“I am Rabbit. I can be anywhere. I can be everywhere. I am outside time. I am outside dimension. Do you want me? I am yours.”
― Mark Andrew Poe
Soft fur. Cute, round eyes. Fluffy tails and noses that are always twitching. Just looking at a bunny is enough to make any heart melt, which is why they’re a common and much-loved children’s pet. However, there are some common misconceptions about keeping rabbits as pets, which can lead to neglect and even death of the animal. It’s important to understand what it really means to have a pet bunny and to look at the pros and cons before making the trip to your nearest animal rescue or pet store.
Pros of Owning a Rabbit
Rabbits are undeniably cute and highly affectionate
One of the most enticing things about rabbits is how adorable and affectionate they are. From their soft, fluffy fur to the way they hop around with their tiny, twitching noses, rabbits make a wonderful addition to any loving home. Once you’ve established a bond with your bunny, he or she will love you and remain a loyal friend for life. They are peaceful, enjoy being petted, and will respond well to your affection by laying at your feet or licking your hand. They also enjoy a good snuggle, and by giving your rabbit a loving environment that is stress-free, you’ll build a bond that will last a long time.
They can teach responsibility
Taking care of a rabbit requires dedication, time, care, and consistency, which is a great way to teach responsibility to young children. If you’re looking for a pet that needs routine and a lot of attention, that will provide stability and help you or your children mature, then this is a good pet to have.
They live a long time
A healthy, well-looked after rabbit can live as long as eight to twelve years, with larger breeds being thought to have shorter life spans than smaller ones. You get to watch your bunny grow up and become a member of the family, forming long-lasting relationships with everyone in the house and any new additions that arrive. With proper housing, enough affection, the right food, and lots of mental stimulation, your pet rabbit can live a long, happy, healthy life.
They make good house pets
Although capable of making sounds, rabbits are by nature very quiet and won’t keep you up half the night barking or meowing outside your bedroom door. They prefer to live in a clean environment and are highly receptive to litter box training. Rabbits love to groom themselves, and if you have more than one, they will have fun grooming each other. They don’t have a particularly strong smell and can be kept in cages, making them excellent house pets.
Rabbits love to play
One of the easiest and simplest ways to keep your rabbit busy is with a cardboard castle. Giving them a simple cardboard box that they can chew to their heart’s content will keep your rabbit busy for hours on end. Bunnies also love to play games like fetch, and just like dogs, they can be trained to do all sorts of neat tricks.
They are very intelligent
Watching a rabbit interact with their environment can be fascinating. Each bunny has its own unique personality and will interact with its surroundings in different ways. Your rabbit will come to recognize you and the other members of the household and have a favorite spot in the house in no time.
Rabbits are social
Bunnies are highly social animals that need companionship to thrive, which makes them a great pet for families, where they can enjoy the company of all the different members. It is also recommended that you get two rabbits so they can keep each other company, talk “bunny talk,” and enjoy grooming each other. Pair-bonded rabbits enjoy longer lives because they are healthier and better able to deal with stress.
If you do choose to get your bunny a companion, it’s important to make sure that they have both been neutered. Rabbits mature quickly, and females can get pregnant at four months old, so get it done sooner rather than later. Or you could have two rabbits of the same sex, although housing two males together can be problematic if they begin to show aggression towards each other or get into fights.
Cons of Owning a Rabbit
It’s a big commitment
Before you get a rabbit, you need to understand how much of a commitment it is to own one as a pet. A full-grown rabbit can weigh up to 20 pounds and needs lots of room to hop around. Your pet will also need one adult-sized handful of leafy green vegetables and two cups of pellets a day. Ideally, you should have access to grass or hay for your bunny to chew on and a yard or nearby park for it to get some exercise. If you do go to the park, keeping your bunny away from dogs and cats is extremely important. You will have to do this for the eight to ten years of your rabbit’s life, which can be a long time.
Children lose interest quickly
If you’re getting a bunny for your children, bear in mind that they lose interest very quickly. The rabbit will soon be your responsibility, which means cleaning up after one more family member in the house. If your children are older, the rabbit could live long enough to see them off to college, which again leaves you in charge.
They scratch, bite, and dig
Without proper socialization, you could find yourself riddled with scratch and bite marks. Rabbits may dig into wooden floors, expressing their instinct to dig holes in the ground. They may also dig into your lap or arms when you hold them to let you know they want to play. Worse, they may bite at you to try and establish dominance. Your pet bunny may dig at you due to anxiety, stress, or boredom. With proper socialization, most of these behaviors can be stopped, but if you aren’t able to socialize your bunny on your own, you might need to get a trainer, which can be costly.
They need inside housing in extreme temperatures
Extreme cold or heat is dangerous for a rabbit’s health. If you plan on having your bunny live outdoors, you will need to make provision to bring them indoors when temperatures drop very low or are exceedingly high.
They can be costly to take care of
Rabbits are very sensitive animals and are thus prone to a number of health problems, which could add up to a lot of vet bills. Foods such as grains, cereals, chips, and nuts can all cause digestive issues, as can meat and eggs. Rabbits like to ‘steal’ food from their owners, so being careful when you’re eating around them is a must. They can also develop problems with their teeth, and females that haven’t been neutered have a high risk of uterine cancer.
Your rabbit will need to see a vet once a year if it is healthy or every six months if it is elderly or has persistent health issues. If your local vet isn’t used to dealing with bunnies, you may have to travel to find one who is. Your bunny will also need to be vaccinated against Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus every six months for their entire life to maintain immunity. Rabbits are vulnerable to stress-related illnesses due to their sensitive nature, and changes in diet or environment can cause your bunny to fall ill.
They chew everything
Birth certificates, important work documents, plastic dishes, homework, wooden furniture, cabling, and wires — anything within reach is at risk if you have a bunny roaming freely around the house. A rabbit that doesn’t have a companion or spends a lot of time alone will get lonely and bored, chewing to get its owner’s attention. Making sure to give your bunny enough time and care can help to combat this issue. You can also spend more time outdoors, which will stimulate the rabbit and give it a chance to chew on some grass.
Alternatively, you can bunny-proof your house by putting any important papers out of reach, insulating wires, and getting a few chew toys to keep it entertained. There are also store-bought or DIY chewing sprays that can deter the rabbit from chewing things like wooden furniture.
Their teeth never stop growing
Unlike human teeth, which stop growing once we’ve matured, rabbit teeth never stop growing. In the wild, a rabbit’s diet is made up of tough foods that need serious chewing, such as bark, hay, grass, and leaves. These constantly wear down the rabbit’s teeth, which is why they keep growing throughout the rabbit’s lifespan. A domestic rabbit that is fed a diet of pellets is at risk of overgrown teeth, as pellets aren’t hard enough to wear them down. Checking your rabbit’s teeth at least once a week to monitor their growth and feeding it a diet that includes lots of fibrous foods and leafy greens can help to combat this. Overgrown teeth can cause your bunny to stop eating and will need to be trimmed by a vet.
They are high maintenance
A common misconception is that rabbits are low-maintenance, and many pet rabbits suffer or are abandoned because of this. Bunnies can be quite high maintenance, requiring a diet consisting of the right kinds of foods, lots of attention and affection, a safe, quiet, consistent environment that doesn’t provide any unnecessary shocks, and isolation from predators or curious neighborhood dogs and cats. Just because rabbits eat their own poop doesn’t mean you won’t have any cleaning up to do: your bunny’s litter tray will need to be emptied out every day or every other day, depending on how deep the litter is. You will need to provide clean water every day as well as toys or hay to chew on and give your bunny time to spend outdoors where it can hop around freely and get fresh air and sunlight. You will also need to trim your rabbit’s nails regularly: long nails can get caught in things and cause your bunny to break a toe.
They scare easily
Rabbits are prey animals, which means they are hunted by larger animals for food. Due to this aspect of their nature, they have developed sharp reflexes to help them stay alive, including a heightened awareness of their surroundings and quick fear-induced responses. Sudden movements will put your bunny on high alert, and loud music, cats, barking dogs, loud bangs, or screaming toddlers can literally scare your rabbit to death.
They don’t like being picked up
Learning how to pick a rabbit up properly may take some getting used to. Rabbits don’t like being picked up, which makes them feel as if they’ve been caught by a predator and causes them to kick out their hind legs to try and get away. This is dangerous and can lead to a fractured spine, so it is imperative that you learn how to properly handle your bunny and supervise very young children as they interact with your pet.
Rabbits need large cages and lots of cleaning
By sticking to a set schedule or doing a little cleaning each day, you should be able to keep your rabbit’s cage clean without much of a fuss. The general rule is to do a deep clean once a week, although smaller cages and those with two or more rabbits will need to be cleaned more often. Each day you will have to remove any uneaten fresh foods, wash out the food and water bowls, and clean any urine or water spills to keep the cage fresh and clean. A more thorough weekly clean will involve scrubbing all your rabbit’s toys, washing and replacing any linen bedding, emptying the cage, wiping it down with some disinfectant or hot water and vinegar, and changing the litter in your bunny’s tray.