On the surface a rabbit would appear to be the perfect pet. They are cute, affectionate, have adorable personalities and are relatively cheap to buy. However a rabbit’s small price tag is also hugely deceptive and despite being the third most popular pet in the UK (not to mention one of the world’s best loved pets!), thousands of rabbits are abandoned every year. If you are mulling over a rabbit as a good low cost fluffy companion, It is important to consider the question ‘how much does a rabbit really cost?’ not just now, but long term.
In the United Kingdom depending on the particular breed and the seller a rabbit will cost you anywhere between £15 and £100 with smaller breeds such as Netherland Dwarf rabbits at the lower end of this scale and larger continental giants at the higher end, UK adoption centre fees usually fall between £25 and £60. In the US a similar dwarf breed will cost anywhere between $25 and $40 dollars with pet quality giant breeds costing between $50 and $100. Just like purebred dogs or cats, show quality and breeding rabbits with champion bloodlines will cost a lot more, continental giant rabbits with champion bloodlines might even reach upwards of $300 dollars or several hundred pounds in the UK!
Of course the real cost of a rabbit goes far beyond just the buying price. Most of us (including myself) excitedly get our first rabbit without really understanding the ongoing costs (possibly overwhelmed by the cuteness!)
It’s important to know not only the costs you will incur on the day of purchase (and the first couple of weeks of rabbit ownership) but also to consider the continuing weekly and yearly costs. These ongoing costs are the most important to understand, after all a rabbit can live upwards of 10 years.
Rabbits, far from being simple to look after pets, require a lot of care (and consequently money) so if you are serious about getting a rabbit ask yourself ‘can I really afford to keep a rabbit happy and in the best of health throughout its entire lifetime?’
We have already discussed the cost of the rabbit itself but what else will you need on the day you pick up your new companion?
The One Off Costs
While our preferred option is to keep our bunnies as house rabbits, we also understand that some bunny lovers just don’t have the required space (or approval from family members) to be able to do the same, (we’re not here to lecture) for those of you keeping outdoor bunnies, we’ll be sharing some tips on how to keep them safe, happy and healthy in a future blog post which we will link here).
Some advantages of keeping your rabbit indoors will include getting to enjoy their company 24/7 (and forming a better bond), a greater life expectancy for the rabbit and the added peace of mind knowing your rabbit is safe from weather elements or predators, in any case regardless whether you intend to keep your rabbit indoors or outdoors, he will certainly need a space to call his own.
As a first time rabbit owner you will naturally be concerned for the happiness and wellbeing of your new pet but don’t despair, after all, owning and looking after a rabbit is a continuous learning experience and making mistakes is normal.
A lot of rabbit hutches sold are unsuitable for rabbits. Opinions on how much space a rabbit need may vary however the Animal Welfare Act states that minimum living space for a single rabbit should be at least 6 feet (length) by 2 feet (wide) and 2 feet (height), with an even larger run area of at least 8 feet by 4 feet (wide) by 4 feet (high) attached to allow the rabbit to exercise and to telegraph (stand upright). Ideally a rabbit will have 24 hour access to this safe and secure exercise area.
As you learn more and your experience grows it may become apparent to you that your rabbit would benefit from more space than you are currently giving him. Even meeting the minimum requirement can’t guarantee that your rabbit will be able to exhibit his ‘natural’ behaviour.
For indoor rabbit homes, hutches made of hard wearing plastics and left open to allow your rabbit free roam of your home is a great choice to make and if you are allowing your bunny the use of the house, or perhaps a bunny proofed room of his own you’ll be able to get away with a much smaller cage.
For outside hutches your rabbits environment needs to be dry in all weathers and cool enough during the hotter months. Cheap woods and manufacturing techniques mean that bought hutches are often susceptible to damp and rot which may be detrimental to your rabbit’s health over the long term. Prolonging the life using tarpauling during wet weather conditions can help but remember to always ensure the rabbit has sufficient ventilation.
When just starting out our recommended course of action is to start with the largest hutch you can find (this might cost you upwards of £150 in the United Kingdom or a few hundred dollars in the US) before eventually designing and building your own custom hutch more perfectly adapted to your own rabbits requirements.
A custom hutch while costly will save you money in the long run. For reference purposes the hutch below is custom made for our bunnies and cost approximately £450 to make.
Bowls & Bottles
Food and water is obviously essential and bowls and/or water bottles (depending on the material) should be an infrequent expense. Metal dog style bowls are ideal for both pellets and greens as they can be easily cleaned while ceramic (heavier) bowls are great for water.
A rabbit can require just as much water as a small dog or cat especially in warmer weather so there is often debate over whether to use a bowl or a bottle.
It is true that a rabbit will struggle to get as much water from a bottle due to the relatively small drinking spout. I personally own rabbits that have no preference and as such providing both a bottle and a ceramic bowl that the rabbit is unable to spill will allow your rabbit to make his own decision.
Bowls will cost you around £10 in the UK with bottles being significantly cheaper dependant on the size.
Spaying or neutering of rabbits is essential and although you won’t be rushing to find a vet on your first day of ownership, the cost certainly falls under the category of one off costs.
The obvious reason for neutering or spaying is to prevent unwanted pregnancy between male and female companions, but even if you are not planning on keeping more than one rabbit spaying and neutering is important and benefits males, females (and you as a rabbit owner).
In young males, neutering will prevent both aggression towards other males, sexual frustration often displayed through grunting or ‘honking’ and territorial spraying behaviour.
In females spaying significantly reduces the risk of aggression and more importantly uterine cancer.
Both males and females will benefit from an increased life expectancy, better mental wellbeing, and improved temperament.
Male rabbits can be neutered at around 4 months of age (or as soon as the testicles descend) however some veterinary surgeons may prefer to wait until the rabbit reaches 6 months of age as surgery is risky on smaller rabbits. The procedure will cost approximately £80 – £100 in the UK. In the US prices vary greatly and may cost as little $50 to as much as $250 dollars.
Females can be spayed at around 6 months (upon sexual maturity) and the procedure will likely cost somewhere in the region of £70 – £100 in the UK. In the US prices will vary between the low end of the scale at around $75 dollars to anywhere up to a few hundred dollars.
While spaying and neutering are part of the one off costs of rabbit ownership, consider that your rabbit will require multiple visits to the vets over the course of its lifetime, whether for simple health checks, vaccinations or more serious issues.
While you won’t be able to avoid the inevitable (and often unplanned) vet visits, you can often avoid spaying and neutering costs by choosing to adopt a rabbit from a shelter or rescue group. Spaying and neutering as with all surgery is expensive, which takes us nicely on to the first regular cost of responsible rabbit ownership……..
Insurance is optional and will cost around £15 per month in the UK or around $10 per month in the United States. While it won’t necessary cover the costs of some of the more common disorders that rabbits suffer from, having myself once having paid £220 for a check over of one of my own rabbits by an out of hours vet one Sunday afternoon I can recommend it as a good investment.
As an owner there is nothing worse than encountering a sick pet and insurance will give you peace of mind that your rabbit can be taken care of in the event of an unexpected serious illness or injury without having to worry about the cost.
Keeping your rabbit healthy is high priority so vaccinating them against serious viral diseases such as myxomatosis and RHD (rabbit haemorrhagic disease) is essential. These annual injections will cost you on around £40 in the UK and between $40 and $60 dollars (per rabbit) in the US.
With the initial trips to the vets you’ll need something a bit more sturdy than a cardboard box. Pet carriers are relatively cheap to buy and come in various shapes and sizes. Expect to pay around £15 in the UK and around $20 dollars in the US.
Bunnies are fast and enjoy freedom and an escaped bunny is unlikely to come back no matter how many treats are offered. The importance of bunny proofing areas where your rabbit plays cannot be understated as an escaped rabbit is likely to be killed by predators.
While sadly a lost rabbit will probably never be found microchipping your rabbit can give you a slight chance, if an upstanding member of the public comes across him and is good enough to hand him in. Microchipping will cost around £15 in the UK.
The Weekly Costs
Rabbits eat a ball of hay equivalent to their own size each day (at least!). Not only is the fiber vital to keeping their digestive systems moving along, but the constant chewing of good quality grass hay will also prevent the rabbits teeth from overgrowing. Failure to provide hay could lead to an expensive trip to the vets. Hay also makes an ideal bedding material and is our preferred material over wood shavings.
Contrary to popular belief rabbits should not have too much carrot however they do love fresh leafy green vegetables such as (my personal choice) Kale. Approximately 65 – 70 grams is a good amount (or a more simple measure is an adult-sized handful) per day. This will be enough to keep your rabbits healthy and contented.
Rabbits have an acute sense of smell it’s not worthwhile to try to scrimp on the greens by giving your rabbit the cheapest stuff you can find, if they don’t simply ignore it, leafy greens that are not fresh can cause them uncomfortable wind (again resulting in a potentially expensive visit to the vet).
Top Tip: You will probably not be keen on going to the store every day so on the days when you do go ensure you get the freshest greens available by choosing packs from the back of the shelf (supermarkets display the oldest food first to ensure this sells first) by picking up from the back you’ll add a couple of days to the use by date reducing potential wastage and allowing you to give your rabbits the freshest greens available (or why not consider growing your own?).
Good Quality dust extracted can cost as little as £4 per week in the UK (2.25 Kilograms) depending on the stockist but expect to pay a premium of around £10 per week for the same amount from most pet stores. Expect to pay around $15 per week in the US (depending on the store).
Fresh greens will vary in price of course dependant on what you choose but for reference, Kale in the UK will cost around £1 per 200 gram bag, £2 per week for a single rabbit is a good estimate.
As well as hay and greens, a small amount of good quality hay-based pellets should also be fed to your rabbit. An egg cup full per Kilogram of your rabbit’s body weight will be enough to ensure your rabbits diet is supplemented without causing him to put on any excess weight.
Litter and Cleaning
Even with an area of his own, your rabbit will probably still find places within your home where he likes to poop. Avoid finding any little surprises by providing your bunny with one or more litter trays.
There are various options to fill litter trays, from wood shavings to shredded paper, even some organic cat litters will be safe. Most litters are relatively cheap and will cost approximately £5 (or $10) for a week’s supply.
Rabbit safe disinfectant should also be purchased to ensure both your rabbits litter trays and cage areas are clean and free from bacteria. This can be purchased for around £3 per week in the UK.
Everyone likes sweet treats (don’t they?) and your rabbit’s no different. With their adorable faces, they don’t leave you much choice other than to submit to their demands (unless you want a stroppy bunny on your hands!).
A rabbit’s diet might appear very bland to us humans but the basic hay, greens, and pellets diet works well in giving your rabbit exactly what he needs to keep him healthy however it can’t hurt to occasionally give your rabbit a little treat.
Treats can be expensive and pet stores often charge over the odds for treat ‘sticks’ which are often completely unsuitable for your bunny. Avoid treats that are high in refined sugar (very little nutritional value) such as chocolate-based treats, or those containing nuts and seeds which may be bad for your rabbit.
A more cost effective and healthier option is to buy small packs of sultanas or raisins which although are high in natural sugar are also very high in fibre which is a staple part of a rabbits diet. Limit your bunny to a couple of sultanas per day and they will love you for it.
Treats are difficult to price due to the many different varieties available however for reference treat sticks (while not recommended) cost around £5 for two. In contrast a bag of sultana’s which can last a month will cost you around £1.
A rabbits housing needs to be quite large and obviously they will be happier the more freedom you are able to provide to them. A great way to provide this extra freedom is ensuring that your garden is escape proof and giving the rabbit access time to ‘do his own thing’.
As mentioned the last thing we want is an escaped bunny so rabbit proofing your garden is essential if you intend to give your rabbit access. Rabbits are inquisitive and can squeeze through small gaps so rabbit proofing will require some planning, creativity and possibly DIY skills depending on how big the task is. Unfortunately the cost will depend on the work that is required (how long is a piece of string?).
Rabbits need enrichment in the form of toys to play with. Some that our own rabbits enjoy are cat style play tunnels, and wicker chew balls but there is a wide range available here are lots available. Some will purely be thrown around by your rabbit, others will be chewed and will contribute to keeping your bunnies teeth healthy. Toys will range from anywhere between £2 to £30 (or the equivalent dollar amount in the US).
You will be buying toys often throughout the life of your bunny so consider this a yearly expense and allow approximately £50 per year to be able to buy these.
For longer haired rabbits such as lionheads, specialist grooming brushes will also be required. These form part of the one off costs and will set you back around £10.
When you add up the total costs of looking after a rabbit it can come as a bit of a shock and while this article describes the main costs of owning a rabbit, it is impossible to be 100% accurate.
Every rabbit is different and there may on occasion be other unexpected costs (our own rabbits seem to have a tendency to find and destroy our ethernet cables despite us doing our best to keep them out of reach). Costs will also vary depending on which country you live in.
We hope that this has given you a small insight into what to expect if you decide to take a rabbit on as a pet. While rabbits may be cheap to buy, they are by no means easy to look after and require a lot of investment of both time and money to keep them happy and healthy.
Owning a rabbit will provide enjoyment for many years to come but make sure you take into account all the cost involved beforehand so that it doesn’t become an unexpected struggle.