I recently had a bit of a mental breakdown about the number of cats and dogs in my house. I’m an urban kind of girl, so switching to ponies isn’t really an option. This got me thinking — what are alternatives to cats and dogs in an urban setting?
Rabbits are the first stop on my urban pets tour. They are surprisingly versatile and apartment-friendly little creatures.
Pet Rabbit Care Guide
- Life Expectancy: Between 5 and 25 years. Indoor rabbits generally live for about 8 to 13 years — although many people claim that a good diet will significantly extend a rabbit’s life. Outdoor rabbits live between 5 and 7 years as they are generally not as well socialized, fed or protected from the climate.
- Diet: Vegetarian. Alfalfa, pellets, water and vegetables. Avoid beans and rhubarb, and try adding lots of different-colored veggies. Alfalfa or other kinds of hay provide roughage essential for the elimination of hairballs. Apple tree twigs are especially good.
Warning: Many house plants are toxic to rabbits. Make sure that these plants are well out of reach or eliminate them entirely.
- Temperament: Rabbits are intelligent and can easily be litter-box trained. As with all animals, a rabbit’s temperament depends on his personality; there aren’t any breeds that are friendlier than others. Rabbits are by nature a prey animal, meaning they are dinner for a number of carnivores in the animal kingdom. Consider this when playing with them; just because they are sitting still doesn’t mean they are comfortable. That said, lots of rabbits are friendly and welcome human attention; they just want it on their level. Put a pillow on the floor and lie down while watching television or reading a book. Your rabbit will come up to you and enjoy a cuddle.
Insider Tip: It is best to spay or neuter your rabbit to prevent antisocial behavior like spraying or aggression. Once a rabbit has been spayed or neutered, there is little difference in temperament between males and females.
Don’t Miss: 4 Tips to Keep Your Rabbit Happy and Healthy
How to Take Care of Rabbits
First, check out this excellent video from the Oshkosh Area Humane Society packed with helpful information and advice:
Breeds: The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 47 breeds of rabbit. Within those breeds are multiple variations based on color, weight, hair length and other features.
Ideal Living Conditions: Surprisingly, those with a small apartment should not assume that they need to adopt the smallest bunny possible. According to the House Rabbit Society, “The fact is that there is no apartment too small for even the largest rabbit. And if there were a safe generalization to make, it would be that larger rabbits tend to be less active and therefore require less space than the dwarf breeds.”
Rabbits prefer to live in pairs or groups. This is not necessary if you are home regularly and can provide companionship.
They need their litter boxes changed every 2 to 3 days, and all rabbit families must bunny-proof their houses, making sure that all toxic plants are removed or safely stored and that all electrical cords are covered.
Insider Tip: While it is assumed that bunnies are happier outdoors, domesticated rabbits are actually happier indoors. When rabbits live in the wild, they have the company of other rabbits. This is why when you see a bunny grazing in a field, there are often other rabbits nearby. When a domesticated rabbit is kept inside, its family must provide companionship.
House Rabbit Society is the national society for rabbits, started in 1988. It has subsequently grown into a national organization with local chapters in 24 states and 1 in Washington, D.C. If you are in the New York area, you can find them at Rabbitcare.org.
For those who want to meet other rabbit families, try the New York Rabbits Meetup. With more than 200 members, it is the largest rabbit group in the metropolitan area. Members meet regularly but generally bring their bunnies only during spring, summer and fall. At other times, they meet to discuss bunny issues. In light of the recent concern after Hurricane Irene, they are working to put together a bunny emergency kit.
Other groups include the NYC Buns Yahoo group and Big Apple Bunny. Meetup groups and other bunny societies are in most states; check the Internet to find them near you.
Playing With Rabbits
Rabbits are social creatures that like human attention, but they don’t play fetch like other animals. They do, however, enjoy toys. Rabbit toys (affiliate link) are an excellent way to get your rabbit to exercise and keep her from chewing on your furniture and electrical cords.
Some rabbit families report success at getting their bunnies to walk with leashes so they can be taken outside, but most rabbit care societies discourage this practice. As mentioned, rabbits are prey animals and get stressed when they feel that their means of escape are limited in some way.
Ideal Rabbit Families
Rabbits fit with lots of different people. They can even live with dogs and cats as long as the other animals are well trained. Households with children must take care that the young ones are shown proper rabbit handling. Some organizations recommend that children be 12 years or older.
Donna of the New York Rabbit Meetup Group gives this advice: “Anyone who is responsible and caring can be a rabbit owner, but someone who loves to play and dole out food is ideal! Being attentive is key too, since rabbits, being prey animals, instinctively hide any sort of illness, so you really need to pay attention to any sort of unusual behavior and act quickly if anything is wrong.”
How to Rescue a Rabbit
Rabbits are excellent pets for a wide variety of people. Rescue groups are a great source of information for determining if a bunny is right for you.
Petfinder.org has hundreds of available bunnies waiting for a good home. The House Rabbit Society also facilitates adoptions.