Bunnies are adorable and soft and make amazing pets but the decision to get a new bunny should not be taken lightly. A lot of people assume that rabbits are easy to take care of, don’t require vet care, require very little space and cost next to nothing to care for. Unfortunately, some of these misconceptions lead rabbits to be surrendered to shelters, making them the 3rd most surrendered animals in the US after dogs and cats.
Rabbits can make amazing pets and companions but they aren’t for everyone. Contrary to popular belief, quite a bit of time goes into caring for a rabbit on a regular basis. Bunnies need their cages cleaned, hair brushed, nails trimmed, and lots of attention. Ideally a rabbit’s litter box should be cleaned daily with frequent cleanings of the entire cage using a vinegar/water solution or other nontoxic cleaning option. They will go through several shedding cycles each year and need to be brushed thoroughly to prevent intestinal distress from swallowing too much hair. It’s also beneficial to carefully cut their nails.
Rabbits are social animals and should never be left alone in a hutch outside. They benefit from having a bunny lifemate and enjoy being around their human family. They should be let out of their cage for several hours a day to exercise and socialize. And yes, letting them out of the cage to stretch their legs does mean you have to bunnyproof your home! Although bunnies don’t require long walks like a dog would, their care is truly a time consuming commitment.
Another misconception about rabbits is that they don’t require veterinary care. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Spaying and neutering pet rabbits helps eliminate unwanted aggressive behavior and spraying. It also greatly reduces the risk of uterine and testicular cancer, which occur in a large percentage of bunnies. Spaying/neutering also prevents the rabbits from reproducing. Did you know that a female bunny can have as many as 14 kids in a single litter and a new litter as often as once a month? How are you going to care for or rehome that many rabbits? When you realize that rabbits are susceptible to respiratory and digestive distress and that you will have to find an experienced rabbit vet, it becomes clear that the costs can really add up!
One of the most unfortunate things you can do with a bunny is keep it in a cage that’s too small. Rabbits are very active and need room to move around. This means that the tiny rabbit cages they sell at pet stores are totally inadequate and can lead to physical and emotional distress in the rabbit. Rabbits should have a cage with plenty of room to move and a lot of supervised time out of the cage to play.
My intention is not to discourage anyone from getting a rabbit, but rather to make sure that you have really examined the time and financial commitment involved in bunny ownership. If you want additional information about the commitments involved in rabbit ownership check out this great video series.