A pet for all seasons

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 April, 2007, 12:00am

The bunny is a symbol of Easter, but did you know that, contrary to popular belief, it is a hare and not a rabbit?

The major difference between the two animals is that hares are born with hair and open eyes. Rabbits are altricial, meaning babies are born blind and hairless.

Adult hares can be distinguished from rabbits by the black markings on their fur. Hares are also bigger than rabbits and have longer ears.

Rabbits are a popular pet.

The pet, or house, rabbit is a European rabbit. A male rabbit is called a buck and a female is a doe.

Rabbits need a constant supply of hay. Alfalfa hay and Timothy grass hay are two of the most common types.

You can also give them one or two bowls of fresh vegetables, such as carrots, lettuce and cauliflower, a day.

Don't feed your rabbit too much pre-mixed food. These pellet supplements can make your rabbit gain weight.

Choose a feed that's low in fat and calcium, and high in fibre.

Water is also very important for rabbits, as it keeps them cool and helps them digest their food.

They can drink distilled or boiled water, but make sure you change their water every day. You should also change the litter tray every day.

Regular exercise keeps rabbits healthy. You should allow your pet to run around freely for four hours a day.

But keep an eye on it, and remove small plants, electrical cords and wires. Rabbits will chew on anything.

It's best to keep males and females in separate cages. Rabbits breed very quickly: a female rabbit can become pregnant again right after she has given birth.

Before you decide to keep a rabbit, you should be aware that it's a long-term commitment. If well cared for, rabbits can live for up to 10 years.

Rabbits, like puppies, love to be patted.

If you decide to get a baby rabbit, it's better to get one that's more than eight weeks old and has stopped feeding on milk.

Instead of buying from a pet shop, you can adopt a rabbit from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (www.spca.org.hk) or the Hong Kong Rabbit Society (www.hkrabbit.org).

Both organisations have many rabbits that are looking for a new home. The organisations also provide training tips.

Funny bunny facts

Unlike humans, who have either single or double eyelids, rabbits have three eyelids.

They are incapable of expelling wind from either end.

House rabbits are most comfortable in temperatures between 10 and 21 degrees Celsius. They might suffer from heat stroke if exposed to temperatures above 32 degrees.

Rabbits have a poor digestive system so they cannot absorb all the nutrients they need in one go. After the food has passed out of their body, they eat it again.