Romans kept rabbits just to get their fur and meat. Rabbit meat tastes like chicken, and its fur is warm. After that, scientists started using them in their laboratories for research purposes. As a result, they were ranked as the fifth most common laboratory animals. Then gradually, people of Western Europe started keeping them as pets. They found bunnies adorable and started making bonds with these innocent creatures. Since then, while many scientists have brutally killed rabbits for their research purposes, many kind-hearted owners have adapted them as pets.
You have probably bought a rabbit too, or you might be thinking about buying one. Whatever the case is, you are here in this article because you want to know if keeping a pet rabbit is worth it or not. Like any other situation, keeping pets has both positive and negative aspects. Let’s have a look at both factors in the case of rabbits.
Perks of Pet Rabbits
Rabbits make wonderful pets. Following are the reasons that support this fact:
Rabbits Are Very Affectionate
As a new pet, your bunny might be shy at first, but once it becomes accustomed to you, it starts doing its funny tricks to keep you happy all day long. They are very affectionate animals. When you love them or pet them, they show some signs which are meant to say, “I love you too, my friend.”
Though each rabbit has a unique behavior, each of them shows love to its owner in its own way. Yet, there are some common signs observed in almost all the rabbits. This includes circling your feet. The rabbit will come in between your feet and start making digits like 0 or 8. When they are super excited, usually when you give them toys, or food, or spend some time with them, they start binkying. When you pet them, they make a small deep sound called a purr, which is much similar to that of a cat’s purr. They become so attached that sometimes, rabbits prefer to lay on your lap instead of the sofa while you are watching television. They might start watching television with you. Besides these, rabbits show many other signs to show their love and affection towards the owner.
Rabbits Are Quiet Animals
Unlike cats and dogs, who meow or bark loudly, rabbits are quiet animals. You won’t see them making much noise, except purring or humming when they are excited. Another exception is the loud scream when they suffer severe pain or fear though it’s very rare.
Talking about the normal routine, they don’t make many sounds. If you have seen domestic rabbits communicating with each other before, it would be probably in signs. It might have looked weird to you, but the other rabbits completely understand it. If you don’t want the dog to bark early in the morning and disturb your peaceful yoga time, or if you don’t want a cat to meow continuously while you are trying to take a nap in the afternoon, keeping rabbits is the best choice you can make. You will not be worried about your neighbors getting disturbed because of your pet either.
Don’t forget these small animals do thump their rear feet or hind legs, and sometimes it’s quite loud to interrupt your sleep. There can be two reasons behind this. Firstly, he has sensed a danger, probably due to other animals who are its predators. Secondly, he is aggressive. In the first case, make him feel he is safe and sound in your company, and in the latter case, feed him his favorite hay and play with him; he will be alright within a few minutes. These signs are not meant to disturb you; there is no other way for rabbits to communicate with humans. So accept them with their rare sounds. At least they are not as noisy as dogs and cats.
Rabbits Are Clean Animals
Don’t forget you are going to buy social animals as pets. They have a great sense of grooming themselves, leaving no room for you to bathe them. We are not talking about wild rabbits, who live in underground tunnels where the floor is made up of hay mixed with soil. They often look untidy, but that’s the natural rabbit behavior in the wild. We are talking about a domestic rabbit; it lives in your home with you and keeps itself clean. It takes out its own fur seasonally when it grows too long. Then it uses its tongue to get rid of dirt and clean the paws and other body parts. It might sound that it is not enough to keep a rabbit clean, but most rabbits do it all day long. Indoor rabbits never get dirty enough that you feel they need a bath. In fact, bathing rabbits is not safe either. A tub full of water can make them panic, and they might undergo a shock. Moreover, the thick fur is difficult to dry. As a result, the furry friends can become susceptible to hypothermia, which can be fatal if severe.
Here is a tip for you that might help you keep your rabbit safe. If a rabbit is not trying to clean itself (which is their normal behavior), or it seems like he does not have enough energy to do so, he is probably sick. Visiting a local vet would be thoughtful.
Rabbits Can Be Litter Trained
Though some people believe that rabbits are not starter pets and don’t need to be caged, it is advised to keep the rabbit in its cage until it uses its litter box regularly. If you buy adult rabbits from the pet store, there is a high possibility that they already have litter box training. However, if you buy young rabbits, they probably have not spent much time at the pet stores to get the training.
No worries, you can litter train them yourself. All you need is a litter box, pellets, and hay. Prepare the box by putting the pellets at the bottom and plenty of hay on the top. Rabbits are always captivated by food. They will probably start using the litter box when it is garnished with plenty of food. Don’t get disgusted by the idea of rabbit pooping on its food. They eat both the food and the feces. Interestingly, many rabbits will start using the litter box because they get to eat something during their washroom time.
After they have started using the litter box, you can set them free for some time of the day. After that, they won’t pee around in the home. Still, if you think the rabbit’s training isn’t completed and you want him to be free, place a few litter boxes in some corners of the house that the rabbit frequently visits.
Rabbits Are Intelligent and Can Be Trained for Anything
Just like cats and dogs, rabbits are intelligent too. If you want to name your pet rabbit, go ahead and start calling him with his name. Talk to him using his name, and soon he will become accustomed to it. After some days, try calling him with the same name while he is busy with another task, he will quickly respond to you. While making your rabbit learn something, you can use his favorite treat as a reward for learning something. It will encourage him to learn more.
But rabbits turn out to be more sensitive than other pets. Being intelligent, they do remember even the negative things that have happened to them. So, for example, if they had trauma like being chased by a predator, they remember it and run away at the sight of a similar animal again. Similarly, if you ever scold them or act harsh towards them, they can mind it and might feel scared.
According to an article published by the House Rabbit Society, rabbits require stimulation to keep their brains sharp. In other words, you should keep them busy in certain activities in order to keep their brains working. Those pet parents who keep the rabbits locked up over a long period of time are not doing any good to these innocent souls. Yes, you can’t keep them outside the hutch the whole day, but choose a path in between both extremities. Lock them up in a cage as well as allow them to roam around the house. While in a cage, provide them some wooden toys to remain busy.
Rabbits Live Longer
There are dozen recognized breeds, each having a different life span. They mostly have a lifespan of an average of 10 years. The European rabbit can live for more than 9 years. Though some small breeds like Californian rabbits have a lifespan between 5 to 10 years, on average, they have a longer lifespan. There can be exceptions too. Rabbits can live up to 12 or 13 years. In fact, in 2019, a rabbit was reported to be 16 years old and was titled the world’s oldest rabbit. I still wonder if he is alive or not!
In a nutshell, a rabbit can live with you for quite a long time. All you need to do is to take good care of him, feed him timely, take him for medical checkups, play with him, and love him a lot.
Rabbits Concur With the Human Schedule
Rabbits are crepuscular animals. They are activated during the twilight times of the day. It includes both dusk and dawn. These are the times when they can interact with humans more. At the dawn of the day, probably most people will wake up and prepare for the day ahead or get ready to show up at a job. The bunny will be active at the time, and you can interact with him more. Though it would be for a short time, starting a day with an adorable companion sounds great. Secondly, at the dusk, when you would have returned from the work, had your afternoon nap, and had a good meal. Now you can play with the rabbit, feed him, and feel happy at the end of the day.
No matter how hard the day was, how harsh the boss was, and how embarrassing the moment occurred, you will forget literally everything within seconds after playing with the rabbit. The interaction can reduce your anxiety and depression. It can increase the rush of happy hormones in the body. It can help you sleep happily and wake fresh.
Drawbacks of Pet Rabbits
Although owning a rabbit can be a great deal of fun, it’s also important to be aware of the disadvantages of rabbit ownership as well. Buying a bunny is really easy, but caring for one can sometimes be hectic. When your rabbit fails to live up to your expectations, it might be one of your most frustrating possessions. Therefore, many people abandon these poor souls without even reconsidering their decision. We don’t want you to end up this way. Therefore, here’s a list of some cons you may want to consider before buying a bunny.
Rabbits Are Not Great Pets for Children
If you have a family, you must rethink owning a rabbit as a pet. It is because rabbits are not suitable pets for young children. These timid creatures are hardly ever clingy. Unlike dogs and cats, they won’t cuddle with your kids at all. However, being prey species, they are naturally wary and can bite or claw your children if they feel threatened. If there is no supervision from the adults, rabbits can harm your children by biting or scratching them. Sometimes, when the rabbit is harmless, it is possible that your children are not young enough to handle a rabbit properly. These animals are extremely delicate, and any mishandling is likely to harm them.
It takes a lot of patience and time to develop a bond with a bunny, and it must be done on the bunny’s terms. Unfortunately, this endurance is almost always lacking in children. Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund (RWAF) has also stated that rabbits are NOT good pets for children. We, therefore, recommend not to keep the rabbit as a pet if you have a toddler at home unless you yourself take the responsibility to look after your young child on one hand and your rabbit on the other. Moreover, the rabbit takes time to be friendly with the humans; it is very much possible that your young will be bored of such a pet and may begin to demand another pet.
Rabbits Medical Care Is Expensive
Rabbit ownership comes with medical costs and vet consultation fees. No matter how tough it is, a pet can become ill from time to time. Because rabbits are sensitive animals, they are more likely to suffer specific health problems. Different infections or parasites, such as fleas and worms, may require treatment. In addition, you’ll have to deal with ear mites and skin infections in rabbits of all ages. Bunnies are also prone to upper respiratory infections that cause nasal discharge, sneezing, and coughing.
Although they may bear cold temperatures, the hot temperature can make rabbits sick in no time. There are also concerns about rabbits injuring themselves. Some bunnies may need vaccination against myxomatosis or Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. Low fibrous diets can produce overgrown teeth in them, causing major dental issues. A poor diet can also cause gastrointestinal and other health problems. Your rabbit may also need to be spayed or neutered. Malignancies of the reproductive system are common in unspayed rabbits.
All of these problems highlight the need for a rabbit veterinarian. Veterinary checks should be done twice a year, according to experts. You can consider pet insurance to cover all of the costs of rabbit care. You can also check with your veterinarians to see if they provide any healthcare packages for your rabbit.
Rabbits Need Special Food
A rabbit’s diet is entirely different from that of dogs and cats. Dogs are omnivores eating almost everything, and cats are primarily carnivores. Unlike these, rabbits are obligate herbivores, meaning that they eat only plants. They require a high-fiber diet with low protein and carbohydrate content to keep themselves healthy. Their digestive system is designed in such a way as to digest only plants and plant products. Rabbit’s diet should ideally consist of fresh hay and water. They can eat fresh leafy greens too. Young domesticated rabbits eat pellets brought from the pet shops. You can’t share a loaf of meat with your bunny.
Rabbit owners need to be very careful when feeding their rabbits. Any variation in their primary diet can lead to different diseases, the most important of which are gastrointestinal issues and overgrowing teeth. Although rabbits can gnaw on different fruits, vegetables, and seeds, too, they should be fed in little amounts. For example, unlike depicted in Bugs Bunny cartoons, rabbits can’t eat too many carrots. Instead, experts recommend feeding fresh timothy hay to your bunny. Alfalfa hay mixed with grass hay is also a good option.
Rabbits Reproduce a Lot
Rabbits are fast breeders. Female rabbits can get pregnant after mating with male rabbits every time. Their average gestation period is of 30 days. Moreover, rabbits don’t give birth to a single baby at a time. Instead, they deliver a litter consisting of more than one rabbit, mostly a number between 1 to 14. The newborn babies grow up fast and become mature sexually at a young age, almost after 4 to 5 months. So, rabbits were used as laboratory animals and used to represent the rebirth of Jesus on the Easter festival because of their fast reproduction rate.
A solution to this problem is the neutering of males and spaying of females. There is a myth that single rabbits need not be sterile. But unneutered males spray urine on the walls, and unspayed females can get uterus cancer.
Rabbits Don’t Match Well With Other Pets
Most rabbits are territorial in nature. Though they get along well with other rabbits, they usually don’t get along with other pets well. They mark their areas by applying their scent on the surrounding things from a gland just under their chin. Sometimes, they use urine for the same purpose. If another animal comes near their cage, they act aggressively towards them. Moreover, cats and dogs are their predators; they usually act scared of them. When a female rabbit gets pregnant, she becomes so aggressive and territorial that she will not allow even the owner to put his hand in the rabbit enclosure. It will not be a great idea if you are new to rabbit owning and want to keep them along with other pets. Instead of bonding with you, they will be busy most of the time protecting their hutch.
Rabbits Need a Large Space for Exercise
Rabbits are wild by their instinct; they can’t live locked up in a cage for long. Your rabbit may require a large outdoor rabbit run to play and exercise. For an indoor rabbit, an empty room can be sufficient for exercise and for allowing the bunny to hop around. Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA) recommends that the rabbit enclosure should be at least 8 square feet. Your rabbit will need at least 24 sq. ft of more area to exercise for at least five hours each day. The hutch should have enough vertical height to allow the rabbit to stand up on its hind legs. Two or more rabbits or larger ones take up more space for living. Some smaller breeds like mini lop take less space, but they too need extra space for playing and exercising.
Rabbits Chew a Lot
Being rodents, they start chewing whatever they see in the home, including wires and mats. The best solution is to rabbit-proof the house. Protect the wiring by covering it. Consider giving them chewable toys that will keep them busy.
Rabbits Need Grooming Regularly
Rabbits do shed their fur on their own, but it is not the only grooming they need. They have continuously growing teeth and nails that need to be taken care of. Teeth grown to an inappropriate length can make the rabbit lose its appetite. Even if he wants to eat something, he will not be able to do it easily. Similarly, overgrown nails make the rabbit change the way it places its feet on the ground. The altered gait exerts pressure on the joints, causing pain and making them bleed.
Rabbits Are Prey Animals
Rabbits are prey animals. They have the fear of a predator attacking them all the time. In such a case, when the pet is lying in the lower trophic levels of the food chain, you must not allow it to visit the backyard in your absence. There are some methods that farmers have used to keep the wild rabbit breeds out of their fields; you can also use the same tricks to prevent your pet rabbit from visiting the backyard often. For example, you can put up barriers like fences or can grow rabbit-resistant plants in the garden. Both the reasons will make the rabbit visit the backyard less.
Moreover, keeping the rabbit outdoors won’t be safe either. Wild cats can easily break and sneak into the rabbit hutch. Building an indoor rabbit home will definitely cost more. You have to make separate areas for feeding and excreting. You need to choose durable material for building and rabbit-safe paint. You need to keep the cage or the hutch in a place where they can get enough air as well as natural light. All these aspects make the rabbit cage more expensive than it would have been if kept outside.
A rabbit is a small animal that remains scared most of the time. You are probably not going to accompany him 24/7. In your absence, he will be lonely. Introducing a second rabbit will be a great idea. The members of the same species can get along with each other better. If you can find a pair that has already been bonded, it would be better. You can keep them spayed or neutered. Then, both the pets as well as you yourself will be happy.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of keeping rabbits as pets. There are many reasons that can convince someone to keep rabbits without giving it a second thought. For instance, they are adorable and affectionate. They don’t make much noise like most the other pets. They groom themselves, and you don’t need to bathe them. They can be litter trained. In fact, they are intelligent and can be trained for a lot of other things too. They have a long lifespan and correspond to humans’ schedules.
There are some cons too. For instance, they are not good pets for children. They need a special diet as they cannot eat human food. Their medical bills are expensive. They reproduce a lot. They are territorial and don’t get along with other pets in the home. They are prey animals and can’t be kept outdoors. Comparing both the pros and cons of the pet rabbits, they are worth keeping.