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PET BUNNY TIPS by Linda Pett

            It is important to understand rabbit behavior.  Rabbits are the most common prey for predators in nature.  For this reason, their instincts tell them to run if something comes after them.  Do not give a young rabbit too much freedom too soon.  If you have to chase them to catch them, it sets up a bad precedent and the rabbit will run from the feet (that is all they see) coming after them as a means of survival.  The best way to treat a new bunny brought home is to handle it as much as possible and for at least 20 minutes at each handling.  The first 10 minutes the animal is being held it may be nervous and unresponsive, but by the second 10 minutes, it will begin to be curious and check out the handler.  Immediately after handling, put the rabbit back in its cage.

            If the rabbit is to be a family pet, I recommend that one person be chosen to be the handler for the first few days.  If the rabbit is for a child, I recommend that introduction to the child's playmates come after the rabbit has been accustomed to its new owner and environment.  The first few days should be quiet days filled with gentle handling, soft talking to the bunny and introduction of various treats in moderation.  Bonding during the first few days is the primary objective.

            When first ready to give the rabbit freedom, do so in a confined space.  Try sitting on the bathroom floor with the door closed.  Let the rabbit loose, let it run around and over you, pick it up occasionally and put it back down.  After about a week to 10 days of the bonding period most rabbits will begin to come up to the owner on their own and not struggle if picked up.

            Although I have had some wonderful pets, which were, does, I still prefer to recommend bucks for pets for several reasons.  Does can become moody or aggressive as they reach sexual maturity.  While most breeders have no problem dealing with this behavior, it can be quite distressing for the pet owner.  Some does become territorial and aggressive and it is just part of their nature.  In general, does will also be more destructive around the house.  In nature they are the nest builders and so a pet doe in a home will often be looking to build that nest out of whatever materials she can finds such as draperies, carpeting, pillows and cushions.

            While some bucks can also be destructive in the home, I have found this trait much more common in does.  A nest building doe must be protected from herself as well.  While you may be willing to put up with destructive behavior, it is unsafe for the animal.  Fibers can become impacted in the rabbit's stomach causing a blockage or can even be aspirated to cause breathing problems.

            Both bucks and does seem to be equally guilty of loving to chew on electrical wires.  The best way to protect your bunny is to put PVC pipe or aquarium tubing around all of your exposed cords.

            If you are going to have a pet rabbit loose in the house and your rabbit tends to be destructive, you will need to provide your bunny with safe things as an outlet for this destructive behavior.  Cardboard boxes with some hay enclosed make wonderful toys for them.  They also love to rip up newspapers.  Now this is going to take a devoted pet lover because the mess will be unbelievable and you must pick up after them.

            I have always been adamant about having a cage for a pet rabbit.  A cage is a safe place for your bunny.  It gives you a safe place to put the rabbit when you are not at home.  Also, if your bunny is fed in the cage, you will find your bunny is okay with living in a cage.  Also provide any treats for the rabbit in the cage environment.  Many rabbits are very attached to their cages as their safe and quiet place and are not always eager to come out.  Also if your bunny becomes sick, that cage is needed as a place to doctor and monitor the animal's health.  A rabbit belongs in a cage when you are not around if you have cats or dogs in your home.  You may feel your dogs and cats get along fine with rabbits, but don't make the mistake of leaving them alone together.  A dog left alone in a house behaves differently and may decide the rabbit is a toy or a rag toy.  Not all dog attacks come about as a result of vicious dogs.  Sometimes the dogs just play too hard for a rabbit.  Even a dog just chasing a rabbit can be detrimental to the life of your rabbit.  GET A CAGE for your rabbit's safety and your piece of mind.

            You need to understand the nutritional needs of your bunny.  Too many owners want to give their rabbits treats to the exclusion of all else.  I must stress the importance of the commercial rabbit pellets.  Treats should be just that "TREATS" given sparingly and with love.  Hay and a small treat daily will keep your rabbit healthy and happy.  Never feed treats to the point that your rabbit gives up eating pellets.

This article was taken from an article by Linda Pett in the ARBA magazine "Domestic Rabbits".  It was edited by Pat Vanecek and printed with Linda's permission.

this page last updated 8/18/05