Mary Lempert is the founder of The Rabbit Advocate, where this post originally appeared. She has served as a rabbit behavior and rehabilitation consultant for the House Rabbit Society, House Rabbit Network and the MSPCA in Massachusetts and, most recently, for the Almost Home Humane Society in Lafayette, IN. She lives in West Lafayette, IN, with her rabbits Graysie and Willoughby and any number of foster bunnies.
Rabbits are remarkably affectionate, interactive, and intelligent (check out 10 Reasons Rescue Rabbits Rule). But they are by no means low-maintenance pets. Rabbits can live 12 years or more, so they are long-term, though thoroughly rewarding, commitments.
Before you adopt a rabbit for Adopt-A-Rescued Rabbit Month, here are a few things to consider:
Do you have the indoor space for a dog crate or exercise pen? Are you rabbit-proofed? You’ll need to hide or cover electrical wires, telephone cords and poisonous plants in at least one room of the house.
Do you have enough time for a rabbit?
Rabbits don’t require long walks, but they should be let out of their
cage for at least an hour a day. Playtime doesn’t have to mean dedicated
rabbit-watching; it can be incorporated with your everyday activities:
Bunnies love lounging on the couch while you read and are happy zooming
around your feet as you cook dinner.
Can you handle a rabbit properly, or learn to? It’s
important to recognize that, despite their toy-like appearance, rabbits are not always easy to handle. If a rabbit is not held properly, his powerful
back legs can deliver a dangerous blow or scratch to an inexperienced
handler. Such kicks can also be devastating to the bun — they can lead
to spinal or pelvic fractures (rabbits have exceptionally light bones
beneath their strong muscles).
Can you provide a calm environment? Rabbits are delicate — not just
physically, but psychologically. As prey animals, they
scare easily and can even suffer cardiac arrest due to fright. Because
of their sensitivity, rabbits often don’t make the best pets for
young children, who have a hard time understanding rabbits’ occasionally
Do you know which foods rabbits need to eat? Rabbits should eat a
varied diet that includes a small portion of Timothy hay-based
pellets, unlimited access to quality grass hay and a daily assortment
of fresh vegetables. While it’s definitely not as easy as throwing cat
food in a bowl every morning, stocking your fridge with greens
encourages good eating habits for everyone!
Is your entire household on board with adopting a rabbit?
Before adopting any animal, ensuring the entire family is on board and
ready makes for a harmonious foundation. With rabbits, it’s a good idea
to take a trip to a shelter or a rescue with all family members to rule
out possible allergies. Allergies to rabbit dander or hays are not
uncommon and can range from mild to severe, and it’s much easier to find
out about any sensitivities before bringing an animal home.
Rabbits make truly outstanding companions who will flourish
with proper care and in the right environment. If any questions about
care, health, or behavior come up — and they will — never hesitate to
reach out to a rescue organization or exotic-animal veterinarian for answers.
More about rabbit adoption and care: