For this article, we will tell you all about why rabbits are great as pets compared to other animals.
When we talk about pets, usually the common ones that pop into people’s heads are dogs and cats. Dogs are known for their loyalty. Cats are lovely to snuggle up to. Some people also like to pet fish. There are also people who raise chickens for their poultry products.
Rabbits are not a very common answer you hear when it comes to pet animals. However, to those who actually have rabbits as their pets, they say that these furry hopping creatures are actually fun to be around.
Some facts about rabbits
The average size of a bunny rabbit is around 1.6 to 2.7 kg only. They are fairly harmless and do not cause much nuisance inside your home since they are generally quiet animals. You can keep them inside your home without worrying that they might make a mess.
Rabbits like to stay in their nests
Any large cage that is big enough for the rabbit to move and hop around in will make a good home for it. The cage has to be spacious and sanitary to ensure comfort and safety for the animal.
Rabbits are social animals
They like to be around other animals, especially with their fellow rabbits. If they are already under your care since they were young, it’s more likely for them to develop an attachment to you as well.
Rabbits have no problem being around different animals just as long as they do not feel threatened. They generally like being left on the ground so whenever you pick them up, do it slowly so they do not get shocked or provoked and display aggression.
Rabbits have a strict vegan diet
Rabbits are herbivores. That means that they only eat vegetables, fruits, seeds, and even some cereal every now and then. They also eat hay. These are pretty much the only kinds of food that rabbits can eat.
The food you give them should be free from artificial condiments and other additives. It must be clean and fresh so as not to cause any pain or discomfort to the animal.
Rabbits are trainable
A lot of pet owners say that rabbits are intelligent creatures. Just like dogs and cats, they can also be trained. They can get familiar with their name and you can call them to come to you. Even though they usually keep to themselves, rabbits can also participate in play time.
Rabbits like to be clean and hygienic
Rabbits like to clean and groom themselves as well as keep their space organized. If you want to keep a rabbit, you should also make it a point to prepare a clean and sanitary spot for them.
Rabbits are crepuscular
This is quite a new term so let’s expound on what it means. Crepuscular is synonymous to nocturnal. To put it simply, they are more active in the wee hours of the night or very early in the morning. Although they can also be active during the broad daylight, you can bond with them the most during the night.
Rabbits are quiet
Rabbits do not make a lot of noise. If they do, it is usually just a faint sound that is almost unnoticeable. If you value silence, rabbits can be good company for you.
Every breed is unique
There are a couple of rabbit breeds and they all possess unique characteristics like humans. If you want to establish a good connection with your pet rabbit, you have to choose one that matches your vibe.
Rabbits form close connections with their owners
According to many rabbit owners, they also experience that special bond that is usually seen between humans and their pet dogs or cats. Rabbits are also able to recognize their owner’s voice and sometimes follow them around the room. They also snuggle up to their owners and rest on their laps.
Rabbits live long
The average lifespan of a rabbit is between 8 to 12 years provided that they are well taken care of and kept indoors for most of the time. These rabbits are typically tame and are safe from danger which also adds to the length of their life expectancy.
As opposed to wild rabbits whose natural habitat is in the wilderness where they are constantly at risk of being preyed upon and have to search for their food in order to survive. These wild rabbits are also more prone to being infected with diseases because of their exposure to the outdoors. If you are someone who has a hard time letting go of their pets, rabbits can bond with you for a long time.
Why rabbits should not be left alone with children
Children are drawn to fluffy and adorable animals. Add that to the fact that they are also aggressive, impulsive, and unpredictable, your pet rabbit will be at their mercy and their natural instinct will take over.
If rabbits are threatened, provoked, or hurt in any way, they will retaliate as a form of defense mechanism. Having both a rabbit and a child in the same room together needs constant attention by an adult. If you want your child to play with the rabbit, you should keep these things in mind before doing so:
- Rabbits should not be dropped from a height or handled violently because their bones are fragile and can easily be fractured.
- They are prey animals.
- They are easily startled.
- To defend themselves, they will kick, bite, and scratch.
- They can be carriers of infectious diseases that are fatal when passed to humans.
- Children might give them objects that they will bite or chew on.
- They need to be in a clean, well-maintained home.
- They can dig a hole on the ground and may wander off.
Proper handling of your pet rabbit
Rabbits are great house pets. But they are small and fragile so they should not be left to the care of children without adult supervision. The child might end up squeezing the rabbit too hard to the point where it gets suffocated, or drop them while carrying.
You should handle these animals with gentleness and care so you do not unintentionally harm them and cause them to become aggressive. This is also important in building a connection with the animal because they tend to trust the person when they feel safe.
The best way to pet a rabbit is to have them rest on your lap while you’re sitting down. If you want to carry them, make sure you hold them with both hands. You can hold them close to your chest while you pet them to make them feel safe and secure.
Feeding your rabbit
As we have mentioned before, rabbits are herbivores and only eat plant material. They mainly consume leaves from these sources:
- Soft bark (sometimes)
Their meal pattern needs to be frequent but only in small amounts. They typically require around 30 servings in a day of 2 to 8 grams of food. They also need to be supplied with fiber-rich foods to maintain the stability of their body functions and the durability of their teeth as well. The teeth of rabbits grow continuously throughout their life and it can only be controlled by their chewing.
You should never forget hay or grass, or better yet, have both in your rabbit’s daily diet. If you mostly keep them indoors or they do not have readily available access to grass in your area, you can buy grass hay as a fiber alternative. Do not feed them with lawn clippings because it will cause gastrointestinal discomfort for them.
Cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, and celery are their main staple and should be included in their regular diet as much as possible. They should be able to consume around 2 cups of any or a mixture of these vegetables. Their diet has to be a balanced mixture of vegetables and fiber.
There are also rabbit nuggets or pellets available in stores. These provide additional nutrition for them. You can feed them with one tablespoon of these pellets once or twice a day. We do not recommend muesli because it has negative effects on their teeth.
Contrary to popular belief, carrots are not the main staple of rabbits. They eat carrots but not in large amounts since carrots are quite high in sugar content and not easily digested by bunnies.
For more information about the appropriate food to feed your rabbit, you can talk to a vet, a local pet shop, or a rabbit breeder because they are more knowledgeable.
If you are going to introduce new food to your pet bunny, give it in small amounts first to see if they take it well. Also, remember to always have a ready supply of fresh, cool water in their space to keep them hydrated.
Quick guide for pet owners of rabbits
Here is more information about the proper care of your pet rabbit.
An ideal wire bottom cage size for average-sized rabbits can be from four to five feet in total area size. It should be spacious enough for them to freely move around in.
At least 28 hours of exercise in a week is recommended for bunnies. They should be brought out of their cage every once in a while for physical activity.
A box made of cardboard, baby keys, grass mats, or some fabric can be good toys for rabbits to keep them entertained.
Because of the fact that rabbits’ teeth continually grows throughout their lifetime, they only way that they can prune their teeth is by chewing almost everything that they set their eyes on. You can indulge them in their chewing urges by giving them safe chew toys and keeping them away from objects that could harm them if chewed upon.
Holding a rabbit is almost the same as holding a cat or dog. You have to support their torso with your hands and hold them close to your body the same way you’d hold a football.
One thing you should never do is pick them up from their ears. This hurts them.
Brush their hair regularly to get rid of excess fur and keep it clean. You should also remember to trim their nails regularly to prevent them from growing too long and breaking off as this may cause infection.
Companionship for rabbits
Rabbits to have company. It is always best that you own a pair so they can keep each other company whenever you’re not around. But if it’s not within your capability to buy two of them, you have to make sure that your pet rabbit is never left alone as much as possible. If that is unavoidable, at least provide them with toys to keep them entertained for the few hours of their solitude. Loneliness can be harmful to rabbits and can sometimes be a cause of their death.
If you own 2 or more rabbits of different sexes, you have to separate the males from the females in different cages to stop them from breeding with each other. For male bunnies, they have to be introduced to each other at a young age so they won’t fight for dominance. You can also have them undergo desexing. Take the time to get them well-acquainted first before having them share a cage.
Aside from being social creatures, rabbits are also playful. Once you get them to warm up to you, you’ll find that they are enjoyable to be with. They also need to get regular exercise and playtime. Stimulation and movement are essential for rabbits to live a healthy life. This can be done through the concept of environmental enrichment.
The best time for you to bond with your pet rabbit is during the early morning, and late afternoon through the evening.
Rabbits also have a strong sense of smell and are very familiar with them. And since they are a prey species, they easily feel threatened and afraid. This is one of the reasons why you should be able to provide a conducive and safe environment for them at all times. There are times when they like to seclude themselves and hide somewhere.
Other things that rabbits naturally do are:
- Build nests
- Thump their back feet
- Play with anything they get their hands on
When to consult a vet:
- When they hide a lot
- They display aggression if you touch or pick them up
- Excessive chewing
- Changes in appetite or bowel movement
- Playing with water bottles
- Excessive water intake
- Constantly moving in circles
These changes in behavior can be signs of underlying conditions for your rabbit.
Rabbits with other pets
There is generally no problem with rabbits in the presence of other animals just as long as they do not antagonize each other. You should consider how they would behave towards each other. Dogs and cats tend to hunt rabbits so it’s probably best to keep them separate.
Dog barks can startle and frighten rabbits. Though it is not impossible for these animals to get along, you should always impose safety precautions. It’s good that there are other animals to keep the rabbit company but safety always comes first.
Exercise for rabbits
Provide a safe area for your rabbit to exercise. They need it for the development of their locomotor movement. A minimum of four hours a day is the ideal time for rabbits to do their exercise. You can put toys, food treats, and some hurdles and obstacles for the enrichment of the rabbit’s environment to occupy them when you are unable to tend to them.
Rabbits are susceptible to some fatal diseases like Myxomatosis and Calicivirus. These pathogens are popular in Australia as a method for the population control of wild rabbits. But that does not mean that your pet rabbit is immune to them.
To protect your rabbit, you should keep them away from mosquito-infested places or better yet, just get rid of mosquitoes in your area once and for all.
There is an available vaccine against Calicivirus that you can get for your pet rabbit. Visit your local vet for a consultation. As far as we know, this vaccine is administered every 6 months.
Dental problems are also common in rabbits due to their continuously growing teeth. They should be able to prune their teeth by chewing on grass, hay, or bark. The growth rate of their teeth is 2 to 3 millimeters every week. If their teeth aren’t maintained, they can experience weight loss, pain, or discomfort. Consult with your vet if you notice abnormal growth of their teeth and how to properly maintain them.
Mite infestations are also common in rabbits because of their fur. If they have excessive hair loss and are constantly scratching their fur, then these are indications of the presence of mites. You should keep their cage clean and regularly disinfect their space. Then get your rabbit treated by a vet. For other health concerns, better to consult with a professional.
Desexing your rabbit
Unwanted rabbit pregnancies happen all the time. A lot of animal shelters are populated with baby bunnies that are given away by their owners. If you do not want your pet rabbits to breed, you might want to try desexing them.
This is a simple procedure for male rabbits but it involves surgical operation for female rabbits. Some benefits of desexing are improved toilet training and reduced nesting behavior.
Heat stress in rabbits
At temperature levels of 28ºC and higher, rabbits can experience heat stress. Their cage should not be situated in a spot where it gets hit with direct sunlight during warm seasons. It must be in a shaded or cool area. You should ensure that the bunny is not exposed to hot temperature conditions.
If it’s unavoidable because of the climate in your area, make sure that you employ ways to lower down the temperature in their hutch or at least put it in a location where there is a steady stream of air. Near a window can be a good spot for it.
Here are signs that your rabbit might be having heat stress:
If you notice these signs, call the vet immediately and do some first aid remedies. Cool them down by wrapping them in a cool, wet towel or placing them in tepid water but never in ice cold water.
Indoors or outdoors
Rabbits are safer indoors since they are away from the danger of predators and extreme environmental conditions. They can hang around the outdoors too but they must be kept safe from predatory animals and the weather should be cool enough for them not to develop heat stress. Huge birds attack rabbits so you should be on the lookout for them if you’re going to let your rabbit loose in the outdoors. Make sure that they do not dig holes in the ground as well.
Adopt or buy
Rabbits are commonly for sale in pet shops. It’s easy to find bunnies in your local pet shops if you want to buy one. However, these days with all the bunnies that are left at animal shelters, it’s a better idea to adopt.
You can visit animal shelter groups and you are sure that you will find bunnies there who have been abandoned by their owners. Not only will you be giving them a new home, you will also save money because adopting costs a lot less than purchasing a new one. Like we mentioned before, it’s also better if you get them in pairs so they won’t be lonely.
We hope we provided you with helpful facts about having rabbits as pets. We personally believe that they are great pets to have and they can brighten your life for as long as 10 to 12 years under great care.