Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Bunny Rearing

My enthusiastic friend JD has peppered me with questions about the care (and behavior) of house rabbits, including a plea for me to "Write a whole goddamn rabbit-rearing guide, please." There are many people out there with far more experience who I'd turn to for advice before me, but I would be happy to share the vastness of my not-quite-three-months of experience (Easter Day will mark exactly three months of bunny ownership for us) anyway.

Before deciding a rabbit might be best for us, Kate and I both did a lot of research on the good old internet. I highly recommend the resources at The House Rabbit Society for anyone considering a rabbit as a pet. The House Rabbit Handbook by Marinell Harriman is by far the best book I picked up on rabbit rearing in the 4-6 month period when we were examining our options. The Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society is also overflowing with relevant, comforting information and support.

On to JD's Questions:

I'm always trying to convince Kris that we ought to get a rabbit for a pet. Tell us more! Do you have other pets?
We have no other pets. We carefully considered many options for furry animal companions before settling on a rabbit. Cats would suit our lifestyle, but Chris is allergic and would be miserable. Dogs would not suit our lifestyle because of the amount of traveling we do every year. Small rodents are just not friendly enough and their short little lives are too heart-breakingly brief.

Do rabbits get along with cats?
Rabbits and cats can get along, but it really depends on the personalities involved. If your cat is a hunter (hello, Simon!) and you opt for a small or shy rabbit, they're going to have more hurdles to overcome in becoming friends. Bonnie's foster mom told us Bonnie got along just fine with her cat but we've never had to test that out.

Do cats get along with rabbits?
Cats who are hunters would obviously be the biggest concern here, I'd think. Thankfully, The House Rabbit Society has a great article on cats and Rabbits. Another site I've come to like is Fuzzy-rabbit.com

Do rabbits have personalities?
I suppose I can't speak for all rabbits, but Bonnie certainly does! She is curious, sly, funny, and stubborn. She runs up to meet us when we come into her room and wants to see exactly what I'm doing. She's been known to thump her foot at us when we've prevented her from doing something she wanted to do (like running around in Kate's toy closet).

Are they smartish?
Definitely. Deviously clever. Sneaky. We haven't tried to train Bonnie to respond to any voice commands other than coming to her name, but the Dummies people have a whole section in their book about training a rabbit to come or hop up onto something by using treats as a reward. Bonnie loves to rearrange things in her room, including moving walls of her playpen. I gave her a little tin with a toy inside that rattles around and she figured out how to fling it around until she got the lid off. Other rabbits have learned to open doors and cupboards.

Do they use a litter box?
Yes! When we first got Bonnie, there was some out of the box peeing while she marked her territory and tried to establish who was the boss. Her favorite trick was to run over and pee right in front of the door whenever I came into the room... definitely a territory/dominance thing. There was also some marking by dropping pellets. The great thing about rabbit poop, though, is it's not stinky or wet or generally gross like dog or cat poop. It's no problem at all to clean up a stray pellet or two, and 90% of the time Bonnie confines herself to her litter box now that the issue of territory has been settled in her little bunny mind.

Do they snuggle?
Bonnie does not snuggle. I've seen other owners talk about their rabbits sitting on their laps or beside them on the couch or in bed. Bonnie is not that sort of a bunny. In general, bunnies don't like to be held or picked up: they're prey animals and when it comes down to it, they want to be able to flee at a moment's notice if they have to. Bonnie does love to be petted and stroked, especially on her head. She will do what the bunny people call a purr (which is nothing like a cat's purr, it's more like teeth chattering) and will let you stroke her on the bridge of her nose and her forehead until you're sick of it, then she'll lick the heck out of your hand with her soft, dry little tongue to show her affection in return.

Are they able to hop up on a couch? Climb stairs?
Absolutely. Bonnie hasn't shown much of a penchant for climbing, but I've heard many stories of other bunnies who can and will hop up onto your chair, then to your desk, or onto the coffee table, etc.

If I let a rabbit outside to frolick, will it return to me?
Eek! Like any new mother, I'm terrified at the thought of letting my baby outdoors without numerous safety precautions in place. Fuzzy-rabbit.com posts pictures of their rabbits out in the garden with them, but it's always understood to be a fenced yard that the rabbit cannot escape from. House rabbits are also vulnerable to poisonous plants in the back yard. I wouldn't let a rabbit out to frolic in an open yard, but I did buy a rabbit pen with the intention of having Bonnie outside in a contained area with me while I work in the yard this summer.

Will a rabbit bite a human?
Some rabbits are aggressive and will growl, lunge, thump, and even bite. Bonnie has never bitten or been aggressive, though she has thumped her foot at us in a snit (usually right before she hops off in the other direction). The Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society has a good article about why rabbits bite each other or humans.

Can you carry it by its ears?
Absolutely not. Something I did not know before becoming a rabbit owner is that rabbits have very delicate skeletons combined with great strength in their hind legs, so much so that they can break their own backs (!!) by kicking out in a struggle. A rabbit should always be picked up with support under its hind legs and held close to your body to provide it as much support as possible and to keep it from twisting and kicking out in fear.

Cords and books are a problem in our house, too, but what about furniture? Will rabbits eat furniture? Gnaw on doors?
They can and probably will chew something. Not only furniture like table legs, but some rabbits just can't resist digging or pulling up carpet, chewing on doors or wood trim, nibbling the bindings of books, plastic and oh how they love those cords and wires! Bonnie pulled up a nickle-sized piece of carpet, and nibbled the wood trim and the underside of the totally worthless coffee table in Kate's room, and sampled the bindings of a dozen or so books, in addition to eating through the power cord for the printer, two phone cords, the cord to a lamp, the cord to Kate's mouse and keyboard, and the nose and feet off a Barbie when she accidentally opened the bunny playpen and got into bunny-unsafe areas. On the other hand, when she's confined to bunny-safe areas, she's not destructive, and we do our best to make sure she's got plenty of safe and appropriate things to chew on and play with. I view it like having a scratching post or cat condo for a cat: giving them an appropriate place for their behavior cuts down on random damage tremendously, but kitty might still sneak off to sharpen his claws on the arm of the chair when you're not looking.


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Blogger Evan Says:

I don't really have any desire to own a bunny, but this is a great post! Very interesting. It also reminds me that I have yet to meet Bonnie Bunnie. This must be rectified next time I'm over! I can bring her some books to chew on...

Blogger J.D. Says:


Anonymous Jess Says:

This is a lovely post detailing the good and bad sides of bunny owning. I've had my lovely for a little less than six months, and though we've had our rough patches, I think from now on I'll always have room for a bunny in my life.


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