Things to Know Before Adopting a Rabbit

Things to Know Before Adopting a Rabbit

Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD

Rabbits are becoming increasingly popular as pets. In the United States, there is an estimated 5.3 million pet rabbits in about 2.2 million households. Their popularity stems from the fact that they are cute, quiet, fun to play with, small, and thought to be easy to take care of. Read this article to learn the things you should know before adopting a rabbit.

Why Adopt a Rabbit?

Rabbits can form close bonds with their owners and are thought to be the perfect pet for people who live in apartments or other more confined living quarters. They also come in all shapes and sizes—with nearly 50 breeds recognized by the American Rabbit Breeders Association—and are often readily available from shelters and breeders across the country.

The problem is, due to their cuteness, cuddliness, and perceived lack of maintenance, many people will rush into buying a rabbit impulsively. They do this without understanding fully what they are getting themselves into and without knowing the specific care or supplies that rabbits require. Most just assume that rabbits are probably the same as caring for a cat or dog.

History of Adopting Rabbits as Pets

Rabbits have long been a source of food and fur for humans across the world. In Western countries, however, people began to also keep them as pets starting in the 19th century. What drew people towards them was there distinctive personalities. They can be as playful and silly as puppies or kittens, as independent and fascinating as cats, or as loyal and openly affectionate as dogs. And long-time rabbit owners claim that domestic rabbits are, in their own way, every bit as smart as cats and dogs.

Just as there are “cat people” and “dog people”, rabbit owners will say that there are “rabbit people” as well. A rabbit person is often defined as someone who enjoys observing as much as handling, and who does not get overly upset at a rabbit’s natural tendencies, such as chewing and digging.

With all that said, even if you think you may be a “rabbit person”, there are some things you should know before adopting a rabbit.

Rabbits Have Relatively Long Lifespans

Before adopting a rabbit, you should understand the commitment you are getting yourself into. Most house rabbits will live for between eight and twelve years, which is quite a bit longer than many other small animal pets. You should be prepared to house, feed, and care for your bunny companion for at least that long.

Rabbits Aren’t the Best for Small Children

Although they can develop close bonds with their owners, rabbits are also small, relatively delicate, and can frighten easily. If they are spooked or handled incorrectly by a young child, they may kick, bite, or scratch out of fear. When being handled, rabbits need to be supported in both their front and hindquarters or they can hurt their spine. If you have small kids and are thinking of adopting a rabbit, ensure they know how to properly carry and interact with them.

Rabbits Love Chewing

Similar to dogs, rabbits also don’t always know the difference between what they are supposed to chew on and what they are not supposed to chew on. To avoid them chewing on things you don’t want them to and to keep them from harming themselves, everywhere your rabbit has access to should be “rabbit proof”.

Give your bunny things to chew on like toys, chew sticks, or even cardboard boxes, but keep them away from things like electrical cords, books, and furniture. Rabbits are very curious and persistent creatures and will find their way into things you don’t want them to if you’re not careful.

Rabbits Need Exercise

Rabbits don’t need to be walked like dogs, but they do time outside of their cages every day to let out energy and get some exercise. If you’re thinking of adopting a rabbit, it’s important to understand that movement and exercise helps them with digestion, prevents weight gain, and they enjoy engaging in their natural, instinctual activities like running and jumping on top of things.

Bunnies Have their Own Personalities

As we mentioned earlier, rabbits all have distinct personalities, just like people and just like dogs and cats. Some are reserved and quiet, while others are energetic, outgoing, and like to push the bounds of your patience. Before adopting a rabbit, it’s a good idea to take some time getting to know the animal, their demeanor, and their personality to make sure they mesh well with you and your family.

Not All Rabbits Get Along

If you already own a rabbit and are thinking of adopting another, you should ensure that both animals meet on “neutral” ground to see if they get along. Rabbits that are housed in the same cage should be spayed or neutered to reduce aggressive behavior and unwanted little bunnies.

Rabbit Housing

Bunnies are social animals, but also need a place where they can relax on their own when they want to. This makes the placement of your rabbits cage in your house, apartment, or condo a very important consideration. You want to make sure your rabbit has a place to relax by himself but is not completely secluded from the family, as they need plenty of social interaction and enjoy being near you.

Nutrition for Your Rabbit

It’s crucial that you know what to feed your pet rabbit. Proper nutrition is essential for a rabbit’s (and every animal’s) happiness and well being. They require high fiber diets and need to consume large amounts of grass and hay every single day. A healthy daily should include unlimited amounts of timothy or other grass hay plus a smaller amount of leafy green vegetables. These could include romaine lettuce, carrot tops, endive, basil, kale, cabbage, radicchio, wheat grass, squash, brussels sprouts, parsley, pea pods (not loose peas), and collard, beet, or dandelion greens.

Conclusion: Find a Rabbit Companion Today

Adopting a rabbit can be a great idea for both you and your family. Follow our tips and best practices to ensure you are ready for a pet rabbit and so that you both get the most out of your relationship with one another.