Fact checked by Erin Raley, Veterinary Technician
Choosing a pet is always a big decision. Not only can a pet be a fun companion, but any animal that you welcome into your home will also eventually become a valued member of the family!
Whether you choose a dog, cat, fish, bird, lizard, or rabbit, knowing how to properly care for that animal will help inform your decision on whether or not it is the right type of pet for you and your family.
That’s why we have decided to provide this useful guide, which will help you decide if owning a domesticated rabbit is right for you. Rabbits are adorable animals full of personality, but they require plenty of attention and care. So, before you head out and find your new bunny companion, read the following guide and make sure you are ready!
Do You Have Enough Indoor Space for a Pet Rabbit?
Despite their relatively small size, rabbits require a reasonable amount of indoor space. One of the most common issues veterinarians see when they examine pet rabbits is neglect and lack of exercise.
Far too many people keep their pet bunny in a tiny cage. Rabbits are mobile creatures that like to spread their legs and explore. The truth is, far too many of the cages advertised as rabbit cages would be more suitable for a much smaller and less active animal, like a guinea pig.
At a minimum, your rabbit’s cage should be at least four times the size of the rabbit when it is fully grown. The cage should not be the only place where the rabbit is allowed to explore. You should be comfortable taking your rabbit outside of its cage, as this is essential for getting adequate exercise and mental stimulation. Rabbits love to chew on almost everything. An area that is away from dangerous cords or expensive items is ideal. Make sure your rabbit’s cage is not in a drafty spot or direct sunlight.
The bottom of your cage should also not be all wire. Rabbits should always have an area in the cage that is smooth. The wire cages you typically see at the pet store can irritate your rabbit’s feet and may cause sores. Your rabbit should also have a place to hide, like a small house in its cage. A hidden place will give them a feeling of safety and peace. Bedding choice is also significant to your rabbit’s health. You should use dust-free bedding like Carefresh or similar bedding. Wood Shavings are not ideal, as they are dusty and will often irritate the rabbit’s sensitive upper respiratory system.
Keep Your Rabbit Inside
Keeping a rabbit hutch outside is not a safe solution. Keep your rabbit inside in a temperature-controlled and clean room. Unfortunately, rabbits can be a little bit stinky, especially if you don’t clean their cages regularly. This is part of the reason why far too many rabbit owners leave their poor bunnies in basements, garages, or sheds.
If you are not prepared to clean your rabbit’s cage and deal with a little bit of smell between cleanings, you’re probably not prepared for rabbit ownership. Many rabbits will choose specific areas to use the restroom. You can place a litter pan in the corner of their cage- a favorite place for rabbits to go potty! You should spot clean their cage every day, much like scooping a cat’s litter box daily. When there is too much urine in a rabbit’s living area, not only is the smell unpleasant to humans, but it also bothers rabbits. Too much ammonia can harm your rabbit’s lungs and cause issues with breathing. Once a week, you can give the cage a deeper clean by washing it with dish soap and hot water. Do not use bleach or other harsh chemicals- these smells can bother your rabbit.
Accept that your rabbit will have the occasional accident on the floor when you take it out of the cage for playtime. Luckily, rabbit droppings are easy to clean and rarely leave a stain if you pick them up right away. You may want to put down a mat or rug that your rabbit can play on, but either way, the key is being comfortable with the fact that your rabbit might have a few accidents indoors.
Rabbits Can Be More Expensive Than You Think
Given that many people adopt their pet rabbit or pay a very small fee compared to the cost of other types of pets, there is a bit of a misconception that rabbits are inexpensive pets.
While a pet rabbit should not cost you a fortune, you should still set aside money for pet care expenses and emergency costs. In addition to veterinary appointments, which can be affordable if you book an appointment with an online vet, there are some supplies you will need to purchase, as well as recurring costs throughout your pet rabbit’s life. The following are some of the most common expenses.
A large rabbit-friendly cage or enclosure
This is one of the biggest, up-front costs you will have to take on. Do not settle for the cheapest and smallest cage you can get away with, as this will be your rabbit’s primary home. Playpens make excellent enclosures to put your rabbit’s cage in and leave it open so they can play.
A drip bottle for your rabbit to drink from.
A litter box and litter
You will need to purchase a litter box at least once and then continuously buy litter to fill that box.
Like dogs, rabbits are clever and social animals that need entertainment and stimulation. Toys, especially rabbit-safe chew toys, are something you will have to buy. Not only are they fun for the rabbit, but they also help them wear down their sharp teeth in a safe way. They must have these wood toys as their teeth keep growing and toys to chew on these teeth filed down.
Timothy Hay, or another type of grassy hay
This will be an ongoing expense, as it will end up being about 75% of your rabbit’s diet and should be available at all times. The fiber is important for your rabbit’s digestive health, and chewing it is good for maintaining jaw strength.
Again, these will be a major part of a rabbit’s daily diet (roughly 20%), so they will be something that you will need to continuously purchase.
Fruits, vegetables, and treats
Some people think they can feed their rabbit vegetable scraps, but the truth is rabbits require fairly particular diets. You should budget for fresh fruits and vegetables that are rabbit-friendly, as they will make up the remaining portion of their diet.
Neutering your male rabbit
This will help cut down on the amount of marking that a male rabbit will do. Just like male dogs, they will urinate on everything.
Rabbits Require Your Time, Attention, and Love
Just because they are small does not mean rabbits do not require the same love and attention you would offer a larger animal, like a dog. They are social animals that require regular interaction to stay happy and healthy.
They need at least an hour outside of their cage per day, minimum. You will also need to clean the cage daily and make time for a thorough cleaning at least once per week.
On top of that, rabbits can be somewhat nocturnal, meaning they sleep a fair amount during the day and can be active at dusk, which might take a bit of getting used to.
Rabbits can also live for more than ten years, so they are a long-term commitment rather than just a temporary starter pet for children.
Rabbits can make wonderful indoor pets for the whole family. They are relatively clean animals, and you can usually train them to use a litter box. While they are certainly adorable and surprisingly affectionate, they also require proper care.
If you’re prepared for the responsibilities that come with owning a rabbit, you’ll find these animals can make excellent pets. If you have any questions about veterinary care, rabbit ownership, or any other questions about becoming a pet parent, schedule an appointment to speak with an expert.
For more information about rabbits and other types of pets, check out our list of the Top 10 Low-Maintenance Pets.