How long do rabbits live – All you need to know
It is no surprise rabbits make popular pets. What’s not to like! They’re intelligent, cuddly, beautiful and great fun! You’ll want to do everything possible to ensure you get many happy years with your pet rabbit! So, How long do rabbits live?
It’s true that domesticated rabbits used to have fairly short lifespans but those days are gone. By understanding how to care for your Rabbit, what to feed them and how to keep you bunny happy will ensure you get a long and happy time together, upwards of 10 years is not uncommon!
We have compiled this article to give you a good starting point in understanding what helps increase a rabbits lifespan!
Wild to Domestic?
The brown rabbit we see in the wild belongs to the class Lepus sylvaticus. However, the domestic version is descended from the European rabbit – Oryctolagus cuniculus. All 300+ domestic breeds we can keep as pets descend from this latter species.
Let’s take a look at some factors which can impact on the lifespan of a rabbit. The longest surviving rabbit [as recorded in February 2019] is Mick, an agouti bunny. He lives in the US, and his owner says she’s never fed Mick anything other than quality grass hay with minimal fruit and veg. The average rabbit lifespan ranges between 8 to 12 years – like Mick, some rabbits may reach their teens but if a pet rabbit reaches 12 consider it a pretty old rabbit.
Rabbits were popular food sources and kept outside in hutches. Attitudes have changed for many – the pot is less attractive than welcoming a beloved pet into the family. With that shift, a rabbit’s environment has become an important element in its lifespan.
Pet rabbit lifespan tends to be shorter if they’re kept outdoors. Wild rabbits usually don’t live beyond 2 years – they have a lot to deal with, including predators, poisons, myxomatosis and traffic. Stress is also a key factor in Rabbit lifespan.
An outdoor pet rabbit might be in a secure hutch/cage but it can still encounter predators. Cats, dogs sniffing at the hutch, nocturnal predators like owls calling – these types of stress may affect a rabbit’s well being. Sadly, rabbits can suffer heart failure from the shock of a barking dog or similar. Weather extremes also play a part. The answer? Keep your pet rabbit indoors.
You can rabbit-proof indoor space so your pet can free roam or have a large enclosure. For mental wellbeing and ample exercise, you need to provide plenty of space. The rabbit also has your company, with opportunity for handling and bonding. Love and affection shouldn’t be underestimated in helping pet rabbits live longer. With no predators/weather extremes to deal with – plus a controlled environment – stress can be kept to a minimum.
Mick’s owner swears by 80-90% hay and occasional fruit and vegetables. Every rabbit is different but there are a few things to think about.
Rabbit digestive systems are designed for highly fibrous foods in order to maintain essential gut flora and dental health. The primary food source to achieve this is grass hay. Complement hay with rabbit pellets, fruits and vegetables. Ideally, the ratio should be 80-90% grass hay plus supplemental diet. Quality is key. Always provide foodstuffs of the best quality. You want your rabbit to maintain a healthy weight, enjoying good nutrition with access to lots of clean water.
There are 300+ domesticated rabbit breeds. Generally, mixed breeds outlive the purebreds but there will always be exceptions. Smaller breeds tend to live longer than the larger ones.
- American Sable Rabbit Lifespan: 5-8 years.
- Checkered Giant Rabbit Lifespan : 5-8.
- Flemish Giant Rabbit Lifespan : 5-8.
- Dutch Rabbit Lifespan : 5-8.
- Mini Lop Rabbit Lifespan : 7-14.
- Lop Rabbit Lifespan : 8-12.
- Netherland Dwarf Rabbit Lifespan : 10-12.
- Lionhead Rabbit Lifespan : 7-10.
Rabbits require mental stimulation/enrichment. Although every rabbit has its own personality, they generally thrive on contact with you – plenty of cuddles and affection may promote longevity. Rabbits should be housed in spacious, safe accommodation – or securely free roaming – which allows them to express their natural behaviours. Rabbits hop, dig, burrow and investigate. It’s not ideal for a rabbit to live solely in a hutch/cage – offer your pet rabbit opportunities to exercise, stretch and explore. An enclosed run can be attached to rabbit housing or rooms can be rabbit-proofed for free-roaming. Rabbits are intelligent and do become bored rather easily. Offer a variety of toy items for enrichment – they don’t have to be expensive. Something simple like a loo roll tube filled with hay or something safe to chew on is rabbit nirvana. There are lots of ideas available on the web to help keep your rabbit entertained!
Having your rabbit sterilized may prevent uterine and testicular cancers.
Common health issues
Prevention is always better than cure, so regular health checkups with a rabbit knowledgeable vet can save much heartbreak. Remember that rabbits are prey animals so they are adept at hiding illness. Although good diet, enrichment and love contribute to prevention, there are several conditions you should be aware of. If ever in doubt, consult a vet.
Gastrointestinal [GI] stasis
This is a serious condition which rabbits can quickly die from. Causes vary but can include intestinal blockage, dehydration and stress. Observe for loss of appetite and/or smaller droppings than is usual.
Rabbits can die from shock so a calm environment is important – don’t allow your rabbit to be frightened by cats/dogs or roughly handled. Educate young children on how to care for rabbits.
- Malocclusion – misaligned teeth.
- Kidney/bladder stones.
Keeping a pet rabbit is a big commitment, one that can last 10+ years. Despite the image of rabbits happily nibbling on a carrot, in actuality, they have a complex digestive structure. Diet plays a crucial role in a rabbit’s general health, as does a stress-free environment. Rabbits do make rewarding and lovable pets so you’ll want to do everything you can to give your rabbit a long, happy life.