Rabbits are soft, lovable animals that are ever popular pets. But these cute animals may need a lot of maintenance and care, so it's important to do your research before deciding to adopt.
Considerations for Getting a Pet Rabbit
Are rabbits legal? It's legal to keep rabbits as pets. But many states have laws protecting rabbits from being sold or traded. Rabbits are often impulsively bought around Easter, and they are also popular for animal testing, leaving them a highly vulnerable species for being treated poorly. Make sure you know your state and local laws before shopping for a pet rabbit.
Prepare for the care of a rabbit. If you choose to adopt a rabbit, make sure you are ready to commit to keeping him for an 8-12 year lifespan. Even though they are small and cute, they do need specific care that is different than a cat or dog. While they look cuddly, rabbits are considered “ground animals” and don’t usually like to be picked up and held.
Keep in mind that domesticated rabbits may not survive outside of captivity. While they are the same as their wild counterparts, domesticated rabbits don’t have the natural instincts to find food, seek shelter, and hide from predators.
Preparing your home for rabbits. As with any pet, you’ll need to prepare your house for a new pet, which means you'll have to:
- Remove anything that you don’t want your rabbit to chew on
- Cover small holes that rabbits can fit into to prevent injuries
- Prepare a quiet space so that your pet rabbit isn’t overwhelmed by loud noises
- Plan to keep your pet rabbit separate from other pets during the initial adjustment period
Rabbit accommodations. Your rabbit will enjoy a large, spacious cage to spend time in when you’re not home to supervise her playtime. Although allowing supervised outdoor time is a good idea, keeping her cage permanently outside is not.
Plan to dedicate a room in your house to your rabbit, making it a safe space for her cage to be kept and for her to explore. Hay is essential to feed your rabbit as the majority of their food. You can talk to your vet about what kind of hay to purchase and place in her cage so it has the right nutrition and she feels like she is in the grass.
Rabbits will use a litter box. Since they use the bathroom frequently, it is important to have a litter box both inside her cage and on the floor when she is out playing.
Feeding your rabbit. Rabbits are herbivores, meaning they like to eat fruits and vegetables. While hay comprises the majority of their diet, rabbits also need a variety of other food options to ensure they are receiving optimal nutrition.
Great foods to feed your rabbit include:
- Organic greens
- Bok Choy
- Brussels sprouts
Foods that are dangerous for rabbits include grains, beans, and refined sugar of any kind. You should also avoid:
Veterinary care. If you plan to adopt more than one rabbit, plan to get them spayed or neutered. Not only does this prevent future litters of baby rabbits, but it also keeps your pet healthier and prevents some common diseases. Even if you plan to keep your rabbit indoors, they are small and escape easily so should be checked regularly for any diseases they might spread.
Rabbits are intelligent. While they do require time to acclimate to a new environment, rabbits are generally easy to train.
Toilet training. When you begin training your rabbit, confine her to one space, like her cage. If she has already chosen a certain spot to pass urine and feces, place her litter box there. Be sure that the sides of her litter box are low enough that she can easily hop in and out. It is normal for rabbits to eat their own feces once a day. Rabbits poop a lot and frequently – hundreds of little pellets over the course of each day. Because of this, you’ll want to clean her litter box and living area often.
Pellet litter is best for rabbits because it isn’t harmful when ingested. Plus, pellets are more absorbent than other options, leaving the litter box dry and less smelly. Keep your rabbit’s hay/living area distinctly separate from her litter box since rabbits tend to not want to defecate where they eat.
General training for your rabbit. Rabbits like to hide, so if you let your pet loose in your home, she may climb somewhere you don’t want her. Rabbits also chew, so it is important to put away anything you don’t want to be destroyed.
If you find your rabbit engaging in these behaviors, redirect her to a different activity or put her back into her cage. You can try taking her out again later for playtime. If the behaviors persist, try purchasing a small metal fence to corral her into one small area during her playtime each day.