Big ears, wiggly nose and cottontail. Who can resist a darling rabbit, especially if you have kids who are pleading for one?
If you're thinking about a bunny, make sure you know about their needs. And remember that shelters and rescues often have bundles of bunnies in need of good homes!
They may be small, but rabbits can have a big(-eared) impact on your life. Here are some questions to consider before you jump on the bunny-wagon.
Adopt, don't shop
Small animals like rabbits are often mistreated and forced into deplorable conditions when they're bred for pet stores to sell—look for a local rescue first when you're considering adoption and skip the pet stores.
Keeping a rabbit in a hutch outside is a big N-O and so is relegating a bunny to the basement or garage. Plus, most cages sold in pet stores are way too small. You'll need an available area for a fairly large cage, plus at least one room in your home that has been thoroughly rabbit-proofed.
Rabbits and very young children are generally a bad mix. Rabbits require safe, gentle handling and a quiet environment. As prey animals, rabbits can be easily startled and stressed by the loud noises and fast, uncoordinated movements that are typical of excited children. You may need to wait until your kids are older before adopting a rabbit.
Kids may be enthusiastic about the new bunny for the first couple of weeks, then lose interest when taking care of them interferes with their activities. If your kids are begging for bunnies now, just keep in mind other things they've begged for and remember that the animal may end up spending most of their time with you. Your kids may think they're ready for a pet, but you definitely have to be.
The initial adoption fee for a rabbit may be small, but a rabbit's care costs add up quickly. In addition to veterinary costs, these are some of the start-up items that new rabbit owners will need to purchase:
- Large cage or habitat (or supplies to build your own)
- Water bowl or bottle
- Litterboxes and litter
- Chew toys
- Timothy Hay (or other grass hay)
- Timothy Hay pellets
Rabbits take time
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they generally sleep during the day and night and are most active at dusk and dawn. Rabbits need regular interaction with you to stay socialized and happy. They also need at least an hour out of their cage each day for play and exercise.
A healthy rabbit diet includes fresh vegetables every day, so you'll need to go grocery shopping at least once a week. Also, your rabbit's enclosure needs to be tidied up every day and cleaned thoroughly once a week.
Considering the future
Healthy rabbits can live for more than 10 years, so a rabbit may be with your family for as long as a dog would.