Ellison is a park ranger's daughter and farmer's daughter with a love for all things agriculture and outdoors.
Do You Really Want a Pet Rabbit?
We all think about bunnies at Easter time. What about the rest of the year, though? Rabbits are fun and easy pets, but they shouldn't be forgotten for the rest of the year!
That being said, getting a rabbit, just like getting any other pet, is a commitment of time and money. You should think through the decision before getting a bunny impulsively.
What Breed of Rabbit Do You Want?
There are little rabbits and giant rabbits, short-haired rabbits and long-haired rabbits. Take the time to find out what breed you think you are most interested in.
On our farm, we breed Lionhead rabbits, Mini Rex rabbits, and Flemish Giant rabbits. These are just the breeds we love the most and chose to focus on, but these are just a few of many breeds. Take the time and research your options.
Lionhead rabbits are probably the rabbits that we sell the most of. They stay pretty small, and their soft, long hair and bushy mane around their neck (thus the name Lionhead) make them absolutely precious as both babies and adults. Lionhead rabbits do require brushing a few times a week to prevent their hair from matting.
Mini Rex rabbits have a unique coat that feels like velvet or fleece, and they are amazingly soft. Mine enjoy being brushed, but it isn't necessary because their coat is slick, short, and dense and doesn't mat or tangle.
Flemish Giants are my personal favorite. They grow to be very large, so if you are interested in one, it will require a larger cage or hutch. They don't need grooming as often as Lionheads because they don't get matted, but they do tend to shed a lot at certain times of the year, so brushing them is a good idea, and many learn to really enjoy it.
Housing Rabbits Outside
Many people do have indoor rabbits, though I have always kept mine in outdoor hutches. Our hutches have a wire floor in the front, with a rubber mat for their food and water dish, as well as to give them a place to give their feet a break from the wire (especially the Mini Rex who don't have thick hair over their feet). The Flemishes are heavier, which makes them more susceptible to sores on their feet if they can't get off the wire.
The back of the hutch has a small area with a wooden floor. This is a place to put comfortable bedding for them and for them to feel safe and get out of the weather.
Our rabbits all live outdoors and adapt well to temperature changes through the seasons. In the summer, if they seem hot, we freeze water bottles for them to lay next to. In the winter, we stuff the back part of the hutch with straw and jam pack it. Then the rabbits burrow in and make a spot in the straw that is nice and warm.
Choosing Housing for Indoor Rabbits
There are many types of rabbit cages available at pet stores and on Amazon. When considering housing your rabbit indoors, you should browse the different options available and see what you think will work best for your home.
There are also many types of bedding as well. You should choose whatever type you think will be easiest to clean since you will need to clean the cage regularly. Also, keep in mind whatever bedding you use will get on your floor when you let your rabbit out to play. Chose a bedding that you think will be easiest to clean up off your floors.
Keep in mind that rabbits love to chew things! If you let your rabbit out to play with it, it will most likely try to chew anything it can find. Carpets, rugs, or even worse, electrical cords and wires. Wherever you plan on letting the rabbit out to play, it should be "bunny-proofed" to avoid problems.
One other thing I should mention about indoor rabbits is that male rabbits tend to spray their urine to establish dominance over their territory. This can become a smelly problem if he sprays outside of the cage.
What Food to Offer Your Rabbit
You can find a wide variety of rabbit foods at pet food retailers. I have not found that one type is particularly better than the others.
The key to the rabbit's healthy diet is to make sure that besides its hay and pellets, it also gets greens and vegetables. Apples and carrots make a great treat, or you can buy commercially made ones.
My rabbits really like the yogurt drop treats. Keep in mind how small your rabbit is while feeding it. It should have pellets and forage to nibble on all the time, but as far as veggies and treats, a little piece of kale, apple, or carrot goes a long way, especially with the smaller rabbit breeds.
Water Bottle or Water Bowl?
As for food dishes, I like ceramic ones because sometimes the rabbits sort of stand on the edge of the dish to eat, and the lighter weight ones can sometimes spill over.
My personal rabbits drink from water bowls, not water bottles. That is just a personal preference because I find the bottles harder to clean and more annoying to refill.
What Kind of Care Will My Rabbit Need?
My rabbits are used for breeding, so they are not spayed or neutered. It has been said that doing so will increase your rabbit's life expectancy, especially female rabbits. I don't have personal experience with having that done. If you can find a local vet willing to see rabbits, they could advise you further on this.
- Dental Care: Rabbit's teeth can sometimes become overgrown and cause them to have trouble eating. This can be prevented by providing them with things to chew on in the cage. This helps with the natural urge to chew and also helps keep the teeth from overgrowing and misaligning the rabbit's jaw.
- Nail Care: You will need to trim your rabbit's nails. This can be done easily with baby nail clippers. All rabbits' nails grow at different rates, so how often your rabbit needs trimming you will have to learn as you go. You don't want their nails to get so long that they affect how the rabbit can get around, or so long that they curl into the bottom of the rabbit's foot.
Finding vets to treat rabbits can be hard in some areas. I only know of one in my area that will see them, and she admits she doesn't know a lot about them.
Due to the fact that in nature, rabbits are preyed upon by many larger animals, they tend to not show any signs of illness until they are too sick for a vet to be able to help. The more time you spend with your rabbit, the more you will be aware of his normal behaviors and be able to identify if they aren't feeling well.
How to Get Your Rabbit Accustomed to Handling
As with any new pet, there will be an adjustment period while your rabbit acclimates to its new home. I have found it best to let them have a few days to themselves before you start to interact with them too much. Keep in mind how small rabbits are, compared to how big we are; it's scary for them until they get used to us.
As I mentioned before, rabbits like to chew on things. It's been said anything that has teeth can bite you, and this is true of rabbits as well. Though I have found that most of the time, people who are bitten by rabbits asked for it by sticking their fingers through the cage in the bunny's face.
When you first start to pick up your bunny, I suggest that you sit down, pick up the bunny, and set it in your lap to pet it. That way, they feel more secure. Most of the time when rabbits scratch it is because they are panicked or scrambling around because they feel like they are about to fall or be dropped. It doesn't take long for rabbits to acclimate to being handled if done often and respectfully as to not scare them.
Other Things You Should Keep in Mind
I have found that people are under the illusion that rabbits don't have long life spans. I have found that to not be true at all. My outdoor rabbits, who are cared for well, usually live to be over 10 years old. I even had one live to 14!
Though the smaller breed rabbits are so darn cute, I recommend the larger breeds for children. Of the three breeds that we have, the Flemish Giant rabbits seem to be naturally less skittish.
If you chose to house your rabbit indoors and you have other pets, it is your responsibility to acclimate the other house pets to the rabbit safely and without putting the rabbit in danger. Remember, dogs and cats like to chase things that run from them, which could be a recipe for disaster for your new bunny.
Every time I sell a rabbit to someone, I tell them that if for whatever reason they decide they don't want it, that I will happily take it back, no questions asked, no judgment. Normally when I get a request to take a bunny back, it all has to do with the fact that someone lost interest. The child lost interest, and the parents are tired of caring for the rabbit, or they lost interest and then the rabbit not be interacted with, doesn't take well to handling when they randomly decide they want to play with it.
So the lesson to be learned here is no different than any other pet you might consider getting. Make sure you know what you are getting into; make sure it is something you really want and can commit to. Then, most importantly, educate yourself as much as possible beforehand.
Rabbits can be found for sale on craigslist or in pet stores. They are not hard to come by. I would recommend you take your time and get your rabbit from a breeder, that way, you will have someone to call and ask for help if you have questions.
Rabbits Are Great and Easy Pets
Rabbits don't get enough credit. They are fun pets. Just like dogs and cats, they all have their own distinct personalities, likes, and dislikes. The more time you dedicate to them, the more fun your rabbit will be for you to interact with. Take your time, do your research, buy from a reputable breeder, and I think you will find you will get years of enjoyment from a pet rabbit.
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.
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on August 18, 2018:
Great link, I have always heard that as well, but this puts it in a much more understandable context!
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on August 18, 2018:
Thank you for reading my article! I always love to hear from other people who love bunnies!!
The Logician from now on on August 18, 2018:
Great info. They really are too cute to resist. Hard to imagine raising them to eat like some people do!
When I was in college we had a pet rabbit that we litter trained - it was pretty good with it but occasionally missed the mark. The first rabbit I had was as a child in first grade and it died in a week for no apparent reason. When I grew up I discovered if they are kept from eating their poop they could die. I think my mother, a registered nurse, was a little too meticulous with the rabbit’s hygiene