Few years ago, Mr. Thomas B. Gray from Houston, Texas posted an article “Rabbits Make Lousy Pets” on his website. Soon, many pet rabbit owners wrote to him to express their disagreement on his post. When I first read his post, honestly, I disagreed with what he wrote too. According to him, while some of the e-mails that he received from pet owners are civil, many are rude.
However, to some extent, I am glad that Mr. Thomas published that article. All too often, eager to have a rabbits as pet, many just adopt rabbits without reading or finding out for themselves if rabbits are really suitable to be made pets for them. I have four pet rabbits and I find that rabbits make great pets. Many would agree with me. However, rabbits do not suit all owners. Owner such as Mr. Thomas. There is no right or wrong here. Rabbits do make great pets, but not for all type of owners. To some owners, dogs or cats, or even ferrets will suit them better.
Mr. Thomas had written that rabbits are in reality, ill-tempered, destructive, boring and unrewarding animals. While I fee sorry that Thomas had such a bad experience with his rabbits, my experience with rabbits was somewhat different. Although, I have to admit that many characteristics about rabbits mentioned by Thomas was somehow true. Maybe the correct way to rephrase Thomas is that rabbits can be destructive, ill-tempered, boring and unrewarding animals.
Rabbits can be destructive – they chew your furniture and bite your electrical cords. These behaviours are inherited from their wild cousins. When a rabbit in the wild leaves its burrow to search for food, they sometimes need to wander far away from its burrow entrance.
Being a prey animal, they subjects themselves to possible attack from predator animals. The best defense they have to survive is, to return to their burrows as soon as possible. Rabbits see anything dangling such as electrical cord as some form of obstruction that they need to get rid off. In addition, they need to trim their teeth. Hence, if you are thinking of getting a rabbit as a pet, hear Mr. Thomas out – rabbits can be destructive. You should bunny-proof your house. If you are not prepared to bunny-proof your house, you are not prepared to have rabbits as pet.
Most rabbits do not like being pick up from the ground and they see they get irritated easily. There are ways to deal with a rabbit’s throwing tantrum. All rabbits have very distinct personality. Not all rabbits are ill-tempered. Many of these rabbits are gentle too. In any case, it is not difficult to deal with an ill-tempered rabbit. Our experience had taught us that dealing with a rabbit is like dealing with a toddler. How do you persuade a toddler not to put dirty toys into his mouth? That is why we insists that caring for a pet rabbit is a big responsibility as is caring for any other kind of pets for that matter.
Not all rabbits are boring. Rabbits have certain time of the days where they are more active. One of our rabbit, Zhai Zhai will walk to us to greet us and nose-nudge us. This is his way of saying hello. Bit Bit and Moi Moi would frequently comes to us to be petted. Rabbits do show fondness for their owners, unlike what Mr. Thomas wrote. However, do not expect your pet rabbits to behave like a dog or a cat. Your pet rabbit is a rabbit, nothing more and nothing less. If you are expecting your pet to hop on you excitingly when you return home, don’t choose a rabbit. Choose a dog instead.
It was regretful that Mr. Thomas had accidentally allowed his rabbits to procreate. Here’s an advice to all pet rabbits owner – have your pet rabbits altered, regardless of their sex. Even if you have only one pet rabbit, you should still alter him. A male rabbit that is altered is less aggressive and easier to train. More than 85% of unaltered female rabbits develop womb cancer and dies at young age. You are doing both yourself and your pet rabbit a great favour by altering them.
We do not agree with Mr. Thomas that rabbits will urinate and leave droppings everywhere even if they have their own litter box. Rabbits have to be trained to use their litter boxes. However, no matter how well trained is a rabbit, there are occasions when “accidents” still happen. As a pet rabbit owner, you have to be prepared for such accident and not punish your rabbit for that. Grown-up rabbits are easier to train. We find female rabbit and single rabbits easier to train than a group rabbits that has grown up together.
We do not agree with Mr. Thomas that rabbits can’t take training very well. Someone who knows nothing about dog agility training will say that a dog do not take training very well. Someone who do not know how to train a rabbit will say that a rabbit do not take training very well too. However, we do not blame Mr. Thomas for having such an opinion. It is quite a lesson for us when we learn to train rabbit. As with all pets, it is easier to train them when you understand them and when you shower them with love.
To train an animal (any kind of animals), you don’t alter their behaviour. You alter yours. You try to find out for yourself why certain animals or pets behave the way they do, and you try to accommodate them. This does not mean that you just allow them to do whatever they like. If you find that your pet rabbits like to chew, buy a chewing block for them instead. Not just any type of chewing block, but those that they like. Provide them with chewing time everyday and not just leave them with the block by themselves.
We also do not agree with Mr. Thomas’s view that rabbits do not play, do not make any expressions and do nothing more than sit and stare. Rabbits do sit and stare for very long time – that is their nature. Mr. Thomas should not expect his rabbits to meow or bark. Many owners choose rabbits as pet because they are quiet. Rabbits can find plenty of amusement even with the most simple toy. Modify the toy slightly and they will treat it as a new toy.
Pet rabbits can also amuse their owners with their bunny tricks. Our rabbit mom, will sometimes jump on top of old newspaper and start moving her lips as if she is singing or giving some lectures to the younger rabbits. When they do binkie (rabbit’s act of jumping into mid-air), we are sure you will be amused. Pet rabbits spread joy.
Mr. Thomas has found rabbits a nuisance because they need maintenance. Maintenance? All rabbits need maintenance. Perhaps Mr. Thomas was not only not ready for a pet rabbit. He’s perhaps not ready for any kind of pets. All pets need to be cared for. This include clean housing, proper food and water, affection from owners and medical care. Many other pets need regular grooming too, not just rabbits.
Finally, Mr. Thomas, you are wrong again when you said that rabbits live short lives. Some breed may live shorter lives, but generally rabbits can easily live between 7 to 12 years of age. That is if they are well taken care of. In Mr. Thomas’s case, he had admitted that there are plenty that he did not know about rabbit care such as spaying Nibblets that caused her to die at a young age. So, for those of you who are thinking of getting rabbits as pets, read and gather more information for yourself before you decide to adopt one.
Having expressed our opinion with what we agree or disagree with Mr. Thomas, we still think that Mr. Thomas and his wife had tried to the best of their abilities and circumstances to be good pet rabbit owners. At least, they did not leave their rabbits out into the wild as many other pet rabbit owners did.
They had also taken the effort to provide as much as they could for their pet rabbits and learn from their own mistakes. But, as what Mr. Thomas’s wife said, it could have been a bad pet decision for them. They were not saying that all rabbits make bad pets. It is a unique case for them. Maybe, rabbits are not suitable pets for them.
So, if you are thinking of getting rabbits as pet, do your research well. Do not listen to just people from the pet store. Not all of them are interested to help you learn about pet rabbit care, they may be just interested to sell. Get your information from books, not just one book. Read reviews such as from this site or from the House Rabbit Society. There is plenty of information that you can find. For a start, why not read our article, Getting Rabbits as Pet – A Beginner’s Guide.