Being woken up at 6am to whiskers tickling my face is, without a doubt, the cutest alarm clock.
Living with a rabbit is certainly adorable, but can you deal with being awoken every time you turn in your sleep? “Wait, why are you not getting up?! It’s breakfast time!” *Must. Dig. Covers. Off. Human.*
“Time for the trampoline approach. Jump and land on tummy, and repeat…. Finally! Breakfast!”
It’s 5am and I’m scattering pellets on the floor in the dark, hoping that it will buy me a few moments in the warm cocoon I’ve created (so that a certain bunny does not have access to extra padding (aka duvet) for a nice cosy pee)
Two minutes later, I’m being hopped on because bunny is absolutely starving after licking the last breakfast crumbs off his lips.
How can you ignore a sweet little bunny nose bumping your hand to cuddle when you are sleep deprived from the early hours of the morning? Sitting beside your sleepy head, waiting, nudging, staring. Licking the sheets if there is no uncovered hand. It’s like sandpaper on a chalkboard, right in your ear. Or if desperation sets in, a lick to the cheek will have to suffice, because if there’s anything that melts my heart, it’s an ever loved, ever seldom kiss to the face as the early morning light filters through the curtains.
Living with a rabbit is rewarding, challenging and you always have to be one step ahead. As delicate and curious fur companions, they can get themselves into tricky situations regularly. They frighten easily, they’ll need several places to run to and hide. Like under the bed and in between furniture. A safe haven for when they hear a noise they don’t like or they want to find a dark place to sleep while everyone else is scurrying about their day. Rabbits come alive at dawn and dusk, sleeping for most of the day!
Much like a puppy, rabbits with chew anything. Cables, plastic, furniture and bunny proofing is really important. It takes one time, forgetting to move your phone charger and replacing it, I’d say about 5 times until you learn your lesson. Not to mention the danger of electricity, they really can find themselves wedged in small places like behind appliances, wires need to be high up and covered.
Occasional, impromptu pee and poop parties are and always will be part of living with a rabbit. Of course, they can be litter trained very easily once neutered and this diminishes the times he/she will feel like hunkering down on your lovely soft blankets, that you just washed. They may even try to hoover up after themselves when they misjudge the timing! (On that note, bunnies eat their poop, this is normal and allows them to digest their nutrients again. Fear not, bunny poop is pretty much just balls of hay and does not make a sticky mess)
The life expectancy of a rabbit is 8-12+ years. The physical health of bunnies is often overlooked, yet it’s something every bunny owner should have in depth knowledge on. Bloating and gas build are common problems that can lead GI Stasis, a fast acting life threatening ailment. For this reason, checking on your rabbit multiple times a day is important to make sure they are eating hay, drinking and pooping as normal. It is worth having gas drops and Critical Care on hand for emergencies.
Rabbits care can be expensive. Vaccines for Myxomatosis are essential every year to prevent disease. If your rabbit is in a household with other furry animals, specialized rabbit flea treatment every month might be needed, diatomaceous earth is a flea repellent that can be sprinkled into the fur if you’d rather not opt for spot on flea treatment.
Litter should be changed every few days minimum to keep their toilet areas free from urine and fumes. Urine scald can lead to hair loss on their thumpers (their back feet) and in turn lead to sore hocks. Wood litter pellets are the best for absorbing moisture and create less dust compared to sawdust, and has no chemicals like regular cat litter. Litter can get heavy when wet and the great thing about wood litter is it can be composted.
Hay, pellets and greens – the main food sources for a rabbit. Unlimited fresh hay should be given daily, 80% of their diet is hay. Unlike human teeth, theirs constantly grow, nibbling hay is so important to wear the teeth down. As for fresh vegetables and herbs, the greener the better. Parsley, Corriander (Cilantro), Mint and Kale are favourites here. Dandelion leaves from the garden, if they have not been sprayed with weed killer are also great additions for dinner time. As with any greens, thoroughly rinse them before giving to bunny to remove pesticides.
Potatoes and peelings are not advised. Small pieces of carrot and banana make great treats but should not be fed everyday as they are high in sugar.
Rabbits need to be brushed regularly to prevent them ingesting hair when they groom themselves. Unlike cats who get fur balls and can cough them up, rabbits cannot cough up the hair and the build up can cause blockages. During shedding season they should be groomed at least once every other day. Long haired rabbits require even more grooming as their hair can get matted quickly.
A weekly check of nails, teeth, feet, eyes and nose are important. If you notice anything unusual, contact a rabbit savvy vet for advice! Eyes and nose should be clear, no discharge. Nails should be trimmed every few weeks, depending on how fast they grow.
Rabbits, unlike dogs, do not need to be bathed at all. They are very clean animals, constantly grooming themselves. Bathing and soaking their hair is extremely stressful for them. As delicate animals, they can actually die from stress. If you think your rabbit needs to be cleaned you can dampen a wash cloth, with water only, and wipe them down only where they have not been able to clean themselves.
Rabbits love company, in fact they need it. They should be kept with another rabbit for companionship (neutered, opposite sex is most favorable). If your rabbit is a lone wolf for now, spending quality time with them is really important. Getting down on their level, giving them cuddles on the floor instead of lifting them up. If you are to handle them,lift them by putting one hand under their butt and the other under their tummy and then hold to your chest, supporting their weight- never lift them by their ears, this causes pain!
A stimulating, enriching indoor environment is essential. Empty toilet rolls and cardboard boxes make great destruction games. Choose wooden toys over plastic, after the destruction and ingestion of part of a sturdy plastic rattle, I learned that lesson. Most rabbits love to get head rubs and cheek massages. Rabbits do not like loud environments, for this reason, it’s best to avoid giving them to younger children as pets. They can scrape and bite if they feel threatened.
Excercise and Play
Rabbits need space to hop, a cage is not big enough to keep a rabbit it. They are fine as a bed, but not for living in. They should be able to run freely and binky (high leaps in the air) as is natural for a rabbit. They love exploring, finding dark areas to hide and places to dig.
Of course, rabbits are worth every little bit of mischief they get up to. It helps that they are too cute to ever be angry with too! Just like any new relationship, it involves listening , understanding and patience to get to know what they like and dislike, their habits and their routine.
If you’re interested in sharing life with a bunny, there are plenty of rabbits up for adoption in local shelters and charities, they would love to have a forever home to show them what love is. By buying animals, we repeat the cycle of breeding for money, while animals that were ditched are left unwanted. You can even foster a rabbit for a short time to see if it’s a good fit before deciding if a life with a bunny is right for you.