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Choosing a Californian Rabbit

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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The Californian rabbit is a true American original. Developed in the United States in the 1920s, this breed was intended to be a rapidly maturing meat breed that also had good quality fur.

History and Origin

In the early 1920s, rabbit breeders in the United States crossed New Zealand whites, Himalayans and chinchillas to finally produce the Californian rabbit. The purpose of this breed was to have a good meat breed that also had good fur. The breed did not become popular for at least 15 years after development. Today, the Californian is the second most popular meat-producing breed in the world. The fur quality allows this rabbit to also be classified as a fancy breed.

Appearance

The Californian rabbit has erect ears and is moderate in size, weighing around 7 to 10 pounds (3.5 to 4.75 kilograms). The original coloration of this breed was very similar to the Himalayan. With a predominantly white body and black on the feet, nose, ears and tail, this color pattern is called normal today. The Californian rabbit is now available in chocolate, blue and lilac, all developed in Great Britain.

Feeding

Commercial rabbit pellets are recommended. Feed 1/4 cup of pellets per 5 pounds of body weight every day. For rabbits under 8 months of age, feed unlimited plain alfalfa pellets. Fresh rinsed greens, vegetables, and fruit, as well as grains and hay, can then be given as supplements. Free choice hay, such as timothy, should always be available and changed daily. Alfalfa hay should not be offered free choice to rabbits over 8 months of age because it is too rich in calcium.

Housing

Many rabbits do very well in the home. They can be litter box trained and are quite fastidious groomers. Be aware that rabbits love to chew so make sure all wires are safely hidden or in protective plastic covers and understand that some of your furniture may be nibbled. If you choose to cage your rabbit, make sure the cage is at least 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet. If the cage has a wire bottom make certain you give the rabbit a plank or sea grass mats to stand on so his feet won't get damaged from being on the wire all the time. Provide a hide box or shelter and plenty of straw for bedding.

Common Diseases and Disorders

As with other rabbits, Californians do not do well in high or low temperatures. They are prone to hairball obstructions and matted coats if not cared for properly. Rabbits need daily grooming to remove loose hair. Other health concerns include earmites, Pasteurella, respiratory disease, dental problems, urinary bladder stones and fractured backs. Be quick to notice any changes in diet or litter box habits and contact a rabbit veterinarian immediately.

The average life span of a breeding Californian rabbit is 5 to 6 years. By spaying or neutering early in life, you can increase their life expectancy to around 10 years!

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