Rabbits as pets: what to expect

Keeping rabbits as petsRabbits are very popular pets. Between 1% and 2% of US households have at least one rabbit living with them. But what’s it like keeping rabbits as pets?

Most rabbits are fun creatures that are gentle and good to be around. Some rabbits can be a little aggressive, but this can often be helped by having your pet spayed or neutered. It’s always important to remember that rabbits are individuals, just like people are. If you have a pet rabbit then you need to take time to get to know it and learn about its likes and dislikes.

If you’re new to keeping rabbits as pets you may be wondering what to expect. Or maybe you don’t have a rabbit yet and you’re trying to decide whether to get one.

We’re going to tell you some of the things it’s useful to know if you have a pet rabbit, and talk about how great having rabbits as pets can be.

Why keeping rabbits as pets is a good idea

The first point it’s important to make is that it’s only a good idea to have a rabbit as a pet if you’re prepared for the commitment.

Rabbits can live for a long time if they are well cared for. You should only take a rabbit into your home if you’re willing to look after it for its whole life.

If you can make this commitment then keeping rabbits as pets can be great fun! Rabbits are very social animals which is why it’s a good idea to have two rabbits and not just one. Some rescue centres will only re-house bunnies in pairs; the best combination to have as a pair is a neutered and spayed male and female. They will usually live quite happily together and will spend a great deal of time grooming each other.

If you do have a single rabbit then you need to make sure it has company as much as possible. Your rabbit will get to know you and may even greet you by running around your feet or jumping on your knee when you’re sitting down.

It’s important that you don’t force your rabbit into contact with you though. Remember, many rabbits don’t like being held and get scared. You will get to know what your rabbit does and doesn’t like.

Keeping a rabbit in the house

The best place for keeping rabbits as pets is in the house. Rabbits can easily be litter trained so you don’t need to worry about them making a mess.

It’s a good idea to make sure there are no wires around for your rabbit to get its teeth into. Keep wires up high or make sure they are boxed in.

Always make sure that your pet rabbit has plenty of toys to play with. Rabbits get bored very easily and pretty soon gnawing on a chair leg can seem like a really cool game.

If you do keep your rabbit in the house with you it will probably live longer. Rabbits that live outside are often affected by predators, viruses and bad weather. You can help keep your rabbit healthier by housing it inside.

Rabbit health problems

Speaking of health, there are certain health problems that rabbits are especially prone to. Here are three of the major health issues your bunny may encounter.

GI Stasis

Rabbits often have problems with their Gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

GI stasis occurs when the tract slows and then stops working. There can be a number of reasons for this happening including pain, stress and a blockage.

There are ways you can tell if a rabbit is having problems including, smaller droppings that are fewer in number, lack of appetite, lethargy and a louder than normal gurgling noise coming from the rabbit’s stomach.

If you think that your bunny is having problems with GI stasis then you should speak to a vet straight away.

Overgrown teeth

A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing (this is one of our top rabbit facts!). They are kept in trim simply by the daily wear and tear of the top and bottom teeth touching. But sometimes the teeth don’t touch, and this can be a problem.

If a rabbit’s teeth don’t touch they will just keep on growing. Overgrown teeth can stop a bunny from eating and can even grow into the bottom or roof of your pet’s mouth.

Some rabbit owners clip their pet’s teeth themselves but it can be a difficult job. It’s a good idea to take your rabbit to the vet if it’s teeth are overgrown.

Fly strike

Fly strike is one of the most horrible things to witness. It happens when blue bottle flies lay their eggs on a rabbit’s skin, around the bunny’s bottom. The eggs hatch into maggots which then feed on the skin of the rabbit. This causes irritation and pain for your pet.

Obviously, this problem is more common if your pet is housed outdoors. The best way to try and avoid fly strike is to make sure your pet’s bottom is always clean. Some older and/or larger rabbits have difficulty grooming so you need to give them some help. If you see any sign of fly strike on your pet then you need to get them to the vet straight away; fly strike is very serious and often fatal.

As you can see, keeping rabbits as pets isn’t always easy but it is very rewarding. Rabbits are very loving and friendly animals and they are sure to keep you entertained as long as they are in your life.

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