OWNING A RABBIT
Rabbits make a nice alternative to a dog or cat. They are usually not aggressive,
don't have to be walked, and usually learn to use a litterbox quite easily.
Their average life-span is 5-10 years old, and they reach breeding age at 6
months of age. Early spaying and neutering at 4-6 months of age is recommended
to decrease both medical and behavioral problems. Rabbits are known for their
easy breeding abilities; pregnancy lasts about 30 days and the average size
litter is 4-10 bunnies.
Proper handling of rabbits is important. Rabbits have a lightweight skeleton
compared to most animals. Their powerful back legs allow them to kick with a
large amount of strength. If held improperly, a swift kick can easily cause
a rabbit to break its back, resulting in euthanasia for the now paralyzed rabbit.
When carrying your pet, always support its rear end. If the rabbit struggles,
it should be placed down immediately, given time to quiet itself, and picked
up a few minutes later. NEVER pick up your rabbit by its ears. Have your veterinary
surgeon show you the proper way to restrain and carry your rabbit.
Rabbits have large ears, which give them an excellent sense of hearing. The
ears also serve as a way for the rabbit to regulate its body temperature. The
ears contain large veins which are often used for drawing blood for diagnostic
Rabbits have a digestive tract that is adapted for digesting the large amount
of fiber that is required in their diets.
Compared to other pets, the skeleton of a rabbit is very light in relation
to the rest of its body. This means that their bones fracture (break) more easily;
carrying a rabbit improperly can predispose it to bone fractures.
Rabbits have two pairs of upper incisor teeth (the second pair is hidden behind
Like rodents, rabbit teeth grow throughout the pet's life and may need periodic
trimming by your veterinary surgeon. Providing your rabbit with blocks of wood
to chew often prevents overgrown incisors, a common condition in pet rabbits.
Selecting your pet
Rabbits can often be purchased at pet stores or through breeders. Ideally,
select a young bunny. The eyes and nose should be clear and free of any discharge
that might indicate a respiratory infection. It should be curious and inquisitive.
The rabbit should not be thin and emaciated. Check for the presence of wetness
around the anus, which might indicate diarrhea. Also check for the presence
of parasites such as fleas and ear mites (ear mites cause the production of
waxy black exudate in the ears). If possible, examine the rabbit's mouth for
broken or overgrown incisors (front teeth), discolored gums (they should be
light pink), and any obvious sores. Inquire as to whether the rabbit has been
spayed or neutered; most have not been at the time of purchase. These operations
should be performed by 4-6 months of age. Finally, inquire as to any guarantee
of health the seller is offering.
The first veterinary visit
Your rabbit should be examined by a qualified veterinary surgeon within 48
hours of purchase. Make sure the veterinary surgeon has experience in treating
rabbits. The veterinary surgeon should discuss housing, proper diet, and appropriate
toys for the rabbit. A fecal sample should be examined for parasites. Rabbits
require annual physical examinations and fecal tests to check for parasites,
although no annual vaccinations are required.
Rabbits can be given vaccinations against both myxomatosis and hemorrhagic
viral hepatitis. Ask your veterinary surgeon about both these diseases, transmitted
by insects and fleas, and preventative measures which can be taken against them.
to Rabbit Information Index