What to Consider before Buying a Pet Rabbit

Learn what you should take into consideration before buying a pet rabbit in this Howcast video featuring Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

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Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.

 
 

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Mary: Okay so we're talking today about what to consider before acquiring a rabbit. And I say acquiring rather than buying because many people buy rabbits from stores not realizing that you can adopt them from shelters or rescue groups. Really important thing to know because there was many, many rabbits who needs homes that are available in your local shelter or rescue group. As you adopted. Amy: I went...my first rabbit I bought in a pet shop and then... Mary: Oh, no way. Amy: ...and then all the information they had for bunnies was wrong. Mary: Yeah. Amy: So that's also...we can talk about that later. Mary: Your second rabbit... Amy: I adopted from... Mary: House Rabbit Society, yeah. And Amy's rabbit is a beautiful rabbit now aged... Amy: 12. Mary: ...12 we think about 12 years old. So what do you need to think about before you get a rabbit? A main thing to think about is how much space you have in your home for the rabbit. Not only for cages which should be generous in size. We recommend at least four times the body length of the rabbit when he's stretched out but also space to exercise the rabbit outside the cage. You will need a rabbit proofed area and we're doing another video on rabbit proofing so you'll have information on that. But you'll need a nice safe area to exercise the rabbit in where he can't chew things that will hurt him or get him in trouble. And you need a place that has traction. If you have bare floors the rabbit will never run the way he will when he has traction and that's why we like to show these rugs. These are nice cotton washable rugs that you can buy in lots of different stores and put them on top of your other rugs or on top of wood floors. If they slide on your wood floors you want to get a non-skid piece of rubber. You can get these in the dishware section of almost any home goods store. Keep the rugs from sliding around, give the rabbits traction. Amy: Because otherwise if they don't they're backs are so fragile that they could break their backs. Mary: They can skid and hurt themselves when they're running. Another thing to think about is, do you have kids? And a lot of people think of rabbits as low maintenance starter pets for kids or as animated stuffed toys and they're really not. These are very fragile animals and they're prey animals which means everybody else is lunch in nature. These are animals that are very easily frightened and kids are naturally exuberant and spontaneous and all those wonderful things but that' not good for a prey animal it makes them feel unsafe and unstable. Amy: So get rid of your kids. Mary: Get rid of your kids. Wait until your kids are a little bit older rather than getting rabbits for young kids. That's a big consideration before you acquire a rabbit. Another one is the amount of time you have to spend. A lot of people think because you don't have to walk rabbits the way you walk dogs that it's no serious time expenditure. Talk to me about time expenditure. Amy: Right, well yeah. Mary: You spend a significant amount of time with your rabbit every day. Amy: Keep it down, keep it down. Yeah I'm lucky I'm home a lot. Mary: Exercising and massaging. Yeah that's something people need to understand though. And another consideration is money. Rabbits don't get like rabies vaccines and other vaccines that some other animals get that are common pets but they require veterinary care and the veterinary care for rabbits is often more expensive than very care for dogs and cats. And a lot of people think they're getting a low budget pet when they're getting a rabbit and it's not low budget. Here in the New York area, for example just to spay or neuter a rabbit the cost can range into several hundreds of dollars and it's very hard to find low cost alternatives because you can't get the kind of certificates for rabbits that you can for dogs and cats that are subsidized by tax money. So veterinary care is a major consideration. If you don't have the money to take good care of your rabbit at a good veterinarian then you might want to wait awhile until your budget changes. Amy: Or if also if you have other pets, a cat or a dog. They don't always get along. Mary: That's right, yeah. Other pets... Amy: Sometimes they do. Mary: Rabbits can get along with gentle dogs and non feral cats but the kind of dog breed that's bred like Jack Russell's, bred to hunt small prey you want to be really careful about combining rabbits with those. Generally if you have other pets and they're dogs like German Shepard mixes or Retriever mixes those generally tend to be good with rabbits but you have to do the introductions very carefully. Amy: With taxidermy. And also shopping. You know, vegetables, and it takes a lot. The hay. You got to keep the hay coming to your house and you really do need a lot of space for these creatures. Mary: And it's money. It's not just a cheap pet. The other thing, and this is something you're an expert on at this point, you have to remember if you're going on vacation or traveling for work which Amy doesn't extensively you have to get rabbit care. You can't leave these animals overnight by themselves because if they stop eating for 12 hours or longer you could have a veterinary emergency on your hand with nobody to notice that there's anything wrong. So what do you do when you travel? Amy: Well usually I have some people who are familiar with rabbits. I'm lucky. They'll stay in my apartment and keep an eye on her. Yeah, so... Mary: Which is the best thing. If you can get somebody to stay in your home that's great. Sometimes you can board rabbits at a veterinary office but tends to be very expensive and you want to inspect the cage in advance. It might be a tiny cage and it might be right next to an area where dogs are barking loudly which is really scary for rabbits. So that's a consideration. And then believe it or not your personality is a consideration. If you have the kind of personality where you can really enjoy watching an animal, taking your time with the animal, letting the animal take it's time with you...that's very different from the personality that wants to be handling, picking up, and on the animal all the time and wants the animal to respond in certain ways. These are not dogs. And although they're very bright and very trainable they're not going to behave the way a dog behaves. Come here Rover, come here Rover! That might frighten a rabbit and if you have the kind of personality that wants an animal that will be trying to please you this might not be the best choice for you. Rabbits are generally animals for people who enjoy observing as much as they enjoy handling. And that matters a lot. Then your landlord is a big consideration. Some people, we get a lot of rabbits who end up in shelters because the person didn't realize that the landlord didn't want pets or the person got pets in spite of the fact that the landlord didn't want them and trying to hide them and it doesn't work for a long period of time. So you got to make sure that your landlord is okay with pets. If you have allergies that's another consideration. There are a lot of people who have dog and cat allergies who are not allergic to rabbits. Amy: Right, that's what I hear. Mary: But there are people who are allergic to rabbits who aren't allergic to dogs and cats. So you got to consider allergies. And if you have the opportunity to spend a little time with a friend's rabbit or in a shelter or the rescue group around a bunch of rabbits to make sure that you're not allergic. Because if you adopt a rabbit and you are allergic the rabbit's going to lose its home. Or you're going to end up at an allergist with expensive shots. Something to consider. Amy: Right. Mary: So the final consideration is rabbit proofing. When you have a rabbit you have to make adjustments to your home. You have to make adjustments to your home. These are animals who chew by nature. And if you're uncomfortable with having your furniture sampled or having little corners torn of your books or having your rug nibbled on or having your clothing nibbled on a rabbit is definitely not the right animal for you. Amy: Or if you're a smoker. Just because the breathing and... Mary: That's right. These animals are used for respiratory studies they have very delicate lungs and if you smoke in your home and you're going to fill their lungs with cigarette smoke that's another thing to consider. Which isn't to say that you can't make adjustments in any of these things you probably can... Amy: Just know, right. Mary: Yeah just know about it. You may be able, for example with your landlord, you may be able to negotiate paying a pet fee against your rent and your landlord may be fine with that as long as there's no damage to the property you'll get your pet fee back. So there's ways to negotiate around a lot of these things but these are hat you should be aware of before you take a rabbit into your home.

Expert

  • Mary E. Cotter

    Mary E. Cotter, M.A., Ed.D., LVT is the founder of the NY-based Rabbit Rescue & Rehab. She serves as chapter manager of the NYC House Rabbit Society and is vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. Involved with rabbit rescue since 1982, she speaks and writes frequently on rabbit-related topics, addressing owners, veterinary professionals and shelter workers. Mary is an adjunct assistant professor in the veterinary technology department of LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York) and co-manages a 7,000-member Internet mailing list focused on rabbit health, care and behavior.