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Is a Rabbit the Best Pet for You?

Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.

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What You'll Learn About Rabbits

  • The emotional and physical needs of your bunny
  • What it takes to commit to this kind of pet
  • The chores involved
  • Reasons not to get a rabbit

Why People Choose Rabbits

There are several good reasons to pick a bunny as a pet. Some individuals are not cat or dog people. Others want to join the fascinating community that shows purebred rabbits. These creatures are also smaller than most dogs, don't bark at the delivery truck and are super adorable.

There are also not-so-good reasons to adopt a rabbit. Too often, parents think rabbits are good pets for small children. Ownership also surges during Easter, when people are enamored with the idea of a bunny, but not the reality. There's also the common misconception that rabbits make low-maintenance pets, especially when there's no free time for a dog. Once the truth becomes apparent—that rabbits require time and effort—too many end up at shelters or released in the woods (which, in the case of domestic rabbits, is essentially a death sentence).

The Truth About Rabbits

Bunnies are complex, intelligent animals. They're designed to explore and flee if necessary, not sit alone in a cage all day long, kept company only by a carrot. Unfortunately, they're easily purchased but not easily understood. Once a baby rabbit becomes a teenager, its behaviour changes and it could be viewed by owners as “difficult." In actuality, the critter is merely growing into its natural behaviour. When left alone, this type of pet could turn destructive or escape.

Sometimes, well-intentioned owners neglect a rabbit because proper research wasn't done beforehand. Let's have a look at the basic requirements, which should give you a fair idea of what it takes to commit to a pet rabbit.

Rabbit Keeping Requirements

  1. Proper Handling
  2. Hours of Your Time
  3. Financial Investment
  4. Sufficient Space
  5. Allergy Tests and Preparation
  6. Plenty of Chores
  7. A Home Free of Incompatible Pets

1. They Need Proper Handling

For two reasons, handling a rabbit should be done with care. Improper lifting and holding can injure this pet, sometimes fatally. Rabbits also know they're food. They've been food since the dawn of time. Getting picked up equals the feeling of being lifted by a predator—it's not a natural thing for a rabbit to experience. Do so gently and allow your pet time to get used to it. A frightened rabbit might kick, bite or struggle so much that they fall from your grasp and injure themselves. For this reason, young children need supervision when spending time with the animal.

Supervision Is a Must

Children love and enjoy rabbits, but can accidently hurt this pet with hugs, play or incorrect lifting.

Children love and enjoy rabbits, but can accidently hurt this pet with hugs, play or incorrect lifting.

2. A Rabbit Requires Hours of Your Time

Every day, you'll need to spend a few hours maintaining your pet's emotional and physical well-being. They need at least two hours of daily exercise, a slot for grooming and then their hutch must be properly cleaned. You'll also need to factor in the time needed to prepare its food since they need fresh foods as well as commercially available pellets. Additionally, they need companionship and attention. Rabbits don't fare well when ignored and left without emotional stimulation.

3. Consider the Financial Side

Just like any other pet, your rabbit needs a vet when sick or injured. Responsible owners also take their long-eared friend for an annual checkup, even when there's no obvious problem. You'll need to purchase a proper hutch, bedding, food and grooming equipment. For those who are interested in showing their purebred rabbits, there are the additional costs of entry fees, club fees and traveling costs.

4. Do You Have the Space?

Ideally, your rabbit should be kept indoors. The garden could attract a host of predators, both wild and domestic. The weather can also cause unnecessary suffering when shelter is small and inadequate. A bunny needs a big “home” as well as an exercise area. Both need to be safe from predators, injury and escape. If you allow your rabbit to lope about the house, you must also bunny-proof your home and furniture. These critters like to gnaw on everything!

5. Test for Allergies and Readiness

Not everyone in the family might be on board with the idea of a rabbit. This needs to be discussed beforehand and also, who will be responsible for the animal. Should everyone love the idea of adding a rabbit as a pet, strongly consider testing everybody for an allergic reaction. Just like some people are allergic to cats, some experience adverse effects to rabbit saliva, fur or hay. Visit a friend with a rabbit or a shelter where your family members are allowed to handle a bunny.

Rabbits Need Attention

These amazing pets need daily interaction with other rabbits or with their owner.

These amazing pets need daily interaction with other rabbits or with their owner.

6. Can You Persist With the Chores?

The chores related to this pet are not glorious. Scooping poop, replacing bedding, dealing with the rabbit smell, staying on top of a balanced diet, making sure the rabbit exercises, cleaning the hutch; it gets repetitive real quick. Rabbits can live as long as ten years or more. Chores need to be done daily. Can you handle it?

7. Rabbits and Other Pets

There's no reason why a rabbit cannot get along with other pets. However, some animals cannot get along with rabbits. Certain dogs and cats have an immensely strong prey drive. Needless to say, this could end in tragedy. Bunnies should never be left unsupervised with other animals, not even other rabbits (that are new additions or play dates).

Rabbits Are Worth It for the Right Reasons

The only real reasons to obtain a bunny are companionship or to join the show circuit. Anything else usually causes the rabbit heartache down the road when it's misunderstood, “boring” and no longer wanted. There are a plethora of not-so-good reasons people adopt rabbits.

Wrong Reasons to Adopt a Rabbit

  • Getting swept up in Easter mania (this causes a yearly deluge in shelters when the cute baby rabbits grow up)
  • A hutch is added as décor to a garden
  • Breeding for money
  • Appeasing a child who wants a rabbit without understanding the animal's needs and the chores involved
  • Getting a rabbit because you don't have time for a dog.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit

Comments

gail good on November 28, 2018:

Hi, I had Scooch( my mini lop) since he was weined from his Mom.He was almost 6 years old & very spoiled.He was the joy of my life.He passed a month ago ( took to the vet! He would not answer mr , when i asked him, if he can get the flu from me.( had the flu) he went down hill very fast.I could or will not every replace him.He will always be in my heart forever.The most unique baby i had every & an attitude to go with it.lol I sure miss my Scooch & most of all the love of my life.