For the past twenty years our sweet, furry friends have been brought indoors along with the family dog and cat, away from the hot, lonely backyard hutch (a bad word among house rabbit lovers). This wonderful phenomenon began when people in Great Britain discovered that not only were their pet rabbits smart enough to be trained to use a litter box, they were also fun to play with and to watch. But adopting a rabbit is not to be taken lightly; there are important considerations that must be addressed when preparing to live with a rabbit.
Firstly, a rabbit is a commitment. They can live for ten to twelve years and are difficult to care for if no prior research is done. Thus, there are now numerous adoptable rabbits in United States shelters who need good homes with adults that know how to properly care for them and understand how different these prey animals are from their domestic predator counterparts.
Secondly, rabbits are not like dogs and cats. They are naturally timid, high strung and gregarious. Their radar dish ears and strong legs allow them to sense danger and “run" as quick as a flash. As with all prey animals, there is strength in numbers; thus many domesticated rabbits enjoy, and even crave, living with other rabbits, friendly pets and humans. Like cats, though, rabbits tend to nap much of the day, are generally independent, and are very particular about attention and when they receive it.
Hence, rabbits have quirky and fun natures that make them excellent pets:
- Rabbits are quiet and like routine.
- Rabbits are very intelligent and trainable.
- Rabbits love to be around people and other animals.
- Rabbits are naturally submissive and loving toward their human companions.
However, stemming from their prey mentality and herbivore physiology, rabbits have unique habits and needs:
- Rabbits do not like being picked up (an owner must learn to do it properly to avoid doing harm to both involved).
- Rabbits chew everything! (“rabbit-proofing” the house is a must).
- Rabbits require a very strict, special diet of hay, grass and vegetables (they are natural vegans).
- Rabbits tend to poop a lot (but if you garden, rabbit pellets make great fertilizer).
Thirdly, potential owners should consider if they (and their family) are the right type to have a rabbit. If a household tends to be loud and crowded or if no one is often home, a rabbit would not be a happy addition. But if family members are reasonably available, well organized and loving, a rabbit might fit right in. Weighing the pros and cons of rabbit ownership, a family can decide if joining the house rabbit club is right for them. Bringing a rabbit home is a long-term commitment that can bring years of potential joy when the pet is treated as a member of the family.