Pet rabbits can live to be eight to ten years old if well taken care of. There have been cases of pet rabbits living even longer. In contrast, it is not unusual for a rabbit in the wild to only live one to three years. The lifespan of a rabbit is determined by many factors, including breed, diet, and medical care.
Rabbits are popular pets. They are often available for purchase in pet stores and from private breeders.
How Long Do Wild Rabbits Live?
Wild rabbits have a shorter lifespan due to a number of challenges in addition to being prey animals.
Food scarcity, safe homes, and predators are just a few of the things that can shorten the lifespan of rabbits in the wild.
That’s why the average lifespan of a wild rabbit is a short one to three years according to most experts.
However, many of these issues aren’t usually a problem for pet rabbits. Even outdoor pet rabbits have significant advantages over their wild counterparts.
Rabbit Questions and Answers
If you decide to bring a pet rabbit into the family, you’ll need to consider the following:
- What breed is most suited for my housing and environmental situation?
- What do I need to do to make my home safe for a rabbit?
- What do rabbits need to be healthy and happy?
- What are the lifespans of different breeds of rabbit?
- What signs should I be aware of, in case my rabbit is ill or injured?
Being well versed in the different rabbit breeds and required rabbit care is a must before you bring home your new four-legged friend.
History of Domestic Rabbits
- Domestic rabbits are far from the oldest form of pet. In fact, they’re relative newcomers to the world of domestication.
- Most domesticated rabbit breeds are offshoots of the European wild rabbit, known as the oryctolagus cuniculus.
- Originally, rabbits were kept as food animals.
- Some say the Romans first started using rabbits as livestock. However, it was French monks in the fifth century BC that first began breeding and domesticating them.
- During the Medieval Ages people began selectively breeding for larger animals.
- During the sixteenth century, German aristocrats began breeding more for pets. One German nobleman began focusing on the dwarf breeds in particular.
- In the Victorian era, breeding for pets, shows, and competitions began to occur. Some experts say this is when rabbits became definitively pets.
- By the end of the 1800s, there were several distinct breeds of rabbits in existence. Most, if not all, were being bred as pets and show animals.
- In the twentieth century rabbit breeding became a popular past-time.
- Today, there are several clubs and associations world-wide, dedicated to breeding rabbits.
Rabbit Life Cycle
- Rabbits are born in large litters, with up to 14 kittens (baby rabbits are called kittens).
- Rabbits are helpless and dependent on their mothers (doe rabbits) for the first 2-4 weeks of their lives.
- At the age of ~1 month, a baby rabbit is developed enough to seek out it’s own food.
- At around 3-6 months, depending on the breed, rabbits reach sexual maturity.
- Pregnancy lasts for just under a month before the young are born.
- Rabbits between ages 1-5 years are considered adults.
- Rabbits older than 5 years are considered senior rabbits.
What is the Lifespan of a Rabbit?
The average lifespan of a pet rabbit is 8-14 years, depending on the breed.
Since the domestication of rabbits, their life cycles haven’t altered too much. However, recent data shows their lifespans are slowly getting longer.
Popular Rabbit Breeds
Rabbits, like dogs, have varying lifespans based on their breeds. In general, the larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan.
Rabbit breeds tend to fall into three different categories. Giant, Standard, and Dwarf. Listed below are some of the more popular breeds of rabbits for pets.
Giant Rabbit Breeds
Giant breeds tend to have a lifespan of 5-8 years on average.
Giants are defined as breeds that average around 11-20 pounds when healthy.
Giant breeds need a lot more space than Standard or Dwarf breeds
- Flemish Giant:
Flemish Giants are one of the largest rabbit breeds
Often weighs 20+ lbs as adults
Prone to arthritis as they get older
Average lifespan 5-8 years, can reach 10 years
- Continental Giant:
One of the larger giant breeds
Can weigh 20 lbs or more as adults
Sometimes prone to arthritis as they age
- Checkered Giant:
One of the smaller popular giant breeds
Adults weigh an average of 13-15 lbs
Sometimes prone to arthritis
Other rabbit breeds with similar characteristics include the:
- German Giant
- British Giant
- Red or Belgian Giant
Standard breeds have an average lifespan of 6-10 years. Standard breeds are defined as rabbits that average around 5-12 pounds when healthy.
- American Fuzzy Lop Rabbit:
One of the larger breeds of lop rabbits
Prone to ear infections
Needs regular inner and middle ear cleanings
Can reach up to 10 years of age
- French Lop Rabbit:
French lops are one of the larger breeds of lops
Needs regular ear cleanings to avoid infections
Average lifespan of 6-8 years, though they can live as long as 10 years
- Angora Rabbit:
There are several breeds of Angora rabbits
The most common breed is the English Angora
Long wool-like fur, often used for clothing
Long fur must be brushed daily to prevent ‘wool block’ which occurs when fur gathers in the intestinal tract and can be fatal
Well-cared-for Angorans usually have a lifespan of 10-12 years
- Dutch Rabbit:
One of the more popular pet rabbit breeds
Generally, they grow to 4-5 pounds as adults
Short fur requires minimal grooming
Prone to dental and sinus disorders, due to their skull shape
High risk for uterine cancer in females
Average lifespan is 5-10 years but can live to 12 years or more
- Rex Rabbit:
Usually between 6 to 10 lbs as an adult
Thick, velvety fur needs very little grooming
Average lifespan is 6-8 years, may extend to ~10 years
Other popular Standard Rabbit breeds include the:
- Belgian Hare
- American Sable
Rabbit Dwarf Breeds
Dwarf rabbits have an average lifespan of 7-14 years.
Dwarf rabbits weigh between 1.5-5 pounds when healthy.
- Netherland Dwarf:
Very popular as pets
Often weigh 2-3 lbs as adults
Breed has genetic dwarfism – small ears and a short skull
Prone to dental, jaw, and respiratory conditions
Fragile bones, require careful handling
Lifespan between 10 and 14 years
- Dwarf Lop:
Also called a Mini Lop
Floppy ears need regular cleaning
Prone to ear infections
Can live up to between 12 and 14 years.
Lionhead rabbits are a small breed averaging about 3lbs as adults.
Distinguished by the thick, long fur around their necks
Neck fur must be brushed daily to avoid hairballs that can choke Lionheads
Average lifespan is 7-10 years, though it may extend to 12+
- Mini English Angora:
Has the same characteristics as the regular Angora
Requires daily, thorough brushing to avoid ‘wool block’
Average lifespan of 7-10 years, can live as long as 12 years
- Holland Lop:
One of several smaller lop breeds
Susceptible to ear infections due to floppy ears
Need ears cleaned regularly to prevent dirt and microbes from being trapped
Can reach 12-14 years in age
- Mini Rex:
Generally weigh between 3 and 5 lbs as adults
Soft, thick fur needs very little grooming
Average lifespan is 8-10 years, may extend to ~15
Other dwarf breeds include miniature versions of larger breeds, like the Rex and the Angora.
NOTE: Smaller breeds tend to live longer than full size standard rabbits.
It is important to remember that breed and size are not the only deciding factor in a rabbit’s lifespan. There are many things you can do to increase the longevity of your furry friend.
How Do You Rabbit Proof Your Home?
Before you bring a rabbit home, there’s one thing you’ll need to do. Rabbit-proof your home.
Experts often say that rabbits are a bit like toddlers. They can get into a lot of things. They also tend to chew on things that aren’t meant to be chewed.
For your own peace of mind and your rabbit’s well-being, you’ll need to do the following:
- Make sure all appliance and electrical cords are hidden or out of reach
- Make sure their designated space has no major drops or sharp objects.
- Remove breakables
- Move things you don’t want damaged to an out-of-reach location
- Make sure the floor in and around their area is something easy to clean
- Make sure they have enough room to run around freely
- Choose flooring or floor covering that is unlikely be chewed and accidentally ingested
If you’re considering keeping your rabbits outside, you’ll need to do the following:
- Make sure they have a sturdy and comfortable enclosure, weather-proofed against elements
- Install a heavy-duty fence to protect them from predators.
- Set up a way to regulate the temperatures they’re exposed to.
- Set up a way to ensure their food and water bowls remain clean and filled
These steps are important to make sure your rabbit is comfortable and safe.
How to Take Care of a Pet Rabbit
When it comes to the proper care of rabbits, there are things you’ll need to consider. Rabbit-proofing your home and picking up the proper equipment are just the beginning. You’ll also need to consider the proper diet for your rabbit. And, of course, how to keep your rabbit happy and engaged in everyday life.
There are a few things you need for proper rabbit care. First and foremost is a safe environment.
Indoor or outdoor, rabbits need a safe and sturdy space to call home.
- Should be large enough for your rabbit to move around in comfortably.
- Should be lined with some sort of floor covering to make it comfortable. Wood shavings or hay are recommended.
- Should maintain a comfortable temperature.
- Should keep rabbits safe from predators and things that may startle or frighten them.
With indoor rabbits, you may want to provide a large, closed-in enclosure, like a rabbit playpen, to give them more freedom. The other option is a rabbit-proofed room to roam.
You can let them have run of the house, but they’ll need supervision. And even if you choose this route, a safe sleeping space is needed. So you’ll still want to purchase a cage or other enclosure.
Many experts recommend keeping your rabbit inside. Outdoor environments are harder to keep regulated.
They’re also more likely to encounter predators. Even a failed attack may frighten your rabbit and place a strain on their heart.
Other pet rabbit items you’ll need include:
- Hay, straw and shredded newspaper are all options.
- Stores also sell things like wood-shaving bedding specifically for rabbits and small animals
- Should be something absorbent and comfortable
- Should be full of absorbent material such as straw or newspaper
- Should be emptied frequently
- Kept away from rabbit sleeping area
Food and Water Bowls:
- Hay and grass can be left loose
- A bowl should be provided for pellets and fresh greens
- Water bowl with clean, fresh water should also be available
- Items that provide stimulation and fun for rabbits
- Hiding places, tunnels and such for relaxing
- Things to chew on or play with
- Some experts recommend providing had plastic toddler toys as toys for rabbits.
Rabbit-Safe Cleaning Products:
- Animal safe soaps are needed to maintain a clean and safe environment for your rabbit
- Things like Dawn, or other proven safe cleaners
Part of helping your rabbit live a long and healthy life involves proper nutrition. The proper diet can help increase your rabbit’s lifespan and decrease the risk of health issues
- Grass or Hay:
Grass or hay should be the staple of your rabbit’s diet.
Young rabbits do better with alfalfa hay
Timothy hay is recommended for older rabbits
Hay should be available for regular foraging
Pellets often provide extra nutrients and fiber
These are optional, for convenience
- Leafy Greens:
Plants like bok choy, fennel, broccoli, dandelion greens, lettuce, kale and spinach
Provide necessary vitamins and minerals
Note: Kale and spinach are more likely than other greens to cause stomach problems, so limit their consumption
Treats are things like banana or carrot slices
Should be offered in limited amounts
Not recommended for daily consumption
Healthy Interactions With Your Rabbit
Rabbits have certain things they need to stay healthy outside of proper food, housing and toys.
Rabbits are social animals. They need a certain amount of interaction and playtime. There are also health-care-related actions you can take to increase your rabbit’s lifespan.
Spend plenty of time with your rabbit
Experts recommend getting two or more rabbits, to prevent loneliness
Two male rabbits together may be more aggressive, especially if they aren’t neutered
If you have children or other pets, cautious introductions will be needed to make sure your rabbit is safe.
Predator-like animals, such as dogs and cats, need to be kept apart from your rabbit.
If you have a breed that requires grooming, you’ll need to make this part of your social routine with your rabbit.
You may also need to trim your rabbit’s nails, as part of social grooming
- Playtime and Exercise:
Rabbits need at least an hour of time outside their cages to exercise
Need room to explore
This is also a good opportunity to spend quality bonding time with your rabbit
Enrichment items such as boxes, tunnels, balls, and chew toys are important
Vary activities and items to prevent bunny boredom
Spend time with them to decrease loneliness, especially if you only have one rabbit
Note: Experts say rabbits prefer playing on the ground as opposed to you physically picking them up. If you feel like cuddling let your rabbit initiate the snuggling.
- Veterinary Care:
Regular vet visits are essential to maintain peak health
Spay or neuter your rabbit within their first 4-6 months, to prevent more aggressive behaviors
Spaying or Neutering will also reduce chemical issues and reproductive stress, especially in female rabbits
See the vet if your rabbit develops a dull coat, listlessness, a potbelly, or issues with nose, teeth, or ears
Rabbit Health Issues
There are certain illnesses or conditions that rabbits are more susceptible to. While a rabbit-trained vet can spot most of these, you’ll want to keep the following in mind:
- Uterine or Testicular Cancer:
A common problem among many breeds of rabbits
Spaying or neutering just after sexual maturity occurs will remove the risk of these conditions
- Heart Issues:
Rabbits tend to be very nervous creatures
Unsafe environments or things like loud noises can upset them
Frequent stress can lead to heart problems or even heart attacks
- Ear Infections:
These are more common with the lop breeds.
Ears need regular cleaning in the inner ear to prevent irritation and infection
Can lead to respiratory infections if not treated properly
- Gastrointestinal Distress:
Rabbits can have finicky stomachs. If they seem to be more distressed after certain foods, remove them from their diet.
Frequent brushing prevents them from accidentally ingesting their own fur
Too many treats can upset the stomach, as well as causing obesity
- Dental Issues:
Sometimes rabbits can have problems with their teeth being overlong
Overlong teeth can cause issues with chewing or jaw alignment
Other dental issues can arise from improper vitamin and mineral balance
Vets should check teeth and jaw regularly for signs of problems
- Respiratory Issues:
More common with some of the dwarf breeds.
Rabbits with a more flattened face tend to have frequent congestion in their sinuses
Improper temperatures may result in other issues or dirty sleeping space
Watch for nasal discharge or issues with tear ducts
More common with the giant breeds
Older rabbits may be more inclined to suffer from arthritis
Movements may become slow and stiff
Paying attention to signs of these conditions can help you catch warning symptoms early. If you have concerns, consult with a vet who has rabbit-specific training and expertise.
Related Pet Rabbit Questions:
Is It Better to Buy a Rabbit at a Pet Store or From a Breeder?
Most experts recommend adopting from a breeder with a good reputation over buying a rabbit at a pet store. Breeders have more time and the ability to focus on giving their rabbits the care they need to thrive.
How Old Should a Rabbit Be When You Start Socializing It?
Socializing with other rabbits can start as soon as they are born. For socialization with humans, experts recommend starting young, as soon as the rabbit is old enough to partially fend for itself.
How Should You Handle Introducing Rabbits to Young Children?
You should be very careful and go slowly. Some experts advise making sure your child doesn’t pick up the rabbit. This can startle the rabbit, and cause injuries.
Can a Pet Rabbit Hurt You?
They do. Their teeth are usually sharp and can do plenty of damage if they are scared enough. Rabbits also have small claws on their feet that can be very sharp.
How Much Does a Rabbit Cost?
It depends on the breed, the breeder, and factors like the rabbit’s health and age. Likewise, breed, health, and age will factor into the average care costs for your rabbit over time.
Should You Adopt an Older Rabbit?
Older rabbits may suffer from depression when separated from their families and familiar environments. Go slow and give them lots of love and attention to help them adapt to their new home.
What is the Oldest Rabbit Ever?
According to the Guinness world records, a rabbit originally captured in the wild named Flopsy lived to be almost 19 years old!
Rabbits can be great pets but they represent a long-term commitment. While they aren’t as long-lived as some other pet animals, they can have a long life with proper care.
Pet rabbits require plenty of attention which makes them well suited for more affectionate owners.
As long as you’re mentally prepared for the responsibility and you are attentive to your rabbit’s needs you should have a loving and furry friend as part of your family for many years.