Insights on Rabbits

  • All domestic rabbits are descendants of the European wild rabbit
  • Rabbits are one of the world’s most recently domesticated animals
  • There are an estimated 14 million pet rabbits in the world (900 million dogs, as of 2018).
  • The American Rabbit Breeders Association has more than 30,000 members and recognises 45 different rabbit breeds
  • Some estimated 900,000 rabbits are kept as pets in the UK

Common Health Issues in Rabbits

  Overgrown teeth



  Uterine tumours


  Calicivirus (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus)

Key findings

  28% of rabbits live in a hutch or cage that is too small

  54% of rabbit owners want to change one or more of their rabbit’s behaviours

  54% of rabbits live alone


In average, rabbits spend 12 hours in their hutch in a 24-hour period.

In the wild, rabbits have a territory equivalent to around thirty tennis courts. Therefore, being housed in a small hutch or cage will undoubtedly have a negative impact on both their physical health and mental well-being.


Rabbits are highly sociable animals, and when bonded with a compatible, neutered partner or partners, they enjoy a much better quality of life than when kept alone.

Over half the rabbit population (54%) still live on their own - equating to 540,000 lonely rabbits in the UK. Living a solitary life can be seriously impacting on the physical health and mental well-being of our pet rabbits.


Unwanted behaviour

Rabbits showing unwanted behaviour could be doing so for several reasons, including bad health, stress, loneliness, and boredom. 54% of owners report that their rabbit displays at least one behaviour that they’d like to change. Despite this, the majority (78%) of owners don’t think that their pet is stressed. Only 6% report that they think that their rabbit is stressed.

Unwanted behaviour displayed by rabbits

  • Thumping back feet 18%
  • Digging up ground and/or carpets 17%
  • Chewing furniture 15%
  • Hiding 8%
  • Hissing, growling, or muttering 3%
  • Fighting with other rabbits 3%

"Reassuringly, 43% of rabbit owners would seek help from a veterinary practice to change unwanted behaviour. However, just 11% of veterinary professionals report that their practice offers behavioural treatment or specific advice on this topic for rabbits."



66% of owners report that their rabbit is afraid of something.

Rabbits can be afraid of:

  • Loud noises 31%
  • Fireworks 18%
  • Unfamiliar people 17%
  • Travelling by car 16%
  • The vet 12%
  • Thunder and lightning 8%

"34% of rabbit owners report that their rabbit is not afraid of anything, which is a higher percentage than for cats and dogs. However, as they are prey animals, it is possible that this is because fear in rabbits may be more difficult to identify than in cats and dogs."

Source: PAW Report 2018, PDSA Animal Wellbeing, The essential insight into the well-being of UK pets