We all know that rabbits have a thing for growing and proclivity when it comes to breeding, and those two things are not entirely unconnected. Rabbits in the wild need to procreate quickly and grow fast to offset just how many of them may wind up as dinner for predators. Hopefully, your pet rabbit lives a more peaceful life than that, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t grow and procreate in a hurry.
The latter point you can try and manage by spaying and neutering your pets, but what about the former? How long should you expect your rabbit to keep growing, and when will it stop? That isn’t merely an academic question – you need to know how big of a cage you need to buy. You need to know whether your rabbit is abnormally big or small to ensure that it isn’t malnourished, cramped by a cage that’s too small, or any number of issues that can result from not properly accounting for its size.
When Rabbits Stop Growing
The first thing to realize about rabbits and their growth potential is that it’s potentially explosive. The better their conditions, the faster they can grow. That doesn’t mean you want to subject your rabbit to a state of deprivation, but just be aware that your rabbit is likely to grow big and fast without you overfeeding it.
That being said, rabbits, like most animals, need plenty of food when they are young to grow quickly. That said, as with all animals, their rate of growth eventually slows. When this happens and to what extent will vary by breed. The same may be said for the speed with which they accelerate through prepubescence and into young adulthood and finally full maturity. In breeds such as Flemish Giants, this can occur in around 18 months, while Netherland Dwarfs speed through the process much faster at around four to five months. Within that spectrum, there is a wide range of growth rates and sizes, so you’ll want to check your rabbit’s breed as well as other factors that encourage growth to be able to more accurately ascertain when you can count on them to finish growing.
Rabbits start growing and growing fast. As young as two months old, they already require extra fat and protein to keep up with the demands made by their bodies to spur the growth that’s necessary for their health and development. These proteins and fats can be found in foods such as alfalfa hay, which is a mainstay in rabbit diets. You’ll thus want to make sure you have this, veggies, and special food pellets for your rabbits available in abundance.
When Different Breeds Stop Growing
Of course, not all rabbits breeds are the same when it comes to many aspects of rabbit life and behavior, and size is no exception. Depending on your breed, your rabbit could grow and mature at a variety of paces.
For example, New Zealand rabbits tend to mature toward adulthood at the end of six months. Males at this point are not only larger, but able to produce sperm, while females take longer to mature.
Smaller breeds tend to reach maturity even earlier in their lifespans. Breeds that are typically available as pets tend to reach sexual maturity by the end of the first year, at which point they may stop adding weight. At the same time, however, rabbits are voracious eaters, so if you overfeed them, they will likely become fat.
Take a quick look at a breakdown of when different rabbit breeds stop growing:
- Rex: Average maturity at 8 to 9 months, 6 to 7 months with mini variations
- New Zealand: Average maturity at 9 to 12 months
- English Angora: Average maturity at 7 to 8 months
- Dutch: Average maturity at 6 to 7 months
- French Lop: Average maturity at 9 to 19 months
- Holland Lop: Average maturity at 6 to 7 months
- Harlequin: Average maturity at 8 to 9 months
- Netherland Dwarf: Average maturity at 5 to 5 months
- Flemish Giant: Average maturity at 12 to 18 months
One thing that isn’t hard to glean from these breed variations – the larger the breed’s size, the longer it typically takes for them to reach maturity and thus stop growing. Flemish Giants are, well, giant, and can grow to be heavier than 20 lbs. By contrast, Mini Rexes only weigh 3 to 4.5 lbs on average, and so reach maturity and stop growing much faster.
It is therefore very important to consider your breed when deciding how much to feed your rabbit and what they should look like at what stage. What constitutes overfeeding or underfeeding for one rabbit breed may not for another. What’s more, different rabbit breeds will look different at different stages of their lives, and so signs that growth has slowed in one breed may not be evident in others.
Factors That Affect Growth
There are likewise many other factors affecting rabbit growth that you’ll want to consider, not the least of which being the food that you actually feed it. As with any other animal, the more fattening the food, the fatter the rabbit will get.
Likewise, you’ll need to consider how often your rabbit gets exercise. While this will not impact the rate at which it reaches sexual maturity and stops growing in that way, it can nevertheless impact whether or not your rabbit grows to become obese, so make sure to give your rabbit plenty of exercise.
Then there are genetics. Just as you might be on the short or tall side because of your parents, the size of your rabbit’s parents will likely have a big impact on how large it grows. This, in turn, can slightly lengthen or shorten the amount of time it takes for a rabbit to grow and reach maturity.
The caretaking that you give your rabbit can also have an impact on when it stops growing. In this context, it is obviously important that you make sure your rabbit gets enough nourishment and visit your veterinarian as needed to make sure that you are feeding your rabbit properly and that no medical conditions are stunting its growth. Especially when your rabbit is young, you will want to feed it a lot of alfalfa hay and food pellets.
Finally, it is important to note that for as much as you’ll want to track your rabbit’s growth, you have to be smart in how you do so, and that means looking beyond raw inches and pounds. It isn’t just size that matters, but where your rabbit “keeps it,” as it were. A rabbit that’s round and obese with rolls of fat everywhere isn’t going to be healthy. On the other hand, a rabbit with a well-rounded physique stands a much better chance at growing healthily and maintaining that rate of growth.
Rabbits are known for growing big and fast, which can sometimes make it feel as though rabbit owners have no control over their growth rate. However, by making sure you are well-informed as to their breed’s norms and with some basic caretaking tips, you can make sure that your rabbit grows and stops growing at the proper time so as to ensure their long-term happiness and health.