3 Things to Know Before Getting a Rabbit
To Be or Not to Be...A Rabbit Parent.
Before I start, let me share a dirty secret...I am a hypocrite. My first rabbit was an impulse buy and she led a long, happy, life because I was committed to my girl no matter the cost. The lengths gone to for Emma to live the life that she did are not feasible for everyone (as evidenced by the two rescue rabbits I now have). According to The House Rabbit Society website, rabbits are the third most discarded pets in the United States. Dogs and cats are first and second, respectively. Lack of knowledge regarding rabbits contributes to the high rate of abandonment. This article is intended to share the information that I should have gathered for myself to ensure that you are ready for the commitment before bringing a rabbit home.
Here is a list of the 3 biggest considerations before bringing a rabbit into your home.
1. Rabbits Are Expensive
The start up cost for a rabbit is relatively low. Maintenance is not. Everything will cost more for your rabbit. You will have to find an exotic pet vet, preferably one with rabbit experience, and take the rabbit there regularly. Just as a dog or cat requires a regular check up, so will your rabbit. Rabbits are especially prone to dental issues. These conditions can lead to expensive treatment for the rabbit's entire life. Without treatment the rabbit is at serious risk of death. In my experience, the cost of teeth trimmings was around $600-$900. Emma required these trimmings yearly, at a minimum, often more frequently.
The cost of spaying or neutering your rabbit is more costly than traditional pets. Rabbits are very sensitive to anesthesia and require more attention during the operation and increased care post-op. To spay or neuter a rabbit costs an average of $250 compared to $135 for a dog. Destructive behaviors and illness are often the result of choosing to not get the rabbit altered.
Rabbit pellets are relatively inexpensive but a strictly pellet diet does not fill all of the nutritional needs of a rabbit. Fresh greens and hay are also necessities as part of its daily diet. Hay should be available to the rabbit at all times to prevent digestive problems. Only hay meant for rabbit consumption should be used to avoid unnecessary additives. For example, horse hay is treated with molasses that is not safe for rabbits. Greens need to be purchased regularly to avoid feeding the rabbit food that has gone bad.
Using my home as an example, my Mini Rex rabbits cost at least twice as much as my large dog.
2. Rabbits Are Messy
Do not let that adorable, fluffy, face fool you. Rabbit cages require frequent cleaning to prevent illness. Litter boxes require spot cleaning daily and a full clean with mild soap weekly. Droppings, litter, and hay are free game for your rabbit to fling around for fun, which is hilarious to watch, but a mess to clean up. Your vacuum will demand (and deserve) a raise!
Frequent molting (shedding of the coat) results in rabbit fur everywhere. This happens seasonally and can take about a month. Roughly 4 months of the year will be spent cleaning up the excess fur. Rabbits can not cough anything up. Regular combing during this time is necessary to prevent them from swallowing the shedding fur.
3. Rabbits Are Sensitive Creatures
Keeping the rabbit in a hutch outside is wholly unacceptable. They are very sensitive animals that needs interaction for their well-being. Your rabbit will require attention. Every. Single. Day. Play time with the rabbit should account for at least an hour of your day. It will take a good amount of time to figure out what type of play your rabbit enjoys. Be patient. You will find something he or she enjoys. Some activities I've found successful are, stacking blocks and allowing the rabbit to knock them over, laying on my back and allowing the rabbit to crawl/explore on me, or a simple bit of chasing the rabbit. Ideally your rabbit would have a bonded mate, though that is an article in and of itself.
In a perfect world the rabbit would not be confined to a cage. If a completely free-range rabbit is not possible for your home supervised exercise is a daily need.
Ready to Join the 1%?
If, after that, you feel a rabbit is a good fit for your home be prepared for countless laughs and rabbit kisses. An estimated 1% of American households are homes to rabbits. They are the third most common pet and the number is on the rise. Once a rabbit parent, it is obvious why they are becoming more prevalent. The bond formed with a rabbit is life altering. Losing Emma was the single worst moment of my life but I will never regret that impulse buy, vet bills and all, and cannot imagine having a home without a rabbit ever again.