Saturday, September 1, 2007

Keeping Rabbits

We love animals. We have two dogs and three house rabbits. Most everyone knows how to care for a dog or a cat (or thinks they do), but rabbits are probably a bit of a mystery. I know they were to us a couple of years ago, before we started keeping them as pets. Our dogs and rabbits get along fine, and even take cues from each other. If the rabbits are getting a treat (raisins), then the dogs figure that they should get a biscuit too. That works in reverse too, in that the bunnies will come looking for a goody when they hear the lid of the doggy treat jar lifted.

I’m going to do a series of these posts, going over different aspects about keeping house rabbits. Some of what you’re going to hear may surprise you. Some of what you’ll need to know I can’t tell you, because we haven’t had to deal with it yet (such as medical issues, our bunnies have been completely healthy so far).

In case you didn’t know, rabbits aren’t rodents. They are related, but there are many important differences, the most obvious one being that rodents can and will eat meat, whereas rabbits are strictly herbivores. I’ll go into feeding and what rabbits eat in the near future.

Rabbits will live up to about twelve years.

You may also not know that rabbits can be trained to use a litterbox. All of ours were trained at a young age and are very good about using them.

Now, I’ll introduce you to our rabbits, and tell you a little about each of them. Then I’ll recommend a couple of good books and online resources to learn more about them.

This is Fred, our first rabbit. He’s about three years old and weighs 4 pounds (he’s a little guy). Fred was rescued from near the Severn River and originally named Severn. The people that found him knew he wasn’t a wild rabbit because of his ears. Rabbits with ears that point down like that are called “Lops” and they don’t happen in the wild. A lop is aways a domesticated rabbit. Fred probably was abandoned by someone who didn’t want him anymore, and he probably would not have lived through his first winter if he hadn’t have been rescued. At the bunny shelter, they renamed him Fast Freddie because of his pinball-like speed and ability to change direction instantly. When we adopted him, we shortened it to just Fred.

After we had Fred for a while, we thought it would be nice to get him a girlfriend. Rabbits pair for life, so choosing a companion isn’t always an easy thing. At the bunny rescue, they had a young lady named Java. We brought Java home and paired her with Fred. I’ll talk about that in another post, because it can be a long and drawn out process to pair up bunnies. Java is a little larger than Fred, and she’s about a year and a half old now. She’s an escape artist!

Once Fred and Java were a bonded pair and living together, we had an extra cage. We agreed to take another bunny for foster care from the rescue shelter. Our first foster bunny was Ozzie. He’s an albino, and another lop, and goes through life as if he’s had way too much caffeine! He startles easily, but is also the most affectionate of our three. Yes, we did wind up falling in love with Ozzie and adopted him for our own. At some point we may get him a girlfriend as well, but the rescue had tried before and his personality makes it difficult to match him with a partner.

Each of our rabbits has been fixed to prevent little baby bunnies. They’ve also been microchipped, so that if we get separated for whatever reason (for instance, during a natural disaster), we can find them again afterwards if they are brought to an emergency pet shelter.

As for recommended books, there is one that stands above the rest, called “The House Rabbit Handbook”. Your local rabbit rescue will probably have copies that you can buy, or check your library. “Rabbits for Dummies” is also pretty good. Like anything else regarding pets, do your research beforehand and learn what you can before you jump into it.

I really, really recommend contacting a local rabbit rescue if you want your own bunny. These people are wonderful resources, full of advice and knowledge and willing to help. Visiting one will also give you a chance to see many different sizes and types of rabbits all in one place. Out local rescue is called Bunny Lu Adoptions, and your local animal shelter or pet stores can put you in touch with ones in your area.

Leave a comment and let me know if there's any interest in my continuing this series. If there is, then I'll do future posts on things like: What rabbits eat. Build an easy cage. Bonding pairs. Rabbit toys and other things you'll need. Plus all kinds of other stuff as I think of it.


Anonymous said...

I'm interested!

nic said...

I'm interested, too.

Not that we are in the market for a rabbit, but it never hurts to know case I find a lop in the yard or something.

Elisson said...

Rabbits are wonderful pets. They are also prodigious Urine Factories.