So, you’re thinking of getting a rabbit. But all you really know about bunnies is that they’re cute and cuddly and made of sunshine and rainbows… or maybe you imagined the last part. Maybe you’re here because you already have a bunny and recently noticed that your little ray of sunshine is acting “weird.” Whatever the case, here are the answers to your unasked questions about bunny health and care.
- Are rabbits good pets for children? Much as bunnies might look like a stuffed animal, they aren’t a toy. Most bunnies fare best in a home with adults or older children, although they can be a great family pet if small children are supervised when handling them. Parental supervision and instruction while small children are holding the bunny is essential because bunnies have fragile spines. Therefore, it is very easy for a bunny to break his back if someone mishandles him. Bunnies can also suffer extreme stress, so they do well in homes with minimal loud noises.
- Bunnies aren’t a lot of work, right? Yes and no. Regarding veterinary care, a healthy bunny only requires an annual exam and an intestinal parasite check – much less than the care given to cats and dogs. However, bunnies need three different types of food – leafy greens and vegetables, timothy hay, and pellets – as well as bedding for their cages. Their litter pans or bedding should be cleaned out twice a day, and their whole cage should be washed every week. They also need time outside the cage to exercise with supervision, since some bunnies like to chew on wood and electrical cords. Bunnies can also be very messy, even if they are litter trained, since they may scatter hay and bedding outside their cage. As a result, bunnies can be more work than a cat or dog.
- Why is my new bunny difficult to handle? Your bunny may need time to acclimate to his new environment, especially if he is a rescue. He may not be used to being handled. Plus, he may feel scared. Bunnies are naturally prey animals, so if they feel threatened, they will try to escape. Some things to try with your bun are to use treats, like fresh fruits to get your bunny to come to you. Also, be sure to pet him under his eyes, as this may soothe your bunny and reward him for staying on your lap. Lastly, always work with your rabbit, even if it takes years, as it did with my bun, Zeus. Throwing your hands up and saying, “He just doesn’t like to be held,” is not the answer. In fact, the problem may not be your bunny, but rather, how he’s being handled. In your arms, a bunny feels safest if his bottom is supported. For this reason, I recommend the pet, lift, and scoop method for picking up your bun. First, pet him under the eyes and around his face to calm him. Then, use your non-dominant hand to lift him under his armpits. Finally, use your dominant hand to scoop his bottom and bring him up to your chest. Angle his paws on your chest and support his bottom in the crook of your elbow. In this position, you can hold him with only one arm and use your free hand to pet around his face to soothe and reward him.
- Why isn’t my bunny grooming himself well? If your bunny frequently soils his fur and doesn’t clean it, this may be an indication that he is overweight. Your bunny may not be able to easily reach his bottom, thereby preventing him from grooming. The best thing to do in this case is to take your bunny to a veterinarian, who can assess why he is soiling himself, make suggestions to stop it, and groom him if necessary.
- Can any vet see my bunny? Veterinarians are trained to treat all domesticated animals, yet few have enough experience with rabbits to feel comfortable treating them. In fact, the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school currently cannot see rabbits and other exotic pets, as they have yet to find a replacement for their previous pocket pet veterinarians. As a result, it can be difficult to find a veterinarian whom you trust with your bunny’s health. Personally, I went through six veterinarians at four different hospitals before deciding that Dr. Hatchett was the right veterinarian for Zeus. She earned my trust because she told me that my bunny was overweight – a fact that no other veterinarian had bothered to mention.
Today, Zeus is content, cuddly, feisty, and slim thanks to the tips I listed above. Your future or current bunny can be, too.
Blog written by Morgan Blickley 2020