As we age, our physical and mental health become more vulnerable.
Staying up to the tasks of independent living and remaining mentally sharp takes more and more effort. Pets can help older people adjust to the limitations of their daily lives.
Pet rabbits are an ideal choice for many seniors, especially those who no longer have the energy or the ability to walk a dog.
In this article, we will discuss the many benefits of owning or sharing a pet for people in their golden years.
Then we will discuss the benefits of choosing a rabbit, which rabbits to choose, and how to make rabbit care easy for seniors.
Benefits of Pet Rabbits for Seniors
The National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 55 percent of Americans over the age of 65 own pets.
The poll found that 68 percent of senior citizens own dogs, 55 percent own cats, and 16 percent own small or exotic animals such as fish, birds, hamsters, and rabbits.
We think a lot more seniors would be happy owning rabbits.
Rabbits Come in Many Sizes
Many senior citizens downsize their homes. There just isn’t enough room for a horse or St. Bernard or iguana at the new place.
Most breeds of rabbits don’t really like being confined to your lap, although a Lionhead rabbit can be trained to enjoy sitting in your lap to be petted.
Many rabbits, however, enjoy snuggling next to you in your chair or on your couch. They are lightweight, so they won’t cause as many scratches and scrapes on thin, fragile skin,
Rabbits Are Quiet
Rabbits don’t bark. Even the American Fuzzy Lop, which has many of the same personality characteristics as a cat, won’t meow.
Rabbits won’t wake you up during your nap or after you go to bed at night.
They do make some soft sounds to communicate with you (the famous “rabbit scream” is very rare), but they never intrude on your peace and quiet with noise.
And they won’t bother your neighbors, either.
Also read: What Noises Do Rabbits Hate?
Rabbits are Low-Maintenance
For seniors looking for an easy-going pet, rabbits are an excellent choice. They don’t require as much attention or exercise as dogs or cats, making it easier for seniors to care for them.
Rabbits are clean animals that groom themselves, which means you don’t have to worry about giving them baths.
Plus, they can be litter-trained so that they only make a mess in designated areas.
To keep your rabbit happy and healthy, you need to provide fresh food, water, and clean living space, which is manageable for most seniors.
Rabbits Can Be Trained to Use a Litter Box
You will never hear a rabbit scratching at the door because it needs to go outdoors to pee or poop.
Rabbits are easily trained to use a litter box.
House training a rabbit does require picking up the rabbit’s soft poops and putting them in the litter box for a week or two. (Rabbits eat them after they have had a few hours to ferment in the open air to release protein and fat from grass.)
Seniors or someone who helps them with housekeeping chores will have to clean and sterilize the litter box regularly.
But rabbits keep themselves clean and avoid making a mess in indoor spaces with proper training.
Rabbits Are Minimally Allergenic
Lots of people are allergic to cats and dogs, but very few are allergic to rabbits.
Chances are, even if you have allergies to other animals, a rabbit will not pose a problem for you.
Also read: Which Rabbit Breed Sheds the Least?
Rabbits Can Learn to Come When You Call Their Name
Your pet rabbit can learn to come when called.
It will learn to play with simple toys to give it and you endless hours of entertainment.
You May Be Able to Care for Your Rabbit for the Rest of Its Life
Losing a pet is traumatic for pet owners at any age. Losing an owner is traumatic for pets.
Rabbits generally live for 5 to 10 years, long enough for a senior to have many happy years with their pet but not so long that you will need to find a guardian for your rabbit when you go through your own transitions.
Pets Aren’t Just Companions for Seniors
An obvious reason for keeping a pet for any senior citizen, especially a senior citizen who is living alone or who isn’t able to get out anymore, is companionship.
Pets are a reliable company. They are always there to show love, affection, and a listening ear—even though there are limits to how much we can even imagine that our pets understand.
But that’s not all.
Pets Help Seniors Socialize with Other People
Pets are a great conversation starter. Children may come up to an older adult and ask about an unusual pet. What kind of unusual pet?
Consider the possibilities in rabbits. Children will be fascinated by a Teddywidder rabbit with its puffy long hair and its long, lop ears.
Or an English Angora that looks like a white ball of fur, or an American Fuzzy Lop, which acts like a cat.
Unusual pets get the attention of children, other seniors, and visitors alike.
When you own a pet, you will always have something to talk about. When you own a rabbit, you have a playful friend.
Pets Give Seniors a Reason to Organize Their Homes and Schedule Their Days
Pets need food every day. Pets need water every day.
Pets need help with their peeing and pooping functions and opportunities for play and exercise.
Even if you are no longer able to be the primary caregiver for another human, you may be able to be the primary caregiver for a pet. Pets fill your need to be needed.
Owning a Pet Is Good for Your General Health
Pet owners have lower blood pressure. Pet owners have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The scientific journal PLoS One published a study that children with type 1 diabetes take better care of their blood sugar levels when they are responsible for a pet, and the finding may generalize to older adults.
Owning a Pet May Prevent Dementia
AARP reported a study at the University of Michigan that found that people over the age of 65 were less likely to develop dementia (conditions like Alzheimer’s disease) the longer they had owned a pet.
They help older people stay busy and organized. They give older people a sense of loving and being loved.
Three Steps for Seniors to Find a Rabbit They Will Love
Ready to get a rabbit? Here’s how you do it!
Make Sure Your Building Allows Rabbits
If you still live in your own home, there shouldn’t be any problems with owning a rabbit.
Very few homeowners associations restrict them, although some landlords may.
Also, some states and cities have rules and regulations regarding rabbits:
- Huntsville, Alabama, does not allow rabbits to “run at large,” although you are allowed to recover a rabbit that escapes your home.
- San Francisco, California, prohibits keeping more than four rabbits.
- Aurora, Colorado, requires any rabbit over 6 months old to be spayed or neutered.
- The State of Hawaii will destroy any rabbit that is not confined and does not allow rabbits to be confined on the ground.
- Austin, Texas, requires you to keep your rabbits at least 50 feet away from your neighbors’ properties.
- Houston, Texas, does not allow rabbits to be kept within 100 feet of a church, hospital, or school.
- San Antonio, Texas, prohibits keeping more than 10 rabbits.
- Many cities in Wisconsin have rules restricting ownership to 2 or 3 rabbits.
You will not, however, have to get a rabbit license. If you live in a rural area, these kinds of restrictions usually do not apply.
Decide What Kind of Rabbit You Want
Do you want a teeny-tiny dwarf rabbit? Or do you have outdoor room for raising a really large rabbit, like a Flemish Giant?
Choose the breed that appeals to you, and then buy your rabbit from a breeder, not from a pet store.
If you don’t drive, you may need someone to help you with this.
Why buy from a breeder?
Breeders specialize in raising healthy, happy, beautiful rabbits. They usually do genetic testing on the parents, so they can confirm that the bunnies are free of hereditary diseases.
Breeders are a great source of information about rabbits, and they take special care to make sure any rabbit they sell is healthy.
You won’t always get these benefits of buying from a rabbit breeder at pet shops. You may get these kinds of benefits if you adopt a rabbit from an animal shelter.
Buy the Hutch, and Then the Rabbit
You need to have a home ready for your rabbit before you bring it home.
Rabbits like to live in hutches. These are elevated cages, safe from predators. They include a ramp for your rabbit to hop up to get inside.
You will need a water bottle, a food bowl, and a litter box before you buy your rabbit. Some kind of fencing to protect your rabbit’s play space is essential, too.
Have some rabbit pellets made from timothy hay and some green leafy vegetables, carrots, and berries ready for your rabbit’s arrival
Once you have assembled everything your pet will need to stay happy and healthy, bring Bunny home! Rabbits are a great pet for senior citizens. Just be prepared to make caring for them simply.
Challenges/Commitments Of Owning Pet Rabbits for Seniors
Taking care of a rabbit as a senior may require addressing certain challenges and commitments.
In this section, we’ll discuss the financial responsibilities, caregiving and commitment, and possible limitations for seniors.
Owning a rabbit comes with some financial responsibilities. You’ll need to budget for the following:
- Initial costs: Purchasing a rabbit, cage, feeding equipment, and toys
- Ongoing expenses: Rabbit food, bedding, and vet fees
To minimize expenses, consider adopting a rabbit instead of buying one from a breeder or pet store.
Remember to set aside some money for unexpected veterinary expenses.
Caregiving and Commitment
Rabbits need daily care and attention. Some of your caregiving tasks will include:
- Feeding: Provide fresh water and pellets every day. Include hay as a significant part of their diet.
- Cleaning: Regularly clean and replace the bedding in their cage.
- Exercise: Ensure your rabbit gets enough time outside of its cage to explore and exercise.
- Socialization: Spend time with your rabbit to build a strong bond and keep them happy.
Remember that rabbits can live 8-12 years, so you’ll need to be committed and plan for their long-term care.
Possible Limitations for Seniors
As a senior, you may face some limitations when caring for a rabbit:
- Physical abilities: Assess your strength and mobility to make sure you can comfortably lift your rabbit and perform daily tasks like cleaning the cage.
- Living arrangements: If you live in a small apartment, ensure you have enough space for your rabbit and its cage.
- Travel plans: If you frequently travel, make arrangements for someone to look after your rabbit while you’re away.
By considering these factors and planning accordingly, you can make sure you and your rabbit enjoy a happy life together.
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