A lot of people are tempted to surprise their child with a cute, fluffy rabbit as a pet. But are YOU and your CHILD prepared to give them the proper care they require? It is a fact that rabbits are, besides cats and dogs, the animal most taken in by shelters. The sad fact is that people are buying rabbits and not realizing that they are a very big responsibility. A lot of rabbits get abandoned or “released” into the wild, often killed by predators, or starve to death. There is a high number of rabbits that are bought as gifts that don’t make it to their 1st birthday.
Well cared for, indoor rabbits typically live 7 – 10 years. They are not your typical pet, a normal veterinarian is suggested for rabbit medical care, however they do not need the same medical care as a cat or dog. Rabbits also need to be brushed, fed well and live in a clean environment. Their diet consists of grass hay, high fibre pellets and green veggies, like broccoli. Rabbits are designed to eat large fibrous food in order to remain healthy.
Rabbits poop. A LOT. So, be prepared to clean their cage well. The cage is their home, would you want poop where you sleep? To clean the cage, you wash and scrub it using dish soap and wipe down with hot water and vinegar, this will help with stubborn urine marks.
Rabbits love being outdoors! A lot of people will keep them in a cage or hutch outside. But, you have to be mindful of a few things – rabbits are prey animals that are in danger of being attacked by dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, etc. You should also ensure that the cage is secure so that the rabbit cannot escape. Make sure that the cage or hutch protects your rabbit from the elements. Rabbits do not handle extreme temperatures or being wet very well.
Be aware – when you have your rabbit outside, be knowledgeable of the vegetation that is poisonous to rabbits. Things like daffodils, tulips, and lilies are toxic.
Rabbits can also get lonely. A lonely rabbit may develop behavioural issues such as being hyperactive and angry. Social interaction with other rabbits is extremely important for their mental health. And yes, a rabbit can die from loneliness. When they are bonded with another rabbit, they form a very strong relationship. If that bond is broken, through physical separation or death of the partner, it severely affects the rabbit. A lot of shelters will have a single adoption fee for two bonded rabbits in order to ensure they have this necessary companionship.
Also, rabbits chew a lot. Their teeth grow continually all their lives and the act of chewing helps keep the teeth trimmed. There are tons of rabbit toys out there for chewing. You could also try branches from apple or willow trees, grass mats and cardboard. But also keep in mind that if your rabbits friends are hoping around in your home, some of your belongings may get damaged.
Rabbits can be great pets. They just need proper care and understanding of their natural behaviour. Please do not leave your “unwanted” rabbit on the side of the road or release it into the wild. Shelters will take them, and most farm sanctuaries rescue rabbits as well. Yes they are cute, but don’t be fooled – they take a lot of work!
Author - Alex Singleton