Continue reading to learn more about how long pet rabbits live and how to greatly increase their life expectancy.
How Long Do Pet Rabbits Live
Rabbits were not created to live a long time; they are prey animals and are meant to be consumed by predators. They have evolved over time to beat the system by being able to reproduce at an alarming rate. You could almost call it a “bunny-apocalypse.”
A pair of rabbits and their babies can create about 4 MILLION rabbits in four years! Now in reality a rabbit in the wild only lives one or two years. Many are killed as babies or within a short time of leaving the nest.
Now that I have amazed you with these cool facts lets look at how long pet rabbits live for and what you can do to give your pet rabbit a long life. Oh wait, great info-graphic idea… Ding!
- 1 Leading causes of death in pet rabbits
- 2 Size of breed affects life expectancy
- 3 Neutering and spaying
- 4 Diet and nutrition
- 5 Exercise and life expectancy
- 6 Veterinarian care for your rabbit
- 7 Teeth are important
- 8 Housing your rabbit
- 9 Tips to increase how long your pet rabbit lives
- 10 The world’s oldest rabbit
Leading causes of death in pet rabbits
Understanding the leading causes of death in pet rabbits can help you keep your rabbit safe. Many of these causes are easily avoided.
Upper Respiratory Infection (Snuffles)
Snuffles is a common upper respiratory infection that may affect up to 10% of all rabbits. If left untreated Snuffles can kill a rabbit over time. Thankfully your veterinarian can treat snuffles with antibiotics.
To prevent snuffles, keep your rabbits cage or litter box clean. Stress can also cause rabbits to become vulnerable to infection. Snuffles spreads easily so if you have more than one rabbit it is important to keep them separated until they are not symptomatic. Common symptoms include; runny nose, nasal discharge and head tilting.
Rabbits nature is to dig, play and eat. They do not know the difference between an electrical cord and a tree twig. It is your job as a rabbit owner to keep electrical cords out of reach and/or covered with a rabbit proof cord cover. If your rabbit is electrocuted you need to seek a qualified veterinarian ASAP.
Cats and other pets
Rabbits can easily be killed by a pet cat or stray cat, even dogs for that matter. You know your pets better than anyone so use that knowledge to keep everyone safe and happy
My opinion is that rabbits do not make good pets for small children. Rabbits are delicate and can easily have their backs/spine broken causing severe injury or death. Many rabbits do not like to be chased or picked up. Use common sense when choosing a pet for younger children. The guilt that your child could feel for accidentally killing their pet could affect them for a long time.
Rabbits and stress do not mix well and can result in death. Traveling for long periods of time, the addition of new pets and a major change in environment can all lead to stress for your pet rabbit. When rabbits experience major stressors, they may stop eating due to something called GI stasis. More on that next.
GI Stasis (Gastrointestinal Stasis)
Stress, dehydration, poor diet, pain and/or intestinal blockage can cause GI Stasis. GI Stasis is when a rabbit’s digestive tract stops moving. If your rabbit doesn’t poop for 12 hours or only poops very tiny pellets, then your rabbit may be in serious trouble. GI Stasis can kill a rabbit very quickly and only a qualified rabbit veterinarian can save his or her life.
If you suspect GI Stasis contact your rabbit vet ASAP.
Size of breed affects life expectancy
The size and breed of your rabbit will have a significant affect on his or her lifespan. The larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan.
- Flemish Giants – The largest breed of rabbit weighing in at 19 to 22 pounds. Flemish giants live to about 8 years of age.
- Netherland Dwarf – The smallest breed of rabbit weighing only 2 pounds or so can live up to 12 years.
As you can see there is a four-year difference in their life expectancy.
Neutering and spaying
Numerous benefits will come from having your rabbit fixed or neutered/spayed. Male and female rabbits that are fixed at the appropriate age will live longer on average. Your rabbit will also have a decreased risk for certain cancers and a decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
Having your rabbit fixed can also improve their behavior and temperament. Males (bucks) will be less likely to or stop spraying urine and females (does) will become easier to handle.
Male rabbits can be neutered at 4 months of age and females can be spayed 5 months of age. If your rabbit is over four years old, it may not be safe to have them fixed.
Diet and nutrition
An unbalanced or poor diet can lead to a shorter life expectancy as well as cause behavioral problems. A rabbit’s digestive tract is made to process a high fiber, low protein diet. Following these diet and nutrition guidelines will allow your pet rabbit to live longer and happier.
Some common diet mistakes made by rabbit owners include the following.
- You never want to feed an adult rabbit alfalfa hay because it will lead to health issues and obesity Hay is the most important food for your rabbit, to be specific timothy hay. Fresh hay should be offered to your rabbit in unlimited quantities. A quality hay will increase how long your pet rabbit will live.
- There are several poor-quality pellets on the market. Stay away from ones that have corn, seeds and and/or nuts in them. Pellets are an important part of your rabbits’ diet but be careful about the quality. You want a pellet that is timothy based and has at least 18% fiber. Feed at a rate of about a 1/8th cup per four pounds of body-weight for an adult rabbit.
- Root vegetables and non-leafy vegetables should be fed in moderation. Leafy greens are part of a healthy diet that will help your pet rabbit live a long life. Choose leafy greens like dark lettuce, cilantro and kale.
- Fruits make a great treat for your rabbit and only should be fed at a rate of 1 or 2 teaspoons per two pounds of body weight. Never feed your rabbit bread or other wheat based products.
- Do not use a water bowl since they can become contaminated. Water should be available all the time and clean. Water bottles will keep your rabbits’ water clean and safe from contamination.
Suggested Article: The best diet for rabbits
Exercise and life expectancy
Walk a dog… Walk a rabbit? While you may not take your rabbit out for a walk around the block, they do need daily exercise. Our pet rabbit, Mr. Bunny can roam around our house freely and is never caged. He runs, plays and sleeps where he wants.
Exercise is critical for the overall health of your rabbit. A rabbit that can exercise daily will live longer than a caged rabbit. If you can not let your rabbit roam freely then at least give him or her a play area to romp around in.
Rabbits are made to move, jump, dig and explore. Not only is it good for them physically but also mentally. Who would want to be stuck in a cage all day with poop and urine?
Veterinarian care for your rabbit
Many people that have pet rabbits do not realize that they need at least a yearly checkup. Dental health is a key factor in how long pet rabbits live. Your vet will check your rabbit’s teeth, weight, eyes, joints and ears.
Nail trims are also important and should be done by a vet if your rabbit fights you. We have found that Mr. Bunny is so scared at the vet he freezes up and allows his nails to be trimmed easily and safely. At home he fights us and could cause himself injury.
If you do not have a rabbit vet check this directory.
Teeth are important
Rabbits teeth never stop growing and are very important for proper digestion. Having rabbit safe chew toys like apple wood, cardboard and untreated wicker baskets will help your rabbit live longer.
Housing your rabbit
A free roaming house rabbit will live longer than a caged or outdoor rabbit. This comes back to exercise and stress. If your pet rabbit is pulling or chewing on his cage or house it means he is mentally upset, board and wants out.
You can potty train rabbits to use a litter box and rabbit proof your house. Remember to lift up or cover your electrical cords.
Tips to increase how long your pet rabbit lives
- Create a stress-free environment – Your pet rabbit needs exercise, toys, cardboard to play with and interaction with other “rabbits”. Hint: The other rabbit is you!
- Housekeeping – Keep your rabbits cage and/or litterbox clean. Urine and poop build up can damage your rabbit’s lungs and cause snuffles.
- Verity – Rotate which leafy greens you feed your rabbit. A verity of different nutrients and vitamins will help your pet rabbit live longer and thrive.
- Teeth – Make sure your rabbit has chewable toys to keep his ever-growing teeth worn down. Applewood and cardboard are great for your rabbit’s oral health.
The world’s oldest rabbit
The Guinness Book of World Records states that Mick is the oldest rabbit in the world. As of February 9, 2019 Mick, turned 16 and is still going strong as far as I know.
Mick hales from Berwyn, Illinois USA and is “gentle, sweet and mellow.” Congratulations to his owner, Liz Rench for doing a wonderful job raising and caring for her pet rabbit.