Are rabbits good pets?
Despite rabbits being the mascot for Easter, this is one of the worst times of year for them! Most rabbits that are bought or adopted over Easter end up being surrendered (or worse, completely abandoned) because many new rabbit owners are neither educated nor prepared for the responsibility. This is not surprising as there are many misconceptions about how to properly take care of a pet rabbit.
If you're thinking about buying or adopting a rabbit - please read on so that you can make a rational and informed decision when choosing to add a pet rabbit to your family. Also see caring for rabbits for detailed rabbit information.
Five key things you need to know about rabbits as pets
1. Rabbits can live for around 10 years : Be sure to consider whether your family can commit to your pet bunny for it's entire life span.
2. Rabbits should be housed indoors : This keeps them safe from predators, safe from the weather. Rabbits can get heatstroke very easily, and being indoors also reduces the chance of them picking up diseases. Rabbits are social animals and love to spend time around the family, not alone in a hutch or cage.
3. Rabbits need exercise: Rabbits don't need to be exercised like dogs but they do need space and time every day out of their hutch or cage.
4. Rabbits are notorious for chewing things around the house. Getting a pet rabbit requires rabbit-proofing your home, such as ensuring all indoor plants that are toxic to rabbits are out of reach, cables are protected or off the ground, and a playpen of some sort surrounds their living area to prevent them from chewing on doors, skirting, and walls.
5. Pet shops, breeders, and rescues often get the gender of a young rabbit wrong. Accidental pregnancies happen all too often and the best way to prevent this when considering a second rabbit is to first desex the first one or ensure that the second rabbit is already desexed.
Are rabbits good pets?
Rabbits are great pets as they do not require more than a small bedroom amount of space to be happy; just as long as they are still a part of the family. This makes them suitable for apartment living. They can also be litter trained like cats but they do not create any smells as long as the litter tray is changed at least every few days. Their diet is about 90% hay which is very cheap to purchase. Rabbits are crepuscular animals which means they are mostly active during dawn and dusk. This is perfect for the busy person that has work because they will just lounge around, eating and sleeping during the day while you're at work. We keep our bunnies in a 2mx2m playpen during the day whilst we're at work and let them out to run the house when we get home; they are perfectly happy this way.
Are rabbits good pets for children?
They can be, of course, but parents must be prepared to take on the responsibility of looking after the pet rabbit in the long run. Parents should always expect to be the primary caregiver for pets; the life of an animal should not rest on the attention span of a child. Animals should never be used as a tool for teaching children responsibility. Only get a pet when the entire family is ready to take on an additional companion.
Do rabbits like cuddles?
Rabbits are very fragile and do not do well with rough handling. They are also prey animals which means that most of the time they prefer not to be picked up and cuddled. This does not mean they are not affectionate and they will certainly come when called, for treats or for pats, once they learn to trust their owners.
How much does it cost to buy a rabbit?
From a pet shop, a young bunny costs around $50, with some other vendors going as low as $20. This can make it seem that rabbits are very cheap but appropriate long term care for them is not. Desexing (which is highly recommended) occurs at 3-6 months of age and costs between $150 - $400, with some bunnies requiring post-surgery care which will add to the cost. Rabbits also require annual or biannual vaccinations (around $150 per visit) to keep them safe from a disease that is released by the government to cull wild rabbit populations. This disease is spread by parasitic insects and therefore they also require monthly application of anti-flea treatment, especially if they are allowed outdoors to play. All this should be done at an exotic vet or at least a rabbit-savvy vet as rabbits are specialised animals.
Where should I buy a rabbit?
It is very easy (too easy) to buy a rabbit from a pet shop or you can find rabbit breeders online. The major problem with doing this is that you know very little about the rabbit's health until you take it home. You also don't often get much support, particularly in the long term. If you do choose to go through a breeder, verify the integrity of their business and try to support a breeder that always has their animal's best interests at heart.
Should I adopt a rabbit?
Yes - we recommend adopting a rabbit instead of buying a young rabbit. There are many advantages. Firstly most rabbit rescues will only adopt out a rabbit after it has been desexed to avoid unwanted pregnancies. This means you won't need to worry about this slightly risky procedure. Secondly, these rabbits are very stable in their behaviour and personality, where as undesexed rabbits can display hormonal aggression and frustration. Young rabbits may start out cute but may grow up with bad habits due to being taken away from other young rabbits too early.
As well as this, adopters from the same rescue often form a community that is moderated by the rescue organisation. This means that no matter what happens, you have access to support from other rabbit-savvy owners. Finally, you also provide a rabbit that may have come from an unfortunate background a forever home, and without a doubt you can feel that rabbit's appreciation once it knows it is safe.
Are bunnies social animals?
Rabbits are very social animals so they not only require your attention but they also need a bunny buddy. It is perfectly ok to start with just one rabbit but be ready to commit to a second one before long, otherwise your bunny can get lonely and depressed. Having two rabbits is not much extra work as they share practically everything, just keep in mind the long term financial cost of having two.
On the other hand, new rabbit owners sometimes buy more than one rabbit at a time as they are just so cute. One major problem with this is that determining a young rabbit's gender is notoriously difficult so no matter what the rabbit seller or rescuer says, they should be separated until at least one of them is desexed. The saying "breed like rabbits" is certainly not without merit and a surprise litter of 12 baby rabbits means 12 more rabbits need homes. Once a rabbit has a bunny friend, this does not mean they no longer need your attention either. They still love you and will want just as much of your time.
Are there any hidden expenses when it comes to caring for rabbits?
Vet work for rabbits is just as expensive as cats and dogs, if not more expensive, because they are considered an exotic animal. Treatment for common health problems in rabbits often require expensive diagnostic tests as rabbits are very good at masking pain and discomfort. As mentioned, desexing is strongly recommended as it improves the health and happiness of rabbits and this can cost $200-400 per rabbit, and vaccinations are around $150 per year. Finally, rabbits have a habit of chewing wooden furniture, timber skirtings, and cables. Rabbit owners either invest in chew toys and methods of protecting their furniture and cables or else they face the consequence of repairing or replacing them.
I need to rehome my rabbit - what do I do?
First see if any trustworthy friends or family members can look after them. If that fails, contact your nearest rabbit rescue and surrender your pet to them. Do not release rabbits into the wild. It is a myth that they will live happy lives in the wild - they will either be hunted, run over by vehicles, or die a slow and painful death to disease.