Rabbits can make wonderful pets—but they aren’t for everyone. In this article, we will give you five questions to consider before you adopt any rabbit.
Then we will give you 10 questions to consider before you adopt a rabbit from an animal shelter.
Question to Self Before You Adopt Any Rabbit
If you are new to owning rabbits, ask yourself these five questions before you pick out a rabbit to bring home to your family.
Why do you want a rabbit?
Rabbits aren’t all alike. Some rabbits enjoy being petted and cuddled. Most rabbits don’t.
Some breeds of rabbits are so small and fragile that they don’t make good pets for small children who may drop or squeeze them.
Other breeds of rabbits grow large and strong enough that your dog and cat may decide to acknowledge them as the boss pet.
If you are planning to raise rabbits for 4-H events and rabbit shows, you will need to buy a pedigreed rabbit from a breeder, probably someone involved in the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
But if you are just looking for a rabbit to keep as a family pet, a rescue rabbit from an animal shelter may be fine.
We’ll have a lot more to tell you about rescue rabbits in the next section.
Do you have enough room for a rabbit?
You will be told over and over again that rabbits need cages, crates, and hutches that are about four times as big as they are.
They also need space to hop around and play for three or four hours a day.
Small rabbits can adjust to an indoor play space. Just make sure they don’t find electrical cords, baseboards, and furniture to chew on.
Larger rabbits really need protected outdoor space attached to a hutch to thrive. To keep larger rabbits healthy and happy, you need a backyard.
Do you have enough time for a rabbit?
Rabbits aren’t any fun cooped up in a cage all the time.
To enjoy your rabbit, you will have to let it out to play, forage for hay, and socialize for several hours every day.
If you don’t keep more than one rabbit, your rabbit will want to socialize with you. It will follow you around, and it will get upset if you ignore it.
If you do keep more than one rabbit, remember that a buck that has not been neutered and a doe that has not been spayed can have two to twelve babies three and sometimes four times a year.
Will a rabbit be compatible with your other pets?
Rabbits usually get along well with cats and small dogs. It helps if they are introduced to cats and dogs in the first few months of life, and they never, ever suffer any aggression from your other family pets.
But if you have a Beagle, a German Shepherd, a Greyhound, a Husky, or a Dachshund, you can never leave your rabbit unattended when your dog is present.
Are you ready to make a 5- to 12-year commitment to taking care of the pet rabbit?
The Guinness Book of World Records reports a rabbit named Flopsy that lived for 18 years and nearly 11 months. Once you take a rabbit into your home, you can never release it into the wild.
Domestic rabbits don’t know how to fend for themselves in nature, and the colors we find so cute make them an easy target for predators.
Also read: What is the Best Place to Adopt a Bunny?
Before You Adopt a Rabbit from An Animal Shelter
Sometimes, of course, even families that love their pets have to let them go.
You may be able to find a rabbit in an animal shelter that you can adopt very inexpensively.
Shelter rabbits have usually received good care. But there are some questions you need to ask before you take home a rabbit from an animal shelter.
What is the Origin of the rabbit?
When considering bringing a rabbit into your home, it is crucial to understand its origin, including its breed and background.
This insight will not only provide a glimpse into the bunny’s personality, but also inform you about breed-specific needs and potential health issues. So, how can you unravel the story of your prospective family pet?
Start by asking about the rabbit’s breed and pedigree.
An experienced breeder or animal shelter will have a comprehensive understanding of the breed traits and potential health issues associated with it.
In addition, meeting the rabbit’s parents can provide valuable information about the size and temperament of your new pet.
Remember, every rabbit has a story and knowing it can help you provide the best possible care for your new companion.
What were the Previous living conditions of the rabbit?
Understanding a rabbit’s previous living conditions can provide insights into its behavior and potential health concerns.
It can help you craft a smoother transition for the rabbit from its past surroundings to its new home.
So, what kind of living environment was your prospective pet rabbit exposed to before coming to you?
Ask the breeder or shelter about the environment the rabbit was kept in. Was it a single rabbit or did it live with other animals?
This is important because rabbits tend to hide signs of illness until the condition has advanced significantly, which can impact the bunny’s personality and health.
Also, if the rabbit has been living with other pets, it might be less fearful and stressed when introduced to other pets in its new home.
Therefore, these aspects of its previous living conditions should be taken into account when adopting a rabbit.
Also read: Can You Adopt A Wild Baby Bunny?
Has this rabbit been litter box trained?
Rabbits that have already been trained to use a litter box are a lot easier to transition into your home.
If an adult rabbit has not been litter box trained, you may need to pick up their poops and place them in their litter box for two to four weeks.
You will be hoping your new bunny will figure out where to go.
But there is another problem.
Male rabbits and female rabbits that have not been spayed like to mark their territory with their urine.
Your home will be new territory that your rabbit will instinctively want to mark. If the rabbit has been trained to use a litter box, this behavior may be minimal.
What has this rabbit been eating?
If you have been reading our guides to the most popular breeds of rabbits, you will see that over and over again we tell new rabbit owners:
- All rabbits should mostly eat hay, timothy hay, not alfalfa hay. A rabbit needs a volume of fresh hay roughly equal to its body size every day.
- The second food to give your rabbit is leafy greens, such as carrot tops, radish tops, outer leaves from cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and Romaine (but not Iceberg) lettuce.
- Carrots, berries, and slices of fruit are OK as an occasional snack.
- Pellets should be limited to 10% of your rabbit’s diet. High-fiber pellets made from may are best.
Many rabbit owners, however, feed their rabbits mostly pellets.
Because rabbit’s digest their high-fiber food with the help of probiotic bacteria, they need gradual changes in diet to give their intestinal flora a chance to catch up.
Ask what the rabbit has been eating, and get a week’s supply before you take the rabbit home.
How is the general temperament of the rabbit?
Understanding the temperament of the rabbit you plan on adopting is crucial.
Domestic rabbits are known to have unique personalities. This makes them great pets to keep indoors.
However, knowing the bunny’s personality can help you understand whether it will be a good fit for your lifestyle and household.
So, what can you expect in terms of the rabbit’s personality?
Take the time to interact with the rabbit. Does it seem calm and friendly, or is it more active and curious?
Ask the breeder or shelter about the rabbit’s general temperament and whether it has been socialized with other animals.
Also, it’s crucial to inquire about any aggressive tendencies or bite history the rabbit may have. This information will help you ensure that the rabbit’s temperament aligns with your expectations.
What kind of personality has this rabbit shown?
There is also a follow-up question:
Does this rabbit bite?
The workers at the animal shelter will have had many opportunities to observe the rabbit’s personality and behavior.
Because animal shelters don’t want animals coming back, they will usually be honest with you about any behavioral issues in a rescue pet, that is, if you ask.
Some rabbits just like to relax. Others will defend their territory with a bite if you try to clean out their cage or pick them up to take them to the vet.
If you have small children, a rabbit with a history of biting is not the best choice for you.
How old is this rabbit?
Animal shelters will usually only offer rabbits that have been weaned.
These are bunnies that are at least four to six weeks old, although some rabbits are not weaned until they are eight or nine weeks old.
Rabbits in the second month of life that have not been weaned yet need their mothers. You should not separate them.
But once a rabbit has been weaned, you need to start providing care appropriate for its stage of life.
- It’s beneficial to give rabbits that are up to seven months old alfalfa hay and alfalfa cubes for the bulk of their diet. Any kind of legume hay will provide them with calcium for growing bones and high amounts of protein for muscle growth.
- After the first seven months, the calcium in alfalfa hay sets up your rabbit for kidney stones. Transition to timothy hay when your rabbit is seven months old.
- Rabbits that are 1 to 3 years old are extremely active. They may be more interested in play than in hanging out with their humans.
- Rabbits that are 3 to 5 years old slow down and become more interested in being petted and, sometimes, cuddled.
- Rabbits older than 5 often have trouble keeping their fur clean. You will need to make sure poop pellets and debris do not accumulate on their coats to protect them from bot flies. But they are likely to be affectionate toward their people.
Usually, the shelter can only give you a best guess of the age of your rabbit.
If you happen to find an adult rabbit with a pedigree (you can tell by the number tattooed in its ear), you can find out its exact age.
Does this rabbit have a history with other pets?
Rabbits are prey animals. They instinctively avoid animals that, in the wild, could eat them.
But they can be given socialization experiences so they feel comfortable around friendly cats and dogs.
If you bring an adult rabbit that has never lived with other pets into a home with cats and dogs, it will be stressed out all the time. (Unless it is a very large breed rabbit, such as a Flemish Giant.)
Don’t take a rabbit that has had no experience with other pets home unless it is going to be your only pet, or a companion to a rabbit you already have.
Has this rabbit been spayed or neutered?
Rabbits have litters of one to twelve kits, the average being around five. They can get pregnant again while they are still nursing.
They only need 30 or 31 days to complete gestation and bring another litter into the world.
If you are keeping a reproductively intact female with a reproductively intact male, you will be taking care of dozens of bunnies in just a year or two. Spaying and neutering keep your rabbit colony manageable!
Spaying and neutering have other benefits. Females will be almost constantly either in heat or pregnant if they are not spayed. Females in heat become aggressive about defending their nests.
Males that have not been neutered will look for love in all the wrong places, provoking some interesting questions by children who observe them. Rabbits are just a lot easier to manage if they have been fixed.
Expect to pay US $200 to $600 to the vet for the operation. Or ask for a rabbit that has already been fixed.
Has this rabbit had experience around children?
Rabbits generally aren’t a good choice as pets for children under the age of six.
Young rabbits have delicate bones. Young children may hold their pet rabbits so tight that they injure themselves while trying to get away.
Rabbits are a better choice for children who are at least of elementary school age.
Your children are likely to have a better experience with a shelter rabbit that is used to being held and petted.
Calm rabbits are a better choice for children than nervous rabbits. Animal shelter personnel may have answers about the rabbit’s previous owners.
Does this rabbit have any health concerns we need to know about?
Rabbit breeders almost always have extensive information on a rabbit’s health.
If you are buying a pedigreed rabbit, you will have information about the health of its parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
If you are adopting a rabbit from a pet shelter, you will have to rely on the shelter’s intake exam.
Animal shelters usually at least confirm that an animal they put up for adoption does not have infectious diseases it can spread to other pets.
They can tell you how long the rabbit has been at their shelter, so you can confirm that it is not carrying any diseases it could catch from wild rabbits or other animals at the rescue center. Usually, this information is enough.
It is generally a mistake to adopt a sickly rabbit out of compassion. You may incur major vet bills and still have only a few weeks or months with your pet.
Moreover, the breeder should keep meticulous and up-to-date medical records, especially if the rabbit has been living with other animals.
Understanding these health concerns will prepare you for potential future issues and ensure a safe and comfortable home for your new pet.
What are the Housing needs of this rabbit?
Providing appropriate housing for your rabbit is key to its health and happiness.
Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the housing needs of the rabbit you plan on adopting.
This includes the size and type of cage, as well as any specific features that your rabbit may need.
So, what are the housing needs of the rabbit you’re considering? Rabbits are not typically well-suited for living outdoors and require the same level of care as any other indoor pet.
The cage should be at least four times the size of the rabbit, providing ample space for a litter box, food, and water bowls, and allowing the rabbit to stretch out completely.
Additionally, the cage should be stocked with toys and a nutritious snack to keep your rabbit entertained and happy.
Understanding these housing needs will help you provide a comfortable and appropriate living space for your rabbit.
What are the Dietary requirements of this rabbit
Just like us, rabbits have specific dietary needs that must be met to ensure their health and well-being.
Understanding these dietary requirements can help you provide the right food and feeding schedule for your rabbit.
So, what are the dietary requirements of the rabbit you’re considering?
Rabbits have a delicate digestive system that requires a diet as close to what they are accustomed to as possible.
This diet should comprise fresh grass hay, fresh vegetables, water, and high-quality pellets.
Rabbits should also be provided with a set amount of pellets daily and should not have constant access to them.
Also, most rabbits can consume a hay pile the size of themselves almost daily. Understanding these dietary requirements will ensure that your rabbit gets the proper nutrition it needs.
What are the Grooming and maintenance need of this rabbit?
Grooming and maintenance are crucial aspects of rabbit care. Regular grooming not only keeps your rabbit looking good, but it’s also important for its health and comfort.
Therefore, it’s essential to understand the specific grooming and maintenance needs of your rabbit.
So, what are the grooming and maintenance needs of the rabbit you’re considering?
Rabbits require regular fur brushing and trimming, mat removal, and cleaning of any debris trapped in their fur.
They also require monthly nail clipping and in-home health assessments, as well as ear cleanings for rabbits prone to inner ear infections.
Moreover, they moult four times annually and need to be brushed regularly to remove excess fur and prevent matting.
Understanding these grooming and maintenance needs will help keep your rabbit healthy and comfortable.
What is the vaccination record?
Like other pets, rabbits require regular vaccinations to keep them healthy and protected against common diseases.
Therefore, it’s crucial to ask for the rabbit’s vaccination record when considering adoption.
So, what is the vaccination record of the rabbit you’re considering? Rabbits require vaccination against myxomatosis and both types of viral hemorrhagic disease (RHD1 and RHD2).
These vaccinations can commence at five weeks of age, and an annual vaccine can be administered from this age.
Having access to the rabbit’s vaccination record will ensure that it is up-to-date and protected against common diseases.
Where is the nearest vet who treats rabbits?
Rabbits don’t need shots. They do not need an annual wellness exam.
You will generally take a rabbit to the vet only when it is obviously sick, but you do need to know where to go for care.
Animal shelters often have a relationship with veterinarians who provide care for their animals up for adoption.
What is your rehoming policy?
Sometimes rabbit adoptions just don’t work out.
You may discover that you have an allergy to rabbit dander. One of your pets may turn out to be excessively aggressive toward your new bunny. Or the rabbit and your children may just not click.
Ask the shelter if they will take the rabbit back if things don’t work out. Everyone hopes you will find a forever pet, but it is always better to have a shelter for a rabbit you cannot keep.
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