24th Mar 2022
We keep saying that but what do we actually mean?
Spending money on expensive enclosures only works if the enclosure is suitable. Hutches and plastic cages are often marked as XL or Extra Large but the reality is that they are usually way too small for a rabbit. The 3 hop rule is one that is stated quite a bit when it comes to bunny homes but do you know that the 3 hop rule applies to their living space only and doesn’t include their exercise area which they should have access to at least 4 hours a day (obviously more is better!!) This size requirements are based on a single bunny only and need to be increased for each bunny sharing the space.
Rabbits are very energetic and active animals who enjoy running and jumping yet a lot of people don’t see that because their rabbits are depressed and shut down from being isolated with no means of entertainment or room to exercise. Rabbit hutches sold in most pet shops are not even fit for a living space let alone spending their lives confined to them so when you decide to take on a rabbit you will need to be prepared to put in some extra work in sourcing appropriate enclosures to give them the best quality of life.
Rabbits can be very territorial and the smaller the enclosures the more likely your bunnies are going to be aggressive and unhappy with you being in or near it. This can make cleaning and feeding an issue as your bunnies will be very possessive of the space that they have. Rabbits do best when allowed to live as part of the family but outside bunnies can be quite happy if given the appropriate amount of dry shelter and warm living space, enrichment and company.
Bunnies are sensitive to temperature and outdoor bunnies are more at risk from disease, predators and parasites.
Indoor bunnies often miss out on some natural behaviours such as digging and foraging and who doesn’t enjoy laying out in the garden soaking up the sun on a nice day.
As always there are pros and cons to indoor versus outdoor living, so where possible it is great to be able to offer your bunnies a combination!
Bunnies and other pets
Bunnies and other pets is a controversial topic In fact, it is one that we would probably have been happier to avoid.
While some feel that rabbits should be kept separately from other pets, others feel that rabbits do well with other animals.
Can rabbits live with other pets?
Like most situations there is no black and white answer. Every rabbit is an individual and their personality will dictate how they do in a multiple pet home situation. Buster, the rabbit, has shared his home with 8 dogs and 8 cats so far in his life. He has also had countless foster dogs, pups and kittens of all shapes and sizes come through. Some he has liked and others, within minutes of them being in the house, it was clear that he wanted nothing to do with them, so they never crossed paths. Buster has also shared his home with several other rabbits. Some he liked, some he loved and some he wouldn’t even go near the room they were in. These days Buster favours the company of an 18month old border collie over any other animal. So it is safe to say that we are not totally opposed to rabbits sharing their homes with other animals.
Rabbits do best when living as part of a family and sometimes that means sharing their home with other pets. Rabbits are prey animals which means that they are more likely to hide signs of illness or stress when they are in a situation they feel threatened. The younger the rabbit, the more likely they are to shut down when faced with a new dog or cat so their true feelings on their new “family members” may not be clear. Just because your bunny doesn’t run away doesn’t mean they are not scared. Likewise when your dog or cat is faced with a new bunny that is frozen in your arms they are unlikely to give you a clear indication of whether they see them as friends or as a new toy. You may see a totally new reaction should the bunnies run or tell them off for getting too close.
If you do decide to add a bunny to your life there are several factors to consider regarding your other pets.
1. The temperament of your current animals. If your dog is loud, bouncy and loves to chase, a bunny may be too much for them to cope with and they may be too much for your bunny.
2. Just because your dog gets on with your cat does not mean that they will get on with a bunny. Rabbits smell very differently to cats and can trigger responses in dogs you didn’t know were there!
3. Small or big your rabbits will see a strange dog or a cat as a threat and will act accordingly. (Puppy and kittens are often worse than adults dogs or cats as they are far more playful and less in control of their teeth and nails)
4. Stress can kill a rabbit. It is an unfortunate fact that the stress alone of being in a situation where a rabbit feels unsafe can take its toll on them and can cause them to get sick or worse.
If you have a dog or cat and are thinking about getting a rabbit, what should you do?
Ideally before you commit to any bunnies you should be sure that your dogs, particularly, can be calm and relaxed around them. Training your dog with commands like “leave it” and “stay” can be very helpful. But if your dog loves to chase anything that moves and gets fixated on wildlife or other animals then a rabbit will not fit into your home. It is safe and better to have your animals ignoring one another rather than forcing them to be friends. They can live harmoniously without ever physically interacting.
Bunnies need time to settle into their new home and become confident with their people before any introductions should be made to resident animals. Make sure you can dedicate one space in your home large enough to meet your bunnies needs, that no other animals can enter. This gives your bunnies a place to call home, feel safe and give you time to get to know your bunnies, their likes and dislikes so you can better understand what they need once they are given access to other areas of your home. This also gives you a safe space to leave your bunnies when you are out or not there to supervise them.
With cats, if the cat stalks or intently watches your rabbits distract them with toys and treats until they are no longer interested in what the rabbit is doing. There is nothing more unnerving than being watched. Cover the tops of any rabbit enclosures to keep your cats away. Bunnies are usually attacked from above so they are extra sensitive about what goes on over their heads. Don’t allow your cat the opportunity to pounce on your rabbits as even in play this can cause injury, especially to rabbits delicate ears.
What if your bunnies were there first??
Like with any animal the responsibility for their welfare falls on their humans to do the right thing by them and keep them safe, healthy and happy. Sadly rabbits are rehomed regularly due to the arrival of a new puppy or kitten as the rabbit is seen as less important or more disposable. Multiple pet households are never simple, even for those who live in them regularly. They require work, training and balance and it’s not always a quick settling in period. But if your rabbit has a safe space of their own and is allowed time to get used to sharing the rest of their home with the new arrivals, by securing the dogs or cats away a few hours a day, this will allow your bunnies their time to do what they normally do. With the proper care and attention put into training your new pets to be respectful of their new family members then more often than not it can work.
We are absolutely not saying it will always work but we hope that all factors are seriously considered before you decide to try.
Spring time means Easter time. The time when baby bunnies flood the pet shops and social media.
But the reality of owning a rabbit is often overlooked and undersold by those hoping to profit from these bundles of cuteness. They offer tiny cages, terrible diets and unsafe equipment all at ridiculously low prices to encourage people to buy. But the reality is that the responsibility is on you, the buyer.
Taking on any animal should only be done once you have fully researched what is involved. The internet is full of information and there is no longer any excuse for people to claim that they didn’t realise. Rabbits need space, exercise and qualified veterinary care. They are just as much work as a cat or a dog as they require lots of exercise to keep them healthy and their stomachs churning. They also require more cleaning and while they can be litter trained, like a cat, they will undoubtedly do more chewing on things that they shouldn’t more than things they should!
By the end of the year a massive amount of these rabbits will end up free on websites, abandoned in fields or forests, in rescues or simply ignored and left at the bottom of the garden only occasionally seeing someone who tops up their food and water.
Rabbits are social creatures who thrive on interaction and companionship and over the next few weeks we will share information from both our own bunnies and some amazingly informative and factual social media. We strongly urge anyone thinking of taking on any of these amazing animals to do their research!
But most importantly to Adopt! Give a forgotten bunny a second chance.
Are Bunnies Good With Kids?
Like with most animals the answer is not a simple as yes or no. For some families the decision to take on a rabbit is spurred on by children wanting a pet and the parents feel they don’t have the time to commit to a dog or a cat. If this is your motivation to get a rabbit, please stop and rethink.
Rabbits require a large amount of space to live and a massive amount of space to exercise. They need regular cleaning and the amount of cleaning depends on the amount of space and bedding they have, but litter trays need to be cleaned daily.
Rabbits are social animals and need company, socialisation and lots of time and patience to get them to be confident around you. If you work all day, kids are at school and you feel you don’t have time for a dog or cat, then you don’t have time for a rabbit either,
Rabbits are very cute. Rabbits are very fluffy. Rabbits look like they would be sooo cuddly. But most rabbits don’t like cuddles and the majority of them don’t even like to be picked up. Rabbits have very strong back legs that can do a massive amount of damage if their nails make contact with your skin and even a friendly rabbit who gets a fright can unintentionally do a lot of damage to you and to themselves.
A squirming rabbit can potentially break a bone or damage its spine trying to get away from you or falling from your arms. The combination of rabbits and small children that are going to want and attempt to pick them up all the time is definitely a bad idea. Older children can be taught to pick up rabbits properly and support them correctly,
The real emphasis should be on teaching children how to interact and bond with their rabbits while the rabbits and their 4 feet stay on the ground, or bed or couch… basically wherever the rabbit is at the time and, believe us, they can get into the most unusual of places when they want to, but that’s another post.
Rabbits like treats and can even be taught some tricks and commands but bunnies do sometimes have selective hearing so their recall probably isn’t going to be the most reliable.
This sort of interaction and positive experience then not only forms a bond but also a trust between the bunnies and the children making the child’s movements and activities, which can sometimes stress a more nervous rabbit, less scary or startling and overall making their relationship all the more fulfilling for everyone.
Rabbits are very entertaining to watch when the play together and getting two is always recommended, when done properly. Rabbits are also very inquisitive and like to be involved in their families day to day activities once they become accustomed to their families. But rabbits sat in their pen all day every day and only let out to play with your children once a week or when you have time, simply won’t want to play as they will be nervous and will probably just sit still and wait for everyone to go away again. This is what then gives people the impression that rabbits are boring.
Another common reason given when rabbits are surrendered is that the hay, the bedding or even the rabbit themselves have triggered an allergic reaction, so it’s also advised that you rule that out before committing to a new pet.
Rabbits. overall, are absolutely fine to live with children and make great pets once the personality is right and the family is prepared to put in the work to keep them properly. If your children want something cute and cuddly a rabbit is not the answer. Are they the best pet for your child? Only you as the adult can decide that.
Buster and Elliott have lived together in, mostly, harmony for 6 years. There have been some nips, chewed objects and hurt feelings along the way. Buster joined his family as a foster, while he recovered from injuries sustained from an attack by a dog in a previous home. He was not expected to survive and during his long road to recovery and by the time he was ready for adoption he had won over his foster family with his charm and resilience and so they adopted him. While it is probably unfair to use Buster and Elliott as an example of a bunny with a child, as Buster is the exception to so many rules and Elliott has grown up surrounded by so may animals he knows the rules better than most, we felt it was important to not completely rule out or disregard families looking at adopting rabbits which can often be done.
Rabbits are amazing pets once their families are prepared to put in the work!