Before you adopt a bunny, there are a few things you should know. To start, bunnies are intelligent and flourish in an indoor environment. I know this breaks the mold of what you’ve been told, or experienced as a child, but it’s true. Bunnies are playful, loving creatures, more similar to a cat/dog than you think. If you take the time to read about them and learn about their needs, you can share years and years of companionship.
I began this page as a way to do just that. There are a lot of misconceptions about bunny ownership, and it’s my hope that it will point you in the right direction. Here are a few basic facts and tips about bunnies that you might find interesting or surprising (that last one is pretty obvious though). You can find more in depth information on the rest of the House Bunnies pages.
Live 8-12 years
Should be spayed/neutered
Can be litter trained
Have a diet of mostly hay
Require yearly vet visits
Are clean and quiet
Can die of fright
Should not be bathed
Need adequate housing
Need ample time out of that cage
Most active at dawn and dusk
Like to chew
Misconception: Bunnies are rodents.
Truth: Bunnies are actually members of the order Lagomorpha, of which hares and pikas also belong to. Unlike rodents they are almost strictly herbivores.
Misconception: Bunnies don’t live very long.
Truth: They can actually live 8-12 years!
Misconception: Bunnies are destructive.
Truth: Bunny teeth grow constantly. This means that that have to constantly chew to file them down. Hay is super helpful in this respect. Giving them toys will also help with this behavior. If they don’t have a proper means of filing their teeth down, they will do so on other things, like baseboards and your favorite books.
Misconception: My bunny is lazy!
Truth: When are you trying to interact with your bunny? Bunnies are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Your bunny might also be bored. Try getting him/her toys and cardboard boxes to play in.
Misconception: All bunnies need is a 2’x4′ cage from a pet store.
Truth: Bunnies shouldn’t be confined to small cages their whole lives. It’s cruel. It’s also untrue that small bunnies need less space. In actuality, small bunnies are more active.
Misconception: Bunnies don’t need to go to the vet.
Truth: While bunnies don’t need vaccinations here in the US, a yearly check-up is recommended. They should also be spayed/neutered to prevent bad hormonal behaviors.
Misconception: Snuggle bunny.
Truth: Most bunnies are not snuggly in the sense that they don’t like to be picked up. They often flail and struggle when you do so. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t affectionate. Bunnies love to be scratched and petted.
Misconception: Bunnies smell.
Truth: They actually don’t smell at all. If you’ve ever encountered a smelly bunny, it is probably because their owners don’t clean their cage enough.
More myths and misconceptions at Rabbitron.
Bunnies each have their own personality and quirks. Eames does not like to be held like most bunnies, and this took me a while to accept. The less I pick him up (now almost never except for nail trimmings), the more loving he is with me. He will let me rub his head for hours, and reciprocates by grooming my face. It’s important to remember that bunnies are prey animals and startle fairly easily. Sometimes it’s really quite odd what scares a bunny, and what doesn’t. When we were building Eames’s new hutch we often had power tools going and nothing phased him. However, if I sneezed all bets were off and he bolted back to his hutch.
Spaying and Neutering
We knew it was time to get Eames neutered when he started courting Steven. Yes, our rabbit chose my husband for his…affection. Eames would circle him, which was cute until that behavior lead to spraying. Bunnies spray, and it’s gross! We took Eames to get neutered and he has not sprayed since. Bunnies lead happier, healthier lives when they are fixed (this is especially true with females). Also, hormone driven activities like lunging, mounting, and spraying often stop.
Bunnies and Children
Bunnies are not ideal pets for children. They do not liked to be picked up and will often flail about until they are free. This thrashing can cause a back injury. I’m not saying bunnies can’t make good family pets. I’m saying that young children need supervision with bunnies (and most other pets) because they don’t understand how to interact with them. Regardless, bunnies need a responsible adult to care for them, change their water, feed them, and clean their litter box. If you want a bunny for your child, go for a larger breed. One that can’t be picked up by kids. Here is some more information on why bunnies don’t make great pets for young kids.
Bunnies and Cats
Eames and Charlotte tolerate, and mostly just ignore each other. Charlotte will groom him on occasion which is cute, until she gets a little over zealous and nibbles a little. We got Charlotte when she was little so Eames asserted his dominance from the get go. I never worry about them together, and only separate them if I’m going to be gone for an extended period of time. Did you know that while cats groom to show their dominance, dominant bunnies are the recipients of grooming. Win, win. While it’s completely plausible to introduce an older cat to a new bunny, we don’t have any experience. Here are some suggestions.
While their wild counterparts do very well outside, domesticated bunnies are often (not always) neglected when they are left in outdoor hutches. For a time, we had Eames in our spare room. We noticed ourselves spending less time with him, and we also noticed him acting out because of this. I can only imagine if he was outside! House bunnies are just that! Inside their personalities flourish and they become part of the family. They have time out of their cages to run around and play. Outdoor bunnies are often confined in hutches without free time. They are exposed to the elements, and it’s worth mentioning that bunnies can easily die of heat stroke. One other important negative about keeping your bunnies outside: predators. While they may not be able to get in the hutch, they can literally scare a bunny to death. Other problems include parasites. Your bunny will be more susceptible to fleas and ticks outside. What I’m trying say is rabbits often have a better quality of life, and live longer, indoors.
You’ll have to take some precautions for your house bunny. Cords need to be tucked away or covered, and any important books/documents/items should be out of tooth reach. While we are not home, Eames is in his hutch. I would love to trust him with the run of our house, but there is simply too much that he can get into, and too much he can chew on. This also means housing should be large enough for your bunny to stay in for an extended period of time, occasionally. When we are home Eames has the run of the house. He is a pretty well behaved bunny, but that came with training when he was little. He is a bunny though. When he gets it in his mind that he has to chew on a certain item, we move/cover it, and redirect him to something more appropriate (cardboard/paper). He is a persistent booger.