Rabbits as Pets

My family is considering getting a rabbit. Do rabbits make good pets?

bunny-blueRabbits can make wonderful pets, but it’s important to make informed choices about having a bunny in your home. Rabbits have special characteristics and needs that are important to understand before opening your home to one. They can make great companions, but they are not for everyone.


Are rabbits intelligent?

Rabbits are very intelligent and can even be trained to use a litter pan. They are usually fairly reliable with their urinary habits in the litter pan, but be aware that they will often unconsciously leave a trail of hard, dry stool pellets as they hop along. Please consider using plant-based litter box filler, such as cheap rabbit food pellets, instead of a clay product. Rabbits like to be clean, and over time they can develop an intestinal blockage from clay litter they lick off their feet and fur. 

Rabbits also need mental stimulation, which means social interaction, whether with humans or other animals.  They tend to get along well with both dogs and cats, but please remember that dogs and cats will often view rabbits as prey. Rabbits and potential predators should never be left together unsupervised - - it is our obligation to keep rabbits safe from harm. Rabbits also tend to enjoy living with other rabbits. You may want to consider a pair, but please ensure they are both altered/neutered! If you decide to have a pair of rabbits, introduce them slowly and carefully to avoid problems with aggression.

 

Should my rabbit be neutered?

Rabbits should be altered/neutered for three important reasons: 

  1. They will contribute to the rabbit overpopulation problem. Males begin breeding at about 3 months of age, and females at about 6 months.
  2. Their behavior when sexually intact can be very unacceptable. There is nothing more embarrassing than having an amorous bunny attempt to breed with your dog's head while you are entertaining company for dinner! 
  3. Rabbits that are altered tend to enjoy longer, healthier lives. Cancer of the uterus is significant cause of death in middle-aged intact female rabbits.

 

Can I cuddle with my rabbit?

Rabbits require special handling. They are very cute and seem snuggly, but do not be deceived! They are truly "ground-loving" animals and do not enjoy being picked up and carried about as you would with a kitten or a puppy. They prefer that you sit on the ground at their level, giving them a chance to be close to you where they are most comfortable. 

"Rabbits are very cute and seem snuggly,
but do not be deceived!"

Rabbits are great for adults of all ages, but be careful if there are children at home. I generally do not recommend rabbits for households with children under the age of 12 or 13. Even then, it’s best to have adult supervision when the rabbit is being handled. It only takes one mistake to create a disaster. For instance, if bunnies are not picked up properly, with one hand under the chest and the other under the hindquarters, the rabbit can kick its powerful rear legs hard enough to break its back and be paralyzed.

Bunnies should never be allowed to roam the house freely without fairly close supervision. They have a real attraction to telephone and electrical cords, and can easily electrocute themselves. They also like to pull on certain types of carpet fiber, and can create an intestinal blockage if not monitored closely enough. 

 

How long will my rabbit live for?

Rabbit ownership is a long lifetime commitment! Rabbits can live 8 - 12 years. I personally knew one rabbit that lived to the ripe old age of 15. They require good diet, with 80% of their daily intake being roughage and fresh food, and 20% pellets. They also need exercise every day. Remember, bunnies were born to hop! Additionally, you will need to find a veterinarian who has a particular interest in rabbits, as rabbits are not small dogs. Your "rabbit-friendly" veterinarian can then help you fine tune the particular concerns of your rabbit household.

 

Can my rabbit survive on its own in the wild?

House rabbits are not wild bunnies in disguise. They do not yearn for a walk on the wild side. They are helpless without their sheltered living situations. If you acquire a rabbit and for some reason it doesn't work out, please do not ever abandon this defenseless creature to the wild and urban predators that are out there.

 

For more information about house rabbits in general, or about specific breeds of rabbits, or for information about adopting a loving bun that is looking for a good home, please contact the House Rabbit Society - - www.rabbit.org

This client information sheet is based on material written by: Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CRPP

© Copyright 2015 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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