Friday, July 16, 2010
By Julia Williams
I’ve never had a pet rabbit, but over the years I’ve thought about getting one. Usually these thoughts come after seeing a picture of an adorable, fluffy bunny. Like kittens and puppies, baby rabbits have a cuteness that is hard to resist. Once, I seriously entertained the idea of getting a pet rabbit after seeing some baby bunnies in a pet store. But I was on vacation out of state and it wasn’t practical, so I went home bunny-less. I have, however, done considerable research on whether rabbits make good pets. Since July is “Adopt-a-Rescued-Rabbit Month” I thought I’d tell you some of my findings, in case you are considering getting a pet rabbit.
What I’ve learned is that rabbits can make great pets, but they are not for everyone. This is true of just about any pet, I suppose, but rabbits in particular. I’ve read lots of glowing pro-rabbit testimonials, and just as many anti-rabbit diatribes that called them “ill-tempered, destructive and unrewarding animals.”
Here’s the thing: whether rabbits make good pets or not largely depends upon what you are expecting or wanting from a pet, and how you personally define what being a “good pet” means. A rabbit may or may not fulfill this expectation. Though some rabbits do form strong bonds with humans and enjoy being petted and groomed, others are quite anti-social and prefer to be left alone. Moreover, most rabbits do not tolerate being held and do not like to sit on laps.
Although rabbits might seem like an easy, low-maintenance “starter pet,” they aren’t. Pet rabbits require much more care than a dog or cat. Rabbits that will be kept indoors require that you do extensive bunny proofing of your home. Even then, rabbits can’t be left unsupervised in the house, due to their tendency to investigate and chew on things like books, clothes, furniture and power cords. Indoor rabbits need a large cage equipped with a litter box, chew toys and enough space so that the rabbit doesn’t feel confined. Outside rabbits need to be kept in a hutch or they will dig holes in your yard and destroy your vegetable and flower gardens.
Like cats, rabbits can easily be house trained to use a “litter box.” Whether they actually use the box consistently enough to be allowed to roam around your home, is debatable. Some rabbit owners say their bunnies are very good about using their box, while others say their pet bunny leaves droppings all over the house.
Rabbits do not provide the same level of interactivity that you’d get with a dog or cat. However, rabbits do like to play with toys, and can be entertaining to watch. Rabbits have very distinct personalities and have been described as “playful and silly like puppies or kittens, independent, fascinating, loyal and openly affectionate.” Rabbits can learn to respond to their names and to simple words. Many long-time rabbit owners also claim that domestic bunny pets are every bit as smart as cats and dogs, in their own way.
If you’re thinking about adopting a bunny, the most important thing you can do as a responsible pet owner is to thoroughly research the pros and cons of rabbits as pets. Like any other pet, rabbits deserve to be in a home where their human family is well prepared for everything it offers, good and bad. There are many sites online that can help you determine if a rabbit would be a good pet for you. Two that are very comprehensive and a good place to start your research are the House Rabbit Society and Petfinder. Both of these sites have detailed information on training, grooming and handling rabbits, socialization, behavior and medical issues, rabbit proofing your home and more.
Read more articles by Julia Williams