Before you get a bunny – or even after you’ve already gotten one – you may have some impressions that just aren’t true. It’s important to know the facts about rabbits, especially if you are a first-time owner, as this can mean the difference between a happy life and having big issues.
Pet Rabbits Are Cuddly
Most rabbits don’t like being held, cuddled, or placed in your lap. This is because rabbits are prey animals, so unless they have been handled frequently since they were very young and made comfortable with it, they will naturally associate being held with being captured by a predator. They’re very timid and need their personal space to feel safe. In some cases, they won’t get close to people at all. Over time, you may be able to get your rabbit to come closer and even sit next to you by being very still and offering treats when it comes near. However, rabbits are not natural cuddlers and this will take a lot of work and time.
Pet Rabbits Are Nocturnal
Rabbits are neither nocturnal nor diurnal – they’re not active during the day or night. They’re crepuscular, which means they’re active during twilight hours, or dawn and dusk. This is actually much better for most rabbit owners, as your rabbit is less likely to keep you up late at night. If you are getting up early in the morning and coming home in the evening, then you would match right up with a rabbit’s activity schedule. This would allow you to spend quality time together when it’s most natural for your rabbit. However, if you like to sleep in late or go to bed early, your rabbit may wake you up with its activity at dawn, and in the summer your rabbit may be active past your bedtime.
Pet Rabbits Can Be Kept Outside
The outdoors is a very scary place for domestic rabbits, as they don’t have any of the tools wild rabbits have to keep them safe. Even with a hutch to hide in, fencing surrounding them, and open yard on all sides, rabbits are still in danger from predators that are crafty enough to dig under or tear open the fence. They’re also in danger from the weather such as heat or rain. Rabbits can die of heat stroke at temperatures as low as the mid-eighties, so they’re much better off in an air-conditioned house than they are out in the hot summer sun. If they have no shelter, rain can be just as deadly because rabbits can die of shock if they get too wet.
Pet Rabbits Are Low Maintenance
Most people think that having a rabbit is similar to having a hamster or a rat, and that you only need to feed your rabbit once every few days and make sure it has fresh water. This is not the case. Rabbits need a lot of attention and interaction with others, preferably other rabbits. They also need plenty of exercise and room to play, and they can get sick or injured very easily. Rabbits need to have fresh food every day, their cage and litter boxes cleaned every few days, and they need to be groomed regularly. Rabbits take just as much, if not more, work as a dog or a cat would, just in a smaller package.
Pet Rabbits Are Inexpensive
While you may be able to buy a rabbit from a pet store or even adopt from a rescue for a small amount of money, after that rabbits get much more expensive. Rabbits cost around $1,000-1,500 a year when it comes to bedding, food, expenses, routine vet visits – and that doesn’t include emergencies. Up front, you also need to pay for toys, a cage, rabbit proofing your home, accessories such as litter boxes, and sometimes vaccines or medication. Some rabbits also have health conditions that you may not know about until after you have adopted them. Issues like genetic malocclusion can cost as much as $200 every month to six weeks to manage the symptoms.
Pet Rabbits Only Live a Few Years
While this is true for wild rabbits, pet rabbits should live between 10 and 12 years if cared for properly. They take about a year to reach full adulthood and go through much the same growth as a cat or dog might. Ten years is plenty of time to develop age-related diseases such as arthritis, and it’s also plenty of time for significant life changes that may need to accommodate the bunny. It’s important to understand where you are going to be over the next ten years of your life and make sure that caring for an aging rabbit fits into all of that.
Pet Rabbits Don’t Scratch or Bite
Just about any animal will scratch or bite in defense of itself if it feels threatened, and rabbits are no different. If they feel that you are a danger to them, they will lash out to protect themselves. However, rabbits don’t just bite out of fear; they also bite for less urgent reasons. Rabbits will often bite just to get the attention of whoever they are biting. They do this both with other rabbits and with humans, and it can become a problem especially if children are involved.
Pet Rabbits Only Eat Carrots and Lettuce
Rabbits definitely can’t survive off of only vegetables, and they definitely can’t eat just carrots and lettuce. In fact, some types of lettuce are harmful to rabbits. Iceberg lettuce contains the chemical lactucarium, which is poisonous to rabbits. Lighter colored lettuces have more of it, and they also have fewer nutrients and more water. Darker types of lettuce can be fed in amounts of one to two cups a day, but a rabbit can’t live off of it.
Carrots also should be eaten sparingly, as they are a very sugary and starchy food. Rabbits need fiber rather than starch to stay healthy, and too much sugar and starch can sit in their stomach and ferment, causing the growth of bad bacteria.
Pet Rabbits Can Eat Lots of Fruit
Rabbits can only eat small amounts of fruit, and only once every few days. In the wild, rabbits rarely get the chance to eat fruit, and usually only a few berries at a time. The same rule should apply to your rabbit. Fruit is very sugary and high calorie, which can cause a couple issues for your rabbit. The sugar can upset its stomach and cause bloating or diarrhea, and the high calorie content can quickly make your rabbit overweight.
Pet Rabbits Only Eat Pellet Food
Pellets are high in calories and nutritional value, so they’re best fed to growing bunnies who need a lot of energy to get big and strong. However, grown rabbits should be weaned off of pellets and given a diet of hay and a few vegetables. Pellets can quickly make your rabbit overweight if they are the main part of its diet. Some lower quality pellets also have harmful ingredients in them, so it’s important to check before you purchase anything.
Pet Rabbits Will Stop Eating When They’re Full
You may think that if you put out a plate of treats for your rabbit, it will stop eating when it gets full, but this isn’t the case. Rabbits will keep eating treats until they are overfull and very sick because they don’t have the awareness to stop eating. Just like children, if they enjoy something they will just keep eating and eating! However, rabbits can have unlimited supplies of hay. They will eat what they need to of the hay and won’t overeat the way other animals will.
It’s Okay If a Pet Rabbit Doesn’t Eat
Some dogs or cats will go without eating, either because they don’t need to eat very much or as an act of defiance or stress. These animals are okay not eating for a day or two as long as they are drinking water, and they’ll usually get over it and eat once they’re hungry enough. However, rabbits can’t go more than 8-12 hours without eating or they will die. If your rabbit refuses to eat, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as possible. You may need to feed them a wet solution with a syringe if they go too long and you can’t get to a vet.
Pet Rabbits Can Be Kept in a Cage
Most people have the impression that rabbits are rodents and can be kept in a cage that is about the same size as a hamster or rat cage. While you can keep your rabbit in a cage or enclosure, it has to be a very large one with at least twelve square feet of space and enough room for your rabbit to hop back and forth. Rabbits shouldn’t be kept in cages with wire bottoms, as these can hurt their paws and cause blisters or sores.
Rabbits Don’t Need Much Space
Rabbits need to be able to run around for at least an hour or two a day and explore their environment. This means either putting them in a very large enclosure or letting them have the run of a room or rooms in your house. You will need to rabbit proof anything that can be scratched up or chewed on before you let your rabbit roam free, but it will be much happier and healthier once you do. Rabbits that don’t get enough exercise will get bored and may act out by misbehaving.
Pet Rabbits Smell Bad
Rabbits have no odor themselves unless they get dirty with something else that smells bad. However, just like with any animal and even humans, a rabbit’s enclosure will start to smell if it is not cleaned. Rabbits use the bathroom just like anyone else, and their urine has a scent that can build up and become very strong in uncleaned litter boxes. Rabbits also have scent glands that can build up a smell on bedding and places where the rabbit frequently sits or lays down. Regular rabbit feces doesn’t have a strong smell, but rabbits may sometimes poop to mark territory, which will have a much stronger smell than their regular business.
Pet Rabbits Are Great for Kids
Many people get rabbits at Easter because they think that it will be an easy, low-maintenance pet that their child can care for and cuddle with. However, children and rabbits typically don’t get along. Rabbits are easily frightened by quick, jerky movements, and they don’t tolerate being held or handled roughly. They require complex care and frequent monitoring to make sure everything is healthy and okay. Most children, especially young ones, will not be able to keep up with the needs of a rabbit without significant help.
Pet Rabbits Can Be Left Out Alone
One of the most dangerous places for your rabbit is alone in your house. Rabbits love to chew and dig, and they will get into anything without understanding that it can hurt them. Rabbits love electrical wires in particular and will try to chew through the plastic if it is uncovered. They may also chew into and climb inside furniture, and especially in the case of recliners this can be very dangerous. They may also eat objects such as plastic or cloth that can get stuck in their stomach and cause problems. It’s important to watch your rabbit at all times when it is out in the house.
Single Rabbits Don’t Need to Be Spayed/Neutered
Some people think that the only important part of spaying or neutering is that it keeps the animals from breeding, but in actuality it has a significant effect on the animal’s behavior as well. Rabbits that aren’t spayed or neutered will be more aggressive, will mark territory by spraying and pooping, and will not respond well to humans. Spaying or neutering your rabbit is an extremely important step in having a good experience.
Pet Rabbits Poop Everywhere
Even rabbits that are not litter trained will typically pick designated spots for pooping, usually one or two corners of its enclosure. Rabbits that are litter trained will almost always use the litter box unless an accident happens. However, some rabbits may poop in specific places as a way to mark territory. They may do this in another animal’s bed, a guest’s room, or a new child’s room to show that they own the territory this animal or person is in.
Pet Rabbits Can Be Walked on a Leash
While some places do sell rabbit leashes, walking a rabbit on a leash isn’t a good idea. Because rabbits hop rather than walking, there’s a strong chance they will pull too hard on the leash and break a bone because they pulled too hard on the collar or harness. This has an especially high chance of happening if they are frightened by something such as another animal or a bird overhead. If your rabbit needs exercise, give it more space in the house.
Pet Rabbits Can Be Fed Store-Bought Treats
Store-bought treats are some of the worst things you can feed your rabbit. They typically have high amounts of carbohydrates, sugars, and dairy in the case of yogurt drops, all of which can cause stomach issues in rabbits. You’re much better off feeding your rabbit fruits and vegetables. It will like those even more than store bought treats, and fruits and vegetables in moderation have many vitamins and minerals to help your rabbit stay healthy.
All Pet Rabbits Will Get Along
Although rabbits do typically live in groups or bonded pairs, not all rabbits can get along or become bonded. Rabbits, just like humans, can have personality conflicts and disagreements. These are usually made worse if one or both rabbits are not spayed or neutered. This type of rabbit will frequently get in physical fights with other rabbits, so if you want your rabbits to get along it’s important to get them spayed or neutered. However, even after being treated, your rabbits may still not get along. This is just natural and can sometimes be changed over time but sometimes can’t.
Pet Rabbits Can’t Be Kept with Dogs or Cats
It’s natural to think that a prey animal can’t be kept in the house with a predator animal. However, if you are mindful and socialize the animals correctly, you should be able to have them in the same house, if not the same room. This will take some work and careful planning, but it’s definitely possible, especially if the rabbit and the other animal are close in size. It may be more difficult with large dogs or small rabbits, as this is more likely to set off the predator animal’s prey drive.
Pet Rabbits Aren’t Very Active
Rabbits need several hours of exercise a day, as well as mental stimulation such as playing with toys and social interaction. This misconception comes from the fact that rabbits are mostly active during the dawn and dusk, so during other times of the day they may be sleeping. However, they are very active during this time and need attention and exercise. If your rabbit is lethargic or doesn’t want to play or run around during its usual time, there could be a serious health issue.
Pet Rabbits Don’t Make Any Noises
Rabbits don’t make a lot of noise like dogs or cats might, but they have a few noises that are important to know. The most important one is screaming, which a rabbit does if it is frightened very badly or in pain. If you hear this noise, something is seriously wrong with your rabbit. The second noise is called tooth purring and is basically the exact opposite. Rabbits grind their teeth together when they feel safe and happy, causing a noise that sounds similar to a cat purring.
Pet Rabbits Can Be Bathed
Rabbits should never be bathed or submerged in water. This can cause them to go into shock and possibly die. Rabbit fur is set up to keep the rabbit dry by locking out water and keeping in heat, and getting it fully wet will cause it great discomfort. If you need to groom your rabbit, use a brush or a damp cloth to get rid of the mess.
Pet Rabbits Are Always Small
Some rabbits get as large as two or three feet long and can weigh up to 10 pounds! While most rabbits are small, they aren’t going to stay as small as you want them to. Many people want “dwarf” rabbits because they stay small and look like babies for their entire lives. The reality is that even if you were promised a dwarf rabbit, it’s possible you weren’t given one and that rabbit could get much larger than you expect.
You Can Release A Pet Rabbit You Don’t Want
Pet rabbits have no ability to survive in the wild and will die if released or left on their own. Unlike wild rabbits, they don’t eat grass and they don’t know how to hide from predators or other dangers. They also don’t know how to forage or build dens, despite seeming to have those instincts when kept at home. If you’re unable to keep a rabbit, bring it to your nearest rescue rather than releasing it.
What should I know before I buy a rabbit? You’ll need to know many things such as the lifetime cost, where your local rabbit vet is, and where this rabbit will fit into your life over the next ten years.
Should I get a rabbit as an Easter or Christmas gift? Not unless that person has already planned on getting a rabbit and knows what they are getting into. Rabbits are not good surprise gifts.
Is it best to get an expensive rabbit from a breeder? Not always. If you don’t care about breed or pedigree, rabbit rescues have plenty of animals that need good homes for cheap.