Rabbits Make Good Pets
© 2013 Express10
Good reasons to get a rabbit
Rabbits are good pets for people who want a furry friend that is friendly and small. These are quiet creatures, ideal for apartments and condos but make sure that you are fully committed for the life of the rabbit prior to getting one. They typically live anywhere from 4 to 7 years. Rabbits can be adopted at some animal shelters or purchased in stores.
There is no risk of barking with rabbits but if you allow them to roam about your home, you must be careful to watch them. If they are hurt or frightened, they may emit a high pitched squeal. Rabbits often nibble to investigate things and could injure themselves, your electronics, or furniture. When choosing a rabbit, find out if the rabbit is open to you petting them or taking grass or other foods from your hand. Most rabbits will be open to petting or eating from a person's hand while some may be standoffish or fearful. Don't force the animal into these activities, let them come around to it on their own terms.
If you are a homebody, rabbits can be kept entirely indoors as long as their cages are fairly spacious. If you are or would like to be more active, these animals can be a good excuse to get outdoors more often. Many times, people will come up to you and ask about your rabbit or ask to pet it. Advise them to be slow and cautious and warn them that it bites, even if it doesn't. All animals bite at some point and it just may be that the one person you don't warn gets bitten. Rabbits will respond to treats and hay, but if they're standing in a field of grass it's better to keep a couple of treats handy if you want to get their attention.
Ask questions about where the rabbit came from particularly if you purchase it in a store or from an ad or you could be inadvertently contributing to a bunny mill or breeder that doesn't keep their animals in decent living conditions. Similar to other animals, rabbits are individuals and all do not have the same personality. While many are quiet and often lounge around, you may find some rabbits that are very playful or energetic. Rabbits can unwittingly make noise by thumping or simply scratching themselves in a cage or hutch with a floor that has some give to it. Rabbits are usually small and can be kept in a cage inside the home or a hutch outside. They are nibblers and diggers and this must also be taken into account.
Selecting a hutch
Whether your rabbit spends most of it's time indoors or outside, you will need a hutch or cage to secure it. If your rabbit will be living outdoors, you will probably want a hutch that can be easily cleaned with a shallow, pull out tray. A shallow one or two inch tray is much easier to clean than deeper trays that are available with rabbit cages. The more expensive and more expansive hutches have different levels for the rabbit to utilize with one level on the ground and surrounded by wire so the rabbit can enjoy the grass or take cover upstairs in rain or when frightened by other animals outside the hutch. Keep in mind the size of your rabbit and make sure that your rabbit cage offers them a lot of room, more than what you initially believe they will need is usually best.
Outdoor hutches that are in contact with the ground will need to have a wire floor. The floor can be covered with rabbit friendly materials such as hay. If you don't use a wire floor, they will make quick work of digging and escaping, likely to their detriment. Hutches typically have an all weather roof similar to what you would find on your home but the roof doesn't have to be shingled. What's most important is that the hutch keeps your rabbit in a clean and dry area and predators outside of this protected area. You will need to move hutches that allow your rabbit to come in contact with the ground every so often and so that your grass can have time to recover from the nibbling and wear. Depending on the size of the hutch, it should not be difficult to move by yourself or with at least one other person helping.
Selecting a cage
If you will be using a wire cage, ensure that the floor of the cage is not one that will be difficult for the rabbit to move around on. In the above picture I've used a thick cut of carpet (doormat sized) that was purchased at Dollar Tree. I purchased several for each of the two Flemish Giants so that if they are soiled or have accumulated fur, I can toss them inexpensively. So far, so good. They love to lay on these carpet mats and never have nibbled or used them as a bathroom. Your bunnies may be different, watch them carefully if you go this route to prevent them from nibbling or remove the carpet permanently for their safety. Before putting these carpet mats in, I trained them to use the hay bedding as their loo. This is why the carpet at the front of the cage is working as a comfortable place for them to lay and is not getting soiled.
Make sure that your rabbit's nails are regularly clipped so they don't get caught in openings of the floor of the cage. The floor must be secure. Using natural matting that is safe for the bunny to nibble on or hay would be two of the best ways to provide comfort for their feet. You may find that you need to get a different cage or provide a never ending supply of rabbit safe (for nibbling) natural mats that cover a large portion of the cage or the entire wire cage floor. When choosing a setup that will require the rabbit to be in constant contact with litter or bedding, you will need to be vigilant about removing the animal's waste as they will be literally sitting in it if you don't. These types of conditions are not healthy or sanitary for your pet or you.
Rabbit cages are available in a variety of configurations and levels for the rabbit to explore and hide in. There are some cages that come with pull out pans or trays. The deeper the pan or tray, the more likely it will be that you will need large amounts of bedding or litter. Aim for a cage that is just a couple of inches deep as opposed to four to six for this reason. If you already have a deep litter tray or pan, you don't have to fill it to the top but you may have to make small mounds of litter or bedding in each corner of the pan. This could save you some expense of bedding. Some people use strips of newspaper as bedding, this may not work well if there is no floor separating the rabbit from the newspaper. Newspaper strips do nothing for odors and the bunny will likely nibble.
Whatever setup you choose, make sure that the rabbit cannot escape. If your rabbit's cage has an open top, be aware that they are agile high jumpers with the smaller rabbits jumping as much as 5 feet in a single bound. Large rabbits, even those weighing 30 lbs. or more, can jump at least three feet high as well. No matter their size, it's possible for them to leap right out of their confines and into areas they were not meant to be.
Size, nails, and food
The largest breeds of rabbits such as Flemish Giants can grow to be twenty five, thirty pounds, or more. Most small breeds will weigh less than 8 pounds when fully grown. This is something that you should take into account. Breeds such as the Netherland Dwarf or the Jersey Wooly will often top out at less than four pounds. English Lops, known for their very large ears will grow to be about ten pounds and will require special care and cleaning of their ears.
These creatures need their nails trimmed regularly or they could hurt themselves if they are in a cage and get stuck while moving around. Keep in mind that the longer you allow their nails to grow, the more easily you will be scratched. Their nails could also cut you if the animal kicks in an attempt to escape or find a firm surface to rest it's weight on. Rabbits often flail when they are picked up and this is a prime opportunity for them to scratch someone.
Other times, the animal may decide to jump down off of you and can scratch you on it's way down. It is very important to not cut their nails too low or you will be causing them great pain if you get anywhere close to the pink portion of their nail, also called the quick. Do not attempt putting shoes or other apparel on a rabbit. They will probably kick in protest and hurt themselves or you in the process. Further this stuff is simply not needed. These items are also encumbering to them and being forced to wear them probably takes their pride down a notch or two as well.
Rabbits need fresh water daily, best dispensed either by a water bottle as they can get food, fur, and other things into water bowls or turn a water bowl over altogether. It's not uncommon for many pets to turn their water dish into a toilet or garbage pail and rabbits are not much different in this regard. The largest breeds can eat up to a cup of food daily and all rabbits also need unlimited hay or orchard grass for digestion.
Buying bales of hay from a local feed and tack store can save you a lot of time, money and effort. A bale of hay typically costs about $10 and can last a rabbit for several months. Pet stores sell bags of hay for just under $10 for just a few ounces. A single rabbit can go through several bags in a month. Rabbits love hay/grasses and some will eat it from your hand if you hold out a few pieces for them to take. Fresh vegetables will be quickly devoured when given to them as well. Try to offer small quantities at a time or you may find that their droppings become more messy.
Sleep, cleaning, and the great outdoors
Rabbits also sleep a lot. It is easy to mistake them for acting strangely but when it seems they are staring off into space, they are probably asleep. Be careful to not make sudden movements or loud noises if they are asleep or you'll probably startle them out of their sleep because they have excellent hearing. Sometimes they sleep with all of three of their eyelids closed and other times they do not. You may witness them nodding off and their heads falling slowly down. If you have two or more rabbits, you may find them huddling together to sleep or just to be closer to one another. Most rabbits sleep during the day and are active at night, but this varies. Also, depending upon how much sunlight the animal gets and the typical hours of interaction that you have, the nocturnal nature could get thrown off or become completely reversed.
Rabbits are very capable of cleaning themselves and will only need help if they are extremely ill. It is not a good idea to submerge a rabbit in water as this is not something they like and again it could frighten them. If you absolutely must bathe a rabbit fill a small tub or container with less than an inch of lukewarm water. Take care to use a chemical free and 100% natural cleanser for the rabbit as they are sensitive to chemicals and can have adverse reactions. Make sure that you keep one hand on the bunny at all times as it will likely try to get away from you and the water. So that it doesn't hurt itself, try laying down a sisal mat or towel beneath the rabbit in the tub of water. Infections of the ears and eyes are common in rabbits and more so when you have two or more together. It is important to note that most veterinarians are not experienced with rabbits so it is very important to inform yourself by reading books and articles about rabbits from reputable sources.
Rabbits love the outdoors and if you keep yours indoors, take it outside as much as you comfortably can. If you only have 10 minutes a couple times daily, giving your rabbit a quiet change of scenery can make a positive difference for your rabbit. Do not ever leave rabbits outdoors unattended as predators such as hawks, cats, dogs, foxes, etc. would love to get their paws on them. You can take a rabbit outside on a rabbit harness (never a leash) that allows you to hang on for dear life as they choose when to run and stop. Make sure that it is completely secured and in good working order before venturing outside. If the rabbit gets loose, you may not be able to retrieve it.
Never use or make leashes that go around the rabbits neck or you could actually end up making their eyes bulge or cause other injuries. When they are on a harness, understand that they are in charge. Let them dictate when to run or not run. They won't listen to you anyway. You only need to be firm or pick up and remove the rabbit when they are approaching dangerous or very dirty areas. Be prepared to try to stop on a dime and laugh at yourself when the rabbit has stopped running and you are still going. Decades after I was first initiated in this, I still laugh at myself when this happens. Rabbits are so damned quick that it can make you feel clumsy by comparison. If you can't laugh at yourself, rest assured your neighbors will!
© 2012 Express10
Rabbit Breeders Association
American Rabbit Breeders Association
- American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc.
American Rabbit Breeders Association. The ARBA is an organization dedicated to the promotion, development and improvement of the domestic rabbit and cavy. With over 23,000 members throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad.
Humane Society Video About Rabbits
- Rabbits : The Humane Society of the United States
Domestic rabbits can make wonderful pets, but they do require lots of special care. We've got tips to help choose, adopt, and raise a rabbit. Want to keep your rabbits outdoors, AND out of your garden? Done. Dig just a little deeper for ways you can