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Every pet owner wants their pet to live a long and healthy life and. And while the lifespan of cats and dogs is fairly general knowledge, rabbits are a little more complex.
Rabbits are very loved pets and their lifespans have increased over the years, thanks in part to the nature of the care they acquire from their owners.
Whether you’re contemplating getting a pet rabbit or you already have one, knowing the rabbit lifespan will help you give your bunny the best life. With decent health care, your rabbit will surely be around for a long time.
History of Domesticated Rabbits
Domesticated pet rabbits are not the same as those wild cottontail rabbits that you sometimes see in your yard.
Oryctolagus cuniculus is the Latin term for a pet rabbit species, while wild rabbits are termed Lepus sylvaticus. This implies that pet rabbits and wild rabbits are technically distinct species even though they are from the same family.
Over the years, rabbits have been hunted and bred for food and fur. But since the 19th century, they have also been cared for as beloved pets. In the late 20th century, rabbits were starting to be more commonplace in homes across America and they have increased in popularity ever since.
As more people learned the wonderful personalities of pet rabbits, the care they gave them developed, increasing the lifespan of house rabbits.
Average Rabbit Lifespan Explained
Domestic rabbits normally live between 8-12 years, in contrast to wild rabbits, which may only exist a few years. That’s because the latter typically deal with disease, starvation, and predators.
Though there are different rabbit breeds, it’s hard to determine whether particular breeds live longer than others. However, larger breeds normally have a shorter lifespan than smaller rabbits.
Overall, rabbits live longer these days thanks to a combination of specially trained veterinarians and greater knowledge of how rabbits should live and what they should eat.
“When I began Bunny Bunch over 35 years ago, it was believed that rabbits live for maybe three to five years,” said Caroline Charland, creator of Bunny Bunch, a rabbit rescue and educational organization.
She says that during her years working with rabbits, she’s observed people begin feeding them better and keeping them inside more frequently. Doing so protects the rabbits from weather and predators, allowing them to live longer.
Do Some Rabbit Breeds Live Longer Than Others?
There hasn’t been sufficient study to know for sure, but it’s thought that bigger breeds of rabbits tend to live shorter lives than smaller breeds.
Dwarf rabbit breeds, which normally weigh between 2.5 and 3.5 lbs., live an average of 8 to 12 years when held indoors. With proper care, 10 years is a good average bunny lifespan.
Smaller rabbits tend to last on the longer end of the life expectancy range that incorporates all rabbits. Larger rabbits anecdotally live somewhat shorter lives, but still fall into the equal range.
Dwarf rabbits aren’t that distinct from larger breeds of rabbits. They’re just shorter in size. They make excellent pets, though, because they are so little and adorable.
Lionhead rabbits are a relatively modern breed; the British Rabbit Council identified them in 2002, but the American Rabbit Breeders Association didn’t do so until 2014.
Remember, lionheads demand a bit more care than other rabbits. This is due to their long and woolly manes. If left unattended, these manes can create pain and lead to skin infections. But when properly cared for, lionhead rabbits can surely live from 8 to 10 years.
Just so you know, there are various breeds of lops. These are a breed of rabbits whose ears flop downward. The other lop-eared breeds vary in size from 3 to 14 lbs, which is big for its weight!
The French and English families are the largest. When you think of a lop-eared rabbit you’re surely imagining the Holland lop, the Mini Lop, or the American Fuzzy Lop. These are a small breed of dwarf rabbits with big heads, short bodies, and flattened faces. Lop-eared rabbit life expectancy tends to be between 8 to 12 years.
Rex bunnies, with their short ears, small heads, and velvety coats, come in a medium size that weighs 7 to 11 lbs. and dwarf size with 3 to 5 lbs.
Like all rabbits, spayed and neutered Rexes can surely live between 8 to 12 years based on their genetics and quality of life.
Dutch rabbits are a medium-sized breed of rabbits that is compactly built. Often, their markings combine a white blaze on the face.
Rabbit lifespans, while they may be affected by the size, are not subject to breed. Dwarf rabbit life expectancy is about identical on average to other domestic rabbit life expectancy levels. So you can expect your Dutch rabbit to live 8 to 12 years.
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Rabbits that are kept indoors tend to surely have a remarkably longer lifespan than those that are kept outside.
Outdoor rabbits are confronted with much more rigid living conditions. The summer heat can be a killer for rabbits with their dense fur coats. Extreme cold in winter is just as dangerous as the heat and can give rabbit hypothermia.
An outdoor rabbit will also be faced with numerous deadly predators. From dogs and foxes to raccoons and hawks, rabbits have a lot to be scared of. Sometimes these predators will break into an outdoor hutch just to get at a pet rabbit. But even if they don’t, the little rabbit will have to deal with the frightening sights and stinks, and it’s very stressful for a bunny.
And, like with humans, excessive stress can produce health problems and unanticipated death in rabbits.
Outdoor rabbits are also more prone to come into contact with predators and disease-causing bacteria. They can catch fleas and get ear mites, or they can be bitten by ticks and mosquitoes that can lead to deadly rabbit diseases.
Considering all of this, an outdoor rabbit’s life expectancy drops to 3-5 years.
Neutered vs. Unaltered
Spayed and neutered rabbits normally live longer than their unaltered counterparts.
Female rabbits in particular should regularly be spayed. There is an 80% chance a female rabbit will amplify uterine or ovarian cancer by the age of 4 if they have not been spayed. Even male rabbits have a much greater chance of contracting prostate cancer if they have not been neutered.
Getting a rabbit fixed also corrects some behavioral difficulties they have. They are less likely to be hostile and will hinder spraying around the house to claim their territory.
To greatly increase the chances of having a healthy and long-lived pet rabbit, you should get them spayed or neutered as soon as they reach maturity.
How to Tell if Your Rabbit is Getting Old?
If you have an indoor bunny, you may expect to start noticing indications of aging around 4-5 years old.
Signs of aging include a decrease in activity level and the onset of more health problems. As your bunny gets older, she is likely to slow down her movements considerably.
Common Causes of Rabbit Deaths
One common reason for death in rabbits is GastroIntestinal (GI) stasis, which can kill rabbits rapidly.
GI stasis can have numerous problems, from stress to dehydration to a blockage. According to Judith Pierce, the director of adoption at the San Diego House Rabbit Society, symptoms to watch out for include loss of appetite and smaller droppings than usual.
Other common causes of death include heatstroke, injury, poisoning, infectious illness, cancer, and heart attacks due to stress.
For the first time, researchers have also classified the most common medical issues and causes of death in pet rabbits.
The RVC’s VetCompass program analyzed data from 6,349 rabbits that attended 107 veterinary care clinics. They discovered the most common causes of death recorded were:
- Flystrike (10.9%)
- Anorexia (4.9%)
- Collapse (4.9%)
- Gut stasis (4.3%)
The study also showed the average lifespan of pet rabbits was 4.3 years, although survival up to 14.4 years has been reported. The data additionally confirmed that male rabbits tended to live longer, at 5.2 years on average, as opposed to 3.7 years for females.
The study now provides a much better picture of what requires to be done to keep the UK’s third most popular pet healthy.
Overall, it’s essential to pay attention to your rabbit’s well-being and consult your veterinarian if something seems wrong.
“Rabbits tend to conceal the illnesses they feel, so when you notice that your pet rabbit isn’t doing well, it surely hasn’t been doing well for a while,” Charland said. “It’s critical to be very in-tune with your rabbits.”
How to Keep Your Rabbit Healthy
To keep your rabbit healthy and happy throughout its life, you need to fully know your rabbit’s needs.
Most domestic rabbits can surely live to be 8 years old, and several can live for up to 12 years. Unlike wild rabbits, who face regular stress and predators, domestic rabbits have daily access to food and protected places to hide.
Breeds and Lifespan
While the average lifespan of a pet rabbit is about eight to 14 years old, some breeds of pet rabbits are known to live longer than others.
Just like dogs, small or dwarf breeds of rabbits tend to live longer than giant breeds. Dwarf rabbits, mini lops, and other little bunnies will usually live to be in double digits, while large breeds, like French lops and Flemish giants, will not.
There are various breeds of rabbits. Just like with dogs, each has a distinct lifespan. In general, larger breeds of rabbits live shorter lives than dwarf breeds, and purebred rabbits have a shorter lifespan than mixed breeds. But remember, that each rabbit is different; a large purebred rabbit’s life may last up to 10 years, while a mixed-breed dwarf rabbit may only last for eight years.
Nutrition and Exercise
The food and exercise you provide your rabbit have a greater impact on how long your rabbit may live than genetics do. Despite the popular idea that rabbits are “low maintenance,” they still require a significant amount of daily exercise and a particular diet to thrive.
Rabbits also require relatively large cages and several hours outside their cage every day to get enough exercise.
Large breeds of rabbits need at least 5 square feet of cage space, according to the American Rabbit Breeders Association. They should also be permitted to explore in a safe room for some time throughout the day so they can stretch their legs and play.
Too little exercise can lead to obesity and heart difficulties that can shorten your pet’s life.
They also need a special diet. Rabbits’ teeth grow during their lives, so they need continuous access to clean timothy hay or dried grass. You should also furnish their diet with fresh, leafy greens and high-fiber pellets.
Despite popular belief, fresh grass and carrots can harm your rabbit. They’re too rich in sugars and can weaken their digestion. A bad diet can not only stress your pet, and can cause illness as well.
A rabbit-proofed area or a large pen is also a must-have. Pierce suggests a 16-square-foot pen but notes that rabbits should still have about three to four hours of time to be active outside of the pen every day.
But before you let your rabbit wander freely in your home, hide all wires, move books away from bottom shelves, and make sure that your rabbit won’t have access to your beloved furniture. Make sure that your rabbit can’t access the stairs or high places. That’s because they can jump up but frequently injure themselves trying to get back down.
Keeping your rabbit indoors is also important. While it’s true that wild rabbits live outdoors, they normally live fewer years than domesticated rabbits. Keeping your pet rabbits outside is not recommended due to weather conditions and the threat of predators, Charland said.
Toys and Mental Stimulation
Rabbits tend to get bored with toys quickly. And if they’re not mentally stimulated you will surely find them digging holes in your carpet or chewing at your baseboards.
Experts suggest giving your rabbit new toys to discover whenever possible. Toys don’t have to be store-bought, either. A cardboard toilet paper tube packed with hay can be endless fun for a rabbit, Pierce said.
Another reason rabbits are living longer nowadays is that veterinarians simply understand more about them. There are even vets that have special training to care for rabbits.
Pet owners recommend taking your rabbit to the vet as soon as you get it in addition to annual checkups and apparent need for medical attention.
Regular veterinary visits are very important for elderly rabbits, which can experience rapid shifts in a small amount of time. Spaying and neutering can also prolong life expectancy, as females are at high risk for uterine and mammary cancer.
Pierce said that before choosing a vet, do not hesitate to ask about their experience, including how many rabbits they usually see a week.
Oldest Rabbit on Record
Following his 16th birthday on February 9, 2019, Mick, an agouti rabbit from Berwyn, Illinois, USA, has been verified by Guinness World Records as the oldest rabbit.
Hazel, a small gray rabbit who owned the record as the oldest pet rabbit that ever lived, passed away at the age of 16 years and lived in the United Kingdom. Before Hazel, the record was owned by another pet rabbit who existed to be 14 years old.
Most rabbits don’t get it into double digits, so to have a teenage rabbit is quite the accomplishment as a pet owner.
Tips for Caring for Your Rabbit
There’s more to their health than just keeping your rabbit properly fed and providing them enough exercise. Here are a few additional tips to help your pet live a long and happy life:
Keep their cages clean
Rabbits can be pretty messy animals, so it’s necessary to keep their hutch clean. Remove the feces and soiled bedding each day, and thoroughly clean their pen at least once a week. Unclean cages can lead to infectious diseases.
Spay or neuter your rabbit
Female rabbits who aren’t spayed are more prone to getting uterine tumors if they aren’t frequently being bred. Always spay or neuter your pet rabbits to help keep them healthy and prolong their lifespan.
Find a small-animal veterinarian
Having a rabbit as a pet is very common, but they’re still regularly considered a “small animal” or even an “exotic” pet. You may want to look for a specialist vet in your area who understands rabbits in particular.
Check for common rabbit illnesses
Rabbits can still get sick even if you’re giving them the best care. Providing early treatment is the key to helping your pet recover quickly. Some of the common concerns to watch out for are:
- Overgrown teeth. If your rabbit doesn’t have ample things to chew on, its teeth can become overgrown. Their teeth can become pointy and instantly hurt your rabbit’s mouth. That can make them stop eating and potentially even die. If your rabbit’s teeth are overgrown, you’ll be required to visit a vet to have them ground down.
- Snuffles. Rabbits kept in dirty enclosures may contract snuffles or pasteurellosis. This disease seems like a common cold, but it is a bacterial infection that can lead to cankers and ear infections. If your rabbit has it, it will need antibiotics to manage it.
- Uterine tumors. Female rabbits who haven’t been spayed may grow tumors in their uterus. If your female rabbit is unspayed and produces health problems, it may be cancer. Surgery to spay them often cures cancer without much further treatment.
- Myxomatosis. Outdoor rabbits can catch myxomatosis, a flea and mosquito-borne disease that’s invariably dangerous. Symptoms involve eye discharge and swelling. Because of myxomatosis, rabbits should be held as indoor pets or kept inside mosquito netting.
Your pet rabbit’s life expectancy can reach the double digits with suitable food, housing situation, and living conditions. Rabbits are social, playful, and curious so providing them with regular socialization, toys, and a place to explore is necessary to keep them happy.
Keep these tips in mind as you take the next step and plan for your pet rabbit’s homecoming.