Are Rabbits Good Pets for College Students?

are rabbits good pets for college students?

While most dorm rooms these days don’t allow students to bring pets, they do occasionally make exceptions for small pocket pets. If you are lucky enough to be a college student moving into one of these dorms, or you are living outside of dormitories entirely, you may be considering a rabbit as a possible pet.

Generally, rabbits are not great pets for dorm rooms or communal living situations. Rabbits are not happy if they’re left in a cage all day, and they tend to be mischievous pets. Rabbits are also messy pets if they haven’t been litter trained, which can lead to problems in a dorm room setting.

Despite this, rabbits can still be good pets for college students who live away from dorms or in private rooms, depending on your lifestyle. Despite the rhetoric in news media and popular culture, not all college students and experiences include loud dormitory settings and wild parties. If you are the kind of student who prefers a more private and quiet lifestyle, a rabbit can be a great pet to keep you company through your college years.

To be clear, don’t bring rabbits, or any pets, into any dormitory that does not allow animals (unless you have special permission for a service dog or emotional support animal). If dorm management finds out about your pet, it can put you in a tough situation where the only option is to surrender your pet to a local animal shelter (never release domesticated rabbits or other pets outdoors).

Why rabbits might not be the best pet for college students

While there are exceptions (which I’ll get to in the following section), most of the time I do not recommend keeping a rabbit as a pet in a college dorm or communal living housing. If you’ve never cared for a rabbit before, you’ll quickly realize that they are a lot more work than you would expect.

Rabbits are not the type of pet that can be kept in a corner in a cage all day. They need plenty of exercise and socialization while also being naturally skittish animals. In addition, rabbits have to be kept on a specialized diet, and they can get sick suddenly, which can lead to expensive vet bills.

1. Rabbits are not small cage-pets

First, rabbits are not as small as most people expect. An average-sized adult rabbit is around 5 to 6 pounds and they can stretch out to about one and a half feet. There are dwarf breeds of rabbits that are around 2 to 3 pounds as adults, but even this isn’t really a pocket-sized pet the way a hamster or gerbil is.

With that in mind, you’ll also have to think about the amount of space that rabbits need. For the most part, the cages that are sold and marketed towards rabbits are much too small. Instead, I recommend getting an exercise pen and also allowing the rabbit a few hours of free roam time outside of the pen. If they are kept in a cage all day, the rabbit is likely to become lonely and depressed.

2. Rabbits chew on everything

You also need to consider that rabbits can be fairly destructive pets. It does depend on the personality of your specific rabbit, but rabbits have the instincts to dig and chew on things. They like to chew on baseboards, and wooden furniture and will dig into carpets and areas underneath beds and other furniture. This behavior can lead to some extensive damage to the floors, walls, and furniture of the dorm room and leave you financially liable.

3. Rabbits can be messy

Rabbits generally aren’t smelly animals, but they can be pretty messy. For one, hay (their main food source) has a tendency to get everywhere. It’s also not uncommon for rabbits to flip over their food bowls and make a mess tearing up their toys.

In addition, not all rabbits have great litter box habits. They can be trained, but not as easily as cats can, and some rabbits are quite stubborn when it comes to using the litter box. Even well-trained rabbits will occasionally leave poop around for you to clean up and might start digging out their litter box if they’re feeling bored.

4. Rabbits don’t like lots of noise

Rabbits are fairly skittish animals most of the time, so they tend to get stressed out if they are kept in a loud or chaotic environment. When it comes to dormitories and communal living areas, you often have very little control over the amount of noise that’s spreading from hallways and nearby rooms. 

5. Rabbits need a lot of attention

In the wild, rabbits live in large family groups with lots of friends they can interact with. Our domestic rabbits still have these ingrained social needs, and will get incredibly lonely and depressed if they are left alone all day. You should plan to spend multiple hours a day with your rabbit. This means if you’re the kind of student who’s in class all day, and then out socializing in the evening while sleeping all morning, you might not be able to meet the social needs of a pet rabbit.

6. Rabbits can be expensive

While rabbits don’t usually cost that much to adopt outright, their care is often more than people expect. Since rabbits have a specialized diet, you’ll need to purchase fresh greens for them every week. 

In addition, vet fees for rabbits can add up. Rabbits tend to have digestion and tooth problems that can cause you to make emergency vet trips. In addition, rabbits have to see special vets (generally called small animal or exotic animal veterinarians) who are specialized in rabbit medicine and are able to care for your rabbit. This can make vet visits more expensive than they otherwise would be.

read with your rabbit
Rabbits are easily scared of loud sounds. Try reading a book or some other quiet activity while you sit on the floor with your rabbit.

Why a rabbit might be right for you after all

Just because rabbits are not ideal pets for dorm rooms does not mean that they are bad pets for all college students. Since rabbits are social creatures, they can actually be excellent companions for students who live a more laid-back and quiet lifestyle. But before getting a rabbit, you’ll need to make sure you can meet their physical and social needs.

1. You live in a private space

If you don’t live in a dormitory and have your own private living space, most of the problems in the previous section come down to your personal lifestyle and ability to care for a pet. If you have quiet housemates, this could also work in a group living scenario as long as you have your own private room.

Having your own space will give your rabbit privacy, and help to control the noise and chaos that’s often a part of dorm living. It also makes it a lot easier to keep your rabbit’s mess contained while also giving your rabbit time and space to exercise.

2. You are quiet and studious

Rabbits prefer a quiet place to live. If you’re the kind of student who prefers to stay in and study, a rabbit can be an excellent companion. They are very quiet pets who prefer to hang out in the same room as their people. You can easily study while allowing your rabbit to roam your room around you, giving them a chance to get plenty of exercise while also allowing them to socialize with you when they want to.

The more time you spend at home with your rabbit, the easier it will be to bond with them. Then you’ll get to see how great rabbits are as companion animals. They can take a bit to warm up to people, but once they do, they are very social.

3. You keep a consistent schedule

Rabbits thrive when they are kept on a consistent routine. They do best when they know what time to get up and expect breakfast, when they’ll have exercise and playtime, and when they’ll be able to socialize and interact with you. If you get up at more or less the same time to go to class in the morning and come back around the same time, your rabbit will be able to see the rhythm of the day. 

In general, rabbits are asleep in the middle of the day and awake in the morning and evening. The closer your routine is to the rabbit’s natural sleep schedule, the easier it will be for your rabbit to adjust.

4. You’re willing to learn about rabbit care and behavior

Most importantly, if you want to live with a rabbit in college, you need to be willing to learn about their body language, diet, habitat needs, and overall well-being of rabbits. This will be a bigger time commitment than you originally expect, but it’s also rewarding to gain the trust of a companion rabbit.

Rabbits are different from cats and dogs. If you can’t commit the time to learn about good rabbit care while going through rigorous college classwork, then it’s best to wait until a later point in life when you have more time on your hands.

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Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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