Rabbits are often underestimated. They are placed in the same category as a rat or a hamster and called “rodents”, even though they are not rodents at all and their behavior, personality, and intelligence more closely resemble those of a cat or dog. Many people believe that a rabbit requires very little work and that it can simply be placed in a small cage and cuddled whenever it is convenient. That’s why a lot of children end up with a pet rabbit and that’s why a lot of pet rabbits end up depressed and neglected. The reality is, rabbits require lots of care, plenty of space and entertainment, and enjoy affection on their terms only.
If you are considering a pet rabbit, you need to be aware that it is a living creature with a distinct personality that you have to adjust your life for to keep it happy. It cannot simply be forgotten in a corner and taken out occasionally. It may require changes in your life, such as the rearranging of furniture or getting up earlier before going to work, and you need to be willing to make those changes. Here are some basic things a rabbit needs:
Space: A small cage from the pet store won’t do. Those rabbit legs are made for running and jumping. Our bunnies are cage-free and live in the house like a cat would. If you can’t offer your rabbit free range or their own (or a shared) room, make sure the cage has a playpen attached and there is plenty of additional time where the rabbit can hop around the house. Remember, a rabbit isn’t like a rat at all and you wouldn’t put your cat in a small cage while you’re at work, either. You can find rabbit housing ideas here.
Entertainment: You can’t just place a rabbit in a room and expect it to neatly hop around in circles the whole time. A rabbit wants entertainment, just like cats, dogs, or humans. Otherwise, it’ll get into trouble and may chew your furniture. Toys can easily be made or bought, though, and we have some suggestions here and some products in the shop. We’d love to hear what you come up with, too, so feel free to share your own ideas!
Food/Water: Rabbits need hay at all times and fresh greens throughout the day. Be prepared to chop some vegetables! Hay can be purchased from nearby farms, online, or at the regular grocery store. We choose not to feed pellets, but if you do then a Timothy hay based pellet without seeds or colorful additions is recommended. Water is best served in a bowl and not in a bottle.
Litter Box: Rabbits are clean animals that like to use a litter box with appropriate bedding once trained. Stay away from cedar or pine shavings as litter. I know they are cheap, but they don’t control the smell, you need to clean more often, and they cause health issues. Paper-based litters are much better! Here are a few litter box set-ups.
Sometimes people think the rabbit’s whole living area has to have bedding, but that is not true. In fact, most rabbits will try to get rid of it outside of the litter box. Rugs, fleece, or other more solid surfaces are much preferred!
Hay Rack: Hay can quickly take over the house if you don’t have a good hay rack handy. Which one is right for you depends on your set-up and your rabbit’s preference. Check out these ideas.
Furniture: Just like a child, rabbits like to have their own pieces of furniture. They like to have a sense that something belongs to them only. A wooden house or bed or a cardboard box with holes cut into it are great options. Our bunnies also love towels. Bunny moves his around until it is just the way he likes it and then he lays down on top of it to sleep. Here are some furniture ideas.
Care: Trimming nails, brushing fur, and yearly check-ups are necessary to maintain a rabbit’s health. Rabbits can get sick very quickly, so it’s a good idea to have a couple hundred dollars set aside for emergencies. Make sure you find a good vet near you that knows about rabbits. Not all of them do. Rabbits should be spayed or neutered when they are around 4-6 months old or older. The procedures cost between $100-500. They are much happier, more relaxed, and cleaner when they are fixed. They won’t mark their territory (your house!) anymore. Plus, that way a male and female can live together.
Time: Especially if you have only one rabbit, you need to spend some time with it. Rabbits are very friendly and social creatures that thrive on interaction. Some rabbits love to cuddle, others love to play games, and sometimes they just like to be near you when you read or watch TV.
We made a list of things people wished they would have known before getting their first rabbit.
All of this information should make it clear that a rabbit cannot simply be in the care of a child or stay forgotten in a small cage in a corner. Having a rabbit is a daily commitment for roughly 10 years.
Most of all, rabbits are funny and bring joy to a household. Their peculiar habits and traits are amusing to observe. On top of that, they are so incredibly cute that whatever nonsense they come up with, you can’t be angry. Be prepared to fall head over heels for your little bun and to do such irrational things as running to the grocery store at 11pm, because you can’t stand that your bun is angry with you for only offering cucumbers instead of carrots. Be prepared to become a happy rabbit slave like the rest of us.
Rabbits have a few traits that are almost universal, but in general their personalities are as diverse as those of a cat, dog, or human. Most buns are naturally friendly and curious and have to be a part of the events of the house. Every time we clean a room, Bunny hops around us and supervises. Every time we have visitors, Bunny has to sit in the living room with everyone. He doesn’t want to be ignored and he doesn’t want to miss anything!
Rabbits are also careful creatures that don’t like to feel constricted. In fact, they easily panic and try to flee whenever they feel trapped. That’s why many buns do not like to be picked up. They enjoy cuddling while sitting on the floor, but prefer being able to leave whenever they had enough. They like hiding spots with at least two exits and sitting high up to have a good overview of the area. Rabbits are one of the lowest animals in the food chain and basically everything wants to eat them. Being careful is therefore not a bad or surprising trait.
Again, every rabbit is different, but here are two examples of rabbit personalities that are relatively common. Please take these as very general descriptions, just as you would with the groupings that exist for us humans. Also, if you are writing a school essay on rabbits, let me warn you: I made the names up.
The Royal Rabbit
This is the category that Bunny belongs to, no doubt about it. These rabbits are dignified and believe that they are ruling the house and that everything should go according to their preferences. They will pout whenever the food isn’t served promptly at the regular feeding time. They will ignore you and the food if it wasn’t what they expected to receive. They are opinionated, like to be around people, but don’t always grant permission to be touched, and they come over to you when they find it agreeable, but generally not when you call them. Unless you have a carrot. They will endure your presence then. If they don’t agree with a house rule, these rabbits will slowly but steadily change your mind rather than obey the rules. They do it in such a way that you can’t help but laugh and let them. *For example, Bunny wasn’t allowed in the bedroom at first, but he really wanted to. Now it is full of his toys and he sleeps under the bed. Not sure how he did it.*
The Childlike Rabbit
These rabbits are overly curious and full of energy. They will race over to you and happily greet you whenever you enter the room. They will enjoy any kind of affection and openly show their joy by binkying around the room frequently. They are also more likely to chew, dig, and push their way into areas you tried to keep them out of and often feel the need to investigate the taste of the book on the shelf or the consistency of the inside of a pillow, especially when no other entertainment is provided. These rabbits enjoy new toys, games, and challenges and openly show their emotions.
These are the personalities we have come across most often and some rabbits clearly fit in one, some may have aspects of each, some may not fit at all. We hope this overview helps you make an informed decision!