Tips on What to Expect If You Are Getting a Bunny Rabbit as a Pet: What You Should Know
Bunny Rabbits as Pets
Anyone who has ever owned a bunny rabbit will tell you that they are a wonderful pet. A bunny rabbit is a great pet for adults as well as for children. Owning a rabbit as a pet isn't that expensive overall. However just like dogs and cats, they need to visit the veterinarian every year for their vaccinations.
Bunny rabbits are sociable creatures and love getting your attention. They are also smart, intelligent and extremely adorable little pets who have an amazing personality.
Each rabbit will have its own personality and you can enjoy getting hours of entertainment from watching them play and run around.
I've personally found being the owner of a bunny rabbit a very enjoyable experience.
There are four things you need to think about before you get a bunny rabbit. They are your location, number of children in your household, the risk of predators and the weather in the area you live in.
Would you get a rabbit as a pet?
Things to Consider Before Getting a Rabbit
If you are thinking of getting a bunny rabbit for your family here are a list of things you need to think of prior to getting one.
- Location (where will it be homed)
- Age ( how old are the children in the household)
- Predators (are there dogs or foxes in your area)
- Weather (rabbits cannot be outside in all kinds of weather)
Housing your rabbit indoors is probably the better option compared to housing them outside. You can get a variety of indoor hutches to suit the space you have. Housing rabbits indoors stops them being harmed by any weather changes. Also it is much safer to have your rabbit indoors compared to outdoors as they are in a climate controlled environment.
Young children who are around rabbits need to be supervised. Most often if they are shown the correct way to interact with the rabbit in the beginning, they will be cautious in the future. However, rabbits have very thin bones and if they are dropped or land on the ground in a dangerous way, they could danger themselves and break something like their leg or spine which is deadly.
Rabbits who are housed outside are in danger from dogs and other wild animals that could break into the garden and harm or kill them. It is safer to house rabbits indoors or if possible in a hutch set up in a garage or shed which cannot be accessed by predators when you are not at home.
Rabbits like many other animals can become ill from changes in temperature. In the summer rabbits can get heat stroke if they are not kept in the shade. Similarly when it is cold outside, rabbits need to be kept in a warm area to ensure that they don't get hypothermia. Don't be careless with your pet’s health.
Why Owning a Bunny Rabbit is Different
I have had cats as well as rabbits and I find that cats like to be independent and do whatever they want. On the other hand, the rabbits are always in the house or confined to the back garden and like hanging out with you.
If your rabbit has their hutch and play area, they can spend all day playing in this safe environment. Once you arrive home from work or school, you should let the rabbits out of their hutch immediately so they can run around.
Usually cat and dog are given the run of the house during the day, and other pets like guinea pigs, snakes, rabbits and newts will be homed in a confined area for their own safety.
As an owner, it is your job to supervise your rabbit when it is allowed out of its hutch. Never leave your rabbit unattended in a room by themselves.
If your rabbit is kept indoors there is a higher chance that they will become more integrated within the family. Rabbits just like dogs and cats will enjoy sitting on the couch with you.
They will often just go for a snooze or explore the headrest of the couch or armchair.
What to Expect When You Own a Rabbit
Unlike cats and dogs who love to run around and play fetch, rabbits are quite often able to entertain themselves.
Rabbits are similar to cats in that they also like exploring new places and hiding under blankets and beds.
That is why it is important to close doors to rooms that you don't want your rabbit to enter otherwise they will head in there to investigate it.
While cats limit the amount of interaction they want with you, and dogs love interacting with you, rabbits are different in that they have set times where they become extremely active.
Early morning and late at night is when rabbits become playful. They will come up to you and nudge your shoe or if they are on the couch, they will jump onto your lap and run around the couch and jump from armchair to armchair.
Rabbits when they are awake are playful creatures and love social interaction. While it is possible to train your rabbit to play games like a dog, it can be challenging. But give them a blanket, a kitchen towel roll or a wooden chew toy and they will be entertained for hours.
No matter what type of pet you have, you need to spend some time each day interacting with them. All pets will get bored if they are left alone without any interaction from their owners.
How to Handle a Bunny Rabbit
Adults as well as children need to be careful when picking up a rabbit. Unlike cats and dogs they are more prone to getting harmed if they are dropped in an awkward manner.
The bones of a rabbit are very thin, similar to a matchstick and if they are dropped on the ground from a height, they might not land correctly and end up breaking a leg or their spine.
They are very fragile creatures and cannot be handled carelessly.
Getting a Rabbit for Children
Children should be taught the dangers of incorrectly handling a rabbit. It is the job of the parent or guardian to ensure that the child does not do the following things.
- Handle the rabbit in a careless manner.
- Never leave a child unattended with a rabbit.
- Educate them on what can happen if they behave in an inappropriately manner regarding the safety of the rabbit.
Other Factors to Take Account of When Deciding on a Rabbit
- The lifespan of rabbits can vary from country to country and there are circumstance that can impact their lifespan like where they are homed, how they are treated and how responsible their owner is. Outdoor rabbits can live up to six years while indoor rabbits can live up to eight years.
- Having two rabbits allows them to keep each other company especially if you are away from home a lot during the day. If you decide on getting only one rabbit, then a key issue you need to address is attention. Rabbits are a pet and need to be treated so accordingly and you need to interact and play with them and not leave them in a hutch for the rest of their life.
- Getting a hutch with two levels or one with a big open play area will allow the rabbit plenty of space to exercise and play.
- Once you arrive home, the rabbit should be allowed out of the hutch and brought into the home. They should be integrated into the family and get as much social integration as possible.
- Rabbits like cats and dogs enjoy hanging out and playing with their owners.
Different Bunny Rabbit Breeds
Choosing a Bunny Rabbit
There are many breeds of rabbit and some are specific to certain countries. While you can be limited on the breed of rabbit you get depending on where you live and what breeders are in your area, with some research, you can find one that matches your needs.
If the rabbit you are getting is for a child then getting a dwarf rabbit might be a good idea. They are smaller than the normal breeds and don't require a lot of grooming unlike an angora rabbit.
But if an adult is getting a rabbit then they can get whatever breed they want as they will be a lot more responsible on the needs or that breed of rabbit.
Owning a bunny rabbit requires patience and some of your time because you need to build up trust between the rabbit and yourself.
Just like with cats and dogs, you need to set time out to train your pet to not be naughty.
Some well know breeds are:
- Netherland Dwarf rabbit
- Mini Rex rabbit
- Holland Lop rabbit
- Dutch rabbit
- Lionhead rabbit
- Angora rabbit
While these lists highlight many of the common breeds of rabbits available, the number of breeds varies and many people like mixed breeds or more specific breeds compared to those listed. There is also cross over breeds that are more geared toward a particular country.
Once you have decided on the type of rabbit you want to get, you need to identify a legitimate breeder with a good reputation to get them from.
If you are unsure of where to get a rabbit, check forums online and also check out animal sanctuaries as they might have taken in abandoned rabbits they are looking to re-home them.
Caring For Your Bunny Rabbit
Each year depending on where you live, you will need to get your rabbit vaccinated. There are two diseases that rabbits need to be vaccinated against, Myxomatois and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. Both these diseases can one spread to other rabbits very quickly and if a rabbit is infected they can suffer a very painful death.
In Ireland the Myxomatois vaccine is widely used by vets but rabbit are not given the Viral Haemorrhagic Disease vaccine unless they show signs of having it. This vaccine is very dangerous and the person who is administering it can be at risk when giving it.
If you have more than one rabbit, you need to be aware that they can get ear mites and ringworm and that this can spread among the pack.
Rabbits are not prone to getting sick very often. In fact you might never have an issue with your rabbit which will require veterinarian attention.
Rabbits do not make noise, so if they are ill or in pain, there is no way for them to alert you to this. So you will need to be alert and take note of any behavioural changes. If your rabbits behaviour changes, you need to investigate this and see if there is an underlying issue that need to be addressed.
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Clipping the Rabbits Claws
- If you have an indoor rabbit, you will need to clip their claws about once a month.
- This is easier than you might think but it is a lot easier if there are two of you doing it.
- If you do not feel confident enough to perform this task, consult your veterinarian and he/she will clip them. It is important that you don't let them get long because this could cause your bunny rabbit to have problems later on with their feet.
Neutering and Spaying Your Rabbit
Your vet might advise you to get your rabbit neutered or spayed. I got my rabbit neutered when he was over a year old because he had an issue where he would spray urine on your leg when he was running around each day. The veterinarian who performed the procedure was also the breeder so I knew I could trust him. The rabbit was given gas not an anaesthesia. The reason you might get your rabbit fixed is because:
- If you have male or female rabbits in the same hutch, you should get both fixed unless you want a litter of rabbits.
- If you have a male rabbit, getting them neutered can help reduce aggressive behaviour
- Getting a female rabbit fixed can reduce the change of her developing uterine cancer.
- If you have two male rabbits together it is good to get them neutered because otherwise they will become aggressive towards each other and get into fights.
Understanding Your Rabbits Behaviour
After you have had your rabbit for a few months, they will learn how to identify you by your voice and the outline of your body. Rabbits are always excited to see you in the morning, when you get up and in the evening when you get home. They will climb up on the wire of their hutch waiting to be let out.
Rabbit love to have their cheeks and nose rubbed as well as between their ears. Once you have earned your rabbits trust they will allow you to pet their tummy.
When you first get your rabbit, they will ignore you and not answer to their name. It took my rabbit a few months to learn his name and to come to me when I called him.
It will take time for your rabbit to learn how to behave. Just like puppies and kittens, baby rabbits learn as they grow. Rabbits behave a little differently to cats and dogs.
When you first get your rabbit they will run around all over the house. This is why when the rabbit is inside, that you need to be careful that you don't walk into them.
Rabbits will let you know when they are hungry as they will bang their empty bowl if you are not feeding them fast enough.
Watch the body language of a rabbit to see how they feel. The way that the rabbit positions his/her body will tell you what mood your rabbit is in. If their head and body is flat on the ground, it means they are happy and enjoying themselves. If they are jumping up in the air and kicking their legs out to the side doing binkies, then they are happy and excited to play.
If the rabbit is scared or stressed, they will thump their back legs on the ground. This is their way of giving a signal that they are scared or there is something dangerous around. Loud noises will frighten a rabbit and since their hearing is better than humans, you might not be aware what is happening. So always be alert.
You need to build up trust between yourself and your rabbit. Once you have formed a bond you will have a fantastic relationship with your rabbits and you will see a side to their personality that you never expected.
Types Of Hutches For Your Bunny Rabbit
Environment: Should You Keep A Bunny Rabbit Inside or Outdoors
If you decide to home your rabbit outside in a hutch, then you need to make sure that you make their environment as safe as possible for them. These are some of the threats they could face:
- Overexposure to sun, heat, wind and rain
· Shock (which will result in death)
It is the responsibility of the rabbit owner to have a safe hutch enclosure for the rabbit. Rabbits need an enclosure that has plenty of space for them to run around in to get exercise and to play. Keeping your rabbit inside is a much safer option and gives you more time to bond with your pet.
Rabbits are very sociable creatures and they enjoy being around people and other pets. So in the evening bring them inside the house and let them hang out with you in whatever room you are in.
If one of the reasons you do not want a rabbit in the house is because of them pooping and peeing everywhere, then don't despair. Rabbits can be litter trained just like cats to go to the bathroom in a litter tray. This will take time and patience and some persistence on your part to ensure they know where to go to do their business.
Start by filling a litter tray with some hay or newspaper. Entice your rabbit to go in the litter tray while eating as many rabbits like to eat hay while pooping. Eventually after a while the rabbit will learn that this is where they go to do their business.
Bunny Proof Your Home
- If you are keeping your rabbit inside or you are bring them into the house in the evening, and then you need to bunny proof your house.
- You need to cover wires and be aware that bunnies like to chew wood so keep an eye on them when they are around your doors or table legs.
- To ensure that your rabbit doesn't chew these areas, give the rabbit a wood stick or toy designed for rabbits to chew on.
- Never ever leave a bunny rabbit unattended in a room because they will find something to eat in there.
Never Starve Your Rabbit
Feeding Your Rabbit
Rabbits need to be fed the correct type of food. Never give a rabbit human food as this could kill them.
Rabbits need roughage every day to ensure that their digestive system stays in good order. That is why rabbits need a supply of
- Fresh vegetables/fruit
Pellets: When you are buying pellets you need to make sure that they contain a high content of fibre. Rabbits need a lot of fibre from hay and pellets to ensure that they don't get any blockage in their intestines. Give your rabbit the correct serving of pellets according to his/her weight.
A lot of the pellet brands on the market are made up of dried vegetables and fruit which are tasty for rabbits but the downside is they are loaded with sugar. These are not good for the rabbit’s teeth or their digestive system.
Hay: When giving them hay make sure you give them an unlimited supply of hay each day and that it is the appropriate hay for their age. Rabbits can be fussy eaters, so while timothy is one hay that you can give them, some might prefer oat or orchard hay. Hay is good roughage which helps to prevent any hairballs developing in the digestive system.
Vegetables: When giving fresh veggies and fruit to rabbits these are a few that they love cabbage, carrots, apple, basil, brussel sprouts, celery, cilantro, kale, mint, and parsley and wheat grass. Make sure not to overfeed your rabbit either, give him/her the correct weight of pellets according to his/her weight.
Water: Each day change the water in their water bottle and ensure that it is filled every day. Never leave a rabbit without water and this is something every animal needs to survive. Many rabbits will also drink water from a bowel, so if you have an indoor rabbit, you can leave a bowel of water beside their pellets.
Rabbits like to chew and nibble on wood. So make sure you buy the wood sticks available in all good pet stores. As rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing you need to give them wood sticks to chew on. This also keeps them away from your wooden furniture.
Find out more on Understanding the Behaviour of a Rabbit
- Rabbit Behaviour - www.fuzzy-rabbit.com
More information on understanding the behaviour of a bunny rabbit including biting, growling, thumping and binkies.
Rabbits are just like any other animal; they are intelligent, loving and sweet. Just like any other pets they are a joy to own. The more time you spend with them, the more their personality will develop.
If you keep your rabbit indoors, this gives you more of an opportunity to spend time with them. Plus just like cats and dogs, they will greet you in the morning.
© 2011 Sp Greaney