Rabbits can make very lovely and lovable pets, and young children adore them. With a little knowledge and planning, you can welcome one or more rabbits into your family. Picking a breed that enjoys indoor living and training it to be a good citizen can create a loving bond that lasts for years.
Tip 1: Rabbits Are Not Low-Maintenance
Rabbits are rather delicate creatures and your youngsters can’t treat them as if they were sturdy dogs or cats. Kids will want to cuddle the bunny and carry it around, but this may frighten or injure a rabbit. When bothered, dogs bark and cats hiss, but a rabbit’s first response is to attempt escape which could result in back or leg injuries. They also require regular veterinary checkups and should be spayed or neutered. The result is that thousands of pet rabbits are abandoned each year because their human family didn’t have realistic expectations. However, if you understand the various demands that rabbits make upon their humans, there’s no reason not to have a successful relationship.
Tip 2: Rabbits Create Expenses
You can spend a lot of money on a fancy or rare rabbit breed, but even assuming you adopt a shelter rabbit for free, you’ll have to shell out for a proper cage, carrier and litter box. Expect to spend well over $100 a year per rabbit on food. There are also veterinary costs, and you’ll probably cough up a little more on toys and treats. Fresh litter and bedding will run you about $400 a year. Only adopt a rabbit if you can comfortably afford it and are willing to spend the necessary money.
Tip 3: Avoid Outdoor Housing
Traditionally, many rabbits were housed in isolated outdoor hutches or cages, but we now know that rabbits prefer the social interactions of living indoors. In addition, rabbits are easily startled and might become highly stressed if a vandal or predator menaces them. Even small rabbits need adequate space and several hours a day to exercise and socialize. They are natural jumpers and runners, so it’s important to allow them to stretch their legs every day. An outdoor run is fine as long it is fenced to keep out the dogs and cats. Indoor cages should provide at least 16 cubic feet per rabbit, and a cramped apartment might not accommodate a proper-sized cage. Get a cage with a solid bottom — wire is hard on their feet. Put down cozy nesting material, such as hay, stray or softwood shavings. Give them toys to chew, including chew sticks, cardboard boxes and old phone books (ask your parents if you don’t know what these are). Rabbits like to dig, so a cardboard box half-filled with shredded paper is a thoughtful gift. Finally, keep only neutered rabbits in the same cage — otherwise they may fight and/or make bunnies.
Tip 4: Train Your Rabbit to Use a Litter Box
Rabbits are fastidiously clean, and they don’t want to dirty their cages if you give them an alternative. Put a litter box lined with newspaper into a corner of the cage. A good choice is litter made from paper pellets, but don’t use clay kitty litter, alfalfa or shavings of pine or cedar, which can give off harmful fumes.
Tip 5: Feed Your Rabbit
Rabbits need hay to maintain healthy digestive tracts. Rabbits less than 6 months old may have unlimited access to alfalfa based pellets and alfalfa hay. Adult rabbits should have grass hay such as Brome or Timothy, as well as Timothy based pellets. The pellets should contain specific quantities of protein and fiber, and until your bunny reaches full weight, should not be given freely. Once fully grown, give your rabbit no more than 1/4 cup of pellets per day for each five pounds of body weight. Also include about two cups of leafy greens daily, per six pounds of body weight — items like collard green, carrot tops, and turnip greens. Of course, always keep a bowl or feeder bottle of fresh, clean water available at all times.
Tip 6: Partner With Your Veterinarian
Your vet welcomes the opportunity to help care for less traditional pets. The first order of business it to have the bunny neutered or spayed — unless you are a rabbit breeder, there is no need to increase the rabbit population. Surgery will prevent unwanted litters, spraying and uterine cancer. Bring your rabbit to the vet at least once a year for a checkup. Consult your veterinarian right away if your rabbit exhibits symptoms such as fasting, diarrhea, no bowel movements within a 12-hour period, blood in the urine, runny eyes or nose, fur loss, swelling or fatigue. Your vet will explain any special vaccinations or dietary supplements that your rabbit might need.
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.