Hundreds of rabbits will need help this Christmas period and the RSPCA has pledged to be there for them.

The animal welfare charity – one of the oldest and largest in the world – is preparing for an influx of animals needing care this winter as staff and volunteers prepare for the busy Christmas period.

The RSPCA took in 5,429 animals last Christmas – 279 of which were rabbits.

The leading animal welfare charity received 55,821 calls last December (2017) from concerned members of the public and officers investigated 9,725 complaints – 232 regarding rabbits.

RSPCA rabbit welfare expert Dr Jane Tyson said: “Unfortunately rabbits can really suffer over the winter period as they may be forgotten about during the short, cold, dark and often wintry days.”

“Rabbits living outdoors will need extra care and attention at this time of the year. They need large enclosures so they can spend time playing and exploring, as well as a warm, dry shelter that contains plenty of bedding materials so they can snuggle down when it’s cold. They also need the right diet and company from another rabbit.

“Even though it may be cold outside owners need to be spending time with their rabbits, making sure their enclosures are safe, clean and dry and they have continual access to good quality hay to eat and fresh water to drink (checking regularly that it isn’t frozen).”

More than 8,000 animals spent Christmas Day in RSPCA care last year (2017) and the charity’s inspectors investigated 9,725 complaints of cruelty in England & Wales logged in December. Of those complaints, 232 related to cruelty or neglect of rabbits.

Poor Popcorn was very frightened when he was taken in by the RSPCA’s Millbrook Animal Centre, in Surrey, on 30 December last year. He

had been rescued by an animal collection officer after being found living in bad conditions.

Wendy and John Gibbs, from Alton in Hampshire, adopted Popcorn in March as a companion for their other rescue rabbit, Roberta, who’d been adopted a few months earlier.

Wendy said: “Popcorn was all on his own and looked so sad. All of the other rabbits had been partnered up so he was the perfect choice – and you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.”

This Christmas, he’ll be getting lots of love and special bunny treats of fresh vegetables – it couldn’t be further from last Christmas. “Popcorn is doing well,” Wendy added.

This winter the RSPCA is asking the nation to show kindness to all of the animals in need this Christmas. Based on the last three winters, the RSPCA expect more than 10,000

animals to be taken into our care this winter.

This year the charity’s Kindness At Christmas fundraising appeal hopes to raise money to help cover some of the costs over the festive period.

A donation of £5 could help provide an animal rabbit in RSPCA care with a special toy while £12 could help buy the gift of comfort for a needy animal, providing a warm blanket, tasty treats and a toy, and £24 could give the gift of safety, helping us answer and

respond to a call and provide a safe bed.