An alternative pet

Usually when we think or talk about domesticated pets we have dogs and cats in mind. They are of course the most popular ones. But there is another animal that makes a companionable alternative - the rabbit - and there are a lot of advantages of looking after one.

They are usually regarded as "pets for children", but children tire quickly of pets and should not have the responsibility for one. Rabbits make affectionate, intelligent and interesting pets and I highly recommend them for people who do not have time to walk dogs, don't like cats or no longer have the mobility they had when they were younger.

Rabbits need their own environment. A well-built, secure and large hut is essential; a metre and a half by 75 centimetres is the minimum for an adult rabbit. It should be divided into two parts: a sleeping quarter and a living quarter, the latter preferably a fenced-in wire run. Both quarters should have their own door so you can shove bunny into one when cleaning the other.

The best material for the floor is saw dust, available at the carpintería, which needs cleaning out every day. Most essential, though, is the need to avoid extremes in temperatures and draughts. Blazing heat and bitter cold can kill. A sheltered place with plenty of shade is a must.

Rabbits are easy to please with food: lettuce, carrots and bran food from a pet shop - plus plenty of water - is all they need.

Do get in the habit of taking them out of their cage and giving them a cuddle. After more than a day or two, rabbits become unhappy and, believe it or not, will miss your company.

They will also miss you if you go away as they like their quarters to be clean. A friend or willing neighbour can stand in for you, but make sure they are well instructed.

One other important aspect is gnawing. As the teeth grow by as much as ten centimetres a year, a block of wood and anything that wears their teeth down is a must. If not, teeth will grow into tusks.

Rabbits are fun, inexpensive to buy and keep and will give you a lot of really good company.