Rabbits can have multiple litters each year, giving birth to up to nine babies, known as “kittens,” each time. In the wild, they’re born helpless in a shallow hole lined with grass and their mamma’s fur. Mother rabbits in the wild spend only a few moments each day with their babies in order to avoid drawing attention to them from predators. The babies grow quickly and continue to live together as a family.
When they’re used for clothing and other items, bunnies endure terrible abuse. On angora fur farms, they usually live alone in small cages, and workers on some farms rip the fur out of their sensitive skin as often as every three months so that it can be used to make sweaters, scarves, and other items. These rabbits scream in pain as their fur is torn out. Bunnies need their fur—we don’t!
When you think of animals in shelters, the first ones who come to mind are dogs and cats. However, there are tons of homeless bunnies, and they need love, too. Every Easter, lots of moms and dads give in to the “Easter bunny temptation” and buy a rabbit for their kids. Once the “bunny fever” goes away, though, many people leave their new purchases alone in small outdoor cages called hutches, give them to animal shelters, or release them outdoors, where they often starve or are killed by predators. Most bunnies end up dead or abandoned by their first birthday.
When you adopt a rabbit, you quickly learn that they’re very particular about their territory. They need lots of space and have specific spots where they like to eat, sleep, and use the “bathroom” (kind of like humans!). Sometimes, if you invade a bunny’s space, he or she will grunt at you so that you know to back off.
You’re probably wondering what that funky word means, huh? Well, we’re about to explain. Lots of people think that rabbits are nocturnal animals (meaning that they sleep during the day and stay awake at night), but they’re not. But bunnies don’t sleep at night and stay up during the day like humans do, either. They are crepuscular. Yup, there’s that word again! It means they’re the most active at dusk and dawn.
You’ve probably heard the term “vet” before. Vets are the kinds of doctors we take animals to when they’re sick or injured. However, bunnies need to visit a vet who specializes in caring for rabbits. These vets can be more expensive and harder to find than vets who care for cats and dogs, but it’s important to take bunnies to vets who know a lot about them.
The symptoms that follow are not necessarily signs of neglect, but they are signs that a bunny needs to see a vet: A runny nose, sneezing, a head-tilt, listlessness, and diarrhea. When you see a bunny, keep an eye out for these symptoms, and bring them to the attention of his or her guardian immediately! Be sure to spay or neuter your bunny. Like dogs and cats, bunnies live longer and happier lives when they’re spayed or neutered. In female rabbits, the risk of reproductive cancer (which is deadly) is a whopping 80 percent before they’re spayed!
Bunnies shed like crazy and can get hairballs from grooming themselves, but they can’t cough them up like cats do. If they get a hairball, they may need to be taken to the vet to be treated (and possibly even operated on!), or they’ll die. So it’s very important to brush them regularly to remove the loose fur from their coats and prevent hairballs from forming in the first place.
If you were trapped in a little cage with no friends or toys to play with, you might get lonely and bored, right? Well, rabbits are the same way. They need opportunities to socialize, lots of space to run around, and plenty of toys to keep them entertained. If left alone, they can become withdrawn or depressed.Some common household items can make for fun bunny games, like paper towel rolls and cardboard oatmeal canisters. Just fill them with timothy hay and watch as your bunny rolls, chews, and plays joyfully. ♥
They’re different from kitty purrs, but bunny purrs will melt your heart just the same. A bunny purr sounds almost like teeth chattering quietly or light chomping. Talk about cute, huh?
This, my friends, is a bunny binky:
Watch that on repeat like we did for a few minutes, and try not to smile. We think it would be almost impossible to keep a straight face!
Like humans and other animal companions, a rabbit’s nails are always growing and need to be trimmed regularly—about once every six weeks. Unlike humans, dogs, and cats, their teeth continue to grow, too! It’s really important that bunnies always have lots of timothy hay and wooden toys to chew on in order to make sure their teeth don’t get too long.
If your rabbit’s teeth stop grinding normally, he or she may find it too painful to eat and could even starve. Be sure to watch his or her eating habits closely because even 12 hours without food can be deadly.
Companion rabbits who are forced to live outside are at risk of being hurt or killed by predators, even if they’re kept in a hutch. (By the way, they should never be kept outdoors in the first place!) Other animals who might want to hurt them aren’t the only danger for rabbits when they’re outdoors. Some lawns are sprayed with pesticides (poisons meant to kill bugs and other “pests”) that can make bunnies sick or even kill them.
Be sure to keep your bunny safe indoors at all times. To let your bunny satisfy his or her desire to dig indoors, make a “digging box” by filling a large plastic bin with organic peat moss.
This means that bunnies will do anything they can to show that they’re not weak, easy targets for animals who want to eat them. If they’re sick or injured, rabbits will hide it as best they can, so it’s important to pay close attention to them to make sure they’re healthy. Scared bunnies may also run or jump away so quickly that they hurt themselves, so make sure you do your best to avoid startling your rabbit. After all, it’s no fun to be scared silly.
Yup, that’s right. Bunnies need to digest some of their food twice. Healthy bunnies eat soft “cecotropes” (nutrient-packed droppings) that look like poop. The hard, round pellets you see are from the second round of digestion. When you think about it, it’s pretty cool!
Every rabbit is different. They can take a long time to get to know, and it’s hard to tell if they will get along with another animal companion—even another rabbit. Making sure two rabbits get along takes a lot of time and energy. It can be dangerous to put two of them together who don’t know each other yet, so keep that in mind if you plan on adopting more than one rabbit.
Rabbits are very sensitive, and the excitement of even a gentle toddler is too stressful for most bunnies. They are animals who hide in the ground and become frightened when they’re held or restrained. Plus, because they don’t “play” like other animal companions, children often lose interest in them, leaving them to suffer all alone in cages.
Bunnies are often bought as “starter pets” or given as Easter presents because many people think they are less work than dogs and cats. However, that’s simply not true. Some rabbits need even more time and attention than other kinds of animal companions. They need to be potty-trained, and the house they live in needs to be bunny-proofed in order to make sure it’s safe for bunnies. If a home isn’t bunny-proofed, they may try to sharpen their teeth on electrical wires, houseplants, or furniture.
Bunnies can live 10 years or longer, so if your family is planning to adopt one, make sure you’re ready for some serious responsibility. If you think that you’re someone who would enjoy sharing your life with a bunny, research the type of care that bunnies need and then visit your local shelter or rabbit rescue group.