Rabbits are exceptionally adorable and endlessly entertaining. They really do make special companion animals for the right people. In fact, they are becoming more and more popular. The percentage of households owning rabbits increased from 24% to 40% between 1992 and 2000, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers' Association (APPMA).
The popularity of rabbits as pets increases over Easter, for obvious reasons. Sometimes, when the new rabbit owner realizes the energy, special care, and time that goes into owning a pet rabbit, many are abandoned at the shelter or worse, turned loose outside.
“Our goal is to educate the public about the realities of bunny ownership,” says Dr. Shann Ikezawa, an exotic and small animal veterinarian for Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care. “Bunnies make great family pets, however they require special care that isn’t always taken into consideration when the impulse to adopt a bunny is made – especially during the Easter holiday.”
Many people believe that rabbits make good "starter" pets to help teach children responsibility. Unfortunately, children and rabbits are not always an ideal match. Young children naturally want to hug and squeeze and carry rabbits around - they are so cute and fuzzy afterall! But this can present a hazard - for both the rabbit and the child. Rabbits are very fragile and can easily come to harm. They don't always enjoy being held and can kick and struggle with their powerful hind legs. This may lead to the rabbit being dropped or jumping out of the child's arms which can cause the rabbit's legs or back to break. A rabbit with a broken back has limited treatment options and often must be euthanized. Rabbits struggling in a child's arms may also unintentionally cause harm by biting or scratching with their paws. It is not impossible for rabbits to do well with children, as long as an adult in the family is the primary care giver of the pet and the interaction between the child and the rabbit is supervised.
All of that being said, having a rabbit as a pet can be very rewarding! Rabbits combine the independence and intrigue of cats with the affection, loyalty and silliness of dogs into one soft, adorable pet. They are best suited to an adult pet owner who can provide them with an indoor space to live and play and who can tolerate a rabbit's natural tendency for digging and chewing. While a cage should be provided for them to sleep in, retreat to, and stay in when they need to be contained, rabbits should have room to roam free - with supervision of course!
Make sure to rabbit proof your home in order to keep your rabbit safe and to protect your furniture and belongings. Rabbits have special dietary needs, and should eat a diet comprised mostly of hay. It is important to do your research if you are thinking of adding a rabbit to your family. Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care has several informative documents regarding rabbits available on the Exotic Resource section of our website under Rabbits. Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets, but they just might be the right pet for you!