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It can be quite difficult to tell if a rabbit is stray, especially here in the UK because our wild rabbits look a lot more like domestic ones than the ones in, for example, the US.
Also, there are many people (judging by the volume of Facebook posts on it) that just let their rabbit roam like cats. That’s not cool. Rabbits have many natural predators and little to no street smarts.
My fairly disabled rabbit thinks she can fight the vacuum cleaner, and she’s the savvier of the two.
Check its microchip
If you find what you suspect is a stray, catch it (read this post on how to do that – I drew a diagram and everything) and take it to the vet.
Microchipping rabbits doesn’t tend to be something owners do (at least, not that I’m aware of). Mine aren’t microchipped. It seems unnecessary for an animal that barely leaves the living room, and is unlikely to escape.
If they were of high value, then maybe, but my rabbits aren’t fancy breeds, and they’re not in demand like puppies.
So why mention it?
Many rabbits are microchipped by the shop that sells them (Pets at Home do it), not as a precaution against theft, but to stop people from just dumping them without repercussions.
Not that it works – we found a stray with a chip, rang the number, and got told to mind our own business and that they didn’t want to rabbit back. At least we know he wasn’t lost though.
A domestic rabbit alone outside could be stray
As I said, some people do allow their rabbits to roam, but most don’t. Even people keeping rabbits in hutches or runs outside understand that rabbits need to be fenced in in some way to stop a fox from running off with them.
If you’re unsure if it’s domestic or a stray, approach it and see what it does. Behaviour does vary a lot, but in general, a wild rabbit will run off quickly and disappear. It’ll have some knowledge of where to go to escape. A domestic rabbit will either hop away, but not necessarily out of sight, or even just stay still.
Be aware that domestic rabbits don’t have traffic awareness, so approach with caution (enticing the rabbit closer to you is preferable to chasing it) so they don’t get started and run into the road.
A stray rabbit might be scavenging
Wild rabbits usually have their meals figured out – they’re chilling in fields, gardens, or on golf courses eating grass and whatever veggies they can find.
Domestic rabbits will be on the lookout for…anything they can think to eat in the immediate vicinity. A rabbit that’s used to being provided with hay, veggies, and pellets, might not think to go and find something to eat – it’ll just look around when it’s hungry.
That’s why you can find from rescues a lot of footage of stray rabbits doggedly trying to eat things like tree trunks and thorny branches.
The ones that have accepted their lot and are trying to make the best of things by eating sticks are usually the easiest to entice into a pen with food.
The ones that are still waiting to be served pellets are more on the flighty side.
A stray rabbit might be dirty or thin
Rabbits spend a lot of their time grooming, and like to live in fairly clean conditions. Wild rabbits, I assume, have some kind of routine for this kind of thing. They always look pretty clean, anyway.
Obvs we keep our rabbit’s living space spick and span, and they spend an inordinate amount of time washing their paws and faces (though they won’t let us film it).
Stray rabbits have better things to worry about than keeping clean, like avoiding predators and finding food. They’re also more likely to fall foul of common dirt traps like mud and puddles because they’ve never encountered them before.
Some can be thin – this indicates that they’ve been stray for a while and have probably picked up worms. Anecdotal evidence suggests thin rabbits are harder to catch BUT one of ours was pretty lean, full of worms, and walked straight up to the dude that brought her into the vets. She was extremely chill in all areas of life though.
A stray rabbit might approach for help
Another of hours found shelter in a bus stop. My boyfriend saw her, stopped the car, and she hopped over. He picked her up and brought her home.
Judging by her breed and shape we think she possibly escaped from a meat farm.
She was a pretty skittish bun (very friendly, though terrified of other rabbits and the oven) but she has no qualms about asking for help.
If in doubt, it’s always best to try to help a stray bunny. Wild rabbits make themselves scarce pretty sharpish, and you’re unlikely to be able to catch one – beware; they’ll go nuts if you manage to, whereas domestic rabbits give up pretty quickly.
Remember to ALWAYS keep stray rabbits away from other pets. They can carry parasites and fatal diseases without showing symptoms until it’s too late.
If anyone has any tips or amusing anecdotes re. stray rabbits please let us know in the comments!