Caring for Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

When you think of an animal shelter, what pets immediately come to mind? Cats? Dogs? Ponies?

While we here at RSPCA Victoria rescue all the above, we also look after a LOT of teeny-tiny creatures, too.

Rabbits and guinea pigs make up a significant portion of the animals in our care, with hundreds coming through our doors each year.

These little ones sadly often arrive at RSPCA Victoria because their owners didn’t realise just how much care and attention they need. If you are buying a rabbit or guinea pig, it’s important to know that they are a big commitment - just like a cat or a dog. But the great news is, they have just as much love to give as their canine or feline counterparts.

Rabbits and guinea pigs may be small, but they are highly social creatures with big personalities. A great way to start is to purchase one or more desexed companions for your rabbit or guinea pig. This will ensure your pet has the daily social interaction that all living things need. Did you know that in Switzerland, it’s illegal to buy just one guinea pig? The Government there recognizes just how vital social interaction is to a guinea pig’s well-being.

These smaller creatures are prey animals and so are naturally cautious of new environments and people. They don’t all love to be held and cuddled. You too would likely feel nervous around giants (humans) trying to pick you up and play with you. But both animals can really bond with their owners if given the time to do so. The best way to do this is to offer little snacks when you’re around. If you’d like to pat your cute companion, a great way to make them feel safe is to pop them in a cardboard box with some straw and snacks. Once they are settled and calm, you can see if they enjoy some gentle petting. Just like humans, some rabbits and guinea pigs will be confident and outgoing, while others will be shy and meek. Try to learn the personality of your pet and read its body language.

So, what’s required of an owner on a day-to-day basis? Just like cats and dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs require fresh food and water each day, and they also need their living space cleaned daily. They need room to exercise as well as access to enrichment toys and activities. Try to keep life interesting for your pet by changing up its treats and environments.

Here are some fun facts you may not know about rabbits:

Rabbits love to play with toys; they can be litter trained like cats; they thrive on an indoor lifestyle; they are highly social. They also are most active during the morning and evening, making them the perfect pet for those maintaining a busy lifestyle during the day.

Here are some fun facts you may not know about guinea pigs:

Guinea pigs are friendly and easily tamed; they need covered sleeping areas with privacy from other animals; they cannot make Vitamin C and need to eat fresh greens every day.

If you would like to adopt a rabbit or guinea pig, consider looking at our small animal handbook. It contains everything you need to know about owning one of these special animals. If you do decide to go ahead and adopt, we can promise you your little pet will thank you with all the love it can give!