At Easter some families will choose to introduce a new bunny rabbit to the family instead of (or as well as) stocking up on chocolate treats. Rabbits can make really excellent pets, but it is essential to be aware of a rabbit’s special needs if you are considering taking one on.
A rabbit’s teeth will grow continuously throughout his or her life, and because of this, rabbits need to constantly chew rough foliage such as hay for most of the day. Rabbits that don’t have enough to munch on throughout the day will end up chewing on things they shouldn’t, such as electrical cables! When the teeth are not worn properly they also grow unevenly and develop spikes and the rabbit’s bite does not come together properly (called malocclusion). This leads to pain and illness due to the rabbit not being able to eat properly, and regular veterinary visits will be needed. Check out our guide to rabbit dentistry for more.
Rabbits should not be cooped up in a hutch all the time. They are social animals and will be lonely and bored if they are isolated. They are also much longer than they seem and need to have enough space to stretch out to their full length as well as hop around and get some exercise. A large run on grass is a good exercise option. It is possible to house-train rabbits to use a litter tray so it is possible to have a house rabbit, but remember that they can chew cables so make sure your house is rabbit-proofed!
Time and attention:
A rabbit is not a low maintenance pet that can be shut away in a hutch and only pulled out when the mood strikes. Rabbits need (at least) daily care and attention, so if your child is the primary caregiver you must be prepared to oversee the care of the rabbit yourself.
One or two?
As mentioned above, rabbits are social animals and will be happiest if they have one or more other bunnies to hang out with. However, it is very important to get the right gender mix! If you have a male and female together, you must get both of them neutered, otherwise you will end up with hundreds of rabbits in the blink of an eye. Two males or two females together should also be neutered to minimise the risk of fighting. In all cases if the rabbits don’t know each other beforehand they will need to be introduced, and in some cases may not get on at first.
As with any pet, consider the cost of housing, accessories, diet, and vet bills before you take the plunge. Pet insurance is also an option.
As long as you put some thought into adopting a rabbit, it can be an extremely rewarding experience for you and your family. Have you owned a rabbit before?
Share any stories or tips you have in the comments!