There is no doubt that rabbits can make wonderful pets, but before you make the decision to take one of these adorable pets into your home, you should be sure that it is the right type of pet for your family. Every year, veterinary clinics receive large numbers of requests to help find homes for unwanted rabbits, especially shortly after the Easter holiday. Unlike other so-called ?starter pets? such as goldfish, hamsters, and gerbils, rabbits require at least several hours of attention and exercise outside of their cages every single day. Rabbits are playful and affectionate, but supervision is a must whenever they are out of their cages because they have natural instincts to chew and to dig and they can quickly ruin furniture and carpets; they can also get electrocuted if they chew on electriccords. Luckily, rabbits are very clean animals and they can be easily trained to use a litter box just like cats. However, cat litter should not be used because the dust can cause respiratory problems and infections in rabbits. Their cages must be kept very clean and should be at least 2 feet wide, 2 feet high and 3 or 4 feet wide and lined with cardboard, straw, or hay.
Keep in mind that some species of rabbits live more than 10 years, so parents should also consider that some children may change their interests during that time and get tired of taking care of their rabbits as they discover other hobbies and sports. That does not mean that a rabbit won?t be a wonderful pet; only that taking a rabbit into your home requires more of a commitment than other small caged pets that are shorter-lived and less dependent on human interaction.
Another thing to consider is that young children typically want pets that they can pick up and carry around and hold. Despite their adorable and cuddly appearance, most rabbits do not like to be picked up off the floor at all, especially at first. In fact, being picked up incorrectly by well-meaning children who just want to cuddle their new Easter bunnies is one of the most common reasons that rabbits have to be brought in to veterinary hospitals for emergency vet care. Rabbits must always be picked up very carefully with support under their hind legs as well as under their front legs; otherwise, they may kick reflexively with their strong hind legs so hard that they can actually break their backs. Another reason that rabbits are frequently seen by emergency pet clinics and veterinary hospitals is that they can also easily break a leg if they are dropped accidentally. So, before you buy that cute cuddly Easter bunny for a child, remember that adults, and not young children, must always be the primary bunny caretakers and that small children must be closely supervised playing with their new rabbits. An adult should make sure that children know how to handle their new bunnies.
The good news is that pet rabbits can definitely bring a lot of enjoyment to the right home environment. Once they learn that they can trust you, they will respond to their names and they appreciate human contact very much and they get along very well with other indoor pets like dogs and cats. However, rabbits are naturally very fearful; in fact, they can get so scared by encounters with larger predatory animals that they can have a fatal heart attack without even being touched. Therefore, rabbits must be introduced very carefully to all of your other house pets, because even a friendly dog can terrify a new rabbit. If you have dogs or cats, you should only consider adding a rabbit to your household if you already know how your cats generally react to new animals and if you are confident that your dogs are under your control and that they will listen to your commands.
Rabbits do not ordinarily require more than routine veterinary services, but they do need to be examined annually by a small animal veterinarian, and you should make sure that you have access to a 24-hour veterinary hospital or emergency vet clinic because when rabbits do get sick they can deteriorate very quickly. They need constant access to grass hay to prevent intestinal obstructions and overgrown teeth and once they are fully grown, they should only eat commercial pellets as a supplement to their main diet of fresh hay and greens. Most rabbits love carrots and can be trained using those treats as rewards. Your local vet or pet clinic is the perfect source of more detailed information about proper nutrition and care of your new bunny. If you think that you can offer the right environment, a rabbit will provide many years of fun and affection as an addition to your family.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.