Rabbits and Dogs Are More Alike Than You Might Think

Are you shopping for a pet? Have you considered getting a rabbit?

Are you shopping for a pet? Have you considered getting a rabbit? As spring emerges, many families purchase pet rabbits, especially around Easter.

Having a pet rabbit requires more consideration and work than you might guess. Despite the challenges of keeping a rabbit for a pet, they are intelligent, trainable, compassionate animals, compatible with dogs, cats, and children. Here's what you need to think about before choosing a rabbit for a pet and some tips on providing the best care for your new friend once you bring them home.

First, remember that rabbits are natural prey animals. You must decide whether to keep your rabbit outdoors in a hutch, or inside the house. Outdoor rabbits can survive moderate temperature changes but they are extremely sensitive to heat and do not tolerate temperatures over 85 degrees well.

They should not be exposed to extremely cold temperatures either. Keeping prey animals outside may attract wildlife, like foxes, cats, or stray dogs. Make sure your rabbit's hutch is secure from danger, and protected from the elements. Most importantly, visit with your rabbit often. Play with them, pet them, brush them, and talk to them.

Rabbits are social creatures and benefit from interaction as much as we benefit from their presence. Consider keeping more than one rabbit, especially if they are going to be outdoors or if you may not be able to spend much time with them. They are naturally social and benefit from having other bunnies around.

If you are considering bringing a rabbit into your home, understand that a rabbit can be a long-term commitment. A well cared for rabbit can live to be 16 years old. It is also important to find a veterinarian experienced with rabbits. They are often considered exotic pets and have unique health issues.

Rabbits will live longer if they are spayed or neutered and this also may control spraying or aggressive behavior in some rabbits. If you are not considering breeding rabbits, have your pet fixed as soon as possible.

Bunnies are wonderfully social, curious, compassionate animals and they can make special pets for children. Rabbits are creatures of routine and can be good pets for older, more responsible children but they require a lot of maintenance and some special handling. They also will nip or bite if they feel threatened or are excited. As a parent or an adult, assume that you will be responsible for the pet rabbit because of these considerations.

Rabbits make exceptional house pets, but I do not recommend them as classroom pets. Bunnies are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. They often sleep through the day, making them great pets to come home to after a long day at work. Bustling classrooms, full of daytime activity and noise, are not compatible with the natural rhythms of rabbit.

Because they are prey animals, too much activity can make them anxious and prone to nervous behaviors.

Rabbits are voracious chewers. Their teeth are continuously growing and they need to chew on things to keep them from getting too long. A rabbit's occlusion, or front teeth, can become deformed if they are allowed to grow too long, so provide varied and constant items for them to chew. There are some items that may not be entirely safe for your rabbit to chew, like pine or cedar wood.

Generally the houseplants that are harmful to cats and dogs are also unsafe for rabbits. Some items that make great rabbit chew toys are cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes, conventional rabbit toys available from pet stores, or old phone books. Our rabbits have also enjoyed pushing around small balls when they are out of their cage.

Because rabbits will chew on almost anything, supervise your bunny when they are outside the cage. You must watch your furniture closely because bunnies will chew on table legs and upholstery.

Invest significant time evaluating the dangers in your house to you new rabbit. You will have to "rabbit proof" any room your rabbit may enter. You should block off rooms that you want to stay rabbit-free zones. Rabbits are extremely curious animals and will try to get under, behind, around, over, on top of, or through almost any obstacle.

They will chew on fabrics, power cords, wallpaper, carpets, and books, so be sure to remove access to any of these items if your rabbit is attracted to them. In fact, your rabbit will probably chew on everything as they explore their new home, claiming your possessions as their own. Most pet stores offer crunchy treats that your rabbit can really sink their teeth into!

Some of the best rabbit toys are cardboard boxes of all sizes and shapes, paper towel tubes, or old phone books. It's possible to train rabbits to not chew on inappropriate items by using a squirt bottle or a whistle. Rabbits can be litter trained relatively easily. However, this becomes more complicated if there is a cat in the house, and rabbits will not use litter 100% of the time. You must be prepared to find rabbit dung scattered around and clean the occasional urine stain on the carpet.

Spend plenty of time on the floor with your rabbit. Bunnies are comfortable spending time around feet. They love the human touch and most enjoy sitting close by, running around your legs, or nudging your body from time to time. Be careful where you walk, as comfortable rabbits are also usually brave enough to rush at your feet as you walk.

Some rabbits can be aloof at times. All rabbits value some alone time. They will let you know if they aren't feeling particularly social. Conversely, they often provide lasting comfort to their human companions in tough times.

When introducing a new rabbit into your home, you must be patient. If your rabbit is a rescued bunny, they may take months, or even years, to develop trust for you or your other pets. Introduce your new pets gradually. It took a year for our rescued rabbit, Sophia, to bond with our first rabbit, PJ and adjust to the music, smells, and other sounds of our home.

Rabbits are territorial animals and need time to work out new boundaries with existing pets or their new human families. Rabbits are creatures full of humor, character, and poise. They are intelligent animals that tend to thrive in environments familiar, secure, and dynamic households. They provide better entertainment than television and they love music. Each rabbit has a personality and an empathetic capacity bigger than their small bodies suggest.

Having a pet rabbit is a deeply rewarding experience, most of the time. However, rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. You should be prepared to change your own habits to accommodate a bunny and I do not recommend rabbits as Easter gifts or pets for young children.

Any pet you choose to welcome into your life needs care, attention, variety, and patience, but rabbits are sometimes mistakenly thought of as the cute, hassle-free pet. In reality they are more like dogs. They are simple creatures endowed with incredible personality, but they need training, companionship, supervision, and plenty of tender loving care.