The pandemic has a lasting effect on all people, and especially on their mental health.
I was struggling with serious anxiety, worrying about my loved ones and if they’ll be ok.
During a session, my therapist suggested that I get an emotional support animal.
I love bunnies, so I wondered, “can a rabbit be an emotional support animal?”
Can a Rabbit Be an Emotional Support Animal?
Yes, a pet rabbit can be your emotional support animal if you have a mental health condition like depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.
An ESA (Emotional Support Animal) rabbit can give you the companionship you need, pick up on your emotions, and provide you with comfort, love, and emotional stability.
How Can a Rabbit Be an Emotional Support Animal?
It is possible for any domestic animal to be an emotional support animal (ESA).
The ESA simply gives support, love, companionship, emotional stability, and comfort to the person who is suffering from mental health issues or emotional disorders.
An ESA doesn’t need to be trained for the role as is the case with a service animal.
Instead, it’s the bond or connection between the person and pet that provides emotional support.
Dogs are famous ESAs, but rabbits can be emotional support animals too.
Criteria for a Rabbit to Be an Emotional Support Animal
The criteria for a rabbit to be an ESA is quite easy.
The rabbit doesn’t need to pass a test or go through specialized training to become an ESA.
A rabbit simply needs to not cause trouble at home and be non-aggressive in public spaces.
Rabbits aren’t usually aggressive in public, especially not if the rabbit has been neutered or spayed.
The bunny should provide support and comfort while you are at home, so that means the bun shouldn’t constantly be ear-deep in trouble, causing you to get upset (which is not going to help your mental health).
Ways a Rabbit Provides Emotional Support
A rabbit is super adorable, and these animals have quite a number of traits that make them suitable to be EMAs.
A 2020 study published in Animals (Basel) found that rabbits can help reduce anxiety among first-graders.
While you may certainly not be in the first grade at the moment, the findings from the study can be applied on a wider scale – rabbits can help reduce your “adult” anxiety too.
CNN also published an article about how rabbits can provide emotional support for their fur parents.
A Holland Lop called Finn helped a freshman who was diagnosed with the major depressive disorder through high school.
And then there’s the story of Budgie, an ESA rabbit, that helped his owner who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
The owner said that Budgie helped her get out of bed in the morning, taught her to be patient, and made her laugh.
Here are the ways a pet bunny provides emotional support:
- Rabbits come in dwarf to giant sizes, so you can choose the size rabbit breed that suits you. Opt for a dwarf rabbit if you are frail.
- Bunnies radiate comfort and warmth, which is sure to let anyone who likes rabbits feel warm and fuzzy inside.
- If the rabbit feels comfortable with you, their round body with lots of soft fur makes an excellent “cuddle” buddy. But rabbits generally don’t like to be cuddled; however, petting your rabbit can also be therapeutic.
- A rabbit is highly aware of their environment (and they need to be as prey animals), but that awareness translates into the bun being aware of their owner’s emotions too.
- Just being around an animal like a rabbit helps you manage your negative thoughts and emotions.
- Rabbits are affectionate, gentle, and quiet.
- Bunnies are quiet, which works well when you need quiet time.
- You can train your intelligent rabbit to do a number of tricks and even come to you when called.
- Rabbits are social animals, so they’ll want your company.
Benefits of a Rabbit as an Emotional Support Animal
While dogs are probably the first animal that comes to mind when you think of an emotional support animal, choosing a rabbit instead comes with some benefits:
- If you don’t have a rabbit, you can adopt one from a rescue center for a reasonable price, or see if a nearby animal shelter has a rabbit.
- Despite the initial costs for a cage/hutch, litter box, hay dispenser, water and food bowls, exercise pen, and cord protectors of ±$500, you can expect to spend around $80-$90 per month on your bunny, compared to the $125+ a dog costs.
- A rabbit doesn’t need daily walks – they can exercise in their pen or your rabbit-proofed living room.
- Most rabbits have an average lifespan of 8-12 years.
- Rabbits are intelligent, so while it may take a while, they can be litter trained, which makes cleaning their cage a breeze.
- Since rabbits don’t bark or make loud noises, you don’t need to worry about sensory overload that could upset you if you have PTSD.
- Rabbits are clean so you don’t need to worry about a terrible smell or bathing the bun.
- You also don’t need to worry about taking your bun out for regular potty breaks.
How to Get an Emotional Support Rabbit
Follow these steps to get an emotional support rabbit to help you during those difficult moments and days:
Step 1: Find out from your mental health professional whether an ESA will be beneficial for your specific situation.
Step 2: Find a rabbit. You can visit a rescue center, animal shelter, or breeder.
Step 3: Buy the items your rabbit needs (cage, food and bowls, bedding, exercise pen, hay, and pelleted food, hay dispenser, litter box, toys, etc.). Bring your rabbit home and start bonding with them.
Step 4: Get your rabbit spayed or neutered.
Step 5: Get an ESA letter before or after you get your rabbit so you can take them into public places.
Step 6: Continue to bond with your rabbit so they get comfortable with you and trust you to be their caretaker. Train your rabbit to use the litter box and to come when you call. The more time you spend with your rabbit, the more your bun will get to know you and be there for you on those difficult days and even the good ones.
Can You Certify Your Rabbit as an Emotional Support Animal?
You can certify your rabbit as an ESA.
All you need is a written letter from a licensed therapist or psychologist (that includes their license number, the date, and signature) to verify that you have a mental health condition or disability.
The letter doesn’t have to say what you’ve been diagnosed with, just that you have a mental health condition.
The letter should also state that the rabbit is prescribed as a treatment.
A pet rabbit can be an ESA for anxiety, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health conditions.
Beware! There are a lot of websites out there that claim you simply need to add your rabbit to some registry and they’ll send you an ESA vest and ID for your bun and a certificate. This doesn’t make your rabbit a certified and official emotional support animal.
Final Thoughts on Rabbits as ESAs
If you are into rabbits and think an emotional support animal can help you, then getting a letter from a psychologist or therapist stating that your treatment could benefit from a rabbit ESA is the next step.
I know how much my ESA rabbit has helped. Taking care of rabbits isn’t easy or even remotely like caring for a cat or dog, but it is so worth it.
Do you think a rabbit makes a good emotional support animal? Do you perhaps have a rabbit ESA?
What’s your experience, and does our bun deliver with regard to the emotional support and companionship you need?
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