At some point, your rabbits will reach “retirement age”. You become much calmer, move less, and sleep more. Here you can read what you should know about keeping old rabbits.
Rabbits can live up to eight to twelve years and in some cases even longer. For about six years, the hares are among the “seniors”. They sleep more, move less, and prefer to be left alone.
The Health of Old Rabbits
Many older rabbits lose weight, become thin, and have a shaggy coat as they age. Some animals eat more slowly and/or less than before.
Has your underweight rabbit been checked out by a veterinarian, as an illness could be the cause? Dental problems can also be behind it. They develop when the rodents have been improperly fed over a period of time and have not had a chance to properly wear down their teeth. That is why many old rabbits have problems with their teeth. Other diseases that are more common in older rabbits include cancer, eye, kidney, heart, and respiratory problems.
Observe your rabbits very closely every day, both their general condition and their eating habits. Carry out the daily health check as before. In this way, changes are quickly noticed and illnesses can be detected early. Older rabbits should also be taken to the vet for a check-up about once a year.
Keeping old rabbits
When keeping old rabbits, you should consider the following aspects:
- In order to meet the increased need of the rest of your seniors, you should avoid any kind of stress.
- The rabbit enclosure should be set up in such a way that the old rabbits can reach all corners and levels without high jumps. Ramps can help here. Food, water, and toilet should also be easily accessible.
- Avoid rearranging the entire enclosure as this can stress rabbits. If you move, it is advisable to set up the enclosure again in a similar way to how it was before.
- The resting place for the senior rabbits can be made particularly soft and comfortable.
- Old rabbits need company too! Keeping them alone is not species-appropriate. It is best if they live with other older rabbits. An old rabbit can also feel comfortable in a large group if they are used to it. Observe carefully whether it feels comfortable there or whether it is stressed.
The Diet of Old Rabbits
The diet of old rabbits should also be adapted to their age. This of course depends on the individual condition of each rabbit.
- Certain diseases may require a change in diet. Discuss this with your vet in your specific case.
- Overweight rabbits should lose weight slowly, as being overweight promotes some diseases.
- Your veterinarian will help you create a healthy diet plan for your rabbit.
- Underweight rabbits should be fed. More tuber vegetables and fruit, for example, help. A small piece of banana per day is also an option. However, rabbits often do not tolerate bananas very well. Therefore, you should initially observe the digestion. You can also ask your veterinarian for advice. You should also discuss the administration of dietary supplements with him.
In general, old rabbits need food with a high water content, e.g. fresh grass and lettuce in summer and types of cabbage in winter.
In larger groups of rabbits, it often happens that the older rabbits eat too little and get too little food. Observe if this is the case for you and, if necessary, let your older rabbit eat alone.
Keeping old rabbits outdoors?
In principle, old rabbits can also be kept outside if they are used to it. Some senior rabbits don’t put on a good winter fat as they did when they were young, and the winter coat sometimes doesn’t develop as well.
If you notice these changes in your rabbit, you should think about switching to keeping them indoors. In this case, however, you should under no circumstances relocate the affected rabbit alone, but always together with at least one other rabbit. Keeping rabbits outdoors can also be unsuitable for sick rabbits.
In general, with older rabbits in particular, you should make sure that they are protected from the wet and cold and always have access to a warm, dry place. It can be useful to insulate the rabbit hutch/rabbit enclosure particularly well on all sides for old rabbits. Insulating floor coverings can also help.
Put rabbits to sleep?
As long as your old rabbit is healthy and not in pain, he should really enjoy his old age. Old age alone is no reason to put a rabbit to sleep! Only when it is visibly suffering and in pain do you need to think about redemption.
You make the difficult decision to euthanize together with your veterinarian. The animal is then first anesthetized so that it will be unconscious when it is later released. If you wish, you can be part of this difficult journey.