Melanie O’Neill, Bunny Buddies
Photo by Trish Badger
As we celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, many animal lovers may find themselves curious about bunny ownership and what to expect when introducing one to your home and family. Understanding your rabbit is an important part of their ongoing care and growing your relationship with them.
While rabbits have been bred and domesticated over hundreds of years, they still have natural instincts. As prey animals, rabbits are often nervous in busy or loud environments and generally do not like to be handled. They may associate being lifted off the ground with being snatched by a predator, so it’s recommended that you pick them up as infrequently as possible. It is also important to remember that rabbits are not suitable pets for small children and should always be a parent’s responsibility, with more mature children supporting the rabbit’s care.
Rabbits have a very special digestive track, and a high-fiber diet of quality hay and leafy greens is crucial to their overall health. Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits have a one-way system, meaning they cannot vomit. This inability to regurgitate can cause serious health issues for a rabbit that eats something it shouldn’t, and can even be fatal. For these reasons and more, rabbits are considered an “exotic” animal and require care from a specialized vet — and are not seen by all clinics. Be sure to find a knowledgeable provider in your area.
A proper environment is just as important as health and diet. Domesticated rabbits are temperature-sensitive and should live indoors, away from predators and pests, in a controlled climate. It is essential that your rabbit has an appropriate amount of space to stretch out, relax and enjoy enrichment activities. While common misconceptions may have you thinking that a cage or hutch is enough space for a rabbit, consider this comparison — how would you feel being stuck in your room all the time? Bunny Buddies requires a minimum of 16 square feet for living quarters with an additional, larger area available for daily exercise.
Welcoming a rabbit into your home can be a rewarding and memorable experience, but it is important to have strong fundamental knowledge before making this long-term commitment: healthy rabbits live an average of 8-12 years, after all! If you are interested in learning more, you can contact Houston-area rescue Bunny Buddies for care advice, fostering opportunities and adoption events via email at bunnybuddies.org or on social media: @bunnybuddieshouston.