Hop Hop Hurray
The month, we celebrate the wonders of rabbits! Curious and playful creatures that enjoy spending time with humans, rabbits make great pets, even for owners who live in apartments.
While rabbits are generally quiet animals, they can also have distinctive personalities. Here are seven fascinating facts that you might not have known about these ‘hoppy’ critters!
1) A rabbit’s heart can beat more than 130 times per minute when at rest
This is more than twice as fast as a human’s resting heart rate, which is 60 to 90 beats per minute. If under stress or exercising, a rabbit’s heart rate could even go up to over 300 times per minute!
However, do consult your veterinarian if your pet rabbit’s heart is beating extremely fast while it is at rest, as this could be a sign of sickness. To feel for your rabbit’s heartbeat, place your hand on the lower left side of its chest and count the number of times its heart beats for 15 seconds, before multiplying the number by four.
2) Carrots are not the best food for rabbits
Forget the stereotype of rabbits as carrot-chomping critters; they actually do not naturally eat root vegetables and fruits. The best food for rabbits is fresh, good quality hay, made available at all times. This can be supplemented with a handful of various types of leafy green vegetables and small amounts of commercial pellets (fed according to packing instructions) each day.
This will keep the rabbit’s teeth and tummy healthy and encourages it to forage and graze. Save root vegetables and fruits for occasional treats, as these are very high in sugar and are not good for rabbits when given in large amounts.
3) Rabbits need to fart
Rabbits are described as non-ruminant herbivores, which means that unlike ruminants (for example, cows), they do not have a specialised stomach to digest the plant material they eat. Instead, rabbits rely on microorganisms within their caecum (a pouch in their large intestine) to break down the food and extract nutrients, which produces gas in the process.
Because of this, rabbits need to fart! However, stress, dehydration and poor diet can lead to a slowing down of the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract, which is known as gastrointestinal or gut stasis. This may then cause a build-up of gas within their intestines. If your rabbit has gut stasis, it may be lethargic, lose its appetite and/or show signs of pain such as hunching over, so when you spot these signs, consult your veterinarian immediately.
4) Rabbits are unable to cope with sudden temperature changes
The ideal outdoor temperature for a rabbit is between 12 to 21 degrees Celsius, and it can tolerate temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius. However, anything higher increases its risk of heat stroke.
In sunny Singapore, your pet rabbit may start feeling the effects of the heat under its thick fur coat. To keep your rabbit cool throughout the day, be sure to open the windows or turn on the fan. Provide plenty of water so that it can stay well hydrated – you can even add a couple of ice cubes so that the water stays cool.
Some signs of heat stroke are lethargy, panting, salivating, weakness and reddening of the ears. If you witness any of these signs, bring your bunny to the vet immediately.
5) Rabbits can express emotions with their tails
A rabbit may not make a lot of sound, but it uses other means to communicate its emotions, like through its tail! When a rabbit is curious, it tends to lean forward, thrusting its tail out further. When excited, its tail will rise higher.
If it flicks its tail from side to side, this could be a sign that it is about to attack… or it wants to mate. Tail wagging could signal unhappiness or defiance, so if you spot your rabbit doing that, it could be telling you that it is not ready for play time to be over.
6) Rabbits have to eat their poop occasionally
It might seem odd, but eating poop is good for rabbits’ health. Yes, it is completely normal for rabbits to eat their own poop. They produce two kinds of poop – regular ones that are to be disposed of, and cecotropes.
Cecotropes (which resemble small bunches of grapes) contain lots of protein and vitamins. By consuming them, rabbits get the important nutrients they need to stay healthy. So, the next time you catch your rabbit cleaning its hind end, let it be!
7) Rabbits love to play bowling
Bowling is extremely appealing to rabbits as it caters to their natural mischievous behaviour of knocking random things over. If you set up several mini bowling pins, it is likely you will watch your pet rabbit knock all of them down with its nose!
Playing with your pet rabbit not only strengthens your bond with it but it also stimulates your pet physically and mentally.
If you are interested in adopting a pet rabbit, please remember that getting a pet is a lifelong commitment. Do consider the responsibilities of being a good owner before you get one. To find out about the pros and cons of adopting an animal, check out this article and learn more about the adoption process here.
You can also contribute towards the Animal & Veterinary Service’s animal-related programmes through the Garden City Fund. Find out more here.
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