Vet Matthew Bayliss: Tips for rabbit sitters on rabbit care
If you are a pet owner who loves rabbits you may have hired or asked rabbit sitters to care for your pets. We asked Vet Matthew Bayliss to help us prepare a top tips blog for anyone looking after rabbits. The article highlights habits that rabbits are good at using for hiding their illness, and routines you need to maintain to ensure good rabbit health. Read on to learn more.
Tips for When House-Sitting for Bunnies and Small Furry Animals
As we all know, food is a big part of life – this has never been more the case than with bunnies, guinea pigs, and other small furry animals. In the short term, if they don’t have enough of the correct food (or no food at all) their guts can stop working, leading to things like bloat, gut stasis, and eventually, death. Rabbit sitters need to watch a few key signs…
In the longer term, because their teeth are growing all the time; and if their diets are lacking in fibre (from grasses, hay, etc.); dental problems can occur, leading to overgrown teeth, inability to eat food (or soft poos – more on this later!), spurs on these teeth (that can physically cut the inside of their mouths), abscesses and infections, problems with tear drainage, eye infections, diarrhoea, and eventually death. So all in all, not particularly nice!
Keeping rabbits is a responsibility
Rabbit care – Herbivores and High Fibre Foods
Rabbits and other small furry creatures are herbivores, and belong to a sub-group which we will call fibrevores. Meaning that their diet should consist mostly of high-fibre foods – as mentioned above, things like hay and grass. In addition to this, they should always have water available; and can have a small amount of nugget type food. It is best to avoid muesli-type food (if possible), as they pick out the tastiest bits, and leave the less tasty (and usually more beneficial!) bits.
Rabbit sitters please note
It’s not just food that Rabbits (and Degus, Chinchillas, and similar mammals) eat. They eat their own poo, too. With the digestion of food comes bacteria that live in the guts, partially digested bits of fibrous food, and other useful nutrients and vitamins; and in most animals this is where the journey ends, leaving these behind in a lump of faeces. The special poo, or caecotrophs, produced by bunnies, which contain all of these useful bits and pieces, are then re-digested leaving the familiar firm droppings that all small furry owners see in the cage or litter tray.
So, from the point of view of house-sitting and rabbit-care, with a bunny (or similar creature) just make sure they’re getting the correct amounts and types of food. Ask their pet owners to let you know how much and how often they’re fed – including their treats of course (little bits of fruit and veg are fine, but not too much!). Make sure the rabbits always have a supply of fresh water (usually from a drinking bottle).
Rabbit sitters – Learn about your house-sitting charges
In rabbit care, watch out! They can hide illness!
When pet sitting and house-sitting for a bunny, make sure you get to know the bunny first – again it may be worth popping round to meet the rabbit, get to know him or her, find out whether or not he or she likes to be handled; whether or not they are litter trained; that sort of thing. Rabbit care is more of a challenge than you might imagine. Being a prey species, they tend to hide things like illness very well. This is why its important to get to know them (and their owners!) before rabbit-sitting. A bunny could be quiet because they’re just a laid back bunny. Or they could be quiet because their mouth is painful due to ulcers. They might get snuffles (or another disease, like Myxomatosis). They could get diarrhoea and become dehydrated, or one of any number of things. But you wouldn’t know unless you became acquainted with the bunny first! It is worth preparing for your pet-sitting and rabbit care before becoming a rabbit sitter.
So, just make sure you as the owner of the bunny/ies are happy with the house-sitter; and you as the house-sitter are happy to look after their beloved pets.
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