So you’re thinking about getting a pet rabbit. You’ve heard they’re good beginner pets, but figured it was best to look up how to care for a rabbit first. And good thing you did! Rabbits are often a lot more work than people expect. They have a very strict diet and need daily exercise and socialization. But I wouldn’t be here talking about rabbits if they couldn’t also be bouncing bundles of joy and great pets.
Do rabbits make good pets? Rabbits are amazing, affectionate, and social pets. They can be great house pets if you take the time to socialize them and learn about their basic body language. However, rabbits require a lot more care than people typically expect, so it’s important to be prepared before bringing home a new bunny.
As you go through this list, take the time to consider whether or not a rabbit is the pet for you and your living situation. If you’re ready to take on the challenges of becoming a bunny caretaker, go for it! Rabbits are truly awesome pets and I think more people should consider rabbits as possible companions. But if you don’t think you’ll be able to handle a rabbit at their worst, it might be better to wait a couple years to give yourself the chance to prepare a home for a new bunny.
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The pros of owning a pet rabbit
As someone who loves rabbits, I truly believe these little balls of fluff can be great house pets. Rabbits are full of personality and have a way of bringing joy to your days. There are so many people who would be great rabbit caretakers. What about you? Do you think you’re a good match for a bunny?
1. Rabbits are quiet
While rabbits are capable of making sounds, they are among the quietest pets to own. They don’t stay up late at night barking, and they don’t meow at you to demand attention. I would even argue that sometimes a rabbit is quieter than a mouse because mice squeak and rabbits don’t.
This means that if you live in an apartment or in any close-together housing, you don’t have to worry about your rabbit annoying your neighbors. Rabbits are a great match for people who enjoy a quiet lifestyle. The two of you can easily occupy the same space without stressing each other out.
The only exception to quiet rabbits, is when they start thumping. Sometimes, rarely, rabbits thump their strong hindlegs against the ground. These little creatures can create a surprisingly loud sound when they thump. This behavior means one of two things:
- The rabbit is frustrated or angry with you. Usually there will only be one loud thump to let you know how disappointed they are in you.
- The rabbit is scared of something and is trying to warn you. This is when a rabbit will be continuously thumping, and their behavior will also have a very rigid and alert body position.
As a rabbit caretaker you will likely hear a thumping rabbit at some point, but it’s not a particularly common behavior. If you are doing what you can to keep the rabbit’s environment calm and stress-free, they’ll only thump continuously if there is something scary around (like the vacuum cleaner).
2. Rabbits can use a litter box
Rabbits poop a lot, but it’s pretty easy to clean up after them when they are litter trained. If you adopt a rabbit as an adult, many of them will already be trained to use a litter box. But even if they don’t know how to use one when you first bring them home, it’s usually pretty easy to teach them.
Rabbits prefer to be clean and keep their waste in one place. By putting a litter box where they chose to make their bathroom, you can teach your rabbit to use it. This means that you don’t have to worry about your rabbit peeing and pooping all over your house. Just like a cat, they’ll be able to go back and use the bathroom whenever they need to.
You may find it difficult to litter train a rabbit who has not been spayed or neutered though. Unaltered rabbits will spray urine and scatter poop as a way to claim their territory. If you aren’t adopting a rabbit who has already been spayed or neutered, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment for them as soon as they reach adulthood.
3. Rabbits don’t usually smell
You may have heard at some point that rabbits are smelly and messy animals. But this is a myth. Most of the time, rabbits will not smell up anyone’s house and you won’t have to worry about covering up their odor.
Rabbits are meticulously clean animals. They don’t have a discernible body odor, and even their poop doesn’t have a strong smell. The only part of rabbits that tends to have a strong smell is their urine, which has a high ammonia content. But as long as you keep your rabbit’s enclosure clean and scoop out their litter box every day, you shouldn’t have to worry about having a smelly house.
4. Rabbits live a long time
Believe it or not, pet rabbits have an average lifespan of about 10 years. The age can vary based on the rabbit’s breed and living conditions. Indoor rabbits tend to have a longer life expectancy than outdoor rabbits. But you can still expect a rabbit to live much longer than you first thought.
This means that rabbits are pets that will stay with you for a long time. Rabbits will be able to grow with you and become great companion animals. They’ll bring joy to your life for a long time while you learn about all the quirks of rabbit behavior.
A long lifespan also means that there is a lot to consider before bringing a rabbit home. It’s not a choice you should make on the spur of the moment, because you’ll have 10 years ahead of you being responsible for the health and happiness of your pet rabbit. Make sure when you bring your bunny home, you are ready for the commitment.
5. Rabbits can be trained
Like dogs, rabbits are very intelligent and can be trained to do tricks. This is a lot of fun and a great way to bond with a pet rabbit. I train my rabbits to give me high fives, and give me kisses. They can also be trained to come when you call them or even jump through agility courses.
Rabbits can also be harness trained so you can bring them for walks outside. Some people will bring their more adventurous rabbits with them to the park or to the beach to give their rabbit a chance to see the world.
Rabbits are really amazing creatures, and it’s so interesting to work with them and see how their little brains work. It can be a little difficult at times to teach them tricks, but if you’re up to the challenge, rabbits can be a great pet for you.
6. Rabbits are very social and affectionate
Rabbits are social animals. They love to hang out around people and demand attention. They’ll come up to you and beg for treats, or binky around the living room as you’re watching TV. My rabbit likes to always know where I am. If I leave the room she’ll follow me (even to the bathroom).
Rabbits are also very affectionate animals. They’ll often lick their caretakers to groom them, or lay down next to you to show their trust. When a rabbit is excited to see you, they’ll run circles around your feet, and when they are content some rabbits will even climb into your lap and start purring.
These little fluffers are full of personality. As you learn about rabbit body language, you’ll be able to understand what these social butterflies are trying to tell you. You’ll know when they’re happy and you’ll understand when they are upset with you. Your rabbit will become an integral part of your life and family.
7. Rabbits are usually gentle
As prey animals, rabbits are almost always very gentle creatures. They may be very shy at first, but once a rabbit is comfortable around people, they will be happy to come up and nudge you gently for treats or petting. Rabbits aren’t going to jump up on you like a dog, and they are not aren’t going to lash out at you like a cat when they get annoyed.
Rabbits can show aggressive behavior if they are afraid and feel cornered, but it’s not their first instinct. Some rabbits will become territorial and aggressively protect their space if they have not been spayed or neutered. So this is another good reason to make sure you get your rabbit fixed.
8. Rabbits love to be pet
If you’ve ever wanted a pet you could sit with for hours, rabbits are for you. They love to be pet and massaged. Give them scritches on the top of their head or behind their ears and they will melt into the floor. If you stop petting them, most rabbits will nudge your hand to ask you to keep going because they like it so much.
My rabbit will even hop into my lap and settle down while I give her a nice massage. While I wouldn’t say lap rabbits are common, many will be happy to hop up on the sofa next to you and sprawl out while you pet them. They might even fall asleep!
If you adopt a young rabbit, you might not notice this behavior until they get older. Young rabbits tend to be fidgety and full of energy. They don’t settle down for extended periods of time. But as they get older, rabbits will inevitably calm down and enjoy a good massage while spending time with you.
Bonus: Rabbits are adorable
I’m sure you know this already, but rabbits are one of the most adorable pets you can find. They are small little puffballs with super soft fur and a cute, little tail. Rabbits will literally jump for joy as they binky and zoom all around the room.
The way rabbits wash their face is just the cutest. Or they will stand up on their hindlegs to beg for treats with those big bunny eyes and cute twitching nose. Not to mention iconic rabbit ears that are so long and floppy. They can give a rabbit that adorable inquisitive look, like a puppy when they look confused. Not to mention the adorable way that rabbits look when they manage to eat food that looks too big for their mouths.
Some rabbit breeds even stay tiny forever. Netherland Dwarfs, for example, are one of the smallest rabbit breeds, weighing only 2.5lbs as adult rabbits. There are more than a dozen recognized rabbit breeds that stay under 5lbs even as adult rabbits.
The cons of owning a pet rabbit
Sometimes pet rabbits are a little more trouble than you bargained for. They may be adorable, social bundles of joy, but these little bunnies have a knack for getting into trouble. Many people get a rabbit expecting them to require the amount of care as a hamster or gerbil, and are quickly shocked by how much responsibility rabbits are.
Rabbits are not the most difficult pet to take care of, but they do have a number of drawbacks that you will need to be prepared for. As you go through this list, really consider if you are up to the commitment of having a pet rabbit, even when they are being little devils.
1. Rabbits like to chew on everything
Rabbits have teeth that continue to grow longer (like fingernails), so they need to chew on things to keep them from overgrowing. This means that rabbits have the instinct to chew on wooden objects, such as your furniture and baseboards. You will need to rabbit-proof your house in a way that keeps your rabbits away from anything you don’t want them to chew on.
Rabbits are also known for being a menace to household wires. This is unfortunate for our many chargers and appliances that no longer work. But it’s also incredibly dangerous to our pet rabbits. When they chew on a wire, they run the risk of getting electrocuted. To keep your rabbit safe, you will need to either remove all the wires from your rabbits reach, or cover them with plastic split tube wire covers.
These little troublemakers can also try to dig into the corners of rooms and completely destroy the carpet. Since rabbits are burrowers in the wild, they have the instinct to try to dig tunnels. To stop them from destroying your flooring, you’ll want to place a plastic mat down in the corners of rooms. Check out more of my recommendations for rabbit-proofing your home!
2. Rabbits don’t like to be held
Some people get rabbits expecting them to be a super cuddly pet. Then they are upset to find that their rabbit kicks and scrambles to escape every time they are picked up. Rabbits are prey animals whose ancestors depended on the ability to run away from predators. So when rabbits are trapped in someone’s arms, with no way to run away, they get very scared.
While there are rare exceptions, most rabbits hate to be held. If you pick your rabbit up every time you interact with them, they’ll start to get scared of you and run away whenever you approach. They won’t even come up to you to be pet anymore because they want to avoid being picked up.
If you want a rabbit because you think they’ll be easy to handle and hug, then this might not be the pet for you. But if you’re open to interacting with your rabbit on their level, petting them on the floor, then you and your rabbit have a much better chance at getting along.
3. Rabbits need a lot of space
Most rabbit cages that are sold in pet stores and online are actually much too small for rabbits. The length of a rabbit enclosure should be at least 3 to 4 times the full length (measured from nose to toe when they are sprawled out) of your rabbit.
This means even a small rabbit that is about 1 foot in length should have an enclosure that is 3 to 4 feet long. Most cages sold for rabbits aren’t even 2 feet long! So don’t get sucked in by the marketing. Rabbits need a lot more space than you expect.
And bunnies need space to exercise too. For at least 1 to 2 hours a day, your rabbit will need to have access to an exercise space. I recommend the space be at least 24 square feet, but really any normal-sized room in your house will be good enough. Let the rabbit out for exercise, and stick around to supervise them so they don’t get into any trouble.
Sure, compared to the amount of space a dog needs, rabbits don’t need that much. Even a small apartment will give a rabbit enough space to exercise, and there are ways of arranging the space to make sure they can have a big enough enclosure. But rabbits do need a lot more space than new rabbit caretakers are led to believe.
4. Rabbits need a lot of attention
Rabbits are very social creatures, and you can’t just feed them and then leave them alone. You need to interact with your rabbit. Rabbits that are left alone all day tend to become bored. They’ll be more likely to act out to try to get your attention or they’ll get depressed and lose interest in everything.
You’ll want to give your rabbit as much time with you and other people as you can. Hang out with your rabbit by sitting on the floor with them. Pet them and give them the love that they need. It’s especially good if you can spend time with them in the morning and the evening. Rabbits are crepuscular animals, which means they are most active around dawn and dusk, so these are the ideal times to interact with a pet rabbit.
If you don’t have the time to give your rabbit the attention they need, consider getting a second rabbit to have a bonded pair. This way the rabbits will be able to spend time with each other and won’t require as much attention from their caretaker.
5. Rabbits have a complicated diet
You can’t just give rabbits a bowl full of kibble, like you can for a cat or a dog. Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive system that requires a very specific diet. If they have an unhealthy diet, rabbits run a serious risk of developing gastrointestinal complications. Their gut can slow down, or even stop, causing a rabbit a lot of distress. In worst case scenarios this can be fatal for rabbits.
There are three parts to a healthy rabbit diet:
- The first thing you want to consider is hay. Rabbits should always have an unlimited supply of grass-based hay (timothy, oat, orchard hay). You never want them to run out of hay because it is essential to the way their digestion works.
- Next you want to give them 1 to 2 cups of fresh leafy greens on a daily basis. These will provide a lot of nutrients and vitamins that rabbits don’t get from hay alone.
- Last and least important is the pellets. Rabbits should only be given about ¼ to ½ a cup of pellets a day. Resist the urge to completely fill a rabbit’s bowl with pellets. They will run out before the end of the day, but they’ll still have all that hay available to eat.
6. Rabbit vet care can be expensive
Rabbit anatomy is not like cats and dogs, so they need to be taken to a veterinarian that specializes in small animals. This is vitally important because many of the treatments and medicines that work for cats and dogs are actually poisonous for rabbits. The House Rabbit Society has an excellent resource for finding a rabbit-savvy vet in the U.S., and they have some international locations listed as well.
Because of this your options for finding a less expensive vet are very limited. You can expect to pay somewhere around $100-$150 for your rabbits annual examination, and emergency care can get very expensive.
You are also going to want to spay or neuter your rabbit as soon as they reach adulthood. Usually that’s around 4 months for male rabbits and 6 months for female rabbits. This can be quite costly, ranging anywhere from around $200-$500, but it’s very important for a rabbit’s long term health. An altered rabbit is also less likely to exhibit aggressive behavioral problems.
If you are concerned about the price of getting your rabbit fixed, you could look into adopting a rabbit who already had the surgery. The animal shelter where I socialize rabbits will always spay and neuter their animals before putting them up for adoption, and many other shelters have similar policies.
7. Rabbits are fragile
Rabbits are much more easily hurt than cats or dogs. Our bunnies have a delicate bone structure. They can get injured if they are squeezed too hard or held in the wrong way. You always have to be very careful when handling a rabbit to make sure you don’t hurt them.
This is why rabbits are also not the best pet for children. Some children are calm and able to be gentle with rabbits, but many more have a tendency to pull and poke. If your child is one who likes to squeeze the life out of their stuffed animals, they may end up accidentally injuring a real rabbit. You’ll need to supervise any interactions very carefully, and really consider if a rabbit is the best pet for your family.
8. Rabbits shed a lot
If you get a rabbit, you will have clouds of fur to clean up. Rabbits shed a lot, and their fur will get all over everything. It will get onto all your clothes and into your coffee mug. Even short haired rabbits, such as rex rabbits, will have a lot of fur to clean up. And if you want a long haired rabbit, such as an angora, then you’ll need to be prepared for a lot of hair.
On top of that, many rabbits don’t like to be groomed. It’s difficult to brush them and help them shed all their fur at once. So if you want a fur-free house, you’ll have to do a lot of daily vacuuming and dusting.
Rabbits are a lot of responsibility for a child to take on. Therefore, bunnies should not be given to children as pets. However, rabbits can still make great family pets. You, as the adult, can take primary responsibility for a pet rabbit, while your child is a helper!
Rabbits say “I love you” in many ways. Once you’ve gained their trust, a rabbit will groom you, or happily run circles around your feet to show their affection. They’ll also lay down next to you, and sometimes even hop into your lap.
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