Rabbits and guinea pigs make fantastic, low maintenance, inexpensive pets and are especially safe for young children. They also develop wonderful personalities and can become very affectionate.
While guinea pigs are more closely related to rodents, their overall care and husbandry mimics much of the same care required for rabbits, so we have combined them in this information brochure.
Rabbits live an average 5 - 10 years while guinea pigs live 4 - 8 years.
- Shelter and Housing
- We like to chew
- Living with others
- Feeding requirements
- Check list
Outdoor - these pets generally need a very handy structure called a hutch, with two sections:
- For protection from the elements and for sleeping.
- An activities section.
Ensure your pet can avoid direct sunlight and has good ventilation, as they are much more sensitive to heat than cold. It is best to position the hutch off the ground, with adequate shelter.
The rabbit’s hutch should be long enough for three hops (approx. 1.5 - 2m) and high enough for them to stand upright. A wire or solid bottom is required to stop them burrowing out. If wire is chosen you need to disinfect regularly and it is best to cover with hay or straw as the wire can hurt their feet.
Mosquito proof your hutch! Ensure your rabbit is kept in a mosquito proof enclosure if you live in an area where Myxomtosis is present (your local vet clinic will be able to inform you). Moxymatosis is very contagious and there is no treatment or vaccination to protect against it in Australia. If your rabbit is free roaming, try to keep them away from water where mosquitos are likely to be breeding and limit their access outside at dawn and dusk, when mossies are most active.
The guinea pig’s hutch should be a minimum of 70sq cm per guinea pig. Never use wire as a floor as they can catch their legs and break them easily. Bedding material should be shredded newspaper or soft hay (not straw, as stalks can cause injury). Also provide material for your guinea pig to burrow under in the activities section, such as pieces of bark.
Indoor - Rabbits just need a secure cage to restrain them at night or when you are not present. Litter trays can be provided as rabbits can be trained to use these. Wood or paper based litter is best. Guinea pigs can have small hutches.
A range of hutches are available at PETstock.
Rabbits and guinea pigs, but particularly rabbits, will chew anything around your house including carpet, furniture, shoes and more. Serious hazards include electrical wires and poisonous plants.
Rabbit and guinea pig teeth grow continuously. They need to chew to wear them down so that the mouth occludes properly. Always provide gnawing toys, logs or sticks.
Rabbits and guinea pigs love the company of their own kind, however never put two intact males together as they will fight. The females will tolerate each other. Rabbits can also live happily with birds and well behaved dogs. Cats are unpredictable with rabbits and they shouldn’t be left alone together. Rabbits can pass on serious bacteria to guinea pigs, so it is not good practise to house them together.
Rabbits should be held firmly with one hand under the chest and the other cradling and supporting the back legs and rump. This is extremely important as rabbits can kick out and break their backs. Never hold them by the ears.
Let guinea pigs get used to your hands without picking them up for a few days. Use two hands, one holding around the neck like a pistol with front legs either side of your index and middle finger, the other supporting the back end.
Pellets are popular, convenient and well balanced but it is important they don’t comprise the whole of the diet. Rabbit & Guinea Pig Mix is available at PETstock.
Oaten and grass hay should also be added as a food source. Rabbits in particular can eat 80% of their diet as hay.
Fresh vegetables should be available and it is recommended you offer 3 types daily from the following list: broccoli, carrots, cucumber, brussel sprouts, capsicum, dandelion greens and parsley.
Note: Rabbits should not be fed cabbage, cauliflower, raw beans and rhubarb.
Guinea pigs should not be fed celery, spinach, raw beans, rhubarb and beetroot.
Lettuce is non-toxic but often causes diarrhoea in both species.
Fruit such as bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries and raspberries should also be fed daily - this is very important for guinea pigs. Feed only small amounts of fruit to rabbits as it can cause diarrhoea.
Both can be fed fresh grass. Rabbits under 6 months old should not be fed much grass as it causes gastrointestinal upsets.
Vitamin C is very important in guinea pigs, as they cannot produce their own (like us, they are susceptible to scurvy). It is vital they get daily fruit and vegetables as mentioned above. You can also supplement Vitamin C in their drinking water.
TIP: Ensure fresh water is available in special, non-drip bottles with stainless steel nozzles, as wet bedding may cause moist dermatitis and coccidiosis.
The flooring should consist of wood shavings or paper. Straw is too sharp for guinea pigs and should not be used. Sawdust should also be avoided as it is too fine and can irritate eyes, noses and ears.
Create a sleeping area with something like a bird nesting box, filled with shredded paper.
A strong fenced enclosure can be built around the hutch to provide an area for rabbits and guinea pigs to run around on grass on a daily basis.
Guinea pigs should stay contained in this enclosure but you can let them loose inside (only when you are playing with them).
Rabbits can run freely around the house and yard and will readily use cat flaps to get in and out of the house. You should always supervise rabbits in the backyard, especially if you have other pets such as cats and dogs.
A shed or garage with raised shelves provides another safe and great environment for rabbit to exercise in.
It is important to vaccinate rabbits against calicivirus, which causes a severe respiratory disease, of which there is no cure and death is the common outcome.
Calici vaccinations should be administered yearly or, if your rabbit is under 12 weeks of age, booster vaccinations are required every 4 weeks.
This can be done in any PETstock store with a PETvet clinic. PETvet clinics do not routinely vaccinate guinea pigs.
It is a good idea to desex male and female and rabbits. Female rabbits have a high chance of getting endometrial cancer if they are not neutered. Desexing males will eliminate aggression. Males and females live very well together if both are desexed.
- Hay (bedding and food)
- Shredded newspaper
- Food pellets or mixes
- Mineral stones
- Water bottle
- Food bowl
- Vitamin supplement