8 Common Myths about Rabbits

Learn eight common myths about rabbits in this Howcast video featuring bunny lover Amy Sedaris and rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter.

Let’s talk about some common rabbit myths and there are a lot of them. One
myth about rabbits that we encounter all the time is that people think
they’re low maintenance. They are not low maintenance. Once you’ve taken
care of a dog and a rabbit, you will know that a dog takes less time to
take care of than a rabbit does, because rabbits need to be cleaned. Their
cages need to be cleaned. They need to have exercise time outside their
cage. They need excellent veterinary care. It may take you longer to get to
the vet because you can’t just go to a dog and cat vet with a rabbit. You
have to go to a vet that knows about rabbits. These guys are not low
maintenance and that’s a major myth.

Another myth is that they have short lives. I know when I was a child,
people used to tell me that rabbits lived a couple years and by the time I
was an adult, it had gone up to five or six years. Then it became six or
seven years, then seven to nine years, then nine or ten years and now we
are routinely seeing rabbits live ten to twelve years and that’s a good
thing to know before you get a rabbit because this is not a short-lived
animal. This animal is going to be with you the same length of time that
your larger breeds of dogs are, so that’s a major myth to consider.

Another myth is that rabbits don’t need vet care. They do need vet care and
they need vet care by vets that know about rabbits. Since rabbits are not
routinely studied in veterinary medical school, it can be tricky for owners
to find what we call a "rabbit savvy vet", a vet that has some experience
with rabbits and is willing to go to continuing education, workshops,
seminars, whatever to learn about rabbits. You have to find yourself a vet
like that and make sure that your rabbit is cared for by that vet.

Another myth is that rabbits are happiest out of doors and I think of
outdoor rabbits as similar to dogs who live in a cage in your backyard, or
in a doghouse in your backyard. There’s really no social interaction. When
a child first gets the rabbit, maybe he’s very happy to go outside and take
care of the rabbit for a short period of time, but out of sight, out of
mind and other interests come up and then that rabbit is relegated to an
isolated spot. It’s like keeping somebody in solitary confinement and the
rabbit also is subject to extremes of weather, to parasites, to predatory
animals, so it’s a myth that keeping rabbits outdoors is the best way to
keep them. In fact, they live long, happy lives, as I said ten to twelve
years, is what we’re seeing now and some live into their teens even, if
they’re kept indoors and cared for well.

Another myth about rabbits is that they love to be picked up and cuddled.
Rabbits actually are ground animals. They live on or under the ground and
they feel most comfortable when their feet are on the ground. That isn’t to
say that you can’t pick them up and cuddle them, it’s just to say that you
have to respect the rabbit’s desire to feel safe on the ground. These are
not animals that enjoy being toted around all day long by, even adults, but
certainly not by kids who don’t handle them as well or as easily as adults.

Another common myth is, ‘let’s get a rabbit because we only have a small
apartment and we don’t have a lot of space. Rabbits are small". In fact,
even a small rabbit needs plenty of space to exercise. These hind legs are
really powerful and they’re made for jumping and running. You will never
get to enjoy the things we see in rabbits if you don’t give your rabbit the
space to exercise. So, the more room, the better, right? You want to get
your rabbit a nice, big exercise pen to live in and then you want to give
him out-of-pen exercise time in a nice, safe rabbit-proof area where you’ve
removed electrical wires and houseplants. So the myth of space is a biggie.
They need space.

Another myth is that rabbits smell. In fact, when a rabbit is spayed or
neutered (spayed for the females and neutered or castrated for the males)
and given litter box training, this rabbit is well litter box trained, you
won’t detect any odor at all. I have cared for multiple rabbits in my home
now for the last two decades and there’s no smell of rabbits in my home.
There is a smell of fresh grass because I use hay in their litter boxes. It
smells really nice when you walk in the front door. Rabbits don’t smell if
they’re cared for correctly and if the rabbit smells, it’s because you are
not cleaning his bathroom as often as you clean your own. Nobody would want
to be locked up in a bathroom that’s not clean for a couple of weeks at a
time and yet sometimes people make their animals live that way. If you keep
a rabbit clean, there’s no smell, that’s just a myth.

One more myth is that rabbits are okay with just a bowl of rabbit pellets.
You can just leave a bowl of rabbit pellets there and that’s just fine for
them. In fact, rabbits need a very high fiber diet and they do best with
grass or grass hay. This is a nice, clean grass hay that is shipped from
the Midwest. If you live in an area that grows hay, that’s terrific. You
can get local hay. Rabbits need more than just rabbit pellets to be really
healthy, to keep their GI tract healthy. You can see, he is enjoying some
hay right now. Just thinking that it’s easy to get a rabbit because you can
throw a bowl of pellets out and go for the weekend, that’s a myth too.

Speaking of weekends, it’s a myth that you can do with rabbits what some
people do with cats, which is that you go away for a weekend with nobody to
care for the animal, just leaving out food and water. The difference
between rabbits and cats is significant. If rabbits don’t eat for 12 hours
or longer, their whole GI tract can slow down and that starts a cascade of
scary, negative events that may result in a serious sickness in your
rabbit. With a cat, you have more time to wait and see, keep an eye on it.
With a rabbit, you don’t. If you go away on a Friday evening and Saturday
morning your rabbit is in pain and it isn’t eating and still isn’t eating
Saturday night, and still isn’t eating Sunday morning or Sunday night, you
could, in fact, come home to a very sick rabbit or even a dead rabbit. This
has happened to enough people that it’s worth mentioning. It’s a myth that
you can leave rabbits alone.

We could go on and on. There are lots of myths, but these are probably the
most frequent ones we encounter.

"You are a cutie."

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