Article written and submitted by Sandra Lee from Wheek Wheek Thump
So it’s pretty much that time of year again -
When people begin to realize that bunnies DO exist as pets…decide they need one… for their children… because a bunny is like a hamster….. right? Wrong!
Wake up and smell the fresh air. Bunnies are living, breathing animals. Not only do they need to be cared for properly but almost always by an adult. You want your child to be responsible? Bring them to volunteer at your local Humane Society with the bunnies! Before making the decision to bring a pet rabbit into your home for good. As they are called Forever Homes for a reason!
Number One: Baby Bunnies do grow. They may seem cute, adorable, and fluffy – BUT are you going to think they’re still cute, adorable, and fluffy when those awful things called hormones start kicking in? And they will. Your little adorable fluffball can turn into a monster overnight. Marking territory, tearing and chewing everything in site. That’s just the beginning. Are you going to be able to afford to get this little terror neutered or spayed? If not, then stop right there. Female rabbits need to be spayed. With an 80% chance of developing uterine cancer before the age of four – it is a must to keeping your baby happy and healthy. Those horrible habits of a hormonal bunny are not going to stop until they are neutered… so don’t be surprised when your 4 month old baby starts acting like a lunatic. Expect this.
Just like you expect your teenage child to act like a rebel – your bunny is a living, growing, maturing animal and this happens. Luckily for you, spaying/neutering almost always does the trick. Another point to your bunny growing – they grow. What is a 1 lb. baby when you take him home can be anywhere from 2lbs. to 20 lbs. full-grown. Again. expect this. If you can’t handle or don’t have the room for a 20 lb. bunny then you need to do your research and find a bunny that fits your requirements and home arrangement.
Number Two: Bunnies have sensitive tummies. very sensitive tummies. And need a very strict diet to remain healthy. Understand this. And realize YOU as the parent need to keep this diet regulated and on track – because the child you just bought this baby bunny for probably won’t understand this. Or will forget. As kids do. But your new furbaby needs this diet to remain healthy and strong. If you get a baby bunny – they need unlimited alfalfa hay, unlimited alfalfa pellets, water, and will need to be slowly introduced to different kinds of veggies when they hit about 3 months old.
If you get a adult bunny – they will need unlimited timothy, orchard grass, or oat hay and they will need about 2 cups of veggies (recommended veggies, yes there’s a specific list on the House Rabbit Society website that is AMAZING! BTW, Carrots are not on this list.) per 6 lbs. daily, they will need between 1/4-1/2 cup pellets per 6 lbs. of body weight daily (not alfalfa pellets but timothy pellets), and unlimited hay and water.
Introducing vegetables is tricky. If you’re not sure what your adult rabbit has been previously fed, you will need to re-introduce everything. You do this by introducing one new recommended vegetable a week. Then you must monitor his poos to ensure his body isn’t reacting negatively to the vegetable. If he is, you must eliminate that veggie and put it on a no-list. (Don’t expect your child to do this either).
Treats are to be very monitored. Treats like Craisins and Nibble Rings are great as are small pieces of recommended veggies or fruits on the House Rabbit Society List. Most of the treats you can buy at pet stores are filled with CRAP and shockingly, horrible for a rabbit. So stick to the House Rabbit Society List!
Number Three: Bunnies need check-ups. Your bunny should be receiving a vet visit as soon as you bring your furball home. Bunnies are very good at hiding health issues so a perfectly healthy bunny may become lethargic and need emergency care within only a few hours. So this vet visit IS important. Especially if your bunny comes from a pet store. Pet stores are known for their bad care of rabbits – so if you do impulsively buy one from a pet store then vet right away. Your vet will also be able to help you determine the diet your bun bun should be on – so if the information above was overwhelming – your vet can help with this!
Bunnies, although very cute, can also be prone to many different problems. Smushy face breeds tend to have prominent teeth issues while loppy-eared buns are known for ear infections. Expect this and work it into your monthly budget in case an emergency pops up and your bunny needs medical help.
Care Credit is also a GREAT credit card to apply for – you can use it to help pay your bill if you don’t have the money and they have a great system in place so you can make monthly payments with no interest rates. For example, we had a $500 vet bill – we used the Care Credit and paid a certain amount per month for 6 months with no interest charges. It was perfect and can be perfect for those emergencies you just aren’t expecting. So expect them – and make a savings or get a Care Credit (or another) credit card.
Also, expect a yearly check-up. Your child gets one. Your bunny gets one. That’s just the way of it is when you make the decision to bring a living, breathing being into your home.
Number Four: Bunnies are fragile. In big bold letters. FRAGILE. Rabbits are sensitive in just about every way possible. Small bones. Very skittish. Don’t expect your bunny to like to be held. So your child and family needs to understand this. No holding the bunny. If he wants attention, he will come up to you and ask for it. Bad scenario of child picking up the bunny: child picks up bunny, bunny kicks, bunny kicks hard, bunny kicks so hard he snaps his spine. Yes, this is possible. Be aware of this. If there is a reason that your bunny absolutely needs to be picked up – there are special ways to do this. Bunny Burrito. Google it. Works wonders.
At all times bunny legs need to be supported and held close to your body so they can’t kick. Bunnies are prey animals. Being picked up is almost the same feeling as being picked up to be eaten. It freaks them out. And if you have researched your new little ball of joy – you know a rabbit freaking out is stressful. And stressful bunnies can become lethargic and sick. Keep bunny feet on the ground!
Number Five: Bunnies do not live in pet-store cages. Contrary to the belief, a pet-store sized cage is NOT big enough for a rabbit. Even the XXXXL ones. Not big enough. An easy solution to this is an x-pen or to build a bunny condo. Google it – very easy, cheap, and you can make a really adorable happy home for your new family member. Again, do not give this chore to your child. As the parent you need to be in charge of this.
Bunny should be able to stand on his back paws and stretch up without touching the top of the cage. He should have adequate room to move around in. I’m going to say 6X6 is a good starting point. 4X4 is the bare minimum. As you can image, the bigger the bunny the more space he needs. Do not put a 4X4 enclosure around a Flemmie (20 lb. rabbit). It will not work. And you will have a very angry bunny who is always trying to escape. And escape they will. Rabbits are little escape artists. So be sure to rabbit-proof.
Number Six: Socialization. Bunnies are extremely social creatures. Granted they do sleep a lot during the day and their most active times are in the morning and late night-time. But they are social, social, social. You will need to give your bunny attention. He needs interaction. Even the most unsocial bunny needs interaction. So don't say your bunny does not like company and leave him in his pen. Bunnies will become curious about you even if you just sit in their area and talk to them or even just read a book without forcing yourself on them.
Most bunnies hate love being forced on to them. So find ways to interact that your bunny enjoys. He doesn’t like pets but maybe he likes when you give him a ball and he throws it and you give it back and he throws it again. Maybe he would like to learn how to do a trick for a treat. A healthy treat. Just because your bunny may not like to be held or pet (some do, some don’t) doesn’t mean interacting with him is impossible. Get down on his level and let him get to know you. Find things he enjoys and then use those things to get closer to him.
Number Seven: Aggression. I heard someone say something the other day and it explained my feelings on rabbits and aggression fully. “I’ve never met an aggressive rabbit.” Aggression is usually fear. A rabbit gets aggressive, it’s most likely because something you did is making him nervous or fearful. (Or hormonal – NEUTER/SPAY THOSE BUNNIES!!). If something upsets your bunny – find a way to do it differently. A good reason your child should not be given the task of handling the bunny – until you as the parent can figure out what upsets the bunny. If you have a bunny that doesn’t like you inside his condo (very common problem) then learn to get your bunny out with a treat or play time and close the door so the bun doesn’t become aggressive of his area.
Bunnies can become aggressive of areas because these are the places they feel safe. When they are scared, they will find comfort in their homes. When someone else messes with it – it can take away the feeling of it being their “safe place”. You need to respect this. As prey, they need a place to feel safe and secure. A huge part of having a bunny is understanding their behavior and why they do the things they do. Research!
Number Eight: Litter-Training. Bunnies are easily litter-trained. But baby bunnies are almost impossible to litter train as soon as those hormones start to kick in. So be prepared for this. Your four-month old isn’t using the potty – it’s not his fault. Just like it’s not your bunnies fault that his hormones are ranging and he’s doing what bunnies do! SPAY/NEUTER. This will make litter-training SOOOOO much easier. Rabbits almost always find one place to do their business. Figure out this spot and put a litter box there.
Accidents? Throw poos in the litter box so they get the hint and when they urinate – swipe up with a paper towel and throw the paper towel in the box. Then thoroughly clean the area with something strong like vinegar. (Side note: Vinegar is great on rabbit urine. It comes out of my carpet immediately and you can’t see a thing – and I have cream colored carpet so it works.)
Another mistake new bunny parents make – lining their area with bedding and litter in the litter box. Nope. The bunny will think the bedding is litter too! Lay down a few towels if you want your bun to have something comfortable to lay on. But putting down bedding like CareFresh outside the litter box will only confuse your bunny. Make sure it stays IN the litter box!
Number Nine: ADOPT! Adopt a bunny. I don’t just say this because rescuing is a great thing to do. I say this for a number of reasons. I say this from experience and horror stories I have heard from others. Pet stores. Big no-no. I can honestly say I’ve never been into a pet store selling a bunny that had good conditions or was the bunny in spectacular health. I have been in numerous pet stores where the bunnies are not even fed hay, a staple of a bunnies diet. They are caged in small houses where they can barely move. Or put in a small area with a ton of other baby bunnies looking for homes. As adorable and as cute as they are – they are usually sick.
One of the pet stores I went into had a bunny with a horrible upper-respiratory infection. No one on the staff seemed to care. I called Animal Services. Someone else I know bought all three of her babies from a pet store. Two of them died. And she was terrified and heart broken that the third would also. Thankfully, the third one is still doing very well but it is heart-breaking.
And yes, you may say you want to buy from there to save the bunny and give him a good home and if this is the way you would like to go then go about it a different way – call your local rescue and have them go in and get the animals surrendered to them. A rescue almost always has a vet that can access these babies and get them the care they need faster than you as an individual and inexperienced bunny owner may be able to do. And in this scenario you are hopefully saving them all and not just one.
Once they have cleared the bunny you were interested in – then adopt your new baby from the rescue. Go about buying a bunny the responsible way is all I ask. Buying a bunny from a pet store – will ultimately just get another bunny bought from a rabbit mill and stuck in his place.
Breeders. I have my reservations about this. I will honestly admit three of my bunnies came from one breeder when we got our first three – the Tans. I love my babies and would not give them up for anything. But I was new to bunnies (had done very little research) and thought I wanted a baby I could raise from birth. While this is all good and dandy – and I expect a lot of people think this – I didn’t expect even a 1/4 of what a bunny was when my first rabbit came home. Especially a baby. Not at all. My baby was A LOT more work and effort than I ever thought possible.
Breeders do things differently. And a lot of times the bunnies are kept in horrible conditions. Thankfully, my bunnies came from a breeder that is very open about everything she does with her rabbits and you can tell they have a better life than most in breeding operations. But I would not advocate getting a bunny from a breeder – ever. They are usually kept in horribly small cages with no run-time and are used only for breeding and showing where they live horribly stressed lives and die very young. And most of these rabbits end up in rescues anyways.
There is no excuse for advocating for breeders. Rescues are over-populated with bunnies as it is – adopt. You say you want a baby? Tons of rescues have babies!! Find a baby and adopt! Rescues get one-on-one personal with these bunnies – they can tell you their personalities and behaviors and help you find a bunny that fits you and your home perfectly. Bunnies of all sizes, breeds, ages, ect. are all over these shelters and need good homes. ADOPT. ADOPT. ADOPT. (A side benefit of adopting – I’ve never heard of a rescue ever letting a baby go home without you signing a contract saying you will bring it back at 6 months of age to be spayed/neutered. FREE SPAY/NEUTER?! How could you really say no?) Adopt!
I really do have to add: My fourth bunny Simba was adopted from a rescue. He had been found as a stray, had surgery, and was sent to a foster home. Seeing my baby boy run around binkying and happy was one of the greatest feelings of my life. Knowing my new little boy will never have to worry or fear for his life again and will always have food, water, and people who love him really makes me tear up in happiness. ADOPT! It is a wonderful feeling.
If you’ve read this – and are still considering thinking about a bunny – WHOOP!! Bunnies all over the world need good homes who have done research and are willing to still open up their hearts to them. If you’re a parent wanting to buy an Easter bunny – try making it a family pet rather than your childs responsibility. You can teach your child responsibility while ensuring that they learn everything they need and the bunny is getting everything he needs to be happy and healthy.
Don’t forget – ADOPT!
Article written and submitted by Sandra Lee from Wheek Wheek Thump