Domesticated rabbits can make great pets

Walking into my friend’s house the other day, I noticed the little black fur ball in a cage on the floor quietly assessing my intrusion.

As I approached the enclosure, the rabbit retreated to a corner and cowered, instinctively analyzing my intentions. Reaching down and gently stroking this small creature, I was amazed how silky soft his fur was.

Determining I meant no harm, his eyes softened and his nose twitched while I continued to pet him. I noticed a litter box in one corner of the cage filled with sawdust pellets and hay. My friend explained how readily he uses the litter box, then began to educate me on the advantages of having a rabbit for a pet.

Domesticated rabbits are gregarious, affectionate companions that are quite playful and highly intelligent. They easily respond to their names, adapt well to their environment and display a curious nature when confronted with new obstacles. As highly social animals, they often co-exist well with other household pets and enjoy the interaction with their human caretakers. While these small creatures are fairly easy keepers, they do require some specific care.

It is advisable to keep your rabbit’s cage in a high activity area of the house to encourage socialization. Once adjusted to the household, your rabbit will not stress so easily. Housing them in the back bedroom would only create an unsociable, unhappy pet.

As obligate herbivores, a rabbit’s diet consists of grass hay, dark green leafy vegetables and carrot tops. Commercial rabbit pellets may be given in limited quantities. As with any pet, make sure fresh water is available.

Rabbits are very agile and need daily exercise. When first letting them out of their cage, close supervision is recommended to ensure their safety.

Rabbits possess natural instincts of chewing and digging, which can cause damage to household items or self-inflicted injury in the case of chewing on electrical cords or toxic house plants. You may have to “rabbit proof” areas of the house where your hopping friend is free to roam. Providing chew toys, newspaper, cardboard, towels or a rope toy will entertain your rabbit for hours, reducing its desire to chew on the curtains.

Domesticated rabbits in the United States are not required to be vaccinated, but they should be spayed or neutered. You have probably heard the phrase, “multiplying like rabbits.”

Females can reproduce every 30 days, even becoming impregnated while carrying a litter. Spaying will also reduce uterine cancer and combats territorial issues.

Unaltered males have tendencies of spraying, mounting, and other undesirable traits associated from raging hormones that are drastically reduced through neutering.

Before acquiring a rabbit, you should discuss with your veterinarian their knowledge pertaining to this particular animal. While basic anatomy is common knowledge in the veterinary field, concentrated skills relevant to certain animals requires additional study. Some veterinarians choose not to practice on “exotic” animals and finding a veterinarian knowledgeable in medical care for rabbits can be difficult. Medical issues common in rabbits include dental abnormalities, gastrointestinal issues and ear and upper respiratory infections.

Every article I read pertaining to rabbit care urged caution if there are young children in the house. While a young Easter bunny will undoubtedly create shrieks of joy from a small child on this glorious morning, the reality is that many of these animals will end up in local shelters.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends getting your child a chocolate or stuffed rabbit and a book on “how to care for a rabbit” as an Easter gift. I respect their approach but feel it is imperative to teach young children the responsibilities associated with the care of any animal brought into the home.

If you are contemplating adding a rabbit to your house, I recommend checking the local shelters first. You might also refer, a rabbit rescue located in Broomfield that can help you find the perfect rabbit for your family.

Educate yourself and your children on the care involved with these special creatures to make sure everyone will coexist in harmony.

Happy Easter!

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years and is the owner of Ah, Natural! Ltd. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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