In my previous post, I touched on the topic of a few misconceptions about rabbits and why they don’t make good outdoor pets. Today I’m hoping to touch on a few more misconceptions about bunnies so that you can make an informed decision when considering one for a family pet!
Misconception: Rabbits do not need veterinary care the way dogs and cats do.
Reality: Rabbits can contract illness and disease without showing very many symptoms at all. As they are a prey species, they hide their weakness quite well, and so it can be difficult to tell when they aren’t feeling 100%. The most common illnesses that rabbits contract is the Snuffles, GI Stasis, Sore Hocks and Heat Stroke; all of which you can learn more about here. You need to keep close attention on your rabbit, checking in on them at the very least once a day, although ideally you should check in every few hours if possible. Regular veterinary visits can prevent small issues from becoming big ones, as rabbits can deteriorate very quickly. Rabbits in the UK are recommended to have vaccinations against Myxomatosis, Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RDH), with RHD & RHD2 vaccines given every 6 – 12 months. Myxomatosis needs an annual booster. As well as this, when getting your rabbit spayed/neutered, you should go to a vet that specialises in rabbit / small animal surgery, to ensure your pet has the best care.
Misconception: Rabbits are happiest outdoors in a backyard hutch.
Reality: I’ve talked about this a lot in my previous post, so I’ll keep it brief here. Rabbits kept outdoors are, more often than not, forgotten and neglected once the novelty of having a new pet wears off. Outdoors, rabbits are subjected and exposed to disease and extremes of weather, which can be fatal for your beloved pet. As prey animals, buns can die from heart attacks if they are even approached by a predator!
Misconception: Rabbits are dirty and have a strong odour.
Reality: Rabbits are among the cleanest of all animals. They groom constantly and are immaculately clean, especially once they have been spayed/neutered as after this they are less inclined to mark their territory and soil their homes. Rabbits readily use a litter box, and if this is changed daily there will be no nasty smells!
Misconception: Rabbits love to be picked up and cuddled.
Reality: Again, rabbits are prey animals and therefore are very skittish by nature. By being picked up they immediately feel insecure and as though they are about to be munched up by a predator! This is very scary for them and may cause great distress when handling is done inappropriately and may scratch or bite in order to get down. If your rabbit flees from your arms this can be dangerous especially if they land on a hard surface or into something dangerous. If you’re outside with your rabbit and are carrying them, make sure they have a lead on (or that you’re in a secure area) to prevent them from escaping into the big wide world. To be safe, just try and avoid picking up your rabbit unless absolutely necessary.
Misconception: Rabbits can be left alone to do their own thing and do not need constant care.
Reality: Rabbits need daily attention and care! If you must leave your rabbit for a few days please make sure you ask a friend or family member to take over duties for you. Something that you may consider to be a minor issue, such as one day without food, has the potential to be life-threatening for your little long eared friend. As well as this, it is cruel to allow your rabbit to go one or more days without any outside exercise; if your rabbit is cooped up in a cage all day and night they will be frustrated and upset!
Misconception: Rabbits do fine with just pellets and maybe some carrots to eat.
Reality: Absolutely not! The main element (80%) of a bun’s diet is hay! Unlimited fresh hay should be available at all times, as well as a bowl leafy greens and a small amount of pellets. It is recommended to give your bun pellets rather than muesli as rabbits are often selective eaters. A lot of the time they refuse to eat a particular part of the muesli mix, leaving out essential nutrients, whereas pellets give them no chance to be picky. Carrots are quite high in sugar and should be given to your rabbit sparingly and as an occasional treat; the same goes for other treats such as banana, as high quantities of sugar can cause health issues for your bun.
Misconception: Rabbits are low maintenance.
Reality: Rabbit living spaces need to be cleaned daily to avoid smells and to ensure your bun stays free of illness and disease. Despite the fact that rabbits don’t need to be walked like dogs do, they still need a lot of time and space to run around to get exercise and socialisation. Rabbits are social creatures and will not fare well if kept alone to live a solitary life. You need to socialise with your rabbit often (every day!) in order to develop a trusting relationship with your bun that makes it all worthwhile! They need fresh food and water daily and regular vet check-ups; veterinary treatment can be expensive sometimes, if required. Vets specifically skilled in the treatment of rabbits are often hard to find, and any procedure that your rabbit needs should definitely be carried out by a rabbit specialist and not a vet that specialises in treating cats and dogs.
Misconception: Rabbits are a short-term commitment.
Reality: Rabbits can live as long as some breeds of dogs and are anything but a short-term investment. Rabbits are often considered a “starter pet” as it is often believed that they only live for a few years at best, and many are surprised when 7 or 8 years have passed and their bun is as healthy as ever! If you’re looking for a short-term commitment, rabbits really are not the pet for you.
Lydia & Apollo