You're likely here because you're toying with the idea of getting a pet rabbit soon. Maybe you've seen viral adorable photos of rabbits on Instagram, or you follow a rabbit account and are super tempted. Or maybe... (but hopefully not) with Easter just around the corner, you're thinking a rabbit might make a cute gift for your child or self.
Rabbits remain one of the most abandoned pets, and that's often because people underestimate just how much care they require. Moreover, bunnies are very misunderstood creatures; people often assume rabbits are meant to be kept in a hutch at the back of a garden to be held and poked every now and then. This couldn't be further from the truth, and rabbits are definitely not animals to bring home for Easter for a couple of cute photographs. Rabbits are incredible pets, they are intelligent, affectionate, entertaining, and full of personality, but they also do require a lot more care and effort than you may initially suspect. If you're considering bringing home a rabbit but haven't done much research yet, let's explore some initial considerations when deciding whether a rabbit is actually the right pet for you so that you can make a more informed and responsible choice.
House rabbits can live to around 13 years with the appropriate care - that's a very long time, and around the same life-span as pet cats and dogs. When considering bringing home a house rabbit, you need to be sure that you are in it for the long haul and are not bringing home a rabbit as a starter pet for your child/family before fully committing to a cat or dog down the line.
Not only are rabbits a large time commitment, but they are also a big financial one. Rabbits may be smaller in general than cats and dogs, however, this doesn't necessarily mean they are cheap pets by any means. While they aren't as costly as cats and dogs, they are still a significant financial commitment that needs to be considered. Below are some of the initial expenses you can expect when bringing home a pet rabbit:
🌿Neutering (if bringing home an unfixed rabbit)
🌿Vaccinations and health check
🌿Ex-pen (If you aren't free-roaming from the get-go)
🌿Litter box, including litter
🌿Food (hay, pellets, treats, fresh greens)
🌿Food and water bowls
These initial costs can be around £500, but could be more or less depending on individual factors e.g. how much neutering costs in your local area. However, the takeaway is that rabbits aren't cheap by any means. Moreover, these are just some of the expenses you need to consider at first and don't include ongoing yearly costs such as diet, litter, and toys.
A good option to consider when bringing home a house rabbit is to adopt rather than to bring home a rabbit from a breeder. I know baby rabbits are really cute but there are tons of adorable rabbits in rescues waiting for loving homes. One benefit of adopting is that most rescues tend to be already neutered and vaccinated, as well as having been thoroughly health checked, which can significantly reduce the initial costs of bringing home a house rabbit.
Another really important consideration is that bunnies can get sick quite easily and rabbits require exotic vets, not just regular vets. Vet bills associated with rabbit illness can be extremely expensive and add up very quickly, so it's very important to get health insurance if you have a pet rabbit. This is another monthly expense that you need to consider, and you also need to be aware of what exactly your pet insurance actually covers for your rabbit. Research common bunny health issues and consider these when looking for a suitable policy.
Rabbits require a diet of around 85-90% hay alongside varied fresh leafy greens and in some cases pellets. Rabbits should have unlimited access to good quality hay and should eat around a body-sized amount of hay per day. While this sounds simple enough, rabbits have quite sensitive digestive systems, and a rabbit diet can be quite costly so should be considered before bringing home a rabbit as a pet. You can read more about what rabbits should eat here.
One of the biggest advantages of having rabbits as pets is how clean they are. Rabbits are constantly grooming themselves and rarely ever smell (unless they have an underlying health condition or their environment isn't being cleaned enough).
Rabbits are in most cases easily litter trained and once good habits are established, they tend to remain pretty consistent with using their litter box - this means that they make great indoor pets as you can keep a pretty clean home while keeping rabbits indoors. However, you do need to be aware that rabbit litter habits tend to improve after neutering, so young rabbits can have accidents around the house, and you may have to deal with this until they are older. This is another reason why adopting an older rabbit can be a good option - older rabbits in rescues are often already neutered and are thus much easier to litter train.
Since rabbits eat hay and fresh greens as the bulk of their diet, their poop comes in the form of little dry balls which aren't smelly and crumble if stepped on, thus don't leave a big mess if your rabbit has an accident outside of their litter box. With that being said, rabbit litter boxes do need to be changed frequently - every few days based on the litter set-up you have - and this in itself is a time commitment - so please do consider this and whether you can dedicate the time to this. If you'd like to read more about litter training rabbits, you can do so here.
Don't require walking
Though you may have seen some cute videos of rabbits on harnesses being walked in public, rabbits don't actually need to be walked like dogs which can be a great advantage for individuals with busier schedules. While rabbits don't need to be walked, they do need enough space to exercise. Rabbits do things called 'zoomies' and 'binkies', where they run around a space really fast and jump in the air excitedly. It's super cute and entertaining but also how they exercise. Hutches are not acceptable habitats for rabbits, and rabbits really need enough space to be able to run around freely to get enough exercise to be happy and healthy. Rabbits ideally should be free-roamed indoors where they have enough space to do as many zoomies and binkies as they like, and if you have access to a garden it's great if you can give them supervised outdoor time daily.
Can I leave a rabbit home-alone?
Rabbits can make good pets for individuals with 9-5 jobs where they aren't able to work from home. Since rabbits don't need to be walked throughout the day, they can be left at home alone as long as they have enough fresh hay and water. That is not to say that rabbits can be left unattended for long periods of time, however. Rabbits are still social animals and will require your love and attention, however since they are crepuscular, one benefit is that during the afternoon to the early evening they are mostly sleeping. With that being said, rabbits do get lonely when left alone for long periods of time e.g. while you are away at work or out with friends, so a really important and often necessary consideration is to have a pair of rabbits. In general, rabbits do much better in pairs and a partner can relieve some of that loneliness while you are away at work. If you'd like to read more about the benefits of having two rabbits - you can check out this blog post.
While rabbits can be left alone during the day while you are at work, rabbits should not be left alone and unattended for much longer than this period of time, i.e. if you are going on holiday, even just for a weekend. While some rabbits are okay with long car rides (or even plane rides), in most cases, rabbits get quite stressed out from long journeys and new unfamiliar environments. When bringing home a house rabbit you should be comfortable knowing that you have a friend, relative, or local pet sitter that you can leave your rabbit with while you are away, in the likely case that your rabbit can't travel with you.
Natural rabbit behaviors in the wild include digging and lots of chewing. When translated to having a rabbit in your home space - this can mean a lot of destruction to your furniture, carpets, and personal items. However, don't let this put you off - there are TONS of ways to bunny-proof your home and protect all of your furniture and items. When you bring home a rabbit, you just need to be mindful of these instinctive rabbit tendencies and ensure that you have taken enough measures to protect your home and personal belongings. A lot of individuals bring home rabbits and then complain that their rabbits are destroying their home - however, a rabbit is a rabbit and will behave like one, so if you haven't taken the necessary precautions to bunny-proof - the responsibility falls on you. Research bunny proofing thoroughly, provide lots of enrichment and chew toys for your bunny - and your home should be just fine!
However, the most important takeaway here is, if a bunny damaging some items in your home is likely to upset you enough that you'd want to give it up - a rabbit is DEFINITELY not the pet for you!
A lot of inexperienced rabbit owners get bored of rabbits after the initial cuteness wears off, and that's why so many are given up in exchange for a more cuddly cat or dog. However, many people don't actually realise just how affectionate and cuddly rabbits can be. That's why, besides for the welfare of your rabbit, free-roaming your rabbit and keeping them indoors is actually recommended so much. Indoor free-roam rabbits can form really strong bonds with their owners, some sleeping on their beds, some cuddling on their laps, others licking their owner's entire faces aka giving them little bunny kisses. Not every bunny is the same, but with time and patience most bunnies can form really special bonds with their human owners, and they can make extremely loving pets. Allowing a rabbit to be part of your family and to live with you in your daily life can really expose you to just how incredibly loving house rabbits can be.
Beyond affection - rabbits also have incredible personalities and are a lot more intelligent than you might think. Rabbits can be taught tricks, they can be cheeky, moody, happy etc. Have a look below to see some adorable videos of P&B being...well, rabbits!
An important consideration when bringing home a rabbit is whether you already have pets in the house. Many owners are able to successfully bond rabbits to cats and dogs, however, this isn't always recommended. As rabbits are prey animals they can quite easily die from shock e.g. if a very large dog is playing with them. Even if your other pet is seemingly being playful and loving with your rabbit, often due to size differences, this can be too aggressive and forceful for most small house rabbits and can sadly give them a heart attack if they get too scared.
If you already have pets in the house, it's really worth doing your research first to see if you can safely house rabbits alongside your existing pets. If you are considering getting a cat or dog down the line after a house rabbit, you need to be sure that you won't have to give up your rabbit as a result.
So... is a rabbit the right pet for you?
Well, we've explored a number of reasons why rabbits can make incredible pets but also a number of reasons why they might not be the right option for you. However, there are also tons of other considerations that you need to research before making your decision. It's also really important to remember that just like humans, all rabbits have their own individual personalities and some may be super affectionate and non-destructive while others may not be as cuddly and may have more destructive tendencies. When bringing a house rabbit home - you have to be willing to love the rabbit for all of its individual qualities, flaws included, and be committed to providing it with a safe and loving home for as long as it will live.
Rabbits are absolutely incredible pets, and most experienced bunny owners will tell you that with all the responsibilities of rabbit care, they wouldn't trade their rabbit(s) for the world. However, please thoroughly research the ins and outs of rabbit care before deciding to bring one home, and if you do feel like a rabbit is the pet for you, please really consider adopting from a local rescue if you can.
Finally, please remember, a rabbit is not an easter gift, so if you're only looking for a cute easter present, please consider buying a teddy rabbit instead.
Lots of love, Tamara, Peanut, Butter, and the Plants xoxo