Rabbits can be a great house pet and are much cleaner than most people realize and they can even be trained to use a litter box. They are an excellent alternative for people who are allergic to cats and dogs, as allergies to rabbits are quite uncommon. Rabbits are very affectionate and will often cuddle with their owners, just like a cat or a dog. They interact well with people and are highly intelligent. However, before you run out and adopt a rabbit from your local animal shelter or breeder, there are some things that you need to know.
#1 – Are You Ready to Commit?
You will need to dedicate a good amount of time each and every day to caring for your pet rabbit. You will need to provide fresh water and food, clean out the cage and spend time grooming and playing with your rabbit. Rabbits are very social creatures, so they don’t do very well in an isolated situation. If properly cared for, a rabbit can live approximately 15 years, so it is important to know what you are getting into before you adopt a rabbit. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, consider getting a goldfish that probably won’t even notice if you don’t say hello for a couple of days.
#2 – Can You Provide Proper Care?
Owning rabbits in Massachusetts requires a lot of initial start-up costs, as well as on-going costs, throughout the life of your pet. Buying a cage or a hutch is just the first step, as your rabbit will also need to see a small mammal vet on a regular basis, get flea prevention treatment, have toys for mental stimulation, require grooming supplies to stay healthy and will need proper bedding for those cold New England nights. In addition to the cage or hutch you will need a “nesting box” for the rabbit to sleep in, which simulates a burrow; bedding made from paper, aspen chips or straw; a fenced-in play area or exercise pen for indoors; a litter box and litter supplies; food and water dishes; a pet carrier for trips to Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth; grooming items, chew toys and food.
#3 – Can You Keep Fresh Food Available?
Rabbits are herbivores and require a diet that is comprised of fresh veggies. While many pet owners will feed their rabbits pellets as a basic diet staple, rabbits also need fresh hay and vegetables each day to supplement their diet. Proper nutrition is important when you adopt a rabbit, so consider the availability of these food items in your local area and your ability to keep a proper stock of them year-round for your furry friend.
#4 – Do You Have Time for Training?
When you adopt a rabbit you need to spend a lot of time initially getting your new pet used to you and your home. Rabbits need to be picked up on a regular basis and they need to be handled properly. If this is not done, some rabbits will become resistant to being picked up and can scratch, kick or even bite if they are afraid. This behavior can lead to injuries for both you are the rabbit. Even though you need to spend time training and handling your rabbit, don’t expect that they will ever want to be hugged or cuddled. For some rabbits, sitting on their owners laps while being pet is about as affectionate as they are going to get.
#5 – Can Your Home Be Rabbit-Proofed?
Rabbits are chewers. They like to chew on anything they can get their teeth on – including your furniture and cupboard doors. Unfortunately, they will also chew on electrical cords and other dangerous items if they are within reach. It is recommended that you bunny-proof your home before you adopt a rabbit by crawling around on the floor to ensure that they won’t be able to get into anything dangerous. Providing your rabbit with chew toys and plenty of exercise will also help to prevent unwanted chewing and destruction.
#6 – Do You Have Small Children?
It is important to note that rabbits are not necessarily the best pet for a small child. Because they are so difficult to handle and don’t really like to be cuddled, rabbits are not ideal in a household where there are small children. The feeding, care and training of a rabbit should be handled by an adult with lots of patience and education about the specific needs of this small mammal. Rabbits are a great pet for an older child who is patient and willing to learn all they can about proper care. Before you adopt a rabbit, consider each person in your household to ensure a healthy fit for all involved.
#7 – Do You Know About Marking?
Just like cats and dogs, rabbits that haven’t been spayed or neutered will sometimes mark their territory. This is true for both males and females. Spaying or neutering will help reduce the risk of marking and unwanted litters of bunnies if you plan on owning more rabbits in Massachusetts than just one. Neutering also reduces chewing and aggression tendencies. Speak with your small animal vet or take your rabbit to Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth to find out more about spaying or neutering your new pet.
#8 – Are You Aware of Common Health Issues?
All pets have certain health concerns that pet owners must be aware of before adoption. Rabbits require regular exams by a qualified small mammal vet. Foot problems, overgrown teeth, respiratory diseases and digestive issues are very common in rabbits, especially in those who haven’t always had a proper diet. If you adopt a rabbit from a local animal shelter, make sure to ask about the rabbit’s history. While it is wonderful to want to give a neglected animal a home, make sure you can afford its care. Speak with a vet at your local animal hospital in Dartmouth who specializes in small mammals for some advice on what to look for when you adopt a rabbit.
Nearly 40 Years of Veterinary Care in Dartmouth
For pet owners living in New Bedford, Fall River and all over Southeastern Massachusetts, Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth has been providing top quality veterinary care for nearly 40 years. Specializing in rabbits, rodents and other small mammals, as well as traditional pets like dogs and cats, Anchor Animal Hospital offers a wide variety of veterinary services, such as routine care, dentistry, surgery and pain management.