Why rabbts make good pets
There are so many reasons why rabbits make great pets. They have such interesting personalities, and every one is so different. Some are shy and reserved and others are hyper and always wanting to play.
Rabbits are best kept indoors as house pets which is great because it means that you can see and interact with them whenever you are at home. They love time out of their cage, or 'free roam time' as we bunny people call it, and you can have hours of fun playing with your bunny on the floor. There is nothing better than watching a happy bunny hopping around the floor - if you are lucky you might even see a few binkies (this is something a rabbit does when its very happy, they sort of jump in the air and kick their legs out).
Why a rabbit?
People often ask me why I chose a rabbit as a pet. The short answer is because I have had rabbits on and off all through my life and I love them. The better answer is because rabbits are cute, affectionate, funny and can be left alone for a few hours a day when necessary if no one is at home.
Although rabbits can be very affectionate, the also don't mind some alone time, particularly if you have a bonded pair of bunnies. This is great for people like me who live in a household where everyone works. Bramble has a massive playpen that gives him loads of space for all of his toys and plenty of room to hop around while I am confident he wont come to any harm as he is safely locked in. While we are at work or asleep, Bramble is in his pen and he gets his free roam time when at least one of us is in to supervise him to make sure he doesn't get into trouble.
Another picture of Bramble
A lot of people don't realise that its actually quite easy to litter train a rabbit. Especially if he/she is neutered/spayed (all female rabbits should be spayed to prevent uterine cancer). My Bramble was litter trained in one day!
The easiest way to litter train a rabbit is to keep them confined in their cage for the first day (make sure your bunny has enough room - most shop bought cages aren't big enough so consider a dog crate or playpen as an alternative). Offer them a litter tray but don't be too disappointed if they don't use it right away, rabbits will often choose where they want their toilet to be.
Once they have chosen an area for their toilet all you need to do is put the litter tray there and pick up any 'accidents' outside of the tray and place them inside. Rabbits will naturally return to the same area to go to the toilet and they do this mostly by smell so if they pee on the floor you can mop it up with kitchen towel and place the towel in the litter box. Rabbit poops are easy to pick up as they are not mushy, a small brush and shovel will do or just put gloves on and pick them up that way.
However you should be aware that some unneutered/spayed rabbits don't take to litter training and unneutered males often spray urine just like cats do. Rabbits also sometimes mark their territory with poop, even if they are neutered/spayed but altered rabbits usually only do this if there has been a change in the environment. Bramble recently pooped under my new coffee table, but he only did it the first day he encountered it.
Do you have a pet?
Some words of caution
While rabbits are fantastic pets, its important to know all the facts before deciding to bring one into your home. Here are some things you need to be aware of before choosing to get a bunny.
- Rabbits are not inexpensive pets - vet bills can run into hundreds of pounds, insurance is available in some countries but not everywhere and it doesn't cover everything. Bramble has a problem with his teeth that needs seeing to every three months- insurance doesn't cover dental. Our last vet bill was £120.
- Rabbits need space. Its not enough to simply put a rabbit in a cage and bring him/her out to play when you feel like it. Rabbits need plenty of space at all times and should have at least a few hours of free roam time every day.
- Female rabbits must be spayed to prevent uterine cancer. If unsprayed, female bunnies have an 80% chance of having uterine cancer by the time they reach three years old.
- Rabbits chew things - some are worse than others but all rabbits will chew some things. Some can be taught to only chew appropriate things like toys but others will never learn what they should and shouldn't chew. It is never safe to leave exposed electrical wires around when your rabbit is out. You can cover them or block your rabbit's access to them relatively easily though.
- Rabbits don't like being picked up or held - contrary to popular belief, most rabbits don't actually like being picked up. Rabbits are prey animals, their natural instinct is that if something picks them up, its because it wants to eat him or her. Some rabbits tolerate being picked up and most people can manage to trim their nails regularly but most will never enjoy being held, they are not good at snuggling. They do show affection though and if you get down on the floor with them you can usually pet your bunny, he/she may even lie down with you on the floor.
- Rabbits hide pain extremely well - again this is because they are prey animals, in the wild showing signs of pain/illness may make them look weak, making them an easy target for predators. Because of this it can be difficult to tell if your rabbit is unwell, if your rabbit is acting strangely - particularly if he/she is not eating or going to the toilet as usual you must see a vet as soon as possible.
- Emergency vet appointments (especially out of hours) can be very expensive. I was quoted £160 just to be seen by the local animal hospital, that's not counting any procedures or medicines Bramble might need.
- Not all vets will see rabbits. This is not as big a problem here in the UK as it is in other countries but still make sure your local vet will see a rabbit and has experience with them. My vet is a small animal specialist so I know they have knowledge and experience with rabbits.
- Rabbits are prone to dental issues - their teeth are constantly growing through their whole life so its important that they have a good diet, with lots of hay to help wear them down. Regular dental check ups with a rabbit expert vet are an absolute must.
Rabbits are social creatures
Rabbits are social creatures, and people often keep them in pairs. If you decide on a pair, make sure they are neutered and or spayed before you allow them to have physical contact with each other. Bonding two rabbits is not as easy as sticking them both in a cage and hoping for the best, it's a process and there is plenty of information available online about how to bond bunnies.
However many bunnies are happy being kept alone, as long as they get enough interaction from their humans. A bunny can bond well with a human, or a group of humans but this is still a process. When you first bring bunny home he/she needs time to get to know you, just as they would with another bunny.
Once your bunny has warmed up to you, he/she will hopefully let you pet them and play with them. You can buy or even make toys for your rabbit to play with and you can join in. Many rabbits will enjoy pushing a ball over to you for you to push back at them - almost like playing fetch with a dog! Oh and bunnies love tunnels, they love running through them and sometimes sleeping in them. Some bunnies have been known to join their humans on the sofa to watch TV.
Bramble makes me smile
The reason I love my Bramble so much is simply because he makes me smile. I love his helicopter ears, he sometimes tries to lop his ears (Bramble is not a lop eared bunny, but his mum was) but they don't both go all the way. Sometimes he just lops one ear and it will go all the way, but if he tries to lop both they just stick out to the side hence the term 'helicopter ears'. I find this incredibly cute. You can tell when he is listening to something because he moves his ears in that direction, if you mention his name his ears will turn towards you - he knows he is being talked about!
Even if he is in his pen he greets me when I come in. He will come hopping up to the bars to greet me, as if he is very happy to see me. He stands up on his back legs waiting for me to pet him, if you say 'up for pets' he will usually do that too.
I love how inquisitive he is, even if it gets him into trouble sometimes. He is always sniffing about the room making sure nothing has changed, although he did once get in behind the TV and we had terrible trouble getting him out. I hide toys and treats for him and love watching him sniffing them out.