Rabbit Welfare Statistics – PAW Report 2017

May 27th, 2017

The PDSA have just released their 2017 PAW (PDSA Animal Wellbeing) Report. This report looks closely at the welfare of pet dogs, cats and rabbits in the UK by surveying owners and vets. It’s fascinating stuff because it provides statistics that let you track key welfare trends like neutering and diet over the last 7 years. If you’ve ever wondered “are things getting better?” this report can give you a firm yes or no. You can see my review of previous years reports here.

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Diet

To report uses two key factors to judge the quality of rabbits’ diets – whether rabbits are fed pellets or muesli (studies have shown muesli is less healthy than pellets) and whether rabbits eat enough hay (a portion about the size of their body).

The good news is that there has been a significant decline in people feeding muesli, from 49% in 2011 to 25% in 2017. This probably reflects the amount of publicity about the downsides to muesli around 2013, which led to some stockists and pet food manufacturers stopping sales. The bad news is most of that decline was in 2013/14 and the proportion feeding it has remained fairly static since.

There is also good news on hay, the amount of rabbits not eating a suitable sized portion has declined from 42% in 2011 to 31% in 2017. Again though, there is still a stubborn portion that aren’t feeding enough hay and it’s actually risen slightly from a low of 26% in 2013/15.

This years Rabbit Awareness Week (17-25th June) is focusing on diet. The great thing about the PAW Report is we’ll be able to look at the 2018 one and see if it has any influence. Part of the difficulty with improving welfare is you have rabbit owners that look out for new information and are therefore easy to reach, but also a group who aren’t getting the welfare messages. One of the things the report highlighted is that there is a big split between the welfare of rabbits that are registered with a vet and not e.g. only 17% of rabbits registered with a vet are fed muesli, where as 41% not registered with a vet are fed muesli. Vets are a really valuable information source for how to care for your pet properly – not just somewhere to go when your bun is sick.

Companionship

Rabbits are social animals so another key gauge of welfare is whether they have a companion. In 2017 44% of rabbits have a companion, a rise from 33% in 2011. Whilst that’s still quite low it’s nice there has been an increase.

The 2016 report had a little more detail on the living arrangements of bunnies:

52% Lived on their own
20% Lived with a rabbit of the opposite sex
17% Lived with a rabbit of the same sex
3% Lived with more than one rabbit of different sexes
1% Lived with more than one rabbit of the same sex
1% Lived with one or more guinea pigs

Note the similar numbers living with the same sex and opposite sex – this is interesting as matching up opposite sex neutered rabbit’s is what’s most frequently promoted. Of those rabbits living with companions, 64% of the rabbits involved were all neutered and 23% none were neutered – hopefully that later group are from the same sex category!

Neutering

In 2017 56% of rabbits are neutered, up from 37% in 2011 – there’s been nice steady upwards trend and I imagine it’s helped the upward trend in companionship too. These changes take time, seven years isn’t even the life time of one rabbit so seeing an improvement over what’s really quite a short period is great. As people tend to be reluctant to neutered older animals, it’s hopefully a sign that more young rabbits are being neutered and therefore the total neutered will continue to grow.

Vaccinations

The first few PAW reports just looked at whether rabbits were vaccinated or not – 46% vaccinated in 2011. Later reports have split this into primary vaccination (the first one) and boosters. In 2017 50% of rabbits had a first vaccination and 45% regular boosters.

Considering the prevalence of Myxomatosis and the new strain of VHD2 it’s worrying how few rabbits are vaccinated. The reason they aren’t vaccinated is also worrying – 32% said they thought vaccinations were unnecessary and 10% too expensive. Whilst cost isn’t something we can easily fix, if 16% of rabbits are unvaccinated because their owner didn’t realise it was necessary then we need to do some more education!

Housing

Indoor v outdoor can be a bit of a hot topic. In general the UK tends to see living outdoors as more normal for rabbits than some countries i.e. the US. So 41% of rabbits living predominantly inside was higher than I would have guessed.

I think it’s important that we don’t equate indoor with good housing and outdoor with bad though. Housing a rabbit inside doesn’t automatically mean it’s environmental needs are met, it’s very much down to the actual environment provided. Overall the report found 35% of rabbits were housed inappropriately, including 15% inside. A small cage is a small cage whether it’s in or out.

Behaviour

Last of all a little snippet on behaviour, a topic I’m rather fond of, so this one interested me – 44% of owners reported their rabbit displayed one or more unwanted behaviours that they’d like to change (including thumping and biting the cage bars). That’s a very high figure. It’s also worrying what that could mean for welfare – unwanted behaviours such as bar chewing can be a sign a rabbit’s needs aren’t being met. When the behaviours make rabbits tough to live with, they can also lead to rabbits being given up to rescues.

If you have a cage bar rattler/chewer I’ve an article on resolving it here: Rabbit Behaviour Problem: Chewing the Cage Bars.

Conclusion

So is rabbit welfare improving? The PAW Report shows that yes it is. We have made some positive progress in quite a short period, whilst there is clearly a lot more to do we have to accept it takes time to filter down education to 1.1 million or so rabbit owners. Those that work hard to educate people about rabbits’ needs should give themselves a pat on the back – keep up the good work it does make a difference!

What do you think are the biggest issues to rabbit welfare and how can we tackle them?

You can download the full report here: https://www.pdsa.org.uk/get-involved/our-current-campaigns/pdsa-animal-wellbeing-report

Scamp 2007 – 2016

November 5th, 2016

Earlier this year Scamp developed a small lump on his side over his ribs, it grew and I made the decision to have it removed, which went well. The biopsy can back showing it was Lymphoma and although unlikely to spread, there was a chance it could reoccur at the same site. It did, in just a few weeks it was back and growing rapidly, we tried again to have it removed but this time Scamp reacted to the anaesthetic and they brought him around without operating.

The lump continued to grow until it was interfering with the movement of his front leg and generally making him miserable. So on 13th September the vet visited him at home and helped him over rainbow bridge whilst he sat on his favourite box and I rubbed his ears.

Here are some of my favourite photos of his time with me…

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Nine and a half years ago – eyes closed and small enough to fit in the palm of my hand

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Still a baby here and curled up looking adorable

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Shredding a telephone directory – one of his favourite activities

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Adding backup escape routes to all his boxes (or in this case the vet carrier)

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Napping in the sunshine resting on my hand… and getting nose rubs when I wasn’t pointing a camera

It's kind of a long way down though!

Jumping off high things

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Finding him in places he really shouldn’t have been able to get to

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Helping make toys for blog posts

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Racing around the room binkying and then flopping over on my feet for cheek rubs

Scamp was an amazing little wild bunny, even if sometimes the amazing was his ability to chew, escape and generally cause trouble. He taught me a lot about bunnies and their fascinating behaviour (and a lot about bunny proofing) and it’s because of him my book Understanding your Rabbit’s Habits exists and is, hopefully, helping others understand these wonderful creatures a little better too. He’s also been the inspiration for the bunny toys and enrichment ideas, which I’ve posted on this blog and in Bunny Mad Magazine. Inspiration is a nice way of saying I spent a lot of time frantically coming up with ideas to occupy him so he wouldn’t get into quite so much mischief of his own design.

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Scamp 2007 – 2016

Good bye little bun, I will miss you a lot.

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Bunny Spycam – Panasonic Home Monitoring System Review

January 18th, 2016

Occasionally Scamp gets sent cool things to review like tasty salad bowls. Recently he was offered a home monitoring system to try out, which seemed a slightly odd thing to offer a rabbit (no matter what Scamp thinks no one is going to steal his treats), but was actually a lot of fun.

Panasonic Home Monitoring System

That square thing is the ‘hub’ which has an SD card to record too, and then there is an indoor camera, and outdoor camera, two sensors that detect doors/windows/cat flaps opening and a plug that you can turn on/off remotely.

It was very easy to set up, you download an app on your phone, then press a button on the ‘hub’ and it links your phone and the hub. You then link in the devices e.g. cameras you want to use to the hub by pressing matching buttons on the hub and the device (camera/sensor etc.). It worked perfectly first time.

Cameras

I set the cameras up first, that’s me watching Scamp sitting on his box from my phone whilst in a completely different room (do you think he knows?).

bunny cam

It’s very addictive, I kept peeking to see what Scamp is up to. It’s also interesting to see how he behaves when I’m not there. Like most bunnies, he has great hearing so if he’s up and about he tends to race to the door in time for me to open it – it’s hard to catch him just hanging about. With a camera, I get to see what mischief he was up to before I get there, for example, how does the hay get spread over such a wide area??? The answer… he stands on his box and digs at it until it gets thrown off behind him.

It also has night vision, so you can watch even in the dark…

night vision bunny cam

Cute by day, scary little monster at night.

The outdoor camera is water proof and has a x metre long cable. I ran it from the house, out an ajar window and it worked fine even in the rain. It comes with a base you can screw to a wall, but the attachment is a standard camera mount so I used my bendy Gorrillapod so I could attach it where I wanted and move it about.

spy camera on gorrilapod

If your shed/aviary/hutch is nearish the house you could easily run it like that. I know many bunny owners have quite well kitted out sheds so you might have power installed anyway. It can be up to 300m from the hub and still connect so you just need power near where you want it.

Remote Access

It’s not just another room you can watch from, once you’ve set it up on your phone/tablet you can access it anywhere. My parents happened to be going on holiday so before they went I connected my mums phone to the device and asked them to report back on how it worked for very remote bunny spying. Big mistake! Did I mention the cameras have two-way sound? You can hear your rabbit and use a built in speaker to talk to them.

It’s very creepy to know you are in the house by yourself (other than a bunny obviously) and suddenly hear someone in another room having a conversation with Scamp – although Scamp didn’t seem to mind. Worse, the indoor camera has a lullaby option that plays music, which I’m sure is actually designed for people monitoring babies not for attracting attention when you want to have a conversation via intercom on what you are up to on holiday! Lesson learned – remote viewing works great, so watch who you give access too!

Bunny out for lunch

Pre-empting txts wondering where Scamp is, whilst he’s busy eating err exploring the rest of the house!

Motion Detector a.k.a Poop Cam

You can press a button and take a photo and record video remotely if you catch your bunny doing something cute (or naughty). But, you can also set it to record automatically using door sensors, sound or motion as the trigger. So for example, attach a sensor to your rabbits cat flap and then get a record of each time they go through.

I was pondering what to up to test the motion sensors…  and then I thought – poop cam. What rabbit owner hasn’t obsessed over whether their bunny is currently eating/pooping at some point or other? Not pooping is a sign of gut stasis and needs urgent vet attention, so if your bunny seems a bit under the weather or is recovering from being unwell, a poop cam would be perfect! You can check from work or see a record of when they used the tray. It would be handy too if you had a group of bunnies, because you could easily check who was using the tray which is tricky to monitor when they share.

Anyway, I set up one camera on Scamp’s litter tray and one covering the rest of the kitchen (where he lives when he’s not out and about). His litter tray is just out of shot in the bottom right corner on Camera 1.

Panasonic Home Hub App

Then I set it to record for one minute seconds each time it detected motion. Some of the resulting video clips are below:

Scamp hoping about:

Late night snacking with his treat ball:

Poop cam:

So Scamp messed about a bit, napped, visited the loo and was surprising well behaved.

Sensors

The window/door sensors were as easy to set up as the cameras. The door/window sensors would work on a cat flap or a hutch door, or even on your garden gate if you were worried about people coming into your garden. There are two pieces and you fit them next to each other when the door is closed, and the system detects when they move apart and can take a picture or send an alert. They are completely wireless (they have batteries) and just have to be within 300m of the hub (which I think will cover most people’s gardens!).

Summary

All round it was very easy to set up and use, the sensors and motion detection etc. all worked perfectly. It was fun to watch, and reassuring to be able to check what he was up when I wasn’t there.  The only downside is I’d have liked HD quality recording, it’s good enough to see what he’s up to, but a little blurry for sharing photos with you of what Scamp’s up to.

If you’d like to find out more the product page is here: Panasonic Smart Home System

Thanks to Panasonic for letting me and Scamp play 🙂

Anyone else use bunny spy cameras or tempted to get one?

 

Book Review: Foraging for Rabbits

June 15th, 2015

I’ve mentioned foraging, picking plants from the ‘wild’, before. It’s a great way to suppliment your rabbit’s diet. So, I was really excited to hear about a new book ‘Foraging for Rabbits‘ by Dr Twigs Way. I immediately ordered two copies (one for Scamp and one for you guys – more on that at the end).

Foraging for Rabbits

It’s the perfect little guide for anyone who is thinking about foraging but is a bit unsure where to start.

Whilst there are a lot of books on identifying plants, this book is written specifically for rabbit owners, in fact Dr Way’s rabbits have helpfully rated all the plants suggested on taste – afterall just because something is safe to eat doesn’t mean it’s tasty. In fact my favourite line from the book is in answer to the question: what if my rabbit doesn’t eat what I have collected?

If a rabbit or group of rabbits does not want a particular plant but is/are otherwise eating then just take the plant away again (and apologise).

Because we know who really is in charge!

The book starts of with an introduction to foraging – why forage, where to forage safely, the law on taking plants, drying and storing forage, toxicity, and understanding plant names. All illustrated by cute photos of bunnies tucking in to tasty plants.

The rest of the book contains just over 60 (if I counted right) common plants that you can forage. Each plant has a colour photo, the common and latin names, a description and some tips – for example when it’s at it’s most tasty, where to find it, if it dries well or if it’s good for something in particular and the taste rating (in stars).

foraging book

Most plants only have the one photo, but the latin plant names mean it’s easy to search online or in plant books for extra photos to help with an ID and the back cover includes a helpful list of plant reference books. The book itself if a nice size (A5/35 pages) to pop in your bag when foraging, unlike a giant tome that some general guides are.

I’ve already tried out two new plants thanks to the book, both of which Scamp approved.

Scamp placing his order.

Scamp placing his order.

You can also hear Dr Way discuss foraging in Episode 4 the All Ears Podcast here. And me discuss rabbit behaviour and enrichment in Episode 8 here.

Foraging for Rabbits is available via the Rabbit Welfare Association here and costs £4.

Win a Copy of Foraging for Rabbits

As I mentioned, I bought two copies, so I’m giving one away to my lovely readers. For a chance to win, please leave a comment below – why not tell me what you think about foraging – is it something you’ve tried or are thinking about tryin? I’ll draw a winner on 22nd June 2015.

Happy Foraging!

DIY Cardboard Shreddable Mat for Rabbits

March 11th, 2015

I was helping my sister put together some scratch pads for her cat when it occurred to me that Scamp would love this too. So here is how to make a cat scratching pad / bunny lounging mat / dig n shred toy.

Step 1: Find a Box

To start you need a box with a base about this size you want your finished pad. This ones about A4. You’ll need to remove any tape/labels so it’s bunny safe.

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Step 2: Chop the Bottom Off the Box

Using a knife or scissors chop around the base of the box so that you end up with a tray about 1-2″ deep. Don’t discard the rest of the box – you’ll need that next.

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Step 3: Make a lot of Strips of card

With the left over cardboard (you may need an extra box) cut strips the same length as the length of the tray and the same width or slightly more than the depth of the tray. So if you tray is 12″ long and 2″ deep, then cut strips 12″ long and 2″ wide. The easiest thing is to cut one, pop it in the tray to check and then use that as a template. Don’t worry about being too perfect – it’s probably going to get shredded anyway! How many you’ll need will depend on the size of your tray and the thickness of your cardboard.

Pro tip: finding it a bit of a flaff with craft knife or scissors – use a bread knife – it whizzes through cardboard!

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Step 4: Slot the strips into the box

Once you’ve got a good handful of strips you can start slotting them into the box. The strips go in on end.

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Pack them in so they are wedged in tight:

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Stop at the point you try to wedge one more in and the whole lot pop out in protest … then put them all back in minus that last one.

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Step 5: Add Rabbit

You should now have a lovely dense cardboard mat perfect for sitting in, digging at and generally shredding.

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You could make it more fun (and encourage shredding) by sprinkling some dried herbs/plant mix on it for your bun to root out.

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Scamp loves a mat to sit on and this one was really quick to make, much faster than the woven mat I tried, and just used free scrap cardboard so cheap too. Let me know if you give it a go and what your bunny thinks!