The Real Deal on Pet Rabbits
Thinking of giving a bunny for Easter? Here's what you need to know to plan ahead.
Train Them to Live Indoors
Like puppies, rabbits sleep in cages or crates, and like cats, they can be litter-box trained. Connie Cowan, manager of the Alabama chapter of The House Rabbit Society, suggests that owners create an indoor pen with the rabbit's litter box, hideaway space, and food and water crocks. Make a litter box by lining a washable container with layers of newspaper topped with hay.
Give Them Time to Adjust
Rabbits are timid creatures by nature, but they will begin to warm up to you once they feel comfortable. Because they're ground-loving animals, Cowan recommends sitting on the floor at the rabbit's level and gently petting and patting him as he acclimates to his new environment. Caution children against cuddling too closely with a new bunny. A tight hug can frighten him and prolong his transition period.
Activities are Important
You must provide rabbits with plenty of mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom and depression. Items like old telephone books and cardboard boxes offer hours of entertainment. Pet stores also sell toys designed to satisfy their natural digging and chewing tendencies. We especially love the Rosewood Bunny Fun Tree ($24.25; amazon.com). It provides your rabbit with a designated place to scratch and chew.
Think Beyond the Bunny
Rabbits have a life span that ranges from 7 to 14 years, so be prepared to care for them that long. Before you make a purchase, research the breed you're getting. For instance, a full-grown dwarf rabbit weighs about 2 pounds, while an adult giant rabbit can grow to over 11 pounds. Longer-haired breeds, like Angoras, also require a lot of grooming.
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Don't Forget the Vet
Rabbits require consistent medical care, including spaying or neutering procedures and annual checkups. Additionally, owners should be aware of common health issues seen in rabbits such as intestinal stasis, bladder stones, conjunctivitis, overgrown teeth, and "snuffles" (a bacterial disease causing upper respiratory symptoms and abscesses).
Because rabbits are considered exotic pets, some veterinarians may have more knowledge and experience than others. It's sensible to interview different vets to find the right one to care for your bunny.