Rabbits as Pets
Thought and consideration must go into the decision to get a rabbit as a pet. Rabbits are typically not suitable for small children and do not like to sit quietly on a lap for long periods. They prefer to interact with you on their level (the floor) and to like to explore their surroundings. Rabbits are good pets for older children (seven and up), but care must still be taken as rabbits have powerful hind legs and can kick very hard if scared or mishandled.
Any pet rabbit can be housed indoors or outside in a hutch. If a rabbit is housed outside, a few more precautions must be taken to ensure their safety and proper care. If a rabbit has been indoors they must be moved outdoors only when the weather is mild enough so that the temperature change will not be a shock.
Spring is a good time to move your rabbit outdoors or early fall. Not the middle of winter or in the blistering heat of summer. Most outdoor rabbit hutches include an enclosed area where you can place straw for bedding and to provide extra warmth. You can purchase insulated sleeves for water bottles to help prevent freezing in your rabbit cage. You will still need to check the water bottle daily to be sure the rabbit is getting sufficient water.
Rabbits housed outside will typically eat a little more in winter due to needing more energy to keep warm. The hutch needs to be situated so that it stays dry and so that the wind is not blowing directly in at the rabbit. You should also keep in mind that if the hutch is placed off in a corner somewhere, the rabbit will probably not have much interaction throughout the day as you come and go.
Rabbits are dependent on us for social interaction and you may consider bringing it in to play or setting up a play area in the yard that is safe for it. Often people tend to worry about a rabbit surviving the winter cold, but more accurately you need to watch that their hutch is somewhere shaded in the heat of summer. Try placing frozen bottles of water inside to help keep it cool. Rabbits tend to suffer from heat stroke much easier than they do from freezing.
Indoors you will have the option of litter box training your rabbit and letting them run about in a room or two of the house with supervision. Care must be taken here to “Rabbit-Proof” the area. The rabbit may chew on electrical cords, carpeting or anything else it can get to. You must also remember that they are good jumpers and will end up on a chair or couch and can reach many things from there. Provide suitable toys and things to explore indoors to discourage chewing on inappropriate things.
One thing you may want to consider is having your pet rabbit spayed or neutered. This will discourage your pet rabbit from many aggressive behaviors like spraying urine and biting which develop in adolescence and are often a cause people surrendering their rabbits to a shelter. Rabbits also mellow with age at around two to three years.
There are around sixty different rabbit breeds, so look carefully to find one that is suitable for you or your family. They can vary in size, temperament, and coat color/length. Some rabbits can weigh as much as twenty-five pounds while others as little as two pounds. There are rabbit breeds that will need to be brushed daily and some that are short haired and will do fine with a weekly brushing. Smaller rabbit breeds are generally more anxious than medium or large ones, The larger the rabbit, the more space it needs to live and the more it will eat. If you take your time you will be rewarded with a happy healthy companion for several years to come.