Rabbit owners often say that their lives were changed forever when one or two cottontail friends jumped into their hearts. If you arm yourself with the right information, rabbits can be some of the best pets you will have the pleasure of sharing your life with. They are affectionate and intelligent; they can be trained to use garbage; they are clean, calm, curious, and of course ridiculously cute. But rabbits are not as low maintenance as many assume. To learn what it takes to keep a pet rabbit happy, read on to hear from veterinarians and animal experts. As long as you plan ahead and do your research, you’ll be on the rabbit’s way to a very satisfying relationship.
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Rabbits are delicate creatures both physically and emotionally, so they are not the best first pets for young children. Even older children can get bored with the duties and details of rabbit care, so make sure an adult is ultimately responsible.
“The stereotype is that rabbits make great pets for children; unfortunately, this is not the case. Of course, children love rabbits, but rabbits never love being cared for by small children. Loud noises and sudden movements can easily startle and scare rabbits,” explains Daniel Jacksonspecialist in nutrition and animal behavior and CEO of pet loving boy.
Contrary to what you may have heard, you cannot keep a pet rabbit in an outside pen or hutch, even if it is large, for two reasons. First, domestic rabbits do not tolerate cold or wet weather well. More importantly, rabbits kept in an outdoor enclosure are very likely to be preyed upon by predators, including feral cats, foxes, raccoons, birds of prey, and snakes. Even if these predators can’t get into the enclosure, seeing them from the outside can easily terrify your pet. According to the bunny ladyKeeping a pet rabbit outside can reduce its lifespan from 10 years to just five or seven years.
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Ideally, rabbits should be run (supervised) from the house to exercise for at least two to four hours each day, in a designated, enclosed area. Outside of this time, you’ll also want to make sure your rabbit’s house is as spacious as possible.
“For your rabbit’s happiness and health, you need to have as much space to run and play as possible given your particular living circumstances, including the largest and most spacious cage or habitat you can handle,” he advises. amanda takiguchiveterinarian and founder of fashion breeds. “Most rabbit cages sold in pet stores are simply too small to adequately house a rabbit, especially if you find it necessary to keep it in the cage for much of the day, so you should seriously consider alternatives like Habitats DIY kits built from office storage grid cubes (which many house-rabbit people swear by).”
Rabbits also need privacy. If you have more than one, each must have a minimum amount of square footage to themselves in their pen, even if they are a bonded pair.
Rabbits will chew on anything they come across, which can be dangerous to them and harmful to your home. In the space designated as your home base, remove electrical cords and cover moldings, furniture legs, and basically anything you don’t want chewed on. While they are out and about, they need to be supervised and anything really dangerous should be moved out of harm’s way.
- Put shipping tape and corner protectors around the corners of the baseboards
- Wrap wall corners and baseboards with shelf racks
- Try bitter apple spray on items you don’t want your bunny to chew on
- Put toxic plants out of your reach
- Wrap telephone and other electronic device cables in flexible tubing, cable covers, or just a regular garden hose
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“It’s important to find a veterinarian who has been trained and experienced in the medical care of rabbits. This can be more expensive than veterinary care for dogs and cats because rabbits are classified as ‘exotic’ animals,” says Takaguchi.
And don’t delay in finding this vet, as domestic rabbits should be neutered or spayed from the start, especially if you’re going to mate a rabbit with another bunny. In addition to health reasons (up to 80 percent of rabbits will develop uterine cancer if not spayed) Domestic Rabbit Society explains that “spaying or neutering your rabbit improves litter box habits, decreases chewing behavior, decreases territorial aggression, and gives your rabbit a longer, happier life.” They suggested neutering your rabbit between the ages of four to six months.
Domestic rabbits thrive in close-knit pairs. “Rabbits enjoy being with other rabbits and should never be kept as solitary pets,” according to Jackson. “Your rabbit will be much less anxious and much more social with another bunny around.”
However, they do not get along with all bunnies. It’s a good idea to try out potential housemates with “play dates” at the shelter or breeder facility. While it’s not 100 percent necessary to get a friend for your bread, it’s much more important that you spend quality time with them if you’re alone to avoid boredom and depression.
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Sometimes new rabbit owners are initially disappointed that their bunnies are not as sweet and cuddly as they seem. The reality is that rabbits are very sensitive and intuitive creatures. Approaching requires patience.
Many rabbits do not like to be picked up. As prey animals, the thought of being lifted off the ground can be scary and stressful. Sit or lie on the floor, at your level. Spend a lot of time talking and interacting with your new pet, hoping that he will come to you so that he feels safe. Treats also help, although they should not take the place of your usual diet.
And keep in mind that the way they show affection may not be what you expect at first. “They are very intelligent animals with a very complex language based primarily on body postures that they use to communicate deep and subtle nuances of emotion,” explains Takiguchi. “For example, a bunny will often nip you as a form of communication. Nibbling isn’t aggression or meanness, it’s communication.”
Foods often associated with rabbits are actually high in sugar. A carrot for an occasional treat is fine, but it will cause problems as a daily snack. “Rabbit bellies are very delicate, and too much of anything outside of their regular diet can give them gastrointestinal ecstasy,” Carlson stresses.
Takiguchi explains that rabbits need a herbivore-specific diet consisting primarily of fresh grass hay, especially timothy hay, which should make up at least 75 percent of their daily diet, along with fresh green leafy vegetables and plenty of clean water. and fresh to drink.