February was “Adopt a Rescue Rabbit” Month and Easter is coming soon.  his time of year we see lots of cute bunnies and chicks that are often given as gifts.  We’ll address chicks next time, but right now we’re going to look at 5 basic things to consider BEFORE you bring a bunny into your home or give one to someone as a gift.

  1. It is NOT recommended that rabbits be handled by children younger than 9.  Many rabbits don’t like to be picked up at all and, if they are picked up, they have to be properly supported, particularly their back legs.  According to Vetstreet.com, rabbits have no voice. So, if they’re being hurt, they cannot growl, whine or yelp to tell you. All they can do is bite, kick and scratch and those behaviors result in thousands of rabbits ending up in shelters every year.

  2. Rabbits’ teeth NEVER stop growing so they have to constantly chew to keep their teeth ground down.  For this to happen in a non-destructive way, they have to have timothy hay to chew on, toys, a grass mat to dig on and a wooden stick or cardboard they can destroy.  If they don’t have these things, they will chew wires, table legs, baseboards, carpet, etc. Actually, even if they have “sanctioned” items to chew on, given the chance they will chew ANYTHING and should always be supervised when out of their enclosure.

  3. Rabbits are prey animals.  They are instinctually always “on alert”.  To have a rabbit that is a calm, loving pet, its environment must be primarily quiet and serene.  Besides the “handling” issue in #1, a house full of small children is seldom quiet and serene unless everyone is asleep.

  4. Pet rabbits must be spayed or neutered.  According to Rabbithaven.org, the majority of female rabbits get uterine cancer by the age of 3 if they are not spayed and a rabbit that has not been spayed or neutered is almost impossible to litter train.

  5. Yes, rabbits can be litter trained but it requires patience and persistence.  You have to do it in an enclosed area, initially the rabbit’s habitat which will have a litter box in it, then if you want an additional litter box outside the habitat, designate one small room of your house.  According to Vetstreet.com it’s best to let the rabbit show you where in that space it prefers to go. This takes a couple of days of observing the rabbit’s behavior and cleaning up after it. I can speak from experience that once your rabbit has established the location of the litter box, don’t move it.  While I’ve never owned a rabbit myself, I did sublet a small studio apartment in New York City for 6 months quite a few years ago. Part of the arrangement was that I would be taking care of the owner’s cat and rabbit while I was there. This one room apartment had 3 litter boxes in it, 1 for the cat and 2 for the rabbit (one in the rabbit’s habitat and one outside the habitat)   All went smoothly until, for some reason I cannot remember now, I moved the rabbit’s “out-of-habitat” litter from one corner of the of the apartment to another corner. The rabbit simply adopted the edge of the carpet close to the original location to urinate on. Moving the litter box back, didn’t make any difference. After thoroughly cleaning the carpet a number of times, I had to purchase puppy pads and put them on that spot in the carpet.  In researching this blog, I see there were other things I could have done and I’m sure the rabbit’s rightful owner effectively retrained it and they lived happily ever after.

 

That’s the point of this, if you bring a rabbit into your home as a pet, we want everyone to live happily ever after.  Rabbits live 7-10 years on average. They can bond closely to their caregiver. There’s lots of great information on the web.  

 

Resources: Rabbithaven.org, Vetstreet.com and MyRabbitHouse.com.