Rabbits really do make great pets, but you need to do your homework before bringing a rabbit home. Here is a list of 10 things you need to know before getting a rabbit.
Rabbits need company of their own kind
It doesn’t matter how much time you spend with your rabbit, you cannot speak rabbit! They need someone to understand what they are trying to say, they need a buddy to cuddle up, groom and cause mischief with. Two rabbits aren’t any more work than one, and when you have two and see them interact, you couldn’t imagine life with just a lone rabbit. If you think of rabbits in the wild, they live in large groups, so to live on their own is very unnatural for them. Some owners worry that their rabbit won’t like them as much if they have a friend, but in reality, it just means you have two bunnies begging for food and attention instead of just one.
They poo. A lot.
Rabbits are very different to dogs and cats – they have a different digestive system which means they need food flowing food it at all times or their guts will actually stop working. Of course, all the food they eat has to go somewhere! Luckily, rabbits can be litter tray trained, and most will take to it naturally, meaning easy clean outs for you.
Rabbits eat their poop!
Gross, right? But it’s actually vital your rabbit does this. They produce two types of poop; the hard, round type and a softer type – the latter is the one they eat. They are called cecotropes and are filled with nutrients that your rabbit needs to re-ingest to absorb all those nutrients.
House rabbits can be destructive.
Yes – it’s lovely to have your rabbits inside with you. It means you can interact with them at all times, and they really do become part of the family. However, before you decide to have house rabbits, you must take into consideration that bunnies do chew – it comes naturally to them. If you are keeping rabbits inside, you will need to rabbit-proof your house for their safety (not to mention the safety of your belongings!). I usually recommend having a base room for your rabbits, which has been completely rabbit-proofed, and then allowing them into other areas of the house under supervision. You will need to move all wires up high, or they will be chewed. If you cannot move them, they need to be hidden and protected – You can get covers for wires, which will stop them getting nibbled. House plants are another potential danger, so it’s worth moving them out of your rabbit’s reach. If you are keeping your bunnies outside, make sure you adapt their accommodation to keep them warm over winter.
They need lots of space.
Rabbits are active animals, who need room to move, binky (a high hop that rabbits do when they’re happy) and run! Most hutches and runs sold in pet shops really aren’t big enough and not a lot of people realise how much they move and how much living space they really need. The more space you can give your rabbits, the happier they will be. As a general rule of thumb, a rabbit should have enough space to stand on their hind legs, and also to be able to hop three times from one end to the other.
They aren’t cheap pets.
Unfortunately, like any pet, there are a lot of things that can go wrong medically with a rabbit, and with this, comes vet bills. Before you get your rabbit, find a rabbit savvy vet. Most vets are brilliant with dogs and cats, but rabbits are classed as an exotic species and require different treatment to dogs and cats. Find a vet other rabbit owners use that comes recommended. You may want to think about getting your rabbit insured so any big vet bills will be covered by the insurance company.
They like to play.
Rabbits are intelligent and get bored easily, so a busy bunny is a happy bunny. I find the best toys for rabbits are tunnels – they absolutely love charging through them! You can even get tunnel systems which are tubes that can be connected together and mimic a warren. Anything light they can throw is a hit too – most pet shops sell Jingle Balls, which can be tossed and rolled. Egg boxes filled with food will make your rabbit work for their meal as they have to chew it and throw it to open it. Cardboard tubes stuffed with hay and food will mean they have to work a bit harder to get to their dinner as they will have to destroy it to get inside. Treat balls are another good way to make rabbit mealtimes more interesting for them, as they will have to nudge it and roll it. You can also give them cardboard tubes to throw, and cardboard boxes to sit in, on and again and tear up (do you see a pattern here? Bunnies love to make a mess!). Another good enrichment toy is to get a litter box or seed tray and fill it with soil. Digging is a natural instinct to rabbits, and they will enjoy sitting in the box and digging.
Most rabbits don’t like being cuddled.
I hear this a lot – people want a rabbit they can sit and cuddle. Whilst some rabbits don’t mind this, and perhaps enjoy it, most rabbits prefer all four feet firmly on the floor. Rabbits are a prey species, so being elevated in the air is very scary for them. You will need to carry your rabbit at times, of course, but I find the best way to interact with your rabbits is to sit on the floor at their level. They can then nose boop you and use you as a climbing frame.
Rabbits need to be neutered.
Even if you are keeping two rabbits of the same sex, they still need to be neutered. Uterine cancer is so common in female rabbits and can kill them – Spaying takes away any risk of this. In addition, female rabbits can also become very territorial and even aggressive when left entire, while entire boys will spray urine and constantly hump each other, which is very stressful for both rabbits. Neutered rabbits are happy and healthy rabbits.
There are so many rabbits at your local rescue.
Up and down the country, rabbits are sitting in rescue centres waiting for homes. Babies, dwarf lops, Netherland dwarfs – every breed of rabbit can find itself in rescue. The nice thing about adopting is they will have been assessed so you know what temperament your new friend has. Also, they should have been neutered and vaccinated so you won’t have to worry about getting an operation done. Don’t forget, rabbits need yearly vaccinations which you will need to keep up to date.
The best bit about adopting is you are potentially saving four lives! The two you adopt, and the extra space you’re creating at the rescue, meaning they can save more bunnies. Most rescues love hearing updates and seeing photos (I know I do) and it’s always nice to have someone going gooey over your beloved bunnies. Pet shops aren’t happy places for rabbits.
If you are interested in getting rabbits, learn how to give them a health check.