We here at the RWAF are disappointed to see the online series “KitKat Big Bunny Hutch” for several reasons.
1. Programmes like this encourage the impulse purchase of rabbits, showing them as easy to care for animals, focusing on their “cute” behaviours and appearances, without explaining the challenges of keeping rabbits correctly and meeting all their welfare needs throughout their whole lives. Rabbits can live to 10-12 years of age, and cost approximately £11,000 to care for over their lives, and must be kept in social pairs or groups.
2. Easter is traditionally a time, in many countries, where rabbits are bought on impulse, and so this is especially inappropriate timing.
3. The use of the word “Hutch” throughout implies its ok to keep rabbits in hutches, compounded by the fact that there’s no outside space here. Rabbits need as much space as possible, inside and ideally outside as well. An area of 3m x 2m x 1m is the minimum for 2 average sized rabbits.
4. The food selection, use of the words “treats” and “comfort food”, and the total absence of grass or hay, are a serious misrepresentation of the diets for rabbits. Regardless of anything else they are fed off show, this is sending a very poor message regarding a healthy rabbit diet. Rabbits need grass or hay as their main foodstuff, making up approximately 80-90% of their diet, with green leafy veg making up another 10-15%, and root veg/pelleted food being no more than about 5%. They should not be given fruit except as a training aid, and in very small quantities, but here they are shown with strawberries, apples and no hay at all, plus lots of carrot imagery encouraging feeding those.
5. All of the rabbits in this are overweight, with the worst (Marble) being approximately 4.5/5 on a body condition score chart, as assessed visually from side and top down views. This is further compounded by the large dewlaps on several, suggesting either significant obesity and/or being un-neutered. Un-neutered females are at an extremely high risk of uterine cancer, and we strongly recommend that they should be spayed to prevent this.
6. Other consequences of over feeding include life threatening dental and gut issues. At least one rabbit (Snowy) has faeces or caecotrophs visible on the right hind foot area, suggestive of uneaten caecotrophs or other gut abnormality. This can attract flies and lead to maggots eating the rabbit alive.
7. In several scenes some rabbits are breathing more rapidly than normal, suggestive of stress or respiratory tract disease, or both.
8. In several scenes there is evidence of anxious behaviour, evidenced by head/ear position and body stance.
9. The messaging about rabbit social grouping is dangerous here. Obviously, the premise is one of housemates getting, or not, getting along, but introducing rabbits to one another, especially in groups this size, is a difficult and delicate process, with the potential for life threatening injuries. In fact, 2 rabbits (Alice and Snowy) have evidence of ear lesions. Whilst these can be caused by myxomatosis or thrombosis, I have treated many such wounds inflicted on one rabbit by another.
10. Whilst on-set welfare may have been assured, we are concerned about the very poor messaging about diet, space, companionship and bonding that this sets out. We would be very happy to work with you in providing accurate health and welfare information to you for addition to your sites, in order to improve this messaging and help ensure good rabbit welfare.
Richard Saunders (he/him) BSc (Hons) BVSc FRSB CBiol DZooMed (Mammalian) DipECZM(ZHM) MRCVS Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund Specialist Veterinary Advisor