Rabbits are very rewarding pets but they require a lot of work. Many rabbits end up being rehomed due to people not understanding the needs of their pet. This page is written in the hopes that it may aid you in deciding if a rabbit is the right pet for you.
These are a few of the things you should consider before choosing to own a bunny:
Will you have the time and energy to look after a rabbit?
Rabbits are energetic animals. To put one in a hutch all day is considered cruel. Like dogs, they require every day exercise and if you are unable to meet that requirement daily, rabbits may not be the pet for you. Wild rabbits can run as much as 30-40 tennis courts per day and domesticated rabbits should be given a decent amount of ‘out of cage/hutch’ time per day. Without regular exercise and play, rabbits can become bored, overweight and develop physical and emotion problems.
Is this a pet for a child?
Rabbits are fragile and do not like being picked up. Like cats, rabbits will choose when they want your attention, you should not force a rabbit to play or cuddle an unwilling rabbit as this can cause stress and the rabbit may nip or kick. This means they are not ideal for young children. Rabbits can make ideal pets for older children but ultimately parents and caretakers will be responsible for the rabbit. Rabbits need daily care (feeding, changing water, spot cleaning living quarters and daily play). Having said that, keeping rabbits is a good way to teach responsibility to a child as long as parents and caretakers understand that they should supervise a young child with a rabbit and that if the child ever becomes disinterested, it is their responsibility. Bear in mind, rabbits can live as long as ten years. If you do want a family rabbit, larger breeds are recommended as they have calmer temperaments, young children will have trouble picking it up and are sturdier.
Rabbits may be cheap to buy but are not cheap to keep
The cost of a hutch or cage can be as expensive as £100. With a bit of shopping around on the internet you may find decent size cages from £40 but the larger your rabbit the larger the living space must be. Rule of thumb is to buy the biggest possible cage or hutch you can afford without limiting the rabbits movements. If you intend to have an outdoor rabbit, a run will be necessary to provide exercise space. Rabbit equipment such as water bottles, food bowls, hay racks, beds and litter trays will add to the cost. Neutering is another expense to consider. These are onetime expenses and if you choose carefully, they can last for years. Monthly expenses will be rabbit food, hay (you will need quite a bit of this), litter and bedding. Yearly expenses will include vaccinations. Expenses you cannot predict will be vet bills and as these can cost a lot, insurance is recommended.
In conclusion, the start up costs of owning a rabbit can be quite large. Once everything is established, monthly expenses will not be very large and if you have insurance you will not have to worry about sudden vet bills.
Will you have an indoor rabbit or an outdoor rabbit?
It is a good idea to consider how you will house a rabbit. If you house your rabbit inside, there are many housing options to choose from, such as cages or DIY rabbit houses using wire square cubes. You will also need to rabbit proof the rooms and areas you intend to allow your rabbit to roam. Indoor rabbits can develop close bonds with humans but they may scratch and bite furniture and flooring. Rabbit proofing a home is an ongoing process as rabbits will think of new ways to do naughty things. House rabbits can be very rewarding as they might sit on your lap in the evenings when you read or watch TV, they might follow you around the house and you will be able to witness some rabbit behaviours you may miss if they were outdoors.
If you house your rabbit in your garden, you will need to think about getting a hutch or a shed and a run for exercise. See this post about outdoor rabbit housing for more details. Outdoor rabbits might get lonely on their own and if you let your rabbit on your lawn you will have to be prepared for rabbits to eat and potentially ruin it. It is also important to identify any poisonous plants in your garden (a list of common poisonous plants are listed here).
My rabbit eating strawberry
How many rabbits are you thinking of getting?
Rabbits are social animals, this means that they do not like being alone. Most breeders or rabbit rescuers recommend a pair and some rescuers only let you adopt their rabbits if you take in a bonded pair. A bonded pair is strongly recommended for several reasons. Being with another rabbit affects a rabbit’s emotional wellbeing positively and can reduce stress. Female and male pairs can fall in love which is a joy to witness (please ensure both are spayed and neutered to avoid many baby buns!) Rabbits will groom each other often so if one of your rabbits is prone to getting dirt in the corner of their eyes, their partner will help them out. If you are out for most of the day a pair will keep each other company. I also recommend that you choose to get a pair of rabbits if you decide to house them outside as one will be quite lonely.
It is also recommended that if you choose to keep a pair you should try to find a female and male rabbit. The reason for this is that the chances of a same sex pair bonding are lower than two different sex rabbits. If you choose a male/male or a female/female bonding they may be alright together when young but once they hit a certain age they may end up fighting. If this will concern you, then its best to find a female/male pair.
Consider the other pets you currently own
Do you want to pair a rabbit with a guinea pig? Whilst in some scenarios guinea pigs and rabbits are able to co-exist, it is not recommended to house them together. Buying a rabbit to add to a guinea pig’s cage is not a good idea as rabbits often binky when happy or jump around a lot. Their hind legs have a lot of power and even if they unintentionally kick your piggy it can result in serious injury. There is also the issue of one possibly bullying the other or hogging the food. Both are completely different species and do not communicate with each other so being together does not offer either any benefits.
If you have a cat you will need to be aware that a cat can be a threat to small bunnies. They may be treated like prey so a larger breed will be more suitable. Cats can live in a house with a rabbit very well in some cases. In other cases rabbits have been known to bully cats!
If you own a dog you must never leave your rabbit in the same room as your dog unsupervised. Even if your dog is trained there is still a small chance that it might revert to its instincts to hunt. Extra care must be taken if introducing a rabbit and dog.
Looking for a rabbit to go with your current rabbit? Bonding two rabbits in a difficult task but where done successfully could lead to happier bunnies.
Exotic animals like ferrets, birds and reptiles should not be kept within close proximity to a rabbit. Ferrets and some reptiles consider rabbits to be quite tasty and ferrets can be extremely clever so unless you want them to have your rabbit for lunch then you best keep them apart. Birds that hunt will scare your rabbit when they screech and that will stress them out. In some cases small birds have gotten on well with rabbits but it is quite rare to see it happen.
Buying a Rabbit: Young or old? Breeder or pet shop?
Whether you choose an old rabbit or a young rabbit is really personal preference. There are some advantages and disadvantages to both though. Young rabbits are often cuter but at the same time they are more energetic and require more care. They can be more destructive, although this is not always the case. Mature rabbits are usually available through adoption and they have their own perks. Older rabbits are usually more calm and littered trained. Older rabbits (and some young ones) usually come from rescue centres. You will have a better understanding of the rabbit’s personality. Depending on which rescue centre you go to, the rabbit may be vaccinated, chipped or neutered/spayed. That can save you some money and if you are looking for a pair, some rescue centres can help you look for a bonded pair that gets on well.
Not sure how to choose the right rabbit? Follow these steps on the Choosing a Rabbit page.
Rabbits can be purchased from breeders or pet shops and they can also be adopted from rescue centres:
o Breeders tend to be more reputable, are able to provide you with more accurate information and if you are after a certain breed it is a good idea to visit a breeder. When I say breeder, I do not mean casual breeders who breed for profit or those who choose irresponsibly to not neutering/spaying their pets. I mean professional breeders such as show rabbit breeders. Professional breeders should be able to tell you the parents and grandparents of their rabbits, possible health issues and will let you see the parents with the litter. Their rabbits are usually used to being handled so should be less likely to have personality problems.
o Rescue centres are good places to choose a pet from. There is a large variety of rabbits, from young to old, from Dutch to Belgian hares. Centres will also offer you lots of information and support as the permanent rehoming of a rabbit is what they aim for so to them it is important to do everything properly. Many rabbits are abandoned and unwanted every year and they are all looking for a good home. A good site is Rabbit Rehome. Here you can search for rabbits to adopt by breed, size, age, sex, and whether it is vaccinated or neutered or bonded. Please bear in mind that any vaccinated rabbit will need to have booster vaccinations every 6 months for myxomatosis and a booster once a year for VHD however some veterinaries are offering a once a year combo booster. Have a browse, you may find something you like.
o Pet shops are hit and miss in general. You may be lucky and purchase a decent pet with no health problems but you might also be very unlucky like I was when I purchased my two rabbits where there were health issues and where they were sexed wrong. Pet shops are generally places where people are trying to make money and they may not be the most informed when it comes to buying a pet. It is hard to identify the gender of a young rabbit and if they get it wrong you may be getting more than you bargained for. Some rabbits are more prone to teeth and eye health problems and pet shops will be less likely to identify and inform you of these problems. In these respects and also in terms of information for rabbit care, pet shops are not as good as breeders or rescue centres.
My rabbits having a goooood time