Flemish Giant Rabbits are fascinating and adorable creatures. However, the reality of owning one of these gentle giants is probably far different than your current expectations. This article's aim is to answer any and all questions you might have about taking care of a Flemish Giant Rabbit and the reality of owning this wonderful creature.
This is the first question you had. Right? Are they really that big? Well Yes. Yes, they are. They are huge in comparison to other rabbits. Actually they are huge even compared to large cat breeds. A full-grown Flemish Giant is about the size of Jack Russel. They range from 14 to 20 pounds which is ridiculous in comparison to other rabbits. Rabbits have a much lower bone density than dogs and cats, so 20 pounds goes a long way here. A 20-pound dog looks pretty small, but a rabbit that's 20 pounds is a sight to behold. When fully grown their ears measure up to 8 inches which is one of the longest ears to body ratios there are. And the average body length of a full-grown Flemish Giant is around 32 inches! To give you a bit of an idea of how big that is, an average cat weighs 10 pounds and is about 17 inches in body length.
Flemish Giant Rabbits have a tremendously wide array of personality traits. Some are extremely affectionate while others are aggressive and territorial. Generally speaking, females will be friendlier than the males. But this is by no means a rule. With this type of Rabbit, it really does vary. One thing that is for certain is that they are not lap rabbits. There are a few rare exceptions but generally speaking, they are not going to jump up on your lap like a dog. They do not like getting picked up for a good reason - they have an extremely sensitive skeletal system. Just the simple act of picking up a Giant Flemish Rabbit too quickly can result in a broken back. Their bones are like that of a bird - extremely light and hollow. Another thing to keep in mind is that by classification they are prey animals. They have strong instincts to run and hide. They can get spooked by the slightest thing. Even perfectly socialized Flemish Giant Rabbits can have an absolute panic attack from the slightest unexpected movement. Keep that in mind when choosing where to place their eating area. It shouldn't be anywhere where they feel as if they can be sneaked upon. An open area works best. Flemish Giant rabbits are relatively calmer than the smaller rabbit breeds and tend to be very laid back. They love to lounge around and have generally relaxed disposition. They are also probably the most adorable and smartest rabbit breed there is.
Flemish Giants are extremely intelligent and as such, they love to explore and need a constant source of stimulation. They especially love to play with simple puzzle toys such as stacking cups.
You wouldn’t keep your cat in a cage. You shouldn’t keep your Gentle Giant in a cage either. A Flemish is far too big to be kept in a cage. Unlike a smaller breed of rabbits, a Flemish Giant is also too big and intelligent to be permanently housed in a playpen. The only time that a playpen would be required is when you aren't able to watch over them or during the night. During the daytime, an animal of this size and intelligence requires open roaming. For a brief period of time when you can't watch over your Flemish Giant, the playpen that you will require should be at least 5 x 10 feet and at least 30 inches tall. It should be big enough for at least 3 hops. The essential items of a playpen include the litter box, hay dispenser, a giant ceramic water bowl, a hidey house, some fleece blankets or a soft place for them to lay on, and of course some toys.
They love to play. Most of them enjoy tunnels, apple wood sticks, willow branch balls, hidey houses, slinkies, nesting cups, cardboard and dig boxes. Keeping your bunny entertained is essential. A happy bunny is far less destructive.
Can you litter train your Flemish Giant Rabbit? You bet you can! It is surprisingly easy to train your pet rabbit. If you are consistent. All you need is the right litter box and litter. Some suggestions for the litter box: A large under-bed storage bin. A cement mixing tub. An extra-large dog crate. Litterbox and hay feeder combos from Etsy. Something custom built. The important thing is to have a box big enough for your Flemish Giant Rabbit. The recommended litter box size for a 3-4lbs bunny is 9 x 9 inches. A 20 lbs Flemish Giant would need a litter box that is about 5 times bigger, approximately 45 x 45 inches. They should be able to do a 360-degree turn inside their litter box. That’s how you will know you have the right fit. Equine pine pellets are the litter of choice amongst large rabbit owners. If you are in the US, you can get a large bag from Tractor Supply. A large hay dispenser is hard to find. It should be big enough to fit a large amount of hay. There are a lot of DIY videos on YouTube. Some people leave the hay directly in the litter box. Keep in mind that these giants eat their body size in hay every day and should have unlimited hay at their disposal. When it comes to training your pet bunny to use the litter box. The best method is to restrain their space with a playpen around their litter box and other supplies until they only use their litter box. When they have accidents do not punish them. Put their excrements in their litter box. Then clean and deodorize the soiled area with vinegar or other pet-safe cleaning supplies. If you catch them in the act bring them in the litter box. Once they exclusively use the litter box you can gradually increase their space. You should expect a few accidents here and there. It will get better every day. It could take as little as a week to have a pretty well-trained bunny. It could also take much longer if you are not consistent or you have a stubborn bunny. All your pets litter training can go out of the window as soon as they reach puberty. Their hormones can make them very territorial and sometimes aggressive. They could start claiming areas or things in your homes as theirs by urinating on them or leaving excrements. There are many good videos on YouTube about litter training your bunny that also apply to a Flemish Giant.
As far as nutrition goes, they are no different than any other rabbit. Except they need a much larger quantity of everything. The golden rule is 80% Hay, 10% leafy greens, 5% healthy pellets and 0-5% fruits as a healthy treat. Water bottles should never be used. A heavy ceramic water bowl is the best option. A Flemish Giant drinks a lot of water. It is very important to clean the water bowl every day. They drink about 1 cup of water per 4 lbs. That is about 1L a day for an average fully grown Flemish. They should eat their body size in hay a day. They should always have unlimited hay available to them. If you can find a local farm to purchase your hay from, it is the best option. If you don’t have access to a local farm you can always buy hay online. Your adult Flemish Giant will eat a minimum of 5lbs of hay a month. As for pellets, until the age of 1, you can free feed them high-quality pellets as long as they are eating enough hay. There is a lot of controversy about how much pellets you should feed a Flemish Giant. Always ask your vet or breeder what they recommend for your giant pet. When it comes to vegetables, you should be giving your bunny a minimum 2 cups of leafy greens per 6lbs for an adult. Fruit should be only given as a treat in small occasional quantities. There are many good online resources with a complete list of fruits and vegetables that can be given to your pet.
Flemish Giant Rabbits are considered to be exotic pets. Exotic pet vets are much harder to find and are much more costly. Some exotic pet vets are not qualified to treat Flemish Giants. When looking for a vet you should ask the clinic if they have a vet who has experience with a Flemish Giant. If they do not try another clinic until you find someone qualified. Here is a link to question you could ask in addition to asking if they have worked with a Flemish Giant.
It is beneficial to have your bunny neutered/ spayed for many reasons. They live longer and healthier lives when spayed/neutered. It facilitates the litter training process; eliminates aggressive behavior and they are less likely to chew on things. In short, they make for better companions’ post spay/neuter. The cost can be as high as 700$+ for a spay if you have not done enough research to find the right vet. The average cost in the USA is about 250$, but it varies tremendously from location to location. It is more expensive in Canada with an average cost of about 400$ and it also varies tremendously depending on the region. Before taking your Flemish Giant to get spayed you must be sure you have a qualified vet. Some red flags are if your vet tells you to fast your rabbit prior to surgery or if they say it will be a 1-2 night stay. This is a routine procedure like with a cat or dog but it does involve more risk because rabbits are very sensitive. It may be intimidating but some other great questions to ask your vet are how many rabbits they have spayed/neutered, how many of those they have lost and what were the causes.
Let me just say this upfront - Flemish giants are some of the most difficult pets you can own. More difficult than full-size parrots. Leagues above a dog. And in a whole different stratosphere of difficulty than owning a cat. The reason for this is simple - they are notoriously sensitive. They can actually die just from just getting spooked. Yes, that sensitive.
You probably already noticed - these guys are not easy to come by! You will need to do some serious research before you finally find one. Start by looking through all the breeder sites in your area, and if you still had no luck, try Petfinder. When you do find a breeder or an add on Petfinder, ask the person selling the Flemish Giant about its parents' medical history and the average lifespan of previous rabbits. If many died before the age of 1 it is very likely that yours will too.
Finding a qualified rabbit-savy vet is almost as hard as reading with your eyes shut. This is by far one of the most challenging aspects of owning any rabbit. Rabbits are very uncommon pets in some areas and for that reason finding an "exotic" vet is extremely hard. You may only have two in your city and they may not be any good. You may need to drive quite a bit away to get to a vet that is qualified to treat your Flemish Giant. Once you do finally find a qualified vet, it is expensive at about 50-100$ per visit not including any meds or tests. As mentioned above spay/neuter are expensive and they are not without risk. There aren’t many pet shops that accommodate the needs of a bunny let alone a very large bunny. You will probably be finding yourself buying a lot of stuff online and trying to be creative. This is very time-consuming. They need a lot of time, attention, food and housekeeping. You will be cleaning up after your giant multiple times a day. Cleaning their entire litter box daily is essential. Although you can absolutely litter train your Flemish Giant, no rabbit is 100% litter trained, you will occasionally still find droppings around.
If you want to go on vacation you will need to find someone who has experience with a rabbit and that can take care of them while you're away. With a cat, you can have a family member or friend check-in and feed them. When it comes to rabbits, given the fact that their digestive system needs to always be moving this is not an option. They also don't do well when left alone for a long period of time. They can be destructive or they can pass away. Therefore, if you don't know someone who has experience with rabbits you will need to find someone who does. This is very costly. They are demanding creatures and when they are bored, they can be very destructive. You can say goodbye to baseboards if they get bored. Your wires will be gone if you don't cover them properly. Flemish Giants have a short lifespan, they are the Great Danes of the rabbit world. They can pass away very suddenly without warning. This is extremely heartbreaking because it tends to happen before they reach the age of 2. You can do everything right and they may just pass away regardless. This is absolutely the hardest thing about owning a Flemish Giant. There is also the risk of GI Statis which is common amongst all rabbits. If you know about rabbits you know how stressful this is. If you don't, you should look it up before investing in any rabbit. Also, trying to medicate a rabbit is significantly harder than medicating a cat or small dog. They require as much attention as a small dog and they shed as much as one too. It could be an issue if you already own a dog. Some dogs have a very high prey drive and will instinctively want to hunt the bunny. On the other hand, Flemish Giants tend to do very well with cats.
Your heart will gain 20lbs when you get a Flemish Giant Rabbit. They are incredibly loving pets, they take up a lot of room in your home and in your heart. Needless to say, all pets require a lot of work and these Giants are definitely no exception but are definitely worth it if you have the time and patience for them. If you are one of the lucky ones you may possibly get up to 8 years with your precious companion but this is very unlikely. This article was written with the intent to provide general information for people looking to get a Flemish Giant Rabbit as a pet. Many people do not realize how hard it is to care for one until it is too late. A lot of people end up rehoming their precious companion because they were not aware of how much work they require.