You've decided you want to share your life with a furry friend. You've also decided against the traditional dog or cat. Perhaps its allergies. Perhaps it's the landlord. Or perhaps you're just not feeling up to caring for a rambunctious kitten or puppy. You're thinking a rabbit would be good company and won't take as much care as a dog or cat. Well, you're right about a rabbit being good company; however, they do require a surprising amount of care to keep them healthy and happy. Here's a few facts you should know before you open your doors—and your heart—to a rabbit.
Rabbits make great pets. They are intelligent, affectionate and amusing. They are also very social. Don't park their cage in a far-off corner of your house and visit once a day to provide food and water. They would prefer to be sitting on your lap and giving you bunny kisses.
Rabbits need their own space. Provide an enclosure that's at least 2 feet by 3 feet to provide enough room to move around as well as enough space for food, water, litter box and toys. A puppy play pen will work, or you can build a bunny condo by stacking cages in a way that allows your bunny to climb to different levels. You need to allow your rabbit out of its cage for several hours daily for exercise and socialization.
A free-range rabbit requires diligence. Some people prefer to let their rabbits to roam freely through their house or a particular area of their house. The good news is rabbits are easy to litter-box train. The bad news is they like to chew. You will need to bunny-proof your home, just as you would puppy-proof or child-proof your home. Move plants off the ground, keep cleaning products or medications behind locked doors and protect electrical cords and outlets. You'll also need to provide an enclosure that provides a safe haven where it can "get away from it all" when needed.
Proper nutrition is imperative. Rabbits need fiber so you'll need to keep hay available to them at all times. They also need a high-quality commercial pellet food geared specifically for rabbits to provide the nutrients they need. Bunnies love an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables such as carrots, celery, greens, bananas and strawberries. Always have a source of fresh water available.
Bunnies need stimulation. Bored bunny rabbits will get into trouble. They are food motivated and can be easily taught to fetch, roll-over or even walk on a leash. Logic toys that dispense treats keep them interested and focused. They also love laser pointers
Grooming is not just for good looks. Brush your bunny daily, especially when they are shedding. If left to groom themselves, the hair can collect in their intestines and create a blockage. Your rabbit's toenails grow quickly and will need to be trimmed regularly to prevent foot problems. Ask your rabbit veterinarian how to do so.
Take care of your rabbit's reproductive health. It's important to spay or neuter your rabbit. It prevents certain types of cancers and conditions. It suppresses the sex hormones that can make them display aggressive behavior. It also eliminates the possibility of producing offspring that may end up in animal shelters.
Your bunny needs a qualified rabbit veterinarian. One of the first things you'll need to do when you become a rabbit parent is to find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about rabbits and their care. Local rabbit societies, rescues or 4-H clubs can give you names of qualified veterinarians. You can also search the Internet for vets who treat or even specialize in rabbits. Make an appointment with a recommended vet soon after you bring your rabbit home. He or she can answer questions about routine rabbit care and problems to watch out for. Schedule annual wellness exams so you can discover potential problems and treat them before they become more serious. The time to find a rabbit veterinarian is BEFORE you actually need one.