Considering a rabbit for your new pet? Rabbits are a great choice for many people; they keep a regular schedule, are loving and playful, are widely available for adoption from shelters, and get along with children and other animals. However, if you’ve never adopted or cared for a rabbit before, you might be in for a bit of a shock. They require more care than most people realize, and the adoption process is a little different from that associated with a cat or dog adoption.
Is a Rabbit Right for You?
Rabbits tend to sleep during the day, wake near dusk and play for a few hours, and then go back to sleep. This might be ideal if you work a 9 to 5 job and come home ready to play with your pet. If you work late or if you like some quiet time to unwind after coming home from work, a rabbit’s schedule might conflict with yours.
However, rabbits are fairly independent and can be trained to roam the house freely like a cat or dog. They can also be litter trained, which means you can leave them alone for short periods without worrying about your carpet. But rabbits also require ample space for running and playing, and they need a cage for security when you plan to be away for more than an hour or two. Caging them during your absence also protects your rugs and wires; rabbits are known for chewing.
Preparing Your Home
If you’ve decided a rabbit is a good fit, you’ll need to prepare your house before bringing your bunny home. Rabbit proof your home by securing wires and other objects within reach of your new pet, and then head to the pet store for a cage and supplies.
Rabbits require large cages. Choose a rabbit cage that is at least five times as long as you expect your grown rabbit to be, and look for one tall enough to allow your bunny to stand up tall on his hind legs. You’ll need to choose a cage with a soft floor, as rabbits have minimal padding on their feet, or invest in rubber mats to place over the mesh wire. Cardboard or carpet tiles are other options, but rabbits are more likely to eat these.
Select a box and litter if you plan to litter train your rabbit, stock up on hay and wooden chew toys, and grab a bag of Timothy hay pellets to supplement your pet’s diet. Fruits and vegetables are also important, so make sure you have some lettuce, peas, beans, carrots, apples, berries, and nuts on hand.
The Adoption Process
Unlike adopting a cat or dog, most rabbit adoption organizations want proof that you have the space and cage necessary for caring for a pet rabbit. Because rabbits cannot handle extreme temperatures and scare easily when outside, your rabbit must have a safe, climate-controlled, and secure shelter. In many cases, this means agreeing to keep your pet indoors for all or most of the time.
Once you find a rabbit you like and meet the basic adoption requirements, you’ll need to fill out an application and pay any necessary fees. If you are adopting a young rabbit, you may need to arrange for spaying/neutering before taking your bunny home. If you have not found a rabbit-friendly veterinarian, ask the shelter for a recommendation before you leave.