Dusty hopped into my life on a sunny summer day nearly ten years ago. While walking a favorite rail-trail, I’d seen several domestic rabbit babies—perhaps abandoned, or born to a discarded (or escaped) doe—frolicking around some brambles and shyly dashing away from anyone who tried to catch them, including me. Thinking the adorable buns were doomed to be a dog’s play-toy or coyote’s supper, I sadly resumed my walk. When I revisited the trail a few days later with my husband and daughter, they had all disappeared—except one. A woman was holding him out for her children to pet: a baby bunny with soft gray fur.
“Wow, that’s great you caught him,” I said. “Are you going to keep him?”
She shook her head. “I was just going to let him go again.”
“Here,” I held out my hands. “I’ll take that bunny.”
And so Dusty—named for the dust-bunnies he resembled when he hid under a bed—came to live in our home. Today, our spoiled house bunny resides in a spacious homemade cage with a raised platform that gives him a garden view out the living room window. Each day he spends several hours outside his cage exploring the house, grooming (or harassing) our three cats, and napping in a patch of sunlight or in his special hiding spot behind the futon chair. Now nearing the end of a rabbit’s normal life span, Dusty continues to delight us—and sometimes challenge us—with his bunny-ish antics.
Not every pet rabbit, however, gets a similar chance at happily-ever-after.
Indeed, many bunnies—often bought on a whim around Easter—wind up in animal shelters when the cutesy babies hit their rambunctious adolescence. Other languish in outdoor hutches, deprived of proper care and companionship, or end up abandoned by owners who think they can fend for themselves. Before bringing a rabbit into your family, consider the following—both for bunny’s sake and your own:
Bunnies make poor Easter presents. Hectic holidays are rarely a good time to bring a new pet into your family. Opt for a chocolate or fluffy toy bunny instead.
Bunnies and young children don’t mix all that well. Contrary to their cuddly appearance, few rabbits enjoy being held, and those strong teeth and sharp claws can hurt a child. Likewise, bunnies are fragile and easily injured if mishandled. Keep in mind, too, that kids often become bored with pet care duties, so an adult must be the primary bun care-giver.
Bunnies need companionship and attention. These bright, social creatures shouldn’t be sentenced to solitary confinement in an outdoor hutch, where it’s difficult to give them the companionship and daily attention they need (I confess that we learned this the hard way). An active, indoor life is the kindest alternative, but do you have the time and patience to train and care for a house rabbit?
Bunnies require a proper diet and fresh, clean water. To stay healthy, a rabbit needs a proper diet that includes quality pellets, grass hay, and a variety of vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cilantro, and other greens. Apples, berries, and seeds make great treats, but in excess can lead to obesity. Fresh, clean water is also a must (no gunky green water bottles).
Bunnies should be spayed or neutered. This helps prevent behavioral problems like spraying and biting, plus altering your pet reduces the number of unwanted rabbits ending up in shelters.
Bunnies can be destructive. Rabbits can ravage your house by chewing on walls, electrical cords, and furniture. You’ll need to spend time bunny-proofing to protect your belongings and keep your rabbit safe.
Bunnies need exercise and grooming. Rabbits crave opportunities to run, play, dig, tunnel, and chew. They also require brushing, especially during shedding time, and regular toenail trims.
Bunnies can live 7 to 10 years–or longer. Can you commit to giving a bunny a lifetime of care and love?
For more information about these engaging, trainable pets, check out the House Rabbit Society’s website at http://rabbit.org/
Thanks for reading!