I’m a little late for this one, but I didn’t want to wait until next April to talk about Rabbit care and how Easter (I love the holiday as much as the next person) does all of our cute, cuddly, critters a disservice. I’ve also seen rabbits at fairs or carnivals to be won like the stuffed toys they resemble.
I want to talk about why it is bad to bring yourself home a cute little bunny rabbit that you decide to get at the feed store because there is a blow-out sale around Easter. Or a rabbit that you win at a fair and suddenly now have to take care of.
Don’t get me wrong! Rabbits can make great pets. They are super cute, and soft and they really have interesting personalities. I advocate against Easter Bunnies because most people getting them through this avenue have no clue what they are getting themselves into. Rabbits, like most species of pet, need some thorough research on husbandry (how they are cared for) before they are purchased.
Here is one of my famous (and brief) checklists why Rabbits should be treated with the respect they deserve!
1. They should not be fed this:
If you can see what this mix actually has in it, there are some oddly shaped kibble-things, and some seeds, all mixed in together.
Rabbits have a need for a very specific diet that should center around roughage. Namely, Timothy hay kept in the cage at all times. There are many reasons for this. Aside from it being high in fiber, which is essential to a rabbit’s GI tract, a rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing. Timothy hay helps to keep them worn down. If they get too much of other kinds of food and their teeth aren’t worn down properly, they can develop what’s called points. Points are basically just what they sound like. The teeth are worn down unevenly and the points can cause all sort of problems.
Hay needs to be kept in an air-tight container away from light and should smell fresh and sweet with no dampness or areas of contamination associated with it.
Other acceptable types of roughage that should be added to the diet can be leafy greens and herbs. Any green should be dark and leafy (see website below for a list, and tips in introducing new foods). Other types of vegetables and fruits should be treats.
The commercial treats out there should be avoided. Most of them are high in starches and fat which can throw off the rabbit’s digestive system.
Some sort of commercial pelleted mix isn’t horrible, but you want it to be Timothy hay based, without useless additives like seeds or dried bits of fruit. Commercial pellets should be given (and measured) as merely a supplement to the diet, not the main event.
2. Rabbits are very mischievous!
It is much preferable for rabbits to be kept indoors. They make great indoors pets. However, keeping them indoors often means you will take them out to interact with them (which is a great idea). Rabbits are curious and love to chew on inappropriate things. Your house (or designated play area) needs to be rabbit-proofed and even then, watching them while out of their cage is a great idea.
Their cages should be efficient to clean and have plenty of areas for them to get off of the wire so they don’t develop sores on their feet.
Rabbits left to their own devices will chew on wallpaper, furniture, carpets and anything else that strikes their fancy. If they actually eat any of these things, blockages can occur.
Rabbits needs stimulation and exercise. It is not appropriate to buy a small cage for a rabbit and leave it in there day in and day out. Rabbits benefit from human stimulation just like a cat or dog would.
3. Rabbits need to be indoors.
As mentioned above, it is best to have a rabbit indoors. Outdoors they are more prone to things like intestinal parasites, injury, ingestion of inappropriate materials and fly strike. Oftentimes, it is harder to keep track of a rabbit that is outdoors (as in, keep an eye on how it is doing and keep them clean).
Fly strike bears some elaboration because it is so horrible. Rabbits that are outdoors have a greater opportunity to attract flies. The conditions that attract flies are warmth, moisture, and odor. If the rabbit is overweight, unable to clean himself due to some sort of disability, has some sort of small wound area, has loose stools or just isn’t kept clean enough, flies can take the opportunity and lay eggs on the rabbit itself. These eggs hatch into what everyone knows as your friendly neighborhood maggot. In a surprisingly short amount of time, what could have started out as some feces stuck to the hair around the rump can turn into a maggot infestation. Left untreated, or treated too late, rabbits can die from shock and infection.
This isn’t to stay that they can’t be kept outdoors. One must be much more diligent to ensure that the rabbit is cared for properly.
4. Early Detection
If y’all have read any of my posts before, you know that I am a big advocate of early detection. This is true in our rabbits as well. Yearly examinations are a great way to ensure that your rabbit is healthy. Stool checks to detect the presence of intestinal parasites are also a good idea.
Another reason to keep your rabbit indoors is so that you can keep track of their habits. Rabbits are perpetual digestive systems. They pretty much need to be eating and pooping at all times. Once a rabbit has something interrupt GI motility or develops some sort of other illness, the longer it goes untreated, the harder it is to treat. At the first signs that your rabbit isn’t eating, or it isn’t producing as much (or normal) stools as usual, (or any other abnormalities) it should be seen by a Vet.
I didn’t even go into common illnesses or the benefits of getting them spayed/neutered (there are many).
I don’t want this to come across that I don’t like rabbits as pets or that they don’t make good pets. I just want to convey to anyone interested that they should do their research and not get one because they drew the squeaky duck out of the water bin that had the winning rabbit on it.
The rabbit owners that I’ve met who have gone out an adopted a rabbit or purchased one because they are passionate about the species are awesome. They have an enthusiasm that I love seeing. I learn so much about how interesting their personalities are (you haven’t lived until you see a rabbit try to “pounce” you with its front paws because it doesn’t want you changing out its dirty towel for a clean one) by talking to the owners who love them
Want more? I thought so! This website goes into the long version of rabbit care since this was meant to be a “best of” list to demonstrate why they aren’t “disposable” pets.