Rabbits Should Be Kept In Pairs Or Groups to Avoid Loneliness, Say Vets
The British Veterinary Assocation (BVA) is calling on the UK government to stop pet shops selling single rabbits, saying the animals are 'highly sociable' and tend to feel lonely if not partnered up with at least one companion.
The BVA said research has shown that almost half the number of rabbits kept as pets are lonely, following its recent survey of 18,000 vets in the UK that revealed 42 percent of rabbits were sold alone.
The findings, which were shared last June, also found that 73 percent of vets surveyed had seen rabbits that were not having their welfare needs met.
Now the association is saying ministers 'must encourage owners to buy rabbits in compatible pairs or groups in pet vending legislation'.
While a 2019 PDSA PAW report claimed that rabbits are the UK's third most popular pets, the BVA has expressed there is concern that many owners don't understand their needs.
For instance, the BVA's study also found that companionship was so important to rabbits that they will often choose company over food, when offered one or the other.
Daniella Dos Santos, BVA president and small animal and exotics vet, said: "Whether they are outside or inside, pet rabbits are highly sociable animals and benefit from buddying up with a suitable companion, so it's a big concern that so many in the UK still live alone.
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"It's important to acknowledge the significance of companionship and adequate housing space to keep rabbits happy and healthy."
Arguing that any rabbit pairing must be suitable, she added: "Anyone thinking of taking on a pair or group of rabbits should seek expert veterinary guidance to help make sure that the match is successful.
"For example, if you're starting from scratch, a neutered pair is ideal but if you already have a lone rabbit and you're wondering whether you should get a companion, ask your vet what your options are, what companion would be best suited to your rabbit's health and welfare needs and the safest way to introduce them."
The BVA has also warned that people should not house their rabbits with guinea pigs, saying the partnering is inappropriate as the two animals have different dietary needs, and aren't able to provide the social functions of other rabbits, including mutual grooming.
The BVA also advised that guinea pigs are also smaller, so are at risk of injury.
Featured Image Credit: PA