Rabbits are a really popular pet in the UK, but sadly they’re also one of the most misunderstood too, and this means many rabbits aren’t cared for in the best possible way or are bought by owners wholly unprepared for the realities of things as they didn’t do enough research.
Rabbits are complex pets to keep, and you need to learn what this means in reality before, not after, you take one home. This article will get you started by outlining five common misconceptions about rabbits many people have, and which you need to get past before you go and buy one. Read on to learn more.
Rabbits used to be, in the words of one vet who sees a lot of them “the sort of pet parents get for kids when they don’t really want their kids to have a pet at all.” This is because all too many people think of rabbits (and sometimes other animals kept in a cage or hutch ) as being low maintenance, without lots of needs or being likely to place a lot of demands on your time.
This is patently untrue, however; while you don’t have to walk a rabbit like you do a dog, they can actually take more time to care for properly than most people think; better viewed in terms of the care needs and time commitment for looking after a dog than a cat, certainly.
Feeding a rabbit a balanced diet means both sourcing and preparing fresh food as well as dried, keeping a constant supply of grass and hay, and monitoring your rabbit’s weight and fitness. Some rabbits actually need encouragement to exercise, their accommodations need to be cleaned out daily, and they need lots of interaction and attention too if you want them to be tame.
They’re even high maintenance in terms of the number of times they are apt to need to visit the vet in their lifetimes too, for routine healthcare like vaccinations, spay and neuter, flea treatments, and even potentially dental care. That’s only when they’re healthy!
Rabbit health in general is rather complex, and there are quite a lot of rabbit health conditions that can be acute and serious, which owners need to learn about and be proactive about preventing; factoring in the challenges that can come from wild rabbit populations and associated contagion.
Rabbits aren’t generally expensive to buy (other than for exotic breeds, excellent quality examples of popular breeds, or show rabbits) but the purchase price is an absolute drop in the deeper ocean!
Buying an appropriate form of housing and exercise run can set you back several hundred pounds, and as mentioned above, even rabbits in good health tend to be frequent fliers at the vet for routine care and preventative treatments; all of which soon adds up.
The cost of keeping a rabbit is often overlooked, and results in their needs sometimes being overlooked in turn. In fact, the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund estimates the cost of keeping one rabbit can easily run to £5,000 or more over the course of their lifetime.
Rabbits live in a hutch, right? Uh, well in the same way that a person can live in a two-man tent, and never be allowed out of it… theoretically the accommodations itself would not kill said person or pet, but they would not thrive or be happy and ultimately their accommodations would almost certainly shorten their lifespan.
Hutches were of course the go-to or only option historically for housing rabbits, but they were never designed to keep a rabbit in for the entire duration of its life; or rather, they were, when that “life” would run to a few days or weeks within the hutch and that was it.
Huh? Well, the background to this is that when rabbit was a common staple on most people’s menu, they were kept in hutches adjacent to the kitchen all ready to be killed and put in the pot. Put simply, hutches were a type of holding cell for a rabbit on death row destined for dinner; not appropriate, well thought out accommodation for a long and happy life.
The actual main living space a rabbit needs when enclosed (such as overnight) should be vastly larger than many people expect, and they also need to be able to move around freely as much as possible, such as within an even-larger run on grass they can graze on.
Rabbits are undeniably cuddly; they’re adorable looking and very tactile to the touch, and it just makes you want to pick them up and snuggle them! This is all really unfortunate from a rabbit’s point of view, because rabbits do not actually like being picked up and certainly don’t like being squeezed or restrained.
In fact, because rabbits are prey animals, being picked up (particularly if cornered, or unexpectedly) is very alarming, as it makes them think they’ve been caught by a hunter. Young rabbits need to be conditioned very carefully to being picked up, and in the right way – and even so, it is better to let a rabbit come to you and come up to sit on your lap willingly without being lifted.
Finally, this is one of the most enduring and harmful rabbit care myths; that you can keep one rabbit on their own (specifically without another rabbit) and this is ok, as long as you give them lots of attention.
This is a particular common misapprehension among people who keep house rabbits in the same way other people keep cats or dogs, as they have lots of human company, freedom to roam, and will bond with their owner.
While house rabbits really do become king of the castle in many cases and will commonly be highly affectionate and actively seek out the company of their owner, they still need another rabbit for company too.
There is no substitute for a rabbit having a rabbit pal; not human interaction nor living with another type of pet like a Guinea pig.