With the release of the movie Hop earlier this month, and with Easter right around the corner, it’s no surprise that rabbits have become popular pets. Rabbits are awfully cute and make excellent companions, but they are also a big commitment and require special care. Many families are not prepared to provide the time and care that rabbits require; the rabbits that seemed so irresistible at Easter are often abandoned by summer.
According to Debby Widolf, president of the national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society, rabbits are now the third-most abandoned animal at shelters. Countless other rabbits are released into the wild to fend for themselves or to become a predator’s lunch.
If you are considering sharing your home with a rabbit, Widolf recommends that you consider adopting from a shelter or humane society. But before you adopt, do your research to determine if your family can devote the time and care that a rabbit needs. Widolf suggests that families consider these important points:
- Rabbits can live eight to ten years, which makes adoption a substantial commitment. They require regular vet care, and because not all veterinarians treat rabbits or know much about them, it might be necessary to engage an exotic animal vet. Just like human specialists, these vets can be more expensive and harder to find.
- Children often want a rabbit to cuddle and carry, but are disappointed to learn that the last thing a bunny wants is to be picked up. Rabbits are prey animals and picking one up can signal that “something is going to carry me away and eat me. Yikes!” Rabbits have strong claws and will kick and bite if frightened. The backs of rabbits are delicate, so mishandling or dropping a rabbit can cause serious injury. A pet rabbit may not be a good idea for a child under eight or nine years old.
- Rabbits are happiest in homes when they can be part of the family, enjoy their people, and be who they are—rabbits.
- Rabbits should be spayed or neutered by a rabbit-savvy veterinarian in order to prevent serious health problems, help the bunny be a better friend, and, of course, prevent unwanted births. It is quite difficult to determine the sex of young rabbits. Male rabbits are ready to be neutered at around 10 weeks of age, while females can be spayed at the age of five months.
- Prior to bringing a rabbit home, bunny-proof the house. Rabbits love to chew, so cover up or hide computer and phone cords. Happily, rabbits can be trained to use a litter box, but remember that the box needs regular cleaning. Of course, rabbits also need fresh water, food, and hay daily.
- Rabbits are unhappy and suffer when they are isolated from their people. They need interaction, bunny toys to play with, and plenty of daily exercise.
Clicker training is a great way to spend time with your new companion, and to give your rabbit the necessary social interaction and activity. To learn more about the benefits of training a rabbit, check out the online article What? Train a Rabbit? by Joan Orr, author of Clicking With Your Rabbit, on sale now in the clicker training store!