By Adrienne A. Kruzer, BBA, RVT, LVT
David Prado / Stocksy
Rabbits are playful, have soft fur, don’t make much noise, and live longer than several other kinds of pocket pets. All of these qualities (and more) make them popular pets for both kids and adults, but those thinking about adopting domestic rabbits should be prepared to give them the proper care they need to reach their full lifespan potential. Learn what kind of lifespan you can expect from your rabbit as well as what rabbits require to live long, happy lives.
Lifespan of Rabbits
If you’ve never had one as a pet, you may be asking yourself, “How long do bunnies live as pets?” Rabbits are larger and have much longer lifespans than smaller pocket pets like hamsters, gerbils, and hedgehogs. The average rabbit lifespan is between five and ten years, with most healthy pet rabbits living to be around eight years old. This lifespan varies between different breeds of rabbits; most smaller rabbit breeds, like dwarf breeds, tend to live longer than larger rabbit breeds. The oldest rabbit on record was a wild rabbit who was caught and lived as a pet in Australia before passing away at over 18 years old.
If your bunny doesn’t receive proper nutrition, however, they most likely won’t live as long as an appropriately fed rabbit. Rabbits born with a health condition or who develop one later in life are also less likely to survive as long as a healthy rabbit would. Genetics can also play a part in the longevity of a bunny, as can daily environment and lifestyle. Rabbits who are regularly stressed, don’t get proper mental or physical stimulation, and/or are exposed to dangerous outside elements may not live as long as a pet rabbit that lives a relaxed yet active indoor lifestyle.
How to Keep Your Rabbit Healthy to Live Longer
To have the best chance of seeing your rabbit grow old, you’ll want to do what you can to help keep them healthy. Some tips for helping your rabbit live a long, healthy, and happy life include:
Since they are herbivores, rabbits eat plants, but the kind of plants they eat also matters. Appropriate amounts and kinds of vitamins, minerals, and fiber content need to be consumed so rabbits should primarily eat hay and leafy green vegetables with a small serving of fortified rabbit pellets each day. Limit treats and fruits to 10 percent or less of your rabbit’s diet, and provide both a water bowl and water bottle to encourage appropriate hydration.
- Provide Proper Healthcare
Even though there aren’t any vaccines that rabbits in the U.S. need to get, your rabbit should still get regular check-ups with a veterinarian to help catch any small problems before they become big ones. Additionally, choosing to spay or neuter your bunny may help them have a long life since these procedures prevent rabbits from developing different types of cancers.
Rabbits need mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy. Encourage your rabbit to play, run, and work for their food by providing them an enriching environment. Rabbits enjoy having a variety of tunnels and platforms and plenty of space so they can hop and jump.
If you house your rabbit outside in a hutch, ensure that the enclosure is safely secured. Predators like raccoons and hawks can easily hurt or kill a rabbit who lives outdoors. If your rabbit is outside playing with you, keep them in a safe, fenced-in area or on a harness and leash.
- Keep Your Rabbit Sanitary
Regular enclosure cleaning, as well as monitoring your rabbit’s feet and hind end, are necessary to avoid infections. Prevent fecal matter from building up in the cage, and bathe your rabbit as needed if urine or feces gets on their fur.
- Give Your Rabbit a Friend
Rabbits are social animals and do best if they have a companion rabbit. If you’re thinking about getting a rabbit, think about getting two instead.
Common Rabbit Illnesses
There are a number of illnesses that can negatively affect a rabbit’s lifespan, but a few are more commonly seen than others, including:
- Cancer – Uterine, mammary, testicular, bone, and other kinds of cancers can occur in rabbits, but spaying and neutering can eliminate the risk for many of them.
- Pasteurella multocida – This bacteria most commonly causes respiratory infections referred to as “snuffles” but can also cause abscesses, ear infections, conjunctivitis, and other issues.
- GI Stasis – Often referred to as ileus, gastrointestinal or GI stasis occurs when a rabbit’s guts stop moving. This is a life-threatening issue and can occur due to pain, stress, inappropriate diet, parasites, and more.
- Dental Issues – Rabbits’ teeth continuously grow, which can cause problems. If their teeth become too problematic, a rabbit may stop eating or develop dental abscesses, both of which can be life-threatening.
Adrienne Kruzer is an accomplished veterinary technician and writer with over 15 years of hands-on experience caring for domestic and exotic animals.