If you are looking for a fun, rewarding animal to raise as a pet, rabbits may be the answer to all of your needs. Many people get pet bunnies for their children at Easter time without knowing what to expect or how to properly care for them. Do yourself, and your potential pet, a favor and learn about their needs, and whether they will fit in with your lifestyle, before jumping in.
Adult rabbits can range in size from two to 20 pounds and live for 10 years or more. There are many, many breeds of rabbits to choose from: Dutch, Flemish Giants, Lion heads, Mini Lops, and Belgian Hares are just a few common breeds. A lot of people, however, like to start out with dwarf breeds. Dwarf breeds are small, friendly, and, if properly cared for, can be a fun member of the family. Many rabbits can even be litter trained and have free reign of your house once they’ve bonded to you and your family.
While it’s easy to find rabbits for sale at both pet stores and farms, you may want to consider adopting a rabbit in need. Many animal shelters now re-home small animals, such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, in addition to cats and dogs. Check with your local shelter to see what their policy is on these animals, or look for a rabbit-specific rescue. Often, the adoption fee for small animals is minimal, and some shelters even provide cages and other supplies.
Expect to spend a few hundred dollars on the necessary supplies to keep your rabbit comfortable. These include, but are not limited to, a cage with a solid, removable bottom for easy cleaning, a carrier for trips to the vet and other places, good-quality rabbit pellets, a litter box with hay or pelleted bedding, a sturdy ceramic or metal food bowl, a water bottle that attaches to the cage, to prevent spilling, a grooming brush, and safe chew toys.
Rabbits are very nervous, cautious animals. They are a “buffer” species, which means they supply most of the food for carnivores in their natural habitats. Many, many predators feed on rabbits. Hawks, coyotes, fox, and raccoons are just a few. Your rabbit will need to become acclimated to its new surroundings once you bring it home, and to become accustomed to its new owners as well. At first, your rabbit will consider you to be a predator, and will quickly become stressed when you handle it. Once they recognize you as a friend, they will settle down and become easy for you to handle. Until that time, be sure to keep all doors and windows closed when handling them. Be careful to keep dogs and cats away, too. No matter how tame your pets may seem, remember that they are descended from hunters, and there’s no telling when their prey drive might kick in.
If you are getting a rabbit for your child, always be sure to supervise their interactions. Because rabbits are so delicate, and children can be too rough without realizing it, it’s easy for the rabbit to become injured, or to scratch or bite out of fear. Many rabbits have been abandoned in shelters because they bit their new owners. While rabbits can be good pets for mature, gentle kids, they are not a good match for very young or impulsive children.
Rabbits are beautiful little creatures that you and your children will want to cuddle and love for years to come, but remember to always do your homework before purchasing or adopting any new pet.