What You Need To Know Before Bringing Your Rabbit Home
Cute and cuddly rabbits always bring a magical charm to the Easter Season. Who can resist those big floppy ears, sad eyes and long whiskers? They are cuddly, soft playful and Quiet. There is a downside though (always is isn’t there?). They chew they poop, they eat and they shed. I don’t write this to discourage you, but before you hop in to the love of lagomorphs, there are a few things you should consider.
1: Breed: Be sure to chose a breed that suits your family lifestyle. Just because it is cute doesn’t mean it will make a great pet! For example Netherland Dwarves are popular for their tiny size and cute little ears. However many people find them to be hands off and sometimes nippy. They are more of a “watch me go” type rabbit. The lionhead rabbits are popular again for their size and fluffy manes but are rather high strung and not very cuddly. Lop eared rabbits (mini lop, holland lop, english and french lop) are generally very calm and laid back rabbits. Mini rex are active and playful but still enjoy a snuggle. Flemish are big rabbits with the laid back and docile personality!
2: Sex: There is an assumption that a female rabbit makes a better pet because she will not spray. This is a false assumption. Both male and female rabbits spray and the only way to eliminate this (especially if you plan to keep keep more than one rabbit) is to spay/neuter your rabbit.
3: Housing: Rabbits need an appropriate cage for their size. That cute little fluff ball that fits in your hand now will grow. He will need room to hop, play and lounge. You need to consider how much time he will be spending in his cage and how big he will get. The bigger the cage the better! Even if you plan to have him out most of the time in a rabbit proofed room (more on rabbit proofing later) it is wise to give him a cage to sleep in!
4: Diet: Rabbits can eat a lot, especially the big ones. They also need to eat hay to aid in digestion and prevent intestinal blockages. Be sure that your rabbit pellets are high in protein, minimum 14-18 % crude protein with 18-21% being ideal. Avoid pellet mixes that contain bits of dried fruit and grains. These though safe to give as an occasional treat are high in sugar and calcium which can contribute to digestive, kidney and bladder complications.
Preparing the House for the House Rabbit:
Rabbits make wonderful companions, and it is a true joy to allow them to run around a room and interact with the family under supervision. This is rewarding for both the family and the rabbit. However rabbits like to dig and chew, this is natural and should not be discouraged as this is how they keep both their teeth and nails trim. Just as with a new puppy though we need to rabbit proof our homes.
First thing I recommend is to get down on all fours and assess the room. What do you see? Baseboards? Books? Electrical cords? I recommend investing in a few baby gates and allowing only one room to your rabbit. Then remove all dangers in that room.
Electrical cords are the biggest danger and most tempting mischief to our pet rabbits, these must be covered and kept out of reach from your rabbit. Some people prefer to use aquarium tubing slit on one side and wrapped around chords but these can still be chewed through. Duct tape is another option (ductape chords to the wall and out of reach, or under carpets and furniture).
Rabbits are also smart enough to learn to open cabinet doors so it is a good idea to invest in the child safe cabinet latches to keep them away from dangerous chemicals or valuables!
Books, Wallpaper and Furniture are also at risk of being chewed and gnawed so be sure to provide your rabbit with plenty of toys to chew on(bird and parrot toys are safe) and always supervise out of cage time! We have been using this cockatiel cage for years, I don’t think we’ll ever need to replace it.
House plants are another potential danger, be sure that any houseplants within reach of your rabbit are non toxic, better yet place them well out of reach!
A website with some ideas on toys you can make yourself: http://www.rabbitworldview.com/bunnytoys.php