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This website is devoted to the care and well-being of all rabbits, and focuses on pet rabbits kept as indoor members of the family.

Last site update: Wed Feb 25 01:52:51 EST 2015

Communication (and biting/nibbling)

General

Health

Handling

Care

Housing

Behavior

When You Adopt

Grooming

Understanding Your Bunny

Proper Housing

Check out my book on pet rabbit care and socialization, and I'm always updating it. The book is copyright-protected but available for free, though I request a $1 donation for the bunnies and for my efforts. C'mon, what's a buck?

Did You Know?

Your bunny is a very intelligent, emotional, opinionated, and mischievous being and a great pet if you spend time with it.

Our understanding of rabbits has grown considerably in the last several years. Gone are many of the misconceptions that led to so many sad stories due mostly because people did not know enough about the animals in their care, yet sad stories remain from people who are simply unaware of the latest understanding we have about rabbits. They are highly intelligent, social, interactive, expressive, and playful animals and are a joy to have around the home. Anyone not having that experience with their rabbit is probably missing some important piece of information.


General:
  • Rabbits are the third most popular pet, behind dogs and cats, and they are also the third most surrendered pet at shelters
  • Rabbits are the MOST neglected pet (mainly because so many people imprison them in outdoor hutches and the forget about them)
  • Rabbits are not rodents - they are lagomorphs, much more closely related to hooved animals
  • Rabbits usually get along just fine with most cats and many dogs, as long as introductions are handled carefully
  • Rabbits are responsive to some words and learn quite a large vocabulary from listening to humans (they are not necessarily responsive to voice commands, but they understand many words)
  • Wild rabbits are very well equipped to survive in the wild - domestic rabbits do not have such instincts and cannot survive when dumped in the wild.
  • A domestic rabbit dumped in the wild has an average life expectancy of three days before it is typically brutally killed by a predator or even a human
  • Rabbits do not have the capability to fend for themselves even if you just dump them in your fenced-in backyard - you must provide proper care and food and shelter for them, or you should surrender them to a shelter; otherwise you will cause them great suffering
  • Rabbits let out a blood-curdling scream when in great pain or when very very frightened.

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Health: (See also the health page)
  • Rabbits will hide any health problems they have so as not to be singled out as weak by a predator
  • A rabbit's health can quickly deteriorate from the point of detection to the point where it becomes fatal, so you must pay close attention to your rabbit's health

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Handling: (See also the handling page)
  • Never lift a rabbit by its ears
  • Never hold a rabbit by its limbs
  • Never hold a rabbit by its tail
  • Always properly support the rabbit's hindquarters
  • Hold a rabbit close to your body, not away from you
  • Be ready for the rabbit to struggle and kick, and be ready to put it down if necessary
  • Never try to restrain a struggling rabbit - it can very easily injure itself - maneuver yourself back to the floor to let him go
  • Sometimes covering the eyes and gently stroking a rabbit will calm it down and put it into a semi-hypnotic state, making it easier to handle
  • Wrapping a rabbit in a towel is a good way to restrain it and avoid getting scratched
  • ALWAYS BE GENTLE

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Care:
  • Rabbits are high-maintenance pets and children should not be the primary care-givers - An estimated 90% of all rabbits purchased as pets for children die of improper care or are abandoned at animal shelters across the country, most to be euthanized.
  • A properly cared-for rabbit will live a long and happy life and provide you with a lot of love
  • NEVER EVER STRIKE YOUR RABBIT (OR ANY OTHER ANIMAL)!!! They do not understand this and it scares and alienates them

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Housing: (See also the housing page)
  • Rabbits belong indoors with you as pets, not forgotten in outdoor hutches as prisoners
  • Rabbits are easily litterbox trained and usually fastidious about their habits
  • The lifespan of an outdoor rabbit is about 1 year, the lifespan of an indoor house rabbit is 8-10 years or more
  • Stories abound about rabbits left in outdoor hutches who are denied proper food, water, or medical attention, and who ultimately die a slow, agonizing death as a result
  • Rabbits who live strictly in cages on wire floors develop sore hocks, a very painful condition that can even damage the bones.
  • You can never know how wonderful a pet a rabbit can be until you share your home with one
  • The reality is, any pet is likely to do some damage to something - dogs, cats, rabbits all chew on something or other - it's easier to rabbit-proof an area than to cat-proof or dog-proof.
  • You can let your rabbit run free in zoned-in areas of your house, or even have the entire house to explore - most rabbits will delight at having some territory to explore, and you can easily minimize the damage they might do with a little effort
  • Rabbits will display many antics inside that they wouldn't if left alone
  • Fear can cause a rabbit to have a heart attack

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Behavior: (See also the behavior page)
  • Rabbits have a sense of humor
  • Rabbits smile
  • Rabbits love to play games with humans and other pets
  • Rabbits need toys and playtime distractions to keep their minds busy
  • Rabbits enjoy playing with other rabbits, humans, and other pets
  • Rabbits respond to an invitation to play the same way a dog would - you just have to learn how to invite a rabbit to play a game, and how your rabbit invites you (perhaps nipping your ankle and running away)
  • Rabbits are far less allergenic than cats or dogs
  • Rabbits understand death and will mourn the loss of a mate
  • Fear can cause a rabbit to have a fatal heart attack
  • Rabbits live in complex social groups with their own hierarchies and bond groupings

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When you adopt: (see also the new to bunnies page)
  • You already have a very good idea of its personality and you will not have to deal with the adolescence phases
  • They have already gone through their hormonal changes
  • Their behavior is already known and more consistent than when they are growing babies
  • They have already been through a hard time and will likely be very appreciative of a second chance
  • There is a special reward you get from saving a bunny as opposed to just getting a cute novelty on a whim
  • Rabbits in shelters and rescues have usually been socialized by volunteers as part of the rehabilitative process
  • Adoptable bunnies are already spayed or neutered and so are far less inclined to certain health problems
  • If you are a first-time bunny parent, you will be far happier adopting a socialized adult rabbit who already knows how to deal with humans and is much easier to make friends with
  • Shelter and rescue personnel know and care deeply about the animals - breeders and petstore employees typically don't and the animals you get from them may be more inclined to health problems
  • For every bunny you buy at a pet store or from a breeder, a bunny in a shelter somewhere is euthanized - it is just that simple

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Grooming: (See also the grooming page)
  • Rabbits groom themselves more than cats and are fastidiously clean (unless having health problems for which you should seek veterinary help immediately)
  • Angora (long-hair) grooming should only be done by someone who really knows what they are doing - these bunnies are not for beginners!!

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Communication: (See also the behavior page)
  • Some rabbits may bite as a way of communicating - do not get upset at the rabbit, try to understand what it is trying to tell you:
    • It may be in pain
    • It may be very afraid
    • It may be very frustrated and out of options
  • Some rabbits may bite as a way of showing affection - these bites are really "bunny hickeys" and tend to be a form of social grooming - if you had fur, you'd appreciate it, but since you have skin, it tends to raise red marks and welts. Your bunny is truly showing affection when you get these nibbles, but they may hurt a little. If you can tolerate them, all is well; if you can't, try not to give the bunny any negative feedback about it (since he is showing you affection) and reposition yourself so he can't nibble on you.
  • Rabbits do a lot of nonverbal communication, for example:
    • Thumping - warning, danger, or "pay attention to me"
    • Flopping on side - total contentment
    • Periscoping - curiosity, getting a better view around
    • Chinning - usually done by the male because of a scent gland under the chin, means he is claiming property as belonging in his territory and also can mean "I will eat you later"



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Last update: Wed Feb 25 01:52:51 EST 2015