to be provided to ensure they lead a healthy happy life. They do require time and patience.

  • These animals are great first-time companions for children as they are gentle by nature. They are fun to watch and have a varied vocabulary. Once you get to know them it is possible to tell when they are happy, sad, excited or angry.
     
  • Guinea pigs are curious animals and like to see what is going on. They are happy to live indoors (and fair best this way) but do have sensitive hearing so if you have a busy home it may be best to choose outdoor accommodation unless you have a quiet space for your new pet.
     
  • Homemade toys always go down well, so don't worry about spending lots on entertainment. Tubes and cardboard boxes are particularly popular. These also provide your guinea pig a hiding place is scared.
     
  • Guinea pigs are very social animals and like to be with others of their own kind so it is ideal to get two guinea pigs to avoid loneliness – and, unless you want lots more of them, make sure they're both male or both female.
    They also thrive from human affection so handle them frequently, so they feel loved. They are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dusk and dawn. When they are awake, Guinea pigs spend their time feeding, grooming or investigating their cage.

     
  • Consideration needs to be given to their fairly long lifespan, which can be up to seven plus years. If you are buying them for your children, please consider whether they will still be interested in seven years’ time as many animals end up in rehoming centres because children reach an age where their priorities change.

 

Guinea Pig Checklist:

Housing
Whether the animal is to be kept indoor or outdoor you need to provide the guinea pig with enough space to do all their natural habits of sleeping, running, playing and grazing.

The minimum cage size for two guinea pigs should be 4ft (120cm) x 2ft (60cm) x 1.5ft (45cm) – however bigger is always better for the guinea pig’s health and happiness

Indoor Housing:
Smooth plastic bottom cages are ideal for housing indoor guinea pigs, as wire cages can easily damage the guinea pig’s feet. The cage should provide a separate sleeping area where your guinea pig can retreat and have quiet

Outdoor Housing:
Hutches are perfect for guinea pigs. The hutch should provide a separate sleeping area where your guinea pig can retreat and have quiet. In addition, outdoor housing must be sited off the ground and out of direct sunlight, draughts or driving rain. Ideally outdoor cages should be housed in a shed.

Safe outdoor areas can be created with the use of runs / playpens for good exercise.
 

Bedding/Litter

Using plenty absorbent bedding materials such as dust-extracted shaving, newspaper (shredded and non-shredded), paper pellets, and hay with provide your guinea pig with a comfortable and warm environment.
Remember in winter to pack with extra hay to keep the cold out.

 

Dietary needs

Guinea pigs are herbivores and require a balanced diet that has a high fibre content and is rich in Vitamin C, as like humans, guineas cannot produce their own. Diet changes must be slowly introduced to avoid upset.

Hay & Grass – must always be available to provide a good source a fibre.

Specialist Food – Balanced nutrition not found in hay and grass. Types of specialist food out there are Muesli based or Pellets/Nugget based. Pellets/nuggets are good as they prevent selective feeding from happening meaning no essential nutrients are missed. Never give rabbit food to your guinea pig as there’s no Vitamin C in it!

Veggie – Nice leafy greens are best (Curly Kale, spinach and spring greens). Green Peppers (minus all the seeds) are an excellent source of vitamin C.
Fruits and root veg like carrots are high in sugar so remember to limit the amount given to a treat rather than a staple. Do not give frozen foods!

Feeding bowls should be heavy-weighted and shallow.

Water – Guinea pigs don't need to drink if they are eating moist foods all the time.
However water in a bottle should always be provided to supplement water needs if being fed just a pellet/muesli diet.
Remember to check bottles for algae and water being frozen in the winter months.

Now and again, treat them to herbs and dandelion leaves (that haven’t been in contact with pesticides).

 

Boredom Busters

A guinea pig needs to be kept entertained to keep boredom down to a minimum.

You must channel their instinct to:

  1. Forage:
    hide treats in different areas of the hutch. Treat balls are another good way to make a rabbit forage and it also provides a form of exercise.
  2. Graze:
    Scatter feed around the hutch rather than in a bowl, that’s in one place.
  3. Chew:
    Provide safe-wood toys, blocks, etc – i.e. apple, willow, aspen, pine firewood.
  4. Hide:
    Provide cardboard/willow tubes, cardboard boxes and piles of dust-extracted hay.
  5. Run and jump:
    Provide long runs that are safe from poisonous plants and prey so they can hop.

 

Welfare Needs

  1. Fly Strike
    Particularly long-haired guinea pigs will suffer with this.
    Products available in store

    Products available in store
    Fly Strike Products
    We have produced an article on this subject matter - Click here to read.
     
  2. Grooming & Nail Clipping
    Our Stores with Salons and some other selected stores offer this service. Check your local store to find out.
    Use small animal nail clippers to trim claws.

    Small Animal Nail Clippers
     
  3. Keep an eye on:
    Weight (Guinea pigs are grazers so it can be easy to overfeed), Teeth, behaviour, general body condition. Record any changes.