Pet rabbits are sweet and adorable companions to have around the family home. However, there’s more to caring for rabbits than just giving them cuddles and feeding them hay. While they can make wonderful pets, there are also some drawbacks to rabbit ownership.
Rabbits are smart. They can be litterbox trained and taught tricks. They don’t make much noise and develop strong bonds with their owners. However, rabbits love to chew and scratch everything in sight. They need exercise, and they can be expensive and time-consuming to look after.
There are many benefits to keeping a rabbit as a pet, aside from their cuteness. We’re going to look closely at these advantages. However, we’ll also look at the disadvantages, to find out why rabbits aren’t appropriate indoor pets for everyone.
Why Do Rabbits Make Good Pets?
Rabbits are among the best household companion animals. They’re much more than long ears and a fluffy tail. They’re smarter than people think, and they provide hours of love and entertainment.
There are both pros and cons of having a bunny as a pet. Let’s start by looking at the main benefits of pet rabbits.
1) Rabbits Don’t Make Much Noise
If you have neighbors that like to complain about noise, a rabbit might be the perfect pet for you.
It’s no secret that the most popular pets can be quite loud. Dogs bark, and cats’ yowls could wake you from the deepest slumber.
Rabbits, on the other hand, are a different story. Their few vocalizations are extremely quiet. They’re perfect pets for apartments and townhouses, and they won’t wake you up at night.
Happy and contented rabbits make soft clucking and purring noises, though you’ll have to listen carefully to hear them.
Unhappy rabbits can hiss, growl, and whimper. If you take proper care of your rabbit, you’ll rarely hear these noises. Rabbits can scream when being pursued by a predator.
2) Rabbits Don’t Need Much Space
Rabbits need exercise to stay healthy. However, they don’t require very much physical space.
As long as they can run back and forth, they’re quite happy living in apartments and smaller houses. They don’t even need a yard – it’s a common misconception that bunnies have to live outdoors. On the contrary, they are better off inside.
As long as your home is big enough for you, it should be big enough for your rabbit. Just make sure to let them out of their hutches to explore every day.
3) Rabbits Can Be Litterbox Trained
Rabbits are much smarter than most people realize. They’re also very hygienic animals. They prefer to have a private, secluded spot to perform their bathroom duties.
This means that rabbits can be litter trained (as long as they’re neutered or spayed).
It’s relatively easy, too. You have to choose a large box, big enough for the bunny to stretch out in. Fill it with paper pulp animal bedding such as Carefresh, and top it with hay. If your bunny poops elsewhere, deposit the droppings into the tray. It will soon learn that’s the proper place to go.
That’s not to say that rabbits are perfect. They’ll all have accidents from time to time. Fortunately, rabbit poop is quite dry, and white vinegar works wonders at cleaning up pee.
4) Rabbits Bond with Their Owners
Rabbits have delightful personalities. While wild rabbits are scared of humans, domestic rabbits have been bred to be comfortable around humans.
It will take a while for your rabbit to warm up to you. Rabbits don’t love everyone straight away – it may take months before you truly begin to bond together.
However, it’s well worth dedicating the time and effort.
Eventually, your rabbit will hop over to greet you when you get home. They’ll enjoy spending time with you, and following you around. They’ll pester you for attention, by nudging you with their nose.
The more time you spend with your rabbit, the more you’ll get to see their unique personality. When they’re happy, they’ll run around the room and leap for joy. This signature bunny move is a binky.
5) You Can Teach a Rabbit Tricks
The litter box isn’t the only thing you can teach your bunny. Believe it or not, rabbits can also learn a variety of entertaining tricks.
The easiest way of training a rabbit is by using a clicker. This is a small device that makes a distinct clicking sound. Rabbits easily learn to associate the click with positive reinforcement.
Training a rabbit is a lot like training a dog. They’re very food-oriented, so always have a bag of special treats ready, such as raisins.
For example, say you want your rabbit to learn how to jump over a bar. Show your rabbit the treat, and use it to lure your rabbit over the bar. Then, click the clicker and offer the treat. At the same time, give a verbal command, such as “jump.”
With lots of repetition, you can teach your rabbits many tricks. Not only is it fun for you, but it also provides stimulation for the rabbit.
6) Hundreds of Rabbit Breeds
There are at least 300 different breeds of domestic rabbit. They come in different sizes, colors, fur lengths and textures.
Some rabbits, such as the Netherland Dwarf, are very small. They stay baby-bunny-sized through adulthood, rarely growing larger than 2.5lbs. Others, such as the American Checkered Giant, can weigh over 12lbs.
English Lop rabbits have very long ears that touch the ground. Rex rabbits have very soft, short velvety fur, whereas Angoras have very long fur that needs to be brushed regularly.
Rabbits also come in almost every color that you could imagine. Some are tri-color, with patches of white, red and black. You’ll also find that rabbits can change color after molting or due to sun exposure. Others, like the Himalayan, have a light body with dark feet, ears, and nose.
7) Rabbits Live for Many Years
Many people have the misconception that rabbits only live for 1 or 2 years. However, this is only their lifespan in the wild.
Wild rabbits rarely reach old age. They are more likely to be killed by a predator, or disease.
Domestic rabbits, on the other hand, can live for a very long time. If taken care of properly, pet rabbits can live for 7 to 12 years. Depending on the breed, your rabbit’s life expectancy will vary slightly.
Larger rabbit species often don’t live as long as the smaller ones. For example, Flemish Giant rabbits live around 7 years, whereas mini lops can live up to 12.
To help your rabbit live as long as possible, feed them a balanced diet, and keep them active. You should also keep them indoors to protect them from predators and the weather. Regular veterinary checkups are also vital.
8) Rabbits are Docile and Gentle
Rabbits’ personalities are generally extremely docile and gentle. A properly socialized and spayed/neutered rabbit will rarely act aggressively toward people.
Because rabbits are herbivores, they aren’t hunters. They don’t have the instinct to hunt and kill, as a dog or a cat might. They may gently nip you to get your attention, but it won’t hurt.
Rabbits also get along with children well. They enjoy being stroked and played with, and tend to have adorable personalities. As long as they are treated gently and kindly, your rabbit will be gentle and kind back.
As a bonus, rabbits also make great pets for people with allergies. Most people who are allergic to cat and dog fur are completely fine with rabbits. They’re perfect alternative cuddly companions.
What are the Disadvantages of Owning a Rabbit?
By now, you’re probably ready to head to the shelter and pick up your very own bunny. However, we can’t discuss the pros and cons of rabbits as pets without covering the downsides.
Unfortunately, having a rabbit is a pet isn’t always a picnic. There are definite negatives to rabbit ownership, which you might not have ever considered before.
1) Rabbits Like to Chew and Scratch
Many new rabbit owners don’t realize quite how much rabbits love to chew and scratch.
They have a good reason for it, too. Rabbits’ teeth and claws grow constantly. They have to grind them down by chewing and scratching. If they didn’t do this regularly, they’d grow too long.
If you don’t give your rabbit enough safe things to chew and scratch, they’ll use other things. They can scratch couches and carpets, and chew through electric cables. Not only is this inconvenient for you, but it’s also dangerous for your bunny.
To avoid this, provide your rabbit with an enriching environment. Give them hay to chew on, and toys to play with. Try stuffing empty paper towel rolls or cardboard boxes with hay and newspaper.
You should also rabbit-proof your house. Keep anything important or dangerous out of the way. Use a baby gate or playpen if necessary. You should also trim your rabbit’s claws every 4-6 weeks.
2) It Costs Money to Keep a Rabbit
Rabbits usually cost less than $100 to buy. How much you pay will depend on the bunny’s age and breed. Shelters also charge fees to adopt rabbits, to dissuade people from adopting pets on a whim.
Along with this, you’ll also need to make a lot of one-time purchases, including:
- Hutch or condo with separate designated sleeping area.
- Large pen to keep your rabbit contained when they’re exploring the house.
- Covered run if you’re going to let your rabbit outdoors.
- Water and food bowls. You might also like to purchase a hay feeder, though this is optional.
- Hard-sided carrier for taking your rabbit to the vet.
- At least one litter box (per rabbit).
- Toys to keep your rabbit entertained.
- Nail clippers and brush.
- Cleaning supplies for the hutch, and also to deal with any accidents around the home.
Many people don’t realize that the running costs of keeping a rabbit can also be high. Your rabbit will need litter, food pellets, fresh vegetables, an unlimited supply of hay and occasional treats.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost for spaying/neutering, regular veterinary checkups, and rabbit insurance.
3) Rabbits Need Hours of Exercise Every Day
Rabbits need some living quarters, such as a hutch or condo. However, rabbits also require a minimum of 3 hours of exercise outside of their hutch per day.
In the wild, rabbits would be on the move almost all the time. They’d search for food, play with other rabbits, and run to escape predators. They are high-energy pets that require exercise.
You can’t take a rabbit for a walk, like you would a cat or dog. You could try, but they wouldn’t appreciate it, and harnesses come with a risk of injury. Bunnies enjoy their freedom. For exercise, you have two options:
- Let your bunny explore the house. You’ll need to rabbit-proof before you do this. Install baby gates to stop your rabbit climbing the stairs, as they could fall down. You could set up a pen indoors if you don’t want to give your rabbit free reign.
- Set up a pen outside for your bunny to explore the yard. It’s best to set the pen up on a hard surface, rather than the grass. This is because rabbits can, of course, dig holes and escape. Not only that, but eating too much fresh grass can be bad for a rabbit’s digestive system.
Outdoor exercise is only appropriate if the ambient temperature is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Rabbits can withstand the cold, but not the heat.
4) Rabbits Need Company
Rabbits are social animals. In the wild, rabbits live in burrows called warrens in groups of up to 15. They are rarely alone. If domestic rabbits don’t have much social interaction, they can get lonely.
You’ll need to be prepared to spend at least 2 hours interacting with your rabbit every day. This means giving them undivided, one-on-one attention.
Domestic bunnies don’t mind whether they get their social interaction from other rabbits or humans. So, if you can’t spend enough time interacting with your rabbit, consider getting it a friend.
It’s very important that you only introduce two rabbits that are both spayed or neutered. Unneutered males and females can be more territorial and aggressive, and may fight with one another. The best bunny pairing is one male and one female.
5) Rabbits Are Fast
Because rabbits are prey animals, they are exceptionally fast. This is crucial for their survival. In the wild, a rabbit would have to be quick to escape predators.
This means that domestic rabbits are similarly fast. This isn’t always a negative, of course. It’s fun to watch your bunny tear around the house – an activity that rabbit owners refer to as “zoomies.”
However, it does mean that rabbits are very good at running away from their owners. Rabbits aren’t a fan of going back into their hutch when playtime is over. They often run and hide, then run again, leading to endless hide-and-seek.
Not to mention, rabbits are mini Houdinis. They’ll take every chance they can get to escape, and it’s very hard to catch them. If anyone in your house is careless with leaving doors open, a rabbit might not be the best idea.
6) Rabbits Poop a Lot
If you are squeamish with pee or poop, rabbits might not be a very good idea. Rabbits are always pooping. This is because they graze on hay almost constantly.
Rabbit poop looks like tiny, brown pellets. The average rabbit will poop hundreds of these every day. You’ll need to clean their litter tray at least once per day, and be prepared to deal with the occasional accident outside of it.
Not only this, but rabbits also eat their own poop. This is normal, healthy behavior that you shouldn’t discourage.
According to the Cornell Veterinarian, rabbits eat their poop because their digestive systems struggle to absorb nutrients properly. So, they have to digest it a second time.
Their first poops will come out quite soft. Once they’re re-digested, drier poop pellets will come out. They don’t eat these.
If this is something that you’d find it difficult to witness, a rabbit might not be the pet for you.
7) Rabbits Can Get Sick and Injured Easily
Rabbits are prone to developing specific health problems, and becoming injured. They are not the hardiest pets to own.
Some of the health complications that rabbits are prone to include:
- Overgrown teeth. This is usually caused by rabbits not having enough to chew on.
- Snuffles. This illness affects a rabbit’s upper respiratory system. It causes discharge, sneezing, and redness. According to the Journal of Experimental Medicine, snuffles is caused by a bacterial infection.
- Ear mites. These are tiny parasites that live inside your bunny’s ears and cause itching and crustiness.
- Abscesses. These are small pus-filled cavities. They can occur in the skin, the organs, behind the teeth and eyes.
- Gastrointestinal problems. If you don’t feed your rabbit enough fiber, this can cause severe constipation. They can also develop fatal bloat if fed too many fresh vegetables.
- Hairballs. This can be caused by not grooming your rabbit enough.
- Cancer. Uterine and testicular cancers are most prevalent. This is why neutering your rabbit is so crucial.
Rabbits’ skeletons are also very fragile. Scared rabbits often kick and struggle when picked up, which can lead to bone breakages. This can also happen if you handle your rabbit too roughly. Children should always be supervised around bunnies.
8) Specialist Rabbit Vets Can Be Hard to Find
It can often be quite hard to find a veterinarian who specializes in rabbits.
Most veterinarians will examine your rabbit and perform basic procedures, such as nail trimming. However, that’s where it ends. Most veterinarians are specifically trained to deal with dogs and cats.
To give your bunny the best care, you’ll need to research specialist small-animal vets in your area. Be aware that most vets will happily take your money even if they aren’t experienced with rabbits.
Why Rabbits Are the Best Pets
With the right care, love and attention, rabbits make good pets.
However, rabbits aren’t suitable pets for everyone. Everyone has different requirements and preferences when it comes to animal companions.
By now, you should have a good idea of whether a rabbit would be a good pet for you. To recap:
- Rabbits are quiet, and don’t require much physical space. However, they do need exercise.
- You’ll need to interact with your rabbit regularly to socialize it and keep it happy. You can get a second rabbit to keep them company if you can’t dedicate enough time.
- Rabbits have amazing personalities, and are generally gentle pets to have. They develop strong bonds with their owners, though this can take some time.
- Rabbits poop a lot, so they aren’t great for germaphobes. They can be litterbox trained, though.
- They can chew and claw things, but mainly if they aren’t provided with enough stimulation.
- Rabbits are a big commitment, requiring a lot of time and money. However, they make wonderful companions if you’re willing to put the effort in.
If you’re considering getting a rabbit, we’d recommend that you adopt one from a shelter. Shelters are full of bunnies that need happy homes, and many are already well-socialized.
Before bringing your bunny home, make sure you research how to care for one properly. If you do it right, you’ll have a trusty companion that will be with you for many years.