Owner demographic factors are associated with suitable pet rabbit housing provision in the United Kingdom

  • Key finding:

    Rabbits are a popular choice of pet animal with approximately one million pet rabbits owned by 2% of UK adults. Despite their popularity, there is minimal research to date which investigates the adequacy of rabbit housing being used and demographic factors which may be associated with this. The provision of a suitable environment is important from a welfare perspective and is one of the five welfare needs under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Currently, guidance is available on the minimum size space which should be provided, for example, the RWAF1 recommend a minimum enclosure should measure at least 3m (l) x 2m (w) x 1m (h). Data from a nationally representative sample of UK adults who owned rabbits, dogs and cats were collected by YouGov through the PDSA surveys, for the annual PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report*. Data from rabbit owners' from the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 were used for this study. Owners were asked about the type of rabbit housing and if their rabbit was housed alone or with another animal. Owner demographics that were analysed included gender, education, household income and deprivation. Of the total 1,333 rabbit owner respondents, 31.2% of rabbits lived in inadequate housing and over half (51.4%) were housed alone. Regarding demographics, owners who were male, aged between 25–34 and had a household income below average were more likely to report inadequate rabbit housing compared to other groups. In conclusion, all owners should receive clear and consistent advice regarding suitable rabbit housing. However, if resources are limited potential emphasis could be placed on those in the demographic groups identified in this study. Along with other areas identified for future research, the findings of this study could contribute towards the design of effective human behaviour change interventions, which could include improved owner education, banning the sale of hutches that fall below a certain standard, and local authority action around the licensing of pet shops. *PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report: www.pdsa.org.uk/pawreport References RWAF (n.d.) The reality of living in a hutch. https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-care-advice/rabbit-housing/why-hutch-not-enough/ (accessed 27/07/2022)

Links to Open Access Publications or DOI:


Mee, G., Tipton, E., Oxley, J. A., Westgarth, C. (2022). Owner demographic factors are associated with suitable pet rabbit housing provision in the United Kingdom. Vet Rec. e1736.