Hop to It: What You Need to Know About Pet Rabbits

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Thumper was a rabbit who was abandoned by her previous owner, but has since been adopted to a loving home.

By K.A McKenna

With spring in full bloom and Easter just around the corner, many people may be thinking about adding a bunny to the family. However, it’s important to keep in mind that rabbits are highly sensitive animals and have a number of unique needs. Prospective adopters should do their research before bringing a bunny into their home. Impulse purchases and adoptions leads to hundreds of abandoned rabbits at animal shelters.

Although a rabbit can make a fantastic pet, it is important that people consider their expectations of having a rabbit and do proper research before making such a big commitment.

Required Care

While soft and endearing, most rabbits are not fond of excessive handling or loud noises, causing them to be easily spooked by an overly eager child. As fragile prey animals who frighten very easily, most rabbits prefer to keep their feet on the ground. All of these traits make rabbits less than ideal pets for small children, who crave the need to touch and hug these delicate animals. With various needs and a long lifespan of 10-12 years, they are not low-maintenance pets.

“People don’t realize that rabbits require much more care than they might think,” says Andy Meyer, Animal Care Technician and rabbit foster parent. “They can be just as much work as a cat or a dog and have very specific needs, such as the type of hay they eat and space they require.”

Rabbits thrive on exercise and stimulation; they should never be left alone in a cage all day. A life bound to a cage would not only lead to depression, but can also create physical issues if rabbits aren’t able to stretch their legs and explore the environment outside of their cage.  As notorious chewers, rabbits also require constant supervision when hopping around outside of their enclosure; uncovered wires, furniture and electrical appliances are all subject to gnawing and pose grave dangers to these furry companions.

Housing

One of the many misconceptions we try to clear up at OHS is that pet rabbits should live outdoors.

“There are many dangers to keeping a pet rabbit outdoors,” advises Lori Lacell, Customer Care Representative and long-time animal lover. “They are exposed to parasites, predators and pests while living outdoors and are extremely sensitive to cold.”

Providing a safe housing space with adequate ventilation and supervision will minimize the risks posed to these small animals. It is also important that all rabbits are spayed and neutered to prevent unwanted births and for health reasons. A pair of rabbits and their offspring can produce 4 million rabbits in just four years. Such staggering numbers are exactly the reason why all rabbits arriving at OHS are spayed and neutered.

Socialization

Just like cats and dogs, rabbits also require enrichment and socialization. Although rabbits require a lot of care, they can be great pets for people who live in apartments or are unable to have a dog due to work schedule conflicts or a lack of space. They can also be easily litter-box trained, just like cats. Surprisingly, rabbits can also be taught a variety of tricks; some people have even taught their rabbits to do agility. These curious, sensitive creatures can bond very closely with an owner they trust, offering the same level of comfort and companionship as a cat or a dog.

“People think that all rabbits do is reproduce and reproduce, but they are much more than that,” says Bob Price, long-term volunteer and rabbit lover at OHS. “Rabbits have varying personalities and are really easy to get to know.”

While not always fond of handling, rabbits can be very affectionate and expressive; with patience and understanding, they can be rewarding pets for the right person.

Rabbits are a great fit for some people, but perhaps not so much for others. While having a pet rabbit offers numerous rewards and companionship, proper research beforehand is the key to a successful adoption. Rabbits are not gifts to be bought or adopted on a whim. Always think twice before buying or adopting a rabbit for a child and think about your expectations of having a pet rabbit.

If you feel a pet rabbit might be the right fit for you or your family, please check out the OHS Rabbit Handbook to get a more in-depth look at their care. Exploring the benefits and daily routine involved in caring for these creatures will not only best prepare you for a long-term commitment, but will ensure a more fulfilling and happy life for a rabbit.

Ready to adopt? See all of our available bunnies here.

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