We’ve been a “bunny family” for 8+ months now, and there’s still things we learn every day. When we first started looking into adopting a rabbit, it was a huge learning curve. Pretty much everything you think you know about raising rabbits is wrong, and there’s so much more to learn. Stepping into the world of owning rabbits is best done when you have realistic expectations of what how much work and time it takes to raise one, realistic expectations for the temperament of your new furry friend, and realistic expectations for the cost of caring for one.
(Photo above of Ginger as a baby!)
1 | Rabbits are NOT cuddly. Yes, they are adorable. Yes, they are playful. Yes, they (depending on personality) like to be pet. But they do NOT like to be held and cuddled. This is one thing we did not know going into our rabbit journey, and it made the bonding process between us and our first rabbit, Peanut Butter, take so much longer. As prey animals, being picked up can terrify them. It triggers a natural instinct of being picked up by a predator and will likely cause an aggressive reaction (scratch, bite, or just be plain terrified). It also ruins any trust you had built with the rabbit (so important to the bonding process). Bonding (or building a relationship) with a rabbit takes time and SO much patience. With our first rabbit, it took 4-5 weeks before he felt comfortable around us and didn’t try to hide. **One thing I hear so often is that people re-home their rabbits after being bitten. They bite if they are in pain or if they fear for their life and it’s NOT their fault. They could also potentially bite if they’re pregnant or have newborn kits. Note: We have never, ever been bitten by any (we have 3) of our rabbits.
2 | Rabbits need space. They are not happy in a hutch (even large ones). They need space to run, jump, and play. In my opinion, it is abusive to keep a rabbit in a cage. Their “living area” needs to be at least 10 ft by 6 ft. But, most house trained rabbits have free roam of house, just like a dog or cat would.
3 | Rabbits can be litter-box trained. Just like cats, rabbits can be trained to use a litter box (we use a dish pan and Yesterday’s News cat litter). They go pee in their litter box 100% of the time and go poop in it about 85% of the time. Rabbits poop CONSTANTLY so sometimes it’s hard for them to make it back in time, and sometimes they’re too busy playing and having fun to worry about pooping in the right spot! This should be a realistic expectation you have for them. (Our kids know to quickly pick up the tiny poops and throw the poop into the litter box if our bunnies happen to have a little accident!)
4 | Rabbits aren’t “easy” to look after. Some people think that caring for a rabbit is similar to caring for a pet hamster or gineau pig. I would equate caring for a rabbit to caring for a dog or cat. They require 24/7 access to fresh hay and water (so we check and re-fill every day), we do morning pellets and evening fresh veggies. We clean out their litter box every 2-3 days (or it can start to smell). They crave companionship and attention.
5 | Rabbits don’t (or maybe I should say… shouldn’t) smell. This is another common misconception about rabbits. A lot of my followers tell me that they want a rabbit but they’re worried about the smell! Rabbits are actually incredibly clean animals. They self-clean and do not require baths because they bathe themselves (similar to cats). What can get smelly, is their pee, if you’re not on top of changing their bedding and/or litter box. Most people change it every week, but we like to change their litter every 2-3 days, just to keep it as fresh as possible.
6 | Rabbits are (typically) not pets for children. We are so lucky that our 3 rabbits do wonderfully with our children, but it definitely just depends on their personalities. Having rabbits is a learning curve for children, because children see this cute, cuddly-looking, furry animal and just hold to hold them. My children know not to pick up our rabbits, but to sit on the floor during play-time and let the rabbits come up to them, hop on them, etc. but to never pick them up. Some children, especially younger, may not be able to grasp this. Also, if you’re getting a rabbit “for your child”, please keep in mind that YOU (the adult) will be the one taking care of it. They require lots of things that young children shouldn’t be expected to give and to remember.
7 | Rabbits aren’t “cheap” pets. To adopt one, it’s pretty inexpensive, ranging from $25-$120. But vet bills can be quite expensive (and rabbits are prone to injury and sickness). With rabbits, you can’t go to a regular vet, you have to go to an exotic animal vet. Rabbit neuters (male) range from $75-$150 and rabbit spays (female) range from $200-$400. They also require 24/7 access to fresh hay (which adds up!), water, pellets, fresh vegetables (and be sure to research what rabbits can and CANNOT have) daily!
8 | Rabbits should be neutered or spayed. Female rabbits have a high risk of developing cancer and getting spayed can help prevent this. Getting fixed can also help male and female rabbits that are exhibiting signs of aggression, or “going through puberty”. Getting fixed can also help with “spraying” and rabbits who have trouble litter box training. (Side note: our rabbits all litter box trained just fine, even before getting fixed!) It’s also incredibly important to fix your rabbits if you have a male and a female. Females can give birth 12x a year (their gestation timeframe is 30 days) and they can give birth in the morning and then get pregnant AGAIN later that day.
9 | Rabbits can live up to 12 years. So keep that in mind when your 12 year old wants a pet rabbit. Will they still be interested in five years? Ten years??? Who will take care of the rabbit if they get a job or go to college? Lots of things to think about!
10 | Rabbits typically need a companion. But, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Males can fight (sometimes resulting in major injury), and male/female is the best bet for companionship but can result in babies if they aren’t fixed. Our bonded pair, Peanut Butter and Coconut, live and breathe for each other. They are inseparable. It makes me SO happy that they have each other. They sleep together, groom each other, play together, etc. It is amazing. Our other rabbit, Ginger, is separated from them because he and Peanut Butter fight. We hope someday to be able to bond the three of them (once Ginger gets neutered, he’s a bit too young currently)!
(Photo above of our toddler feeding fresh veggies to Peanut Butter and Coconut, our bonded pair.)
Having rabbits isn’t for everyone and THAT IS OKAY! What is so important is to know what you’re getting into, before jumping in, so your precious rabbit doesn’t end up having to be re-homed or in a shelter. The real joy in having rabbits, is watching them act like rabbits! And rabbits are HAPPIEST when they get to display those natural behaviors. Rabbits love to dig, run, binky (super cute little air flips!), forage, jump, groom themselves or their partners… we love watching them exist as their natural bunny-selves. We couldn’t imagine our lives without Peanut Butter, Coconut, and Ginger.
Now for some cute photos!!
Our 3 bunnies as babies (photos taken by breeders):
And our bunnies now!