Fireworks frighten rabbits: tips for looking after your small hutch animals, especially rabbits

Rabbit Awareness Week runs during this week

Fireworks frighten rabbits. While people may enjoy the snap, crackle and pop of Firework Night, it can prove the last straw for small hutch animals, especially rabbits, the UK’s 3rd most popular pet after dogs and cats.

I had an email from someone after last weekend’s busy Halloween in Ireland: they had found their pet rabbit dead in his hutch on Sunday morning, and they blamed themselves. It’s hard to know why the rabbit passed away: there are many possible causes, but the shock/terror of hearing  a loud firework in the immediate vicinity may have played a part.

Yorkshire-based family firm Burgess Pet Care, has been reminding owners that extra hay, straw and a few other ‘home improvements’ around November 5th can make all the difference to animals housed outdoors.

“We often think about cats and dogs at this time of year, but can overlook pets such as rabbits,” says their veterinary innovations manager Dr Suzanne Moyes. “But with their superior sense of hearing, fireworks can be doubly terrifying for small animals and because celebrations are rarely limited to Bonfire Night, repeated exposure over several weeks can lead to long-term behavioural and health problems. Simple sound-proofing with hay and giving them plenty to snuggle up in and eat, will help them exhibit normal behaviour.”

Burgess Tips for safe rabbit care tonight

  1. Move house. If you have particularly sensitive breeds, or young animals, consider bringing them indoors, into a garage or a shed at least a week before Bonfire Night so they get used to the different conditions.
  2. Try a room without a view. If your rabbit housing faces out into the garden, simply turn it to face a wall or fence during firework displays.
  3. Install loft insulation. Add a layer of carpet, tarpaulin or some thick blankets on top of the hutch roof to soundproof it. Ensure your rabbit can peek out, and check regularly to make sure they are not too warm.
  4. Add a playroom. Place environment-enriching toys in the hutch such as willow balls, to encourage natural behaviour and exploration and distractions from the noise.
  5. Create a ‘Safe Room’. Offer a buffer from the bangs, and provide your rabbits with lots of additional bedding such as hay and straw during firework displays, which will insulate them from the noise. In the wild, small animals such as rabbits would naturally burrow away from loud noises, so ensure they have a place to ‘get away’. Make a cardboard box ‘safe room’ by cutting a rabbit-sized hole in the side of a small box and place it upturned into the hutch, filled with more hay and torn up newspapers.
  6. Turn up the heat. Add a microwavable heat pad to the hutch on Bonfire Night, specifically designed for small animals, so they’re even more snug and secure – but ensure they don’t overheat.
  7. Get a house sitter. Ensure someone pay regular visits to your outdoor pet during loud displays to reassure them.

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