As the winter cold begins to set in, the first thing we tend to consider doing is turning the heating on or lighting the fire.
However, this isn’t so much of an option for rabbits. You may wonder what sort of habits rabbits have during the winter, especially if this is your first winter owning one.
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One of the most common stereotypes about rabbits is that they hibernate for the winter.
So if you’re unsure about what a rabbit does within the winter and whether they hibernate or not, then read through this guide to learn more!
Do They Hibernate?
Whilst it’s easy to understand why people think that rabbits might hibernate, in actual fact they don’t hibernate at all!
Rabbits do have some adaptations which can help them survive the colder months but remember that in the wild they typically live in burrows under the ground, which allows them to keep their temperature stable throughout the cold months of winter.
These burrows also help to protect rabbits from the elements too, especially if it snows or rains, as rabbits are especially prone to catching pneumonia should they become damp or wet, which can often lead to fatalities.
The colder whether is also particularly troublesome if your rabbit suffers from arthritis, which can develop with old age, which can not only be painful for your rabbit but also can lead to some other serious conditions, such as sore hocks and fly strike, which can occur if your rabbit isn’t letting you groom them as a result of the arthritis pain.
This is why looking after your rabbit is important all year round, because whilst rabbits are able to deal with the cooler weather much more than they are able to deal with the warm, being outside in the winter months means that they’re much less likely to be able to spend time in their runs, which will lead them to have a decrease in exercise, as well as a decrease in the amount of green foliage they’ll have access to as well.
How To Look After Your Rabbit In The Winter?
There are various measures that you can take to ensure that your rabbit stays safe and healthy throughout the harsh winter months, some of which we’ve compiled below:
- Bedding: During the colder months, it’s essential that you provide your rabbit with plenty of extra bedding materials, whether it’s straw, hay or newspaper. You should try to ensure that their bedding is regularly cleaned and changed in order to prevent it from getting wet or damp as a result of the increased humidity. However, it might be tempting to give them a blanket, but this isn’t recommended as they’re quite likely to chew it, which could then cause problems in their gut.
- You should regularly check their hutch for any possible leaks or signs of dampness. Hutches with a sloped roof are best for the winter, as it means the water should be able to simply roll off.
- You should also ensure that the rabbit’s hutch is placed in a sheltered area in order to help shield your rabbit from any of the elements. The hutch should also be kept in a well ventilated area, as well as be raised up off the ground too.
- One important thing to do is to regularly check your rabbit for fly strikes, whilst some owners may believe that it doesn’t occur so much within the winter, but the flies will quite often seek the warmth of a rabbit’s hutch in order to lay their eggs, so it’s something to look out for.
- You should check your rabbit’s feet on a daily basis to ensure that they don’t have any sore hocks. If your rabbit’s feet look particularly sore, then it could perhaps be a sign that they are suffering from an underlying health condition, such as arthritis.
This could also be a sign that your rabbit’s hutch isn’t being cleaned properly, as sore hocks occur as a result of rabbits lying in their urine, which can irritate their incredibly sensitive skin.
- You should allow your rabbit to have a certain amount of exercise inside a clean dry space, something like a shed or garage should be suitable for this, it means that your rabbit is able to stretch their legs and get the exercise they need, and also makes for the perfect opportunity to check their hutches and clean it out too.
Can I Bring My Rabbit Inside?
If you feel like your rabbit wouldn’t be able to remain outside in the winter months, then it is absolutely possible for you to keep your rabbits inside!
They make great house pets, and can even be litter trained too with a little bit of effort!
It Looks Like My Rabbit Is Hibernating?
Remember, rabbits aren’t animals that hibernate, so if you notice your rabbit acting particularly lethargic or sleeping a lot of the time, then you should contact your local vet immediately.
It’s not uncommon for rabbit owners to think that their pet is hibernating during the winter, which leads them to overlook potentially life threatening issues.
Things to look for include a loss of appetite, lethargy, and weight loss, so if you notice any of these symptoms occurring with your rabbit, then you should get them seen too as soon as possible.
To summarize, rabbits are not animals that hibernate, as such, it is incredibly important that you take extra care for them during the harsh winter months, the tips provided above should help to ensure that your little furry friend will be comfortable even in the coldest of conditions.
Just remember to contact your vet if you believe that your rabbit is suffering from any weather related conditions or showing any possible signs of lethargy!