Out side of the most popular domestic pets, the cat and dog, the rabbit is a beloved pet that has been the part of many people’s live in North America. Perhaps our love for rabbits is influenced by a certain cartoon rabbit who goes by the name of Bugs Bunny, or even the famous Roger Rabbit and with his gorgeous wife Jessica Rabbit, but perhaps neither of these are the reason rabbits are so popular. The fact is that rabbits are a fantastic household pet because they share a lot of the behavior of cats and dogs. They grind their teeth like cats meow when they are content, and they do a little dance that is equivalent to a dog wagging its tale. It’s shocking how amazing these little guys truly are when you compare them to the most popular pets around, plus they are incredibly intelligent creatures, and just like cats and dogs, they quickly become a part of your family. The only downside for the animal is that as bunnies, they are so incredibly cute that people can’t help themselves to purchasing one. The problem is that these types of people do not know the amount of work and financial cost that is associated with owning a rabbit, and before they know it, they have full sized rabbit on their hands but no long want to take care of them. Unfortunately, there are thousands of rabbits released into the wild for this reason alone where they are simply incapable to survive by themselves. Like any other animal, with enough hard work and patience, a rabbit could be the best pet you ever owned.
What is a Rabbit?
Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world. There are seven different genera in the family classified as rabbits, including the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), cottontail rabbits (genus Sylvilagus; 13 species), and the Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi, an endangered species on Amami Ōshima, Japan). There are many other species of rabbit, and these, along with pikas and hares, make up the order Lagomorpha.
Purchasing Your First Rabbit
Although bunnies are one of the cutest animals there is when it comes to domestic pets, its curtness has gotten the species into trouble over the years. It is absolutely important to consider the time commitment, space requirements, lifestyle changes, and cost before acquiring a rabbit, as well as how it will interact with kids and other pets you may have. The fact is that bunnies will one day grow into rabbits, and for a lot of people, they will lose that baby cuteness they once had. Typically, people who decide they don`t want their rabbits anymore either take them to animal shelters or turn them loose in the woods. The result of these actions is more rabbits are put to death by shelter workers, or since domestic rabbits are rarely adapted to fend for themselves outside of the family home, die quickly in the wild.
There are many rescue groups, humane societies, animal shelters, and individuals that have rabbits available for adoption, typically free or for a small fee to recoup the cost associated with food and housing. Additionally, reputable breeders and pet stores sell a variety of rabbit breeds. Pet stores are often considered the least preferable place to acquire a new rabbit as the rabbit`s history is unknown and many come from pet farms with poor conditions, which is the case of a few apples spoiling the bunch. Some stores, however, do document the history of their stock, which can be used to verify their environmental conditions, and take pride in selling quality animals.
A rabbit is suitable for a household with the time and energy to care for and interact with it. While children often have the time and interest, house rabbit organizations caution that a rabbit does not make a good pet for small children because they may not know how to stay quiet, calm and gentle around the rabbit because let’s face it, children see something they want and they grab it as fast as they can. As prey animals, rabbits are alert, timid creatures that startle easily, so small excited kids can put a lot of stress into the life of a rabbit. They also have fragile bones, especially in their backs, that require support on the belly and bottom when picked up, which small children may not know prior to picking them up. Children over eight years old usually have the ability to care for a rabbit if provided with proper instruction. They need to understand the fragility of a rabbit compared to other pets and the danger of injury or death associated with mishandling or rough play.
Rabbits are very social animals, and in short time, they will become part of the family, just as cats, dogs, and birds do and often get along well with these other animals. It is not uncommon to see a house rabbit grooming a cat, dog, or another rabbit. Socialization takes time, especially between two rabbits, where the process is called bonding. Until two rabbits are bonded, they tend to be territorial, aggressive, and could be considered a danger to each other. In fact, a quick search on Google will display countless pictures of rabbits laying with other animals common to households. You always have to be careful of cat and dogs because a rabbit is a prey item, play can quickly turn rough and in some cases violent.
A rabbit needs at least two hours per day of out-of-cage time in a safe environment because they have strong muscles in their hind legs that will weaken if it is not given opportunities to run, jump, and play. In a lot of ways, a rabbit is quite similar to both the dog and the cat in the way it responds to certain stimulus. When a rabbit plays, it will often do a binky, which is a happy dance where it will jump into the air, turn around, and take off running. This is the equivalent of a dog`s tail wagging or a cat pouncing in a play-like manner. When calm and being petted on the head or cheeks, it may gently grind its teeth with contentment, which is the equivalent of a cat purring and is a sign that the rabbit feels comfortable and happy with its environment. Rabbits enjoy gentle, quiet attention from their human counterparts. Although they seem to enjoy it, most rabbits do not like to be cuddled, which takes them too far from their natural comfort zone as prey animals because they need to stay in a state of alert caution. Like dogs and cats, Rabbits can be taught to follow voice commands such as coming when called by name.
Although Rabbits then to share a lot of the behaviors as dogs and cats, it is a fact that they do need certain types of equipment to stay safe and healthy. The main thing rabbits need is an enclosure that is at least 4 times the total length of the rabbit. Typical enclosures are x-pens, multiple-level condos, large dog cages, a room, and even a whole house. The general rule is that the more space you can give them the better because they do need a lot of space to run, jump, and play. A puppy training folding fence of 26 or more inches high serves as a great simplistic pen, which is called an exercise pen or x-pen for short. It provides more free space and is easier to clean than some traditional cages. Multiple x-pens can be joined to enlarge the enclosed area. An x-pen’s portability is useful for travel with rabbits and for introduction and bonding.
A multiple-level condo is used to minimize floor space while keeping the rabbit quarters large. The rabbit condo can be made by using cable ties and storage cubes available at home supply stores. Corrugated plastic and carpet remnants are commonly used as flooring. A multiple-level condo provides the rabbit plenty of jumping options and variety. The owner chooses the dimensions and layout. This option is of course meant for those handy enough to create their own pen, and is obviously not meant for children to do on their own. A rabbit-proofed room outfitted with a litter box, toys, and food can also serve as an enclosure, but is also great for a simple area for the rabbit to run, jump, and play in. Rooms shared with humans, such as a bedroom or a kitchen, are typical, and where it is practical to rabbit-proof an entire house, a rabbit can freely roam the house as cats and dogs do. Depending on the rabbit, multiple litter boxes strategically placed around the house is a good idea to avoid accidents. I don’t think there is anything worse than stepping on a fresh pile of poop with bare feet. Yuck!
Within its enclosure, a rabbit will benefit from a small shelter to hide and rest in, such as a cardboard box, plastic containers, or artificial logs. The only problem with wood hides is that sometimes the shelter doubles as a chew toy. Alternatively, a towel or cloth may be hung from the top of the cage to section off a small, dark area. Shy or skittish rabbits use these to achieve a sense of the safety of a burrow. A rabbit is easily trained to use a litter box, especially if neutered. When placed in a new area, it is common for a rabbit to mark the area with its droppings. After it gets acquainted to the area, it will naturally favor a certain location. A litter box filled with about one inch of non-toxic litter is placed there. Cat litter boxes are commonly used; additionally, pet stores sell small animal litter boxes marketed toward small rabbits and ferrets. Most pet stores carry safe litter that is easy to handle, clean, and absorbent. Clay based cat litter, scented cat litter and clumping cat litter should not be used with rabbits.
Rabbits need to play to keep their minds active and bodies trim. Rotating through a collection of toys provides variety and keeps their interest. Since they play with toys by chewing on them, all toys must be non-toxic and include cardboard boxes with holes cut in them, toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay, PVC pipe to tunnel through is an excellent idea to mimic burrows and tunnels, balls with holes for food to tumble out challenges their intelligence, plastic rattles for the rabbit to toss are a consistent favorite, and straw mats or untreated wicker baskets to chew through is always a fun game for a rabbit. All rabbits need wood toys that they can chew on to wear down their teeth, which will continue to grow to malocclusion if they have nothing to chew.
There are a lot of questions one should ask prior to purchasing a rabbit from a pet store, breeder, or animal shelter. Simply buying a rabbit because it is cute will not suffice because in the long run there is a good chance that you will get board of your pet and have to give it away. Just because they are small and cute doesn’t mean they are easy or even inexpensive to take care of because they simple are not of either. Purchasing a rabbit is a life changing experience, and if you are willing to make the sacrifices, a rabbit will be one of the positive influences in your life. They are intelligent creatures that seem to be more like a combination of cats and dogs, they are fun to play with because they can grow such strong bonds, and they quickly become a part of your family by bonding with your family and other pets. The one thing you always have to remember is to never release them into the wild, especially if they are not neutered, because if they are able to survive on their own, they will breed like crazy and destroy local habitats. There is a lot of truth behind the statement breed like bunnies as they are one of the fastest reproducers in the pet industry. But with a lot of love and support, a hobby involving rabbits can inspire a vast about of passion into one’s life because they are such an unlikely companion.