Think Run! Sadly, we’re close to the last knockings of summer and before we know it, the winter months will be upon us For pet rabbits that are kept in a hutch with no attached running enclosure, that’s when their exercise time goes down to virtually zero. The Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) are the UK’s largest charity with the sole aim of improving the health and welfare of domestic rabbits, a pet that all too often are kept in conditions that fall well short of the needs of the species. They are advising rabbit owners to take advantage of the few remaining weeks of summer to attach a permanent exercise run to their rabbits’ hutch in time for the weather to turn. “In the summer, owners will often lift their rabbits from the hutch to the run, or give them supervised exercise time in a walled garden,” said Richard Saunders, Expert Veterinary Advisor to the RWAF, “even this isn’t ideal because the time is still limited to well below their natural requirement, but in the winter it is a great deal worse because owners don’t want to put their rabbits out into the rain or snow.” As the charity points out in its literature and on its website, Rabbits keep different hours to humans so shouldn’t be reliant on their owners to be lifted from their hutch into the run, and they should be able exercise in all weathers. Having a hutch inside or connected to a large secure enclosure is vital to allow them to display their natural behaviours. The exercise area should be at least partially covered with tarpaulin which is inexpensive from garden centres and DIY stores. There has been a recent increase in the availability of better quality products that meet rabbits’ needs and it is now much easier for people to get hold of 6 foot hutches and large exercise runs. The RWAF recommend a minimum floor space of 10ft x 6ft for a pair of rabbits (rabbits should be kept in netuered pairs or compatible groups). The RWAF urges owners to use their imagination when providing accommodation for their rabbits. As Richard Saunders explained, “There are several manufacturers that stock good quality runs that fall short of the minimum recommended size but that doesn’t mean they can’t be combined to double the space!” Check out http://www.rwaf.org.uk/exercise for more information about the importance of an attached exercise area for your rabbits.