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General rabbit questions and useful tips

Quizzical Rabbit

How long do rabbits live for?
Rabbits can live into their early teens.

Should I get my child a rabbit??
The short answer is no. Rabbits hate being picked up and cuddled. Most children will want to hug the rabbit and may end up being scratched and bitten. Bunnies don't like losing contact with the ground. They can't run away from predators if you are holding them and they will fight to get put back on the ground. After a while children lose interest in the rabbit, and it ends up in a small cage in the backyard with virtually no human interaction. Rabbits have such a subtle way of communicating that it can be irritating for children who just want to play with the rabbit. Also a child may be unable to tell if a rabbit is unwell. It takes a perceptive eye to realise that a rabbit is not well, or that its teeth are growing too long, or its claws need clipping.

We generally recommend that children under the age of about 12 have parental guidance when looking after rabbits. The problem is mainly with younger children that might try and poke the bunnies eyes, or pull his ears etc. Click here to read a real story emailed to fuzzy-rabbit about the problems with rabbits and children.

If your child wants a rabbit, you (as parents) need to be prepared to help look after the rabbit and teach the child how to handle and care for the rabbit. We have heard stories where a child has given some chocolate to a rabbit as a treat. Chocolate can kill rabbits. Try a cat or dog instead.

Where can I get a rabbit from
Please adopt a rabbit from a shelter or rescue where possible. If you really want a baby rabbit, you can most likely adopt one, as many litters are surrendered/dumped at shelters. Buying rabbits from pet shops encourages people to breed rabbits. There are far too many rabbits being dumped to warrant more being bred. Also some pet shops end up making cat or dog food out of rabbits that don't sell. Often you can see a rabbits true personality at a shelter, where it may have been handled daily, and is socialising with other rabbits. Some shelters also spay and vaccinate rabbits before allowing them to be adopted, which will save money and time.

Should I get a baby rabbit?
Baby rabbits are very cute for a while, but they will grow up. If you get a fully grown rabbit, then you know exactly how big the rabbit will be. Many pet shops sell rabbits as "dwarfs" but they grow up into big rabbits. Also baby rabbits will grow up and go through bunny puberty. This is where male rabbits spray everything in urine to mark territory, and both male and female rabbits can get aggressive. Until the rabbit is old enough to be spayed, there is nothing you can do. Also rabbit's personalities can change with puberty. A cuddly friendly bunny may turn into a big territorial finger biting terror. When you adopt an older rabbit (>6 months), his/her personality won't change much. If you do end up buying a baby rabbit, please make sure it is 8-10 weeks old. May pet shops take the baby rabbits away from their mum's far too early. Baby rabbits need to stay with their mum (doe) to develop intestinal bacteria. While the babies are drinking milk from the doe, their intestines are sterile. When they start eating solid food, they also eat the doe's poops. Taking the babies away too soon means they may develop intestinal problems later on due to the lack of healthy bacteria.

Should I get a male or female rabbit?
Once a rabbit has been spayed/neutered, their personalities are quite similar. The decision really depends on whether you already have a rabbit.

It is easier to bond a male and a female rabbit than it is to bond two males or two females. (Bonding is the process of getting two or more rabbits to make friends). Bonding can be incredibly difficult, rabbits seem to be very fussy as to the companion they want. The best matches tend to be a neutered male with a spayed female. Two Unneutered males will tend to fight, as will unspayed females. It is possible to bond an unneutered male with a spayed female, however the female rabbit may become upset if the male rabbit continually mounts her. If he mounts her head, she may bite his genitals.

Should I spay/neuter my rabbit?
Female rabbits should be spayed to prevent development of uterine cancer. There is a high chance of female rabbits contracting the cancer if they are not bred from. If you want to have more than one rabbit, then you will need to spay or neuter your rabbit. Two unneutered male rabbits put together will tend to fight, and two unspayed female rabbits can often fight just as viciously. An unneutered male and a spayed female can live together, but the male rabbit may become obsessive about marking territory, and may annoy the female rabbit by continually mounting her. Obviously an unneutered male and unspayed female will mate. Many people find that after their rabbit reaches 4 months of age, their rabbit has starting urinating everywhere, mounting objects and has become aggressive towards them, actually lunging and biting. Neutering rabbits tends to reduce, if not eradicate, this behaviour. Neutering to alter behaviour may seem cruel, however it is far preferable than a rabbit being euthanised due to behavioural issues.

Why should my rabbit live inside??
Rabbits outside in a cage don't get any external stimulation. Its hard to become close to a rabbit when you only see it once or twice a day. Whenever we walk past the rabbits, we always reach in and give them a pat or two. Fuzzy likes to sit in places where she can watch what we are doing. Its difficult to tell when a rabbit is sick at the best of times, as they hide it very well. When your rabbit is inside, it is much easier to observe, therefore you can pick up when its not acting as usual. Depending on where you live, there can be dangers like cats and dogs, mozzies and other diseases. Even a busy road is a worry if your rabbit escapes from its cage. Rabbits aren't meant to be in small cages, and are much happier being able to run around whenever they feel like it. See the section on Indoor Rabbits to learn about living inside with a bunny.

Should I get one rabbit or two?
Rabbits are generally happier in pairs. After all wouldn't you like to have someone to talk to? Rabbits groom each other, keeping hard to reach places clean. They also provide each other a warm cushion to lean on, and often one will be the sentry while the other takes a nap. Having said that, it can be difficult to bond two rabbits. Often they fight when they are first introduced until one rabbit is deemed to be the dominant rabbit of the pair. As you can imagine, this can be quite a problem with two headstrong bossy rabbits. Some rabbit owners are lucky as their rabbit is very accepting of a new friend. Its better to get two rabbits from the same litter as they will be less likely to fight. Read about Fuzzy and Thumper to get an idea of how I bonded them together.

How much time does rabbit care take?
A rabbit's cage needs cleaning out at least every second or third day for hygiene reasons. Rabbits themselves do not stink, rather their uncleaned litter boxes are causing the odour. Rabbits enjoy socialising with people and other rabbits, and if left alone they get bored and start being destructive. Rabbits also love being stroked and patted. Rabbits need feeding at least once a day, if not twice. Rabbits also need their claws trimmed every 6 weeks.

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