This post is written by guest author, Haley McShane.
When most people hear the word “rabbit,” they think of a fluffy, mild-mannered animal that eats carrots and hops around an outdoor hutch. In reality, getting a pet rabbit is a big decision. Rabbits are cute and cuddly, but before you get one, these are some important things to think about.
Rabbits have different personalities and temperaments. In the media and stories, rabbits are portrayed as quiet animals. They are actually very dynamic and involved creatures. Like dogs or cats, rabbits have varying dispositions and natures. Some are quiet and docile while others are assertive and bold. Before you get a rabbit, it’s ideal to spend some time with the rabbit before bringing her home. If possible, ask your shelter or breeder if you can play with the rabbit and get to know her. This way, you can decide if the rabbit is a good fit for you, your home, and your lifestyle.
Rabbits need ample space. In the past, they were generally kept outdoors in hutches through all types of weather. Now, pet owners know that a free-range, indoor home is the ideal place for rabbits. Typically, they thrive in a large enclosure, closed-off part of the home, or bunny condo. These spaces should be large enough to contain their food dish, water, litter box, toys, bed, and other necessary items as well as allow them space to move around freely.
Another factor to keep in mind is one of the rabbit’s most well-known habits: chewing. Rabbits love to chew wires, furniture, paper, or really anything they can get their paws on. Not only do rabbits love to chew, but they actually need to do it because their teeth never stop growing. No matter what kind of space your rabbit lives in, the area will need to be bunny-proofed. Putting up barriers such as puppy pens and eliminating accessible wires will keep them safe, happy, and healthy.
Some houseplants are also poisonous to rabbits. These include carnations, holly, and daffodils. Make sure to check your current house plants before getting a rabbit.
Rabbits are very costly pets. Their vet care can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. There are several components to the rabbit’s healthcare. Like other common pets, rabbits should get a yearly check-up to maintain their health. It is also advisable to get your rabbit neutered or spayed. Moreover, the rabbit’s fragile nervous system requires an exotic animal veterinarian.
Potential rabbit owners must also consider other expenses: supplies, food, and replaced possessions. Pet rabbits require a host of specialized equipment and materials. According to My House Rabbit, the cost up front is between $330-$390. When you get a rabbit, this list of supplies will cost a pretty penny: These include a puppy pen ($70), food dish ($5-$10), litter box ($5-$10), nail clippers and a small flashlight ($25), hay feeder ($50-$100), cord protectors ($35), chair mats ($70), and an adoption fee ($70). ASPCA puts the first year costs at a total of $802.
The price of quality pellets, hay, and fresh produce can add up. My House Rabbit reports these total to $85 per month. While hay costs around $20, they estimate quality fruits and vegetables go for $40 per month.
If your rabbit chews on things like furniture and shoes, these will need to be replaced, too. While it’s best to act preventatively, accidents do happen and you’ll need to budget these types of expenses as well.
A Long-Term Commitment
When cared for properly, domesticated rabbits can live up to ten years. In some instances, they can live even longer. When planning to bring a rabbit home, make sure to budget accordingly for the entire lifespan of your new pet and multiply the predicted annual costs by 10+.
Rabbits also require time and energy from their humans. After you bring your rabbit home, you will need to spend ample time bonding with her. Through daily feedings and play time, she will acclimate and start to trust you.
In terms of time, rabbits need a generous amount. These small animals need a lot of exercise. They should hop around freely between 3-4 hours per day. Rabbit should be brushed every three days (and more often for long haired rabbits). Owners should also feed their rabbit twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening. But, there should be an unlimited hay supply available at all times. You will also need to deep clean your rabbit’s living area once per week to maintain sanitary living conditions.
A Rabbit’s Family
Be mindful of who lives in your rabbit’s home. Rabbits are complex creatures that enjoy a quiet environment. For this reason, children under the age of ten are typically incompatible with a rabbit’s needs, but teenagers and adults often understand how fragile rabbits are. An ideal rabbit owner would be an individual or family that spends a good deal of time at home.
Other pets should be considered before getting a rabbit as well. Dogs, cats, and other animals may or may not get along with your new pet. When you introduce your rabbit to a cat or dog, make sure she has a safe space if she feels threatened. Try keeping your new rabbit in a cage and dog on a leash for their first few visits. If your rabbit does not get along with other pets after several weeks, consider keeping them in separate parts of the home. Puppy gates may be helpful in securing these boundaries. At the end of the day, a loving rabbit family provides affection, care, and safety for their rabbit.
In the wild, rabbits are prey animals. As a result, they often hide any sign of injury or ailment to avoid attention from predators. Unfortunately, domesticated rabbits have the same habit, making it difficult for owners to recognize sickness. In this way, you must constantly monitor your rabbit’s appearance and behavior for indication of health issues. Loss of appetite, tooth grinding, and drooling are just some of the signals of affliction in rabbits. When your rabbit visits the vet, she will need you to explain potential health problems and form a course of treatment. You are your bunny’s best advocate.
So, do your rabbit research. These pets will provide companionship, love, and everlasting memories. If you can provide a happy and healthy home for 10+ years, you will certainly gain a fluffy friend.
About the Author: Haley is an animal writer who loves any and every rabbit. Growing up, she had several pets including rabbits, a dog, fish and hermit crabs. Haley is passionate about helping all animals live healthy and happy lives. Her favorite quote is: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France.