Knowing how long a rabbit is going to live is tricky business. The number of years keeps changing and it can get confusing. This led me to research how long they can stay alive. We all know there is a myth that says rabbits do not live very long. This is not exactly true. Rabbits do not have to live for just 2-3 years. It has been discovered that how long rabbits live is not static. The numbers have been changing over the years.
So, how long do pet rabbits live?
A Well cared-for pet rabbit can live 7-10 years, and some live into their teens. This is an improved figure because years ago, on an average, a pet rabbit kept indoors was expected to live for about 3-5 years. This change came about as people learned more about pet rabbit needs and how to care for them.
And compared to wild rabbits?
That is not the only thing I was able to find out about how long rabbits live. With some further research, I found out that wild rabbits live for far shorter than pet rabbits. They can live for about 2 – 3 years. This is most likely where the short life span myth comes from. Pet rabbits live much longer because of less stress, provision of food, housing, living in a controlled environment and love. Wild rabbits have to deal with predators, foraging for food, harsh weather, and no care when they get sick. These rabbits are left on their own to fend for themselves, hence they do not live for long.
Advances in Veterinary Care
The evolution in veterinary care is also a very big reason why the lifespans are improved. Checking medical attention when sick and the all-important checkup is making them last longer. Humans now know how to care for them properly. Giving them the right food and reducing stress levels are now more commonly practiced. Here is an interesting fact, according to the Guinness World Records, the oldest living rabbit is 16 years old. That means rabbits can live even longer than what the experts say!
It is also possible that the breed of the rabbit plays a role in how long it lives. Judith Pierce, the adoptions director at the San Diego House Rabbit Society, admits that larger breeds usually have shorter lives than smaller ones. Usually, dwarf rabbits, mini lops, and other smaller rabbits will live till their age becomes double digits, while large breeds, like French lops and Flemish giants, and will not. But she also warned that a generalization would be a mistake. A rare case of a larger breed rabbit living longer than expected might debunk this. Rabbits keep surprising me every day!
Spaying or neutering a rabbit has also been said to be a way to keep it alive for longer. This is normally done early in the rabbit’s life. It reduces the risk of cancer and pyometra (infection of the uterus/womb). It also stops urinary tract infections from occurring mean that the rabbit can live a long and healthy life.
Getting your rabbit to live longer
How well a rabbit is taken care of, it will determine how long it lives. It is possible to get a rabbit to live till its teenage years but by knowing and doing the right things.
A high fiber diet is recommended for rabbits. Rabbits live longer when they are fed loose hay. It should make up most of their diet. Pellets have been discovered to be a bad idea. Not all pellets contain the appropriate vitamins, minerals, fiber content, and other ingredients that they would need in their diet. If they do not eat well, they will surely be unhealthy and die young. Fresh vegetables such as kale and endive are needed by the rabbit, says Caroline Charland, who founded the Bunny Bunch, a rabbit rescue organization. Tim Patino, the president of the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary advised that treats are given sparingly and these treats should be a slice of carrot, mint or a bit of fruit. It is also best to avoid sudden changes in their food. If there is a plan to change what the rabbit is fed, I would advise that it is ease into it instead.
Consistency is also very important in the diet of rabbits. Jenna Antol’s rabbit lived for 17 years and 2 weeks before he passed away. She fed him just hay and occasionally, pellets without ever giving him any treats. Rabbits are more likely to live longer this way.
Rabbits have always been preyed on, so they are very cautious and alert making them easily stressed. Rabbits do not handle this stress well. Unfortunately, they are prone to heart attacks when scared. Indoors, pet rabbits may not have to face stress and shock from predators but noise and getting frightened can kill them. They are creatures of habit so changes such as moving or traveling or even a new rabbit can stress them out. Rabbits also have very sensitive hearing, a heightened sense of smell and sharp eyes so they notice everything. Rabbits should live in a calm environment that has no sudden and unexpected event. Approach them with calm and slow movements. When moving them to a new cage, allow them access to an open space to explore to soothe them
Rabbits can live longer with regular medical checkups. A yearly checkup is recommended. With the advancement in knowledge about rabbits, there is even specialist that can take care of them. Also, consider neutering and saying rabbits when they are young. As mentioned before, this helps prevent cancer and urinary tract infection. Age matters in the health of a rabbit, older rabbits get sick much more easily and closer attention should be paid to them. Charland advises that it is better to visit a veterinarian with experience. Clean hands are also very important when handling them. Cotter advises making sure their cages are cleaned regularly.
Rabbits are intelligent and active so they need freedom and toys to cope with the confined space they live in. bored rabbits become aggressive and unhealthy which leads to shortened lives. Rabbits enjoy playing but they get bored with their toys easily. Pierce suggests that a toilet roll tube stuffed with hay will be enjoyable to play with. It is also recommended for them to be released into a large enclosure where they can move freely.
Rabbits should be kept in a large hutch but they can be set free in the home for some hours to play. Pierce recommends a 16 square enclosure to allow enough movement. It is important that the hutch is cleaned out regularly. Bedding of shredded cardboard, wood pellets or even hay can be used. Also, the hutch should be safe enough for the rabbit. There should be no places it can climb on to and fall off or be frightened about. Do not let the rabbit out, it is dangerous and they could be preyed upon.
What foods will make a rabbit live longer?
It is best to stick with hay. It is rich in fiber and gives the rabbit what it needs. Pellets can be given to the rabbit but they should be checked for nutritional value. Avoid giving too many treats. Also, the treats should be carrots, fresh fruit or vegetables.
How much food should a rabbit be fed?
It is recommended that a rabbit is fed twice a day. There should be an endless supply of hay. For baby rabbits, alfalfa pellets are nutritious for them. It is important to provide fresh water daily.
How often should a rabbit’s pen be cleaned out?
This will depend on how well your rabbit is litter trained. Clean up the cage once a week to avoid the rabbit living in a dirty environment.
What are the symptoms of a stressed rabbit?
A stressed rabbit looks nervous, jumpy and aggressive
What should be done when a rabbit is stressed?
Do not put your hand in front of a rabbits face when it is stressed. Instead, place a hand above its head and gently stroke its forehead. This is soothing for them.
Rabbits are living longer with better love, environments, and healthcare every day. It can be seen that rabbits can reach double digits when they are loved and cared for. Giving them the right food and the best environment is incomplete with loving them. They are intelligent animals and respond to the affection shown to them.