Unfortunately too many people will buy a rabbit and quickly realize that caring for a rabbit requires a great deal of time and effort. Since Easter is right around the corner, I would encourage you to wait until after the holiday and consider adopting a rabbit from the Humane Society or the House Rabbit Society. In the mean time, ask yourself these questions: Are you prepared to provide the proper care for an animal whose lifespan is 8 – 12 years? Are you prepared for the expense of veterinary care that could be needed for a house rabbit? Can you provide adequate food and housing for the rabbit? Do you have the time to properly care for a pet rabbit?
Rabbits make wonderful pets. Most rabbits adopted from a shelter or rescue group will be spayed or neutered. This eliminates one of the biggest expenses encountered by new owners but spaying/neutering also protects a rabbit’s health. Female rabbits are highly susceptible to an aggressive form uterine cancer. Also, rabbit behavior is affected by hormonal compulsions to breed rapidly: Males may spray and mount constantly. Females may become highly territorial and aggressive.
House Rabbits are just that: They belong indoors. NEVER keep a house rabbit outdoors.
Rabbits are curious and social but they do need their own space: Wire cages with solid, no-slip surfaces or multi-level indoor hutches are best. Rabbits need 3 to 6 hours of daily exercise outside their cage and they are most active in the morning and evening hours. Electrical cords and house plants are tempting and dangerous for rabbits so, keep bunny in an appropriate cage or enclosure when you are not around to supervise.
Hay is important to your house rabbit’s diet as a food source. It also encourages good toilet habits when placed in your rabbit’s litter pan. Fresh vegetables also play an important role in keeping your rabbit happy and healthy. Rabbit’s need unlimited access to water that is changed daily. Fresh water is essential in maintaining healthy kidney, bladder, and digestive functions. You should also examine your rabbit frequently for signs/symptoms of illness.
Rabbits do not require vaccines like dog and cats do, but I do recommend an annual exam with a rabbit-knowledgeable veterinarian. Also, have a plan in place for emergency care if your rabbit becomes ill after hours or needs hospitalization for more than a day. I recommend locating an experienced rabbit vet in advance, before an emergency occurs. It is also good to have a back-up vet. Any time you notice unusual lumps/bumps, fur loss, abnormally small feces, diarrhea, gas or gurgling sounds in the abdomen, inability to defecate, hunched posture, prolonged sitting in litter pan, loud teeth grinding or your rabbit just doesn’t seem right, call your veterinarian or the local emergency clinic that your veterinarian recommends immediately.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all of this information. Rabbits make wonderful pets for the right family but do your homework first: NEVER get a pet on an impulse and NEVER get a pet as a gift for someone else! If you are interested in adopting or purchasing a rabbit, but have never had a house rabbit before, I recommend that you visit www.wisconsinhrs.org and read the Rabbit Care Guidelines. The guidelines contain information that will help you decide if a rabbit is the right companion animal for your household and lifestyle.