Owning a Pet Rabbit – A comprehensive guide on the topic of Owning your First Pet Rabbit written by Ellyn from PremiumRabbits.
Why should you have a pet rabbit?
You’ve decided to adopt a pet rabbit? How exciting! That’s a choice you almost certainly won’t regret. When done right, rabbit ownership is such a joy. It provides hours of entertainment as you watch your bunny play. It gives you a reason to get off your seat and get some exercise as you clean your rabbit’s cage. It gives you a sense of fulfillment to know you your bunny depends on you for its well-being. It gives you access to a community of other rabbit owners, both online and in person, that can quickly become friends. And best of all, owning a pet rabbit gives you a snuggle buddy so you’ll never have to watch another movie by yourself.
But in order to experience those benefits, you need to have find the right rabbit and provide it with the right care. This article doesn’t have space to go into all the fine points of adopting and caring for pet rabbits, but it will point you in the right direction on important issues. For more information, check out the Hoppy Pet Rabbit Guide written by Aaron Webster.
Choosing the Right Pet Rabbit to Adopt
All rabbits have different personalities. Some are much more outgoing and suited to pet life than others. If you are seeking a companion rabbit, it’s extremely important to adopt one from someone who knows their bunnies individually. This usually means a small-scale breeder or an animal shelter. Small-scale rabbit breeders usually aren’t trying to make money; they love their rabbits and want to place them in find loving homes. These people take the time to socialize bunnies they raise, and they will only breed or sell rabbits with good personalities. Volunteers at an animal shelter often know rabbits at a personal level also, though there’s no guarantee that rabbits coming into the shelter have good pet temperaments.
Though you may find a wonderful bunny at a pet store, your chances are not as good. Pet store rabbits are usually taken from their mothers too young, and haven’t been given personal attention and socialization. Because they are so stressed at such an early age (moved from the breeder to the pet store to your home), they have weakened resistance to disease. Do yourself and the rabbit world as a whole a favor and adopt from a shelter or small-scale breeder instead of a pet store. If fewer people buy rabbits from pet stores, it will reduce the number of bunnies that have to go through that experience.
But where can you find a good breeder? There are more of them around than you might think! RabbitBreeders.us is the world’s largest directory of breeders and a great place to start your search. It gives a little information about each rabbitry and a link to its website.
Once you locate a place to adopt your rabbit from, ask the owner all the questions you can think of. The breeder should be happy to answer your questions, and that way you can be sure you know what you are buying before you bring the bunny home. Ask about its health, its personality, and the health and personality of its parents. Ask about the way it’s been cared for, so you can give it similar care at home. Ask what kind of rabbit food it ate, so you can buy the same kind or at least get a little bit to help it transition to the new brand you plan to feed it.
Look the rabbit all over for health issues: it should look bright and happy with a glossy coat, free of any injuries or abscesses. Its fur should be clean and its nose should be dry. Before you leave, ask the breeder to check its teeth and sex in your sight. Rabbits can pull their teeth out of alignment, so even if the bunny had good teeth to start with, you’ll want to make sure nothing bad happened since the breeder checked him last. Same thing with the sex: young rabbits are difficult to sex, and sometimes even long-time breeders get it wrong. Many, many new rabbit owners have come home with a female bunny they thought was a male or vice versa, only to learn the truth when their “male” rabbit delivered an unexpected litter. If you have a friend who is experienced at handling and caring for rabbits, bring them along to look your new bunny over before you agree to adopt it.
What kind of rabbit should I get for a pet?
As long as you make sure it’s healthy and has a good personality, any breed can make a wonderful pet. Simply find a breed and a color that catches your eye. When choosing your breed, the only things you need to remember are that larger rabbits eat more food and take more space, and that most long haired rabbits need grooming to keep in good condition.
How many pet rabbits should I get?
Contrary to what you might think, rabbits will not necessarily be happier if they have a cage mate. Some will and some won’t, but most rabbits like their own space, at least to some extent. This author’s personal belief is that bunnies enjoy having other rabbits around that they can see and smell and “talk to,” but that won’t invade their personal space. The ideal situation would be to have two rabbits that live in separate cages, but can still communicate through the wire. You can let them play together sometimes outside their cages, and see if they get along well before you decide to let them share a home. If you plan to have two rabbits that play together outside the cage, you should get two does (females) or neutered rabbits. Intact bucks (and some intact does) will be too much interested in breeding and territory to play together.
While rabbits usually prefer the company of other bunnies, they don’t absolutely need it. A single pet rabbit can stay very happy if he’s given a chance to get out of his cage and play regularly. He can find companionship in you, just like you can find it in him. Unlike horses, dogs, and guinea pigs, rabbits are not pack animals and do just fine on their own. In the wild, rabbits do not live in herds, though they will occasionally socialize with other rabbits.
What supplies do you need to own a pet rabbit?
Ah, this is an important question! Without the right equipment, it can be hard to give your rabbit a quality life. We have many other articles on this website discussing the best rabbit equipment, but in brief, here’s what you need:
-A cage. All rabbits need a cage, even if you plan to give your bunny free run of the house and teach it to use a litterbox. This is both for the rabbit’s safety and its comfort. Rabbits need to have a “home burrow” where they can go if they feel threatened or when they want to relax. You will also need a secure cage to keep your rabbit if you go away for the day (since rabbits can get into all kinds of trouble when unattended), or if friends bring their kids or their dogs over, or you have any other occasion to lock your rabbit in a safe place. We recommend the Supreme Rabbit Home line of cages because they are sturdy, safe, and sanitary.
-Feeding and watering equipment. Whether you choose J-feeders or a crock or bowl, it’s important to have a food dish that is easily cleaned and cannot be spilled. (The EZ-crock is a great choice, because it hooks right on to the cage wire.) For water, bottles are generally a better choice because they need to be filled less often and keep the water cleaner. The best brand of water bottle is Lixit, because their bottles are less prone to dripping than other kinds. However, if you decide to use a bowl for water, the ones that work best for feed work well for water, too.
-A carrier. You need a rabbit-safe carrier to transport your rabbit home, to the vet, or any other time you take it in the car. Wire-bottomed carriers are so much better than the plastic crate kind, because rabbits won’t slide around in them.
-A good quality rabbit food. Do not buy feed for your pet that is very high in protein (17% or more). A pet rabbit only needs about 15% protein in its pellets, but it does need very high fiber. Feed a high quality hay along with pellets. Fresh veggies work well as occasional treats.
-Bedding and a litter box and/or drop tray. Do not use cedar shavings for your rabbit’s bedding, as the aroma can cause respiratory problems. A pet-safe bedding such as CareFresh is a much better choice. If you plan to litter train your rabbit, you can buy a litter box like the ones used for cats. It’s also important to have a drop tray under the cage to hold bedding and collect waste. (The Supreme Rabbit Home cages come with drop trays pre-installed.)
-Rabbit Books. As helpful as the internet can be, you can often find much more comprehensive information in rabbit care guides.
-Accessories. Those are the basics, but there are many other supplies you can buy to help you take better care of your pet. Examples include rabbit toys, an exercise harness, or grooming tools. Some of these things will be more important to have than others, depending on what you plan to do with your bunny and its individual personality.
Note: at PremiumRabbits.com they offer rabbit equipment packages – both starter and deluxe versions – to help you get a discount on the equipment you’ll need for your pet bunny.
How do you care for a pet rabbit?
Although the benefits of keeping a pet rabbit are enormous, it’s quite simple to care for one. Once you’ve provided your rabbit with the proper equipment and placed its cage in a quiet, low-stress environment, it’s easy to keep him healthy and happy. You need to provide fresh food and water once or twice a day. You need to take him out to play regularly. You need to observe him and handle him regularly to makes sure he’s in good health. You need to keep his cage clean and the bedding dry. Long-haired rabbits and those in molt require grooming. But other than that, a rabbit is very easy to keep. Rabbits can live outside in winter without problems, they don’t require vaccinations or regular veterinary care, and they are inexpensive to feed and house.
So if you’re looking for a wonderful pet, but aren’t able to make the commitment that a dog or cat requires, consider rabbits. It’s surprising how much joy can be wound up in those little bundles of fur with long ears and whiskers. You might find you enjoy your bunny more than you would a dog or cat anyway.
For a Complete Guide to Owning a Pet Rabbit check out: