Saturday, March 6, 2010

Raising Rabbits: Reasons for adopting a rabbit

So, you've decided to get a rabbit. You've done all your research. You've rabbit-proofed your home. You've got a cage, food, and lots of toys. You've even decided on a name. But perhaps the most important decision is yet to come: where do you get your rabbit?

Many pet stores offer rabbits for sale. Upon seeing a crate full of adorably helpless baby bunnies, many folks can't resist the urge to take one home right there and then. Pet stores count on the appeal of the immature rabbit to stimulate impulse buying. Frequently, the rabbit is bought as a child's pet by an adult who does not realize that rabbits make poor pets for small children. There are no reliable figures as to how many of these rabbits are abandoned, given up to shelters, or die from improper care, but it seems likely that many suffer such a fate. One animal rescue organization reports that in 2007, they received requests for sheltering for 380 rabbits- while in the same year, they placed only two rabbits in new homes. Most people think of rabbits as a kind of rodent, and on par with a rat or gerbil in terms of care and commitment required. This misconception has terrible consequences for the unlucky rabbit. With an average lifespan of around 10 years, the baby rabbit you bought for your child when he was 8 should still be alive when he's getting ready to graduate from high school.

This is only one of the many reasons that adopting a rabbit from an animal shelter is preferable to buying one from a pet store or breeder. Most rabbits sold in pet stores are less than a year old, and if the store is not particularly scrupulous, they may even be younger than 6 weeks- the minimum age at which a rabbit can be removed from its mother. Rabbits found in animal shelters run the gamut of ages, from a few months to old age. By choosing a rabbit whose age aligns with the length of commitment you are willing to make, you will save yourself and the rabbit a great deal of hardship. Also, mature rabbits are often better choices for first-time rabbit owners. Their behavioral patterns have become more predictable, and they have already passed through their "rebellious teen" period. Shelter volunteers are much more likely to be familiar with the unique personalities of the individual rabbits they offer than a pet store employee. This will go a long way toward avoiding disaster down the line, when that bunny that was so cute and appealing as a kit becomes an unholy terror in maturity.

Also, adoption is a far more economical option than purchasing a rabbit. You save the price of the rabbit itself- typically between $20-50. Much more significantly, however, you save the cost of spaying/neutering the animal. This is an essentially non-optional procedure for most people interested in owning a rabbit as a pet. Rabbits that have not been fixed will be more aggressive and temperamental, will frequently spray objects with its scent glands, and are more prone to various health problems, such as uterine cancer. Prices for the procedure vary greatly from one veterinarian to another, but it will cost at least $100. Rabbits adopted from shelters are almost always fixed beforehand, so the adoption fee (usually about $30) is a terrific bargain.

Finally, adopting a rabbit is a humane and ethical way to own a pet without contributing to cruelty and neglect. Although many rabbit breeders do maintain high standards of care, many others operate as "rabbit mills" where most rabbits lead short, brutal existences. Pet stores often keep rabbits in substandard conditions, with little knowledge of the needs of the animal, and sometimes euthanize the animal once they reach maturity. Given the substantial excess of rabbits held in shelters, there is no reason to support industries that contribute to the problems of rabbit overpopulation and neglect. By adopting a rabbit, you not only save that animal from euthanization, but also evade taking part in a morally dubious industry.

If you are considering purchasing a rabbit from a store or breeder simply because you've heard that a given breed is "the best breed for pet rabbits", you may want to reconsider. While breeders and owners do report some very general trends in the behavior of specific breeds, rabbits are far too individualistic in their personalities for these trends to be reliable. Any breed can produce a first-rate pet, or a total basket case. If you want to be sure that the rabbit you are getting will make a good pet, speaking to a knowledgeable shelter employee about a specific rabbit is a much better bet. When all these factors are considered, there is very little reason not to adopt a rabbit. Doing so will save you money, stress and uncertainty, and most importantly of all, the life of a rabbit.

When it comes to the health and happiness of your pet rabbit, choosing a quality living environment should be on the top of your list. Whether you choose quality Rabbit Cages or opt for larger Rabbit Hutches, the quality of the materials and the construction of the dwelling will determine how well it works for your particular furry friend.

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