As springtime approaches, many people consider bringing home a pet rabbit, especially as a gift for an eager child. In anticipation, many pet stores will be seeking out baby bunnies to re-sell from breeding farms, which can have similar conditions to puppy mills. Bunnies make amazing pets, however they require more work and dedication than many people realize, so the decision needs to be considered carefully.
When adopting a rabbit, the expectation is often that they will be similar to other ‘first pets’ for children such as hamsters and fish- aka they will be low maintenance and short lived. Interestingly, rabbits are not short lived, in fact they often live 10-12 years or more. Are you ready for a decade of caring for this pet, especially if your child loses interest? Another interesting fact is that rabbits are very social animals and they require not just the loving attention of an owner, but a bunny partner as well. That’s right, if you are considering a rabbit, you need to be considering getting TWO rabbits! Rabbits are delicate animals and do not love to picked up in general, so this often leads to children accidentally injuring them or becoming less interested in their new furry friends. Please also consider that, like many young animals, baby bunnies tend to start out docile, but in their teenage years they can be very sassy! They require active training and focused attention to avoid becoming bored or destructive and to stay easily handleable. Rabbits can be trained to do all sorts of things by a dedicated owner including litter training and tricks. Another point to note is that not all veterinarians treat rabbits, so they often require specialized veterinary care. This can mean their care is more expensive or on par with a dog or cat.
Rabbit require a large, open, indoor area to be housed in. While we often see rabbits in hutches outside, they are actually much safer from predators if they are housed inside. Rabbits can also suffer heat and cold stress, so an indoor home is much more appropriate. Bunnies need at least 5 hours of exercise per day, and our recommendation is to keep them in a large bunny-proofed room or area within your house. What counts as bunny proofing, you may ask? The most important thing to do is cover any electrical wires as rabbits love to chew these and thus are at risk for electrocution. Please also bear in mind that they may chew furniture, wallpaper, and carpet so if you are concerned about that then you should block those areas too. They also have a wide-ranging diet which should include mostly hay along with a variety of vegetables. Food pellets, if given, should make up a very small portion of their diet.
Rabbits are the third most popular pet in America just behind dogs and cats, and also the third most likely animal to be surrendered or abandoned. In fact, according to National Geographic, around 80% of rabbits bought for Easter will die or be abandoned within the first year of ownership. This uptick in bunnies being surrendered after Easter is often noted in shelters all across the country. Many times overwhelmed owners simply leave them outdoors, hoping they will be able to fend for themselves. Unfortunately domestic, aka companion animal rabbits, are not equipped with the same survival instincts that their wild cousins are, and are likely to pass away in the wild.
If you plan to bring home your own sweet bunny soon, please consider that they are complex beings with a long-life span and more than basic needs. If you do decide to proceed, then please forego the pet store and come check out some of the adorable sweeties we have in the shelter! We almost always have a great selection of lovely rabbits, and they are often already in pairs as well as spayed or neutered and just waiting for their forever home. I rescued my lovely rabbit, Noodle, and had her for a fantastic 10 years! For those who are prepared, your new best friend could be just waiting for you.