Easter and Bunnies
Author: Abi Cushman
When Easter is around the corner, many people consider buying a pet rabbit, sometimes on a whim or as a gift for small children. While rabbits do make wonderful indoor companions (who can be litter-trained, just like cats), people should take the time to learn the reality of pet rabbit ownership.
Rabbits are not low-cost pets. Petfinder.com estimates that food, litter, and medical costs can average $675/year.  This does not account for the initial costs, which include adoption fees and money spent on food/water dishes, housing, and more. The total costs end up being higher than what you might spend on cats or small dogs.
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. Rabbits are intelligent and energetic animals. They require social interaction, plenty of exercise, and a lot of enrichment activities on a daily basis. They have an incessant, unremitting desire to chew. They can easily damage furniture, carpet, molding, wires, and anything else within their reach. So be prepared to "bunny-proof" your home by covering wires with tubing, fencing areas off, and keeping important papers tucked away or high up.
Another common misconception is that the mainstays of a rabbit's diet are bunny pellets and carrots. In reality, rabbits' main source of sustenance should be hay. Hay, which needs to be available to pet rabbits at all times, is vital to their dental and digestive health. This may present a problem to family members with hay/grass allergies. Furthermore, rabbits need to supplement their hay diet with fresh vegetables daily. Regular purchases of produce like romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, and herbs can add up quickly.
Finally, although rabbits can be affectionate, they're not as "huggable" as people imagine. They don't always like being held, and in fact, many times they will try to bolt out of a person's arms, scratching the person and possibly inflicting serious injury to themselves. Rabbits are prey animals and much prefer staying on the ground. This may be very disappointing to both children and adults.
So while rabbits are adorable, fun pets, they do require a lot of care and patience. Rabbit owners need to have a certain kind of mindset -- one that is comfortable with the idea that their moldings and wall corners may get rounded and their remote control buttons may get gnawed off. Rabbits are unique; they are a good fit for some people but not others. Be sure to do your homework first!
To learn more, read the following articles:
If you have thoroughly researched what life with pet rabbits is like, and you and your family are ready to care for a rabbit for 10+ years, please consider adopting from a local shelter or rescue instead of buying one. Find out all the benefits of taking the adoption route in our article, Benefits of Adopting a Pet Rabbit.
- Stephen Zawistowski, Ph.D., Sr. VP Animal Sciences, ASPCA, "Estimated Yearly Costs of Pet Ownership", http://www.petfinder.com/after-pet-adoption/estimated-yearly-costs-pet.html.