Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are you prepared to start raising rabbits?

Many people do not realize the time and other resources which are needed to look after their rabbit. This causes distress to families and many hundreds of rabbits are abandoned every year.

That is my main reason for putting this chapter here. It is a growing problem around the world, especially just after Easter every year when societies that care for and foster abandoned pet rabbits get the highest number of discarded rabbits. Of course, the second busiest period is late January when the excitement of the "Christmas bunny" fades under the realization of the depth of the necessary commitment.

This could involve up to a couple of hours a day. Your rabbit needs regular playtime, but it is also essential to give their hutch and feeding gear at least a light daily clean plus two thorough cleaning sessions each week! Yes, this may be more than you would need to ensure the comfort and health of a pet dog, cat or parakeet, but they have become more comfortable with human company and habits than rabbits.

Don't be put off from getting a rabbit if you have the time and are comfortable with the other requirements in this chapter.

I have had three rabbits of different types and enjoyed their company as much as any other pet. Having a rabbit as part of your family can be a great experience.

But, it is not likely that you could cover your expenses or make money from breeding them unless you do it on a serious commercial basis. There is an over-supply of rabbits for the pet trade in almost all areas.

Local Regulations

Most local authorities have regulations about the type and number of animals which can be kept by people in their area. Some areas may have specific bans or rules about rabbits.
You may need a permit or a license to have a pet rabbit.

Your Rabbit's Hutch

Your new pet will need a cage with sufficient space for its litter box, exercise area, sleeping box and feeding vessels. The hutch or cage needs to be a minimum of three feet square and probably double that for a larger breed of rabbit. It needs to be made of quality materials and well-maintained.

I recommend that you keep your rabbit inside your home or in a shed, not in a garage because of fumes and other dangers, nor in an outside cage.

Hands-on Care

You should inspect your rabbit daily and groom it regularly.

You need to have time to play with it every day, preferably as part of your daily routine. This is essential or the rabbit will be more difficult to handle and you will miss out on a lot of the pleasure that comes when you and your pet bond properly.

But, please also realize that rabbits, unlike dogs and cats, need their own quiet time during each day where they can rest undisturbed.


Your rabbit will cost you money for its cage, supplies such as quality fresh food, and regular (and possibly unexpected) veterinary services which usually have to be paid for immediately.

Impact on Your Family

Keeping a rabbit healthy and happy will require the cooperation of all members of your family. Everyone will need to know how to handle the rabbit and, as a minimum, be careful not to do things which could upset, or even injure it.

Normal family activities like jumping, shouting and playing loud music or computer games may have to be restricted to areas where it won't cause your rabbit to be frightened or injured by family members or its own reaction to their handling.

Very young children should never pick up a rabbit. They could injure it or the rabbit might react to their awkward handling by biting or scratching them.

Older children can learn about responsibility and other important values if you give them a share of the tasks associated with their new pet. But, it must be an adult's responsibility to ensure that the rabbit's health and comfort are not compromised by a child's failure to do the tasks on time.

Daily Care

Your rabbit needs attention from a human every day, so you will have to arrange for a reliable person to feed, clean and check on your rabbit if you will be away from home for more than one day.

That might be another family member, friend or professional carer. If your whole family will be absent, then you will probably need to pay a carer who will visit and check on your rabbit, unless you have a helpful friend who can, without much interruption to their own day, come to your home to feed and check on your pet.

Impact on Your Home

Bringing any animal in to be part of your household will require some adjustments. Dogs and cats have become more domesticated than rabbits, which need more time and care to adjust.

These are some of the areas where you might need to take action for the safety of your pet and your property:

Electrical and phone cords: The level of damage to appliances and phones where the cords have been chewed by pet rabbits is high enough to cause concern to insurance companies and is obviously dangerous for the rabbits.

Carpets and drapes: Rabbits will chew almost anything, so you need to supervise it closely and remove any valuable or dangerous temptations from their reach or protect them from your rabbit.

Danger spots: Rabbits are curious and quick.

They will check any liquid or powder they find by tasting it.

They can also get into trouble exploring any gaps, open doors and windows, going behind or under furniture and appliances.

Insurance: As well as the danger to your new pet, there is also a risk they will damage your property.

Check whether your insurance policy covers damage by your pets to your own property as well as possible injury to visitors, including friends and trades people and their possessions.

Waste Products

Your rabbit will usually be fairly easy to train to use a litter box. There are exceptions!

But, it's probable that it will deposit some droppings or (more likely) some urine outside of that area.

This should only occur occasionally unless you keep a male that has not been desexed. But, you should consider the possibility when you are thinking about bringing a rabbit into the home, instead of deciding you must get rid of your pet after one or two accidents.

Other Pets

If you already have other pets, think carefully about whether it will be safe to have a rabbit in your home.

Dogs have a natural tendency to prey on rabbits and cats may cause them injury, or worse.

These actions are instinctive. Even the most placid animals need to be closely supervised at all times. They may seem to be playful with the rabbit, but that play, or even just being close to the rabbit, could arouse their natural instincts at any time.

The presence of these predators may also cause great stress to the rabbit.

I am not saying that they cannot co-exist. We had a rabbit and a small dog which was about two years older, and they got along fine.

Just be aware that the risk is always there and factors like the size, activity level and breed of your dog or cat should be considered.

Even birds, such as parrots, can frighten a rabbit which has to be wary of large birds in the wild.

If you have any doubt, do not get a rabbit.

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