Five Things to Know If You're Thinking About Getting a Pet Rabbit

Bunny 101

Dogs and cats are great, of course, but ferrets are a smelly handful, and goldfish mostly just provide a one-sided therapy session for lonely people. Hamsters are fine, but they have a dead stare about them that is a bit unnerving, and the less said about snakes the better.

But if I may humbly offer up a suggestion, consider the rabbit. Perhaps not for dinner, but as a furry companion to love and cherish. House rabbits can be a wonderful addition to your life, full of snuggles, scratches, and randomly running at full speed down the hallway and then jumping on your lap while you’re sitting on the couch just trying to watch Celebrity Big Brother. That’s love right there. But before you start envisioning the social media accolades you think you will receive by posting endless photos of you and your bunny (outfits help, btw), there’s some things you need to know.

1) Picking Out Your Bunny

First off, don’t go to breeders, go to shelters. There are an inordinate amount of rabbits who get abandoned by jerk owners who “set them free.” The House Rabbit Resource Network is a wonderful place to start, but other animal shelters take in rabbits, as well. On that note, you should have a veterinarian in mind beforehand, as some physicians don’t treat them. And lastly, it is recommended for first-timers to have a rabbit over a year old. The babies seem cute, but once they get into puberty, it’s a whole new ballgame. Which brings us to:

2) Bunny Proofing

Guess what? For some inexplicable reason, rabbits like to chew on stuff. Like, all kinds of stuff: wires and magazines and that limited edition Cat Power EP, for example. Wires are bad and you should hide them or cover them with plastic. As for the rest, it’s a good idea to shower the place with random toys and mats for them to snack on. Your house may look like someone set a bomb off in a Pier 1 Imports, but at least your comic books are safe.

3) Safe Space

Whether it’s a cage or an area of the home, bunnies need a dedicated safe space that belongs to them. A cage is best for newbies, and it is not recommended to leave your house rabbit unattended if you are gone for long periods of time. Bunnies can be a bit skittish sometimes and need a warren to call their own.

4) Observe & Report

Since bunnies are prey animals, they tend not to exhibit any signs of illness, so a routine can be important in determining if you've got a sick rabbit. Lack of appetite and continued lethargy are sure signs you need to seek a vet. One of the cool things about owning a house rabbit is that their poops are basically little pellets of hay, so cleanup is a breeze. But if they don’t look like spilled Cocoa Puffs, you know something is amiss.

5) Love & Attention

Like you really needed this one anyway, but bunnies are social creatures who form strong bonds and need affection and attention. Don’t leave them locked up too long (they are not dolls), and give them opportunities to run around and do that amazing hop thing they do called “binkies.” Having lived with a dog, a cat, three pot-bellied pigs, and a goat (the betta fish doesn’t count), living with a rabbit has been a singular experience that I’ll not forget, and if you have any interest in it, you won’t regret it, either.

A special thanks to Dr. J. A. Lauer for assistance in this story.

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