Most of us at one time or another had a pet bunny or knew of someone who had a pet rabbit. It was usually kept in a cage or ‘hutch’ outside in a garage or barn. Rabbits were not seen as the type of animal that one would keep in the house. And while many rabbits are still commonly kept as outside pets, there is a growing trend to bring bunnies into the home as house pets.
Before deciding whether you want a rabbit as a pet, be it inside or out, you should learn a little about what a rabbit needs to stay happy and healthy. Domestic rabbits are descended from European Wild Rabbits. Unlike our native Cottontails that we commonly see outside, European Wild Rabbits live in large communal groups, or warrens, that are made of underground burrows. These bunnies have their own complex social structures. They can also be very aggressive towards other rabbits, especially ones that are not members of their warren. How does this affect our rabbits as pets? Well, a single rabbit kept in a small wire cage all of its life is not likely to be a happy bunny. However, since they are also very territorial against strangers, if you think you may want more than one rabbit as a pet, you should consider getting two young rabbits at the same time, so that they can grow up together as friends. Rabbits introduced to each other as adults may get along, but they may not, and while we think of bunnies as being cute and fluffy, they can do serious damage to one another if they fight.
Suppose you only want one rabbit though. Then you get to be your bunny’s best friend! Rabbits enjoy cuddling and grooming their friends and a bunny that is licking your hand, or snuggling up beside you, is most likely expressing his affection for you. And since bunnies are social creatures, he will need a certain amount of your time every day to stay happy.
Bunnies are different from our more common pets, such as dogs and cats though. While most cats and small dogs like to be picked up and cuddled, rabbits usually do not. They will often enjoy hopping up on your lap, but generally don’t like to be picked up and held. In the wild, a rabbit that is picked up is usually some one’s dinner, so rabbits instinctively tend to become scared when lifted off the ground. Rabbits also have fairly fragile skeletons for their size and it is possible for them to seriously injure themselves if they start kicking while being held. While not quite as easily trained as cats, rabbits can learn to use a litter box. And just as you need to puppy proof when you first get a pup, if you are considering adding a rabbit to your home, you will need to rabbit proof. Rabbits’ front teeth grow throughout their life so they have a strong need to chew, and while wild rabbits can chew whatever they want, a house rabbit that chews electrical cords will find itself in a very dangerous situation.
So what are some pluses of rabbits as pets? For starters, they’re quiet. If you live in an apartment or have neighbors nearby who might be upset by a noisy pet, a rabbit may be right for you. They don’t require the time commitment of some pets, such as a dog, and while they do need room to exercise, their space requirements are much less as well. There are also few things cuter than a rabbit and while we tend to think of them as being rather lazy animals, they are incredibly fun to watch throwing a toy up in the air or doing bunny aerobics as they zoom around a room.
So, if you’re considering a rabbit as a pet, I hope this has given you some idea of whether or not one would be right for you. If you have further questions, such as specifics
on diet and health care, feel free to call us; we’d be happy to answer your questions. You can also find a lot of good information at the House Rabbit Society at www.rabbit.org. Just remember if you do get one, a bunny is not just for Easter. With the proper care you can expect to have your furry friend for the next 8 to 12 years.