By Dr. Shachar Malka
February was Adopt a Rabbit Month, where we shine a spotlight on rescues and shelters, many of whom have more than their fair share of rabbits looking for good homes. And that shouldn’t change for March, either.
Rabbits are the third most surrendered pets to animal shelters in the United States after cats and dogs. While they are small and undeniably cute, rabbits aren’t low-maintenance animals and contrary to popular thinking, are not ideal pets for small children.
Let’s discuss the main reasons as to why they get abandoned, what makes for a good rabbit owner, and where you can rescue one if you think owning a rabbit is a good fit for your lifestyle.
First, let’s go over a few quick facts that are important to know if you have a pet rabbit or are considering adopting one:
Rabbits can be territorial: They need lots of space, and have clear preferences on where they like to sleep and eat.
They get bored: Just like other pets and humans, rabbits require stimulation to prevent boredom and depression. Your rabbit needs plenty of TLC, toys and attention.
Their nails and teeth just keep growing: Their nails and teeth keep growing throughout their lives. Eating the right diet and having the correct toys to keep their teeth and nails filed is very important. For example, Timothy hay and wooden toys (along with green leaf salad and small portion of pellets without seeds), can help keep their teeth at a manageable length. If their teeth get too long, they can develop dental disease, abscesses, and may even stop eating altogether. Rabbits also shed a lot and can get hairballs. Constant brushing is required to keep their coats healthy.
Domesticated rabbits don’t belong outdoors: Unlike rabbits in the wild, domesticated rabbits don’t have the skills to find food or shelter on their own. Some people who don’t want their rabbits anymore leave them outside, believing that they’re doing their pet a favor by letting them into the wild. This is unfortunately a false assumption. If you do want your rabbit to get some sunshine, make sure to closely monitor it at all times, and never let it wander off alone. Predators, grass sprayed with weed killer, and bugs are all potential threats to your pet’s well-being.
Many rabbits are initially purchased because parents think they can make a good first pet for their kids. Others are purchased as cute Easter gifts. However, most people fail to do their research before bringing a rabbit home. Rabbits are wonderful pets, but they do require grooming, socialization, and regular cage cleaning, in addition to regular preventative visits to the vet. They are also not great pets for little kids, as they require very gentle handling. Small children, who might be very excited about their new pet, may inadvertently handle their rabbits too roughly, thus scaring them and causing them to act out.
A good rabbit owner is generally an older child or adult who has the time and resources to give their rabbit the care it needs. They are diligent about taking their pet in for check-ups with a specialized rabbit veterinarian who is knowledgeable about rabbit care. They have plenty of room in their homes for their animal to move around in, provide a diet high in hay and salad with a limited amount of pellets, and give their pet a minimum of a 4×4 space for housing.
To find a rabbit rescue group, you can first get in touch with your local animal shelter such as All About Rabbits. Make sure you do your research on the organization, and find out how well they take care of the animals and what the adoption process is like. If it doesn’t seem like they do their research on who’s adopting their animals, consider it a red flag.
• Your rabbit is already litter box trained, microchipped, and spayed/neutered
• A first visit to the vet is sometimes included
• You’ll get support post-adoption from the rescue or shelter
• Your rabbit has the opportunity to be socialized at the shelter
• You’ll know that you aren’t supporting animal mills or bad breeders.
• Rabbits can be a wonderful addition to your home. If you feel that you’d like to add one to your family, consider adopting a rabbit this month.
Dr. Shachar Malka is a vet at Long Island Birds & Exotics Veterinary Clinic in Great Neck.