What It’s Really Like to Live with House Rabbits
The traditional Easter Holiday is on the way. It has different meanings for some folks, but many associate Easter with Rabbits, specifically, the Easter Bunny Rabbit. Cute photos of bunnies pop up everywhere surrounded by pretty flowers, brightly colored eggs and baskets brimming with candy. Their adorable faces create demand for pet rabbits.
Forget about putting a rabbit in a hutch outside. Have you ever wondered what it’s really like to living with House Rabbits? I’m here to tell you!
Be sure to read to the end to watch “30 seconds of Cuteness”!
Believe it or not, our rabbit journey began by fostering Guinea Pigs. We would drive over an hour to the “Guinea Pig exchange”, which was a mid-point for the Guinea Pig dealer and our house. It was in a parking lot behind a budget hotel off Exit 8 on the NJ Turnpike! We would be so excited to meet a new little furry friend and care for them until their forever owners were found. After fostering over 20 Guinea Pigs, we thought it would be fun to get a rabbit.
Baby Bun was a visitor in the yard – not actually a pet. Sure had a personality, though!
Our local pet/farm supply store had a rabbit running around the store with a bell around it’s neck. It was adorable and amazing. Soon after, Benjamin Bunny became available to foster. We drove over three hours to get him. After just one day, we realized we failed Rabbit Fostering 101 – we decided to keep him. That was 15 years ago.
Benjamin was with us for about eight years. During that time, we also adopted two older rabbits, Thumper, a lop-earred rabbit from my cousin and an older dwarf named Fred. Benjamin was the last to pass over the Rainbow Bridge.
We found a bonded pair about two weeks later. We frantically emailed the facility and already had new names for them. Luckily, they were still available for adoption and we brought Reggie and Rufus home.
Here are 10 things to know what it’s really like to live with two House Rabbits.
1. Bonding basics: Do all Rabbits get along with each other?
As cute as they seem, not all rabbits get along right away. It is necessary for one rabbit to be the dominant rabbit. This is usually the larger one. They must go through a period of bonding – getting used to each other, like a gradual buildup of friendship – so that one rabbit is declared dominant. Ever see Watership Down?
Once bonded, it is very sweet to see them groom each other, look after each other, be best bunny buddies. Bonding is most successful with neutered and spayed rabbits.
Reggie and Rufus lived together in the same cage. They were considered bonded, but it was probably out of fear. As they began to experience some freedom in our house, they discovered more of their own personalities and their so-called bond was broken. We did not recognize the circling behavior – the first step of aggressiveness.
Until the dominant rabbit is established, they can become violent towards each other . It happens very quickly – some nipping escalates into an all-out fight with tumbling rabbits tearing tufts of fur.
Upon arriving home one day, it was clear that they had an episode of fighting. We immediately separated them. In the days and weeks that followed, Rufus would try to make friends with Reggie by sniffing through his cage, but Reggie would usually nip back. We could not bond them – they would be kept in separate houses from then on.
Bonded buns from Rebekka D of Pixabay
2. Are rabbits destructive? What to know about rabbits chewing.
Chewing is done out of necessity because their teeth grow constantly. Same as Guinea Pigs. All wires must be covered or tucked away. They especially love laptop wires – all it takes is a bite – and the charger is ruined. Hope you have an extra one!
Chewing on wood is popular.
Whether it’s the coffee table or the door molding, rabbits will chew them. It helps to have some untreated wooden crates to house them in, where they can also get their share of chewing. Heavy cardboard works too. Be creative – the more it resembles some type of housing or cover, they more they chew.
3. Do rabbits like to dig? What to know about rabbits tearing and digging.
Rabbits also love to tear things, especially rugs and carpets. If you have some old blankets, they’ll fix ’em up too – like Swiss Cheese – in a matter of seconds. Have lots of little area rugs and old blankets for them to work on. They will also eat part of them – natural cotton is the best choice in this case.
4. Are rabbits territorial? What to know about rabbits marking.
One of the main reasons to get rabbits “fixed” is so that they do not have the desire to mark their territory by spraying a little urine. They also rub their chin on objects they deem as their property – a much better way of proclaiming their possesions!
Rufus about to “chin” the Easter Bunny
5. Picking up after rabbits: Beans.
House Rabbits is that can easily be litter trained. Bedding material consists of newspaper, fluffed paper bedding and a sprinkling of pine pellets.
Rufus is excellent at using his litter box. However, he does drop a few beans, especially where he spends the most time relaxing during the day. This is normal and OK – rabbit beans resemble Cocoa Puffs and can be cleaned up quickly with no odor or mess left behind.
6. The other stuff
Now for the fun facts – Rabbits have a very complex digestive system. They need to eat a high-fiber diet, consisting of about 80% Timothy Hay. About mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon, they produce a different type of dropping called cecotropes. They must ingest the second type, which has a different consistency and odor.
According to House Rabbit Society, cecotropes are not considered feces. The cecotropes contain essential nutrients that are eaten soon after production. Without them, rabbits can quickly succumb to malnutrition. In any case, they usually produce cecotropes at a time when you’re not around and it is done quickly. What a relief!
7. Can rabbits learn tricks?
If you spend a good amount of time with your rabbit, they can learn how to perform a few little tricks, go in their cage, and most often, show up for a snack. For example, Rufus will stand on his hind legs if you stand with a small treat and say “Up Up”. With some hesitation, they will go return to their house with “Bye Bye”. If they hear a certain sound, they will show up expecting a snack and won’t give up until they get one.
Bunny Tricks by Francis Delapena at Unsplash
8. Do rabbits make noises?
Rabbits are very quiet animals – one of the great reasons for having one, especially if you are not a fan of barking dogs. However, their sense of awareness is quite amazing. If they hear a strange sound or suspect there is a predator or large animal outside, such as a cat or deer, they will thump loudly, requiring you to inspect the area for safety.
Some rabbits will also make a purring-like noise when they are relaxed. Rabbits do this by gently grinding their teeth together, quietly.
Don’t startle a rabbit, especially during nap time. They will likely grunt at you and a nip may follow. This happens with Rufus if you “bother” him during his afternoon nap or if Reggie doesn’t get his breakfast quickly enough. They will also bite the wires on their cages to get your attention if they are not happy about something. In Reggie’s case, again, it’s not having breakfast ready fast enough.
Rabbits have a very keen sense of hearing. A quiet, calm enviornment is required. A certain crinkly bag noise will alert them of their favorite treats. The sound of the refrigerator door opening also warrants attention to a snack.
9. What should I feed my rabbit? A proper Rabbit Diet.
Timothy Hay consists of 80% of a proper rabbit diet. The fiber helps their digestion and also helps them keep their teeth trim. Otherwise, a small serving of fresh greens like Kale, dandelion leaves and Romaine lettuce is provided for breakfast and supper.
An occasional treat includes a grape, baby carrot, apple peel, raisin, banana piece. Finally, they enjoy Timothy Hay biscuits and a very small serving of cereal – Rabbit pellets – a tiny pinch sprinkled on their hay.
Eastern Cottontail relies on fresh greens – so do House Rabbits
10. Rabbit maintenance: Care and Grooming.
a. Do rabbits shed?
Rabbits molt their fur once per year. The amount of fur is remarkable – brushing takes too long and best saved for the end of this process. Luckily, they molt during early Spring, so this can be done outside: A towel, brush and bag is used and each rabbit spends at least 10 minutes per session being “plucked”.
The fur is removed in stages, but some parts come out faster than others. Fur is never yanked – just a gentle tug when petting the rabbit releases an abundance of fur.
Most molting is done over a two-week period, but can last longer, depending on the rabbit. Reggie can tolerate grooming for hours and hours. Rufus gets nervous after about ten minutes. During the remainder of the year, rabbits do shed, but it largely depends on the breed. Reggie barely sheds.
b. Do you have to clip their nails?
Rabbit’s nails must also be trimmed regularly. This is done by placing the rabbit on it’s back. It helps to cover the rabbits eyes and be in a very quiet and calm environment – otherwise, you will get scratched and kicked and the session will need to resume the next day. I’m not an expert, but usually hold each nail taught and securely trim to the paw hairline. This is done about every six weeks.
c. Do rabbits need baths?
Rabbits are very clean and do not need baths, nor do they smell. They usually groom each other. In our case, we mimic grooming by petting them with a stuffed animal. Reggie will move his head under your closed fist for more petting and grooming.
d. Do rabbits have to go to the vet regularly?
They do not require regular vet visits. However, if they do go, prepare to pay a lot, about $400 USD for an average visit. Be sure to have a vet before getting a rabbit.
Do you think you would like a house rabbit? You can sense that they have unique personalities. They are quiet and smart. They need a specific diet and lots of free time to move around a rabbit-proofed house. They typically live eight to ten years long.
It’s hard for me to imagine not having a pet rabbit, but it’s not for everyone. Think about it before getting an Easter Bunny for your kids – most likely, you will be the one to clean their litter boxes and provide the proper care, maintenance and attention they require and deserve.
Hope you enjoyed learning about what it’s really like to have a house rabbit!