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Rabbits are wonderful pets that can be very rewarding to own. Rabbits are often believed to be a low-maintenance pet; this is a common misconception. They take significant time and interaction in order to really bond with their owner. Similar to cats and dogs, they also require regular veterinary exams and should be spayed or neutered. The average rabbit lifespan is seven to ten years, so if you’re considering a pet rabbit, be sure you’re willing to commit to a pet long-term.
While on your path to finding the perfect pet, don’t forget to check out local animal shelters for rabbits. There are often pet owners who find they don’t have enough time to dedicate to their rabbit and are forced to turn them in. Oftentimes, these older rabbits are already litter-box trained and are waiting for a pet owner to give them the affection they desire.
Rabbits have unique personalities; however, most are initially timid and shy. Daily interaction and play with your pet rabbit alongside hand-feeding is a proven way to get your pet rabbit comfortable and allow them to open up to you.
There are many similar qualities rabbits share with cats and dogs. Cats and rabbits can both be trained to use a litter box and prefer to do so. Pay close attention to your rabbit to learn where their “restroom area” is within their enclosure, and place their litter box in that same area. Be sure to use rabbit-specific litter, as cat litter can cause major health concerns. Rabbits and dogs are both easily bored and resort to chewing and digging for entertainment. Rabbits are very good diggers, so you cannot leave them in a yard unattended, even for a short period of time. To help rabbits who are very apt to chewing and digging, provide toys such as chew sticks and old telephone books.
What do pet rabbits eat?
Initially, a rabbit’s digestive system requires extra fiber, which they can obtain from rabbit pellets, but as a rabbit ages, the amount of pellets they need lessens. Diet should primarily consist of grass hay and fresh green vegetables, including collard greens, lettuce, and turnip greens.
Most often, a new rabbit owner thinks their pet wants to be outside and places their cage accordingly. Contrary to this belief, rabbit enclosures should be kept indoors, because rabbits are very social animals and require a lot of human interaction. Keeping a rabbit inside allows you to continually see and meet their needs. Also, having a pet rabbit outside exposes them to potential harm, such as parasites, animal attacks, or unforgiving weather.
Owners of multiple rabbits should house each rabbit within their own enclosure unless all rabbits have been spayed or neutered. Also, before placing multiple rabbits in one cage, an owner must appropriately introduce the animals to one another and ensure they get along. Rabbit enclosures should be quite large, especially if multiple rabbits are to be housed together. The smallest recommended enclosure size is 3 feet by 4 feet, but a larger space is always acceptable.
What does my pet rabbit need?
A feeding rack with ceramic water bowl
Enclosure or cage with a solid bottom
Grooming brush – bristled, not metal
High-quality rabbit pellets
Litter box with rabbit-specific bedding
Rabbit-safe chew toys
Because rabbits are exceptionally clean animals, grooming them is quite simple. Weekly to daily brushing, depending on the type of rabbit, is required, and occasional professional grooming is needed for certain rabbit types in order to keep their hair length manageable. When rabbits are not regularly brushed, their hair can become matted and hairballs become frequent, both of which can cause pain and health issues. If your rabbit’s fur does get matted, do not try removing the mat with scissors; it is very easy to slip and cut through your pet’s thin, fragile skin. Instead, take them to a professional groomer who can remove the mat with special clippers.
Rabbits, like cats, clean and bathe themselves. Most pet rabbits experience traumatizing anxiety when bathed, so it is not recommended.
For further resources please visit the NJ House Rabbit Society at www.njhrs.com.