I’ve owned many different pets throughout my life and while I’ve loved them all I am admitting a favorite here. Personally I think rabbits as pets are one of the best kept secrets and I’m listing my reasons!
1. They are quiet! Bella, my terrier mix, loves to bark and both of my kitties insist on expressing themselves vocaly on a daily basis. While this is sometimes cute, I do miss the peace and quiet of coming home to a bouncing bunny greeting me at the door. Aside from a few ‘I’m frightened foot thumps’ every once in awhile rabbits are perfectly mum…. silence is golden at times.
2. They are litter-trainable. There are many websites that devote the topic to how to litter-train your rabbit. Honestly if you haven’t had success, you are doing something wrong as this behavior is in their nature. It does take some time to train them properly so they are consistent. Visit my resources and links page for information on litter training. Even in their cages my rabbits have litter boxes as it surpasses the weekly chore of cleaning their cage trays. It is much faster and simpler to just empty a litterbox and it keeps everything much cleaner.
3. They are entertainers, have their own personalities and will make you laugh in more ways than you ever thought. I was always amazed at the acrobatics (called binkies) my rabbits would partake in racing across the floor! My English Lops especially love to ‘flop’ or completely flip onto their side and sleep (although they have worried me more than a few times as they look dead when they do this). My EL in college was notorios for knocking beverages off of our coffee table so she could lick them up off the floor! She also liked to race up and down the stairs.
4. We keep the same schedule. Rabbits are more active naturally during the evening hours when we are usually home and interacting with the family. This is great as they automatically will want to sleep during the day when we are at work and play when we want to play!
5. They are ‘green’ pets. Rabbits can eat most fruits and vegetables. I compost as much as I can but any fruits or veggies left over from preparing a salad or a meal is given to the bunnies. They are also great recyclers of your plain cardboard or newspapers as they love to shred and play with these items! A favorite (and cheap!) rabbit toy is to stuff a toilet paper or paper towel roll with hay or other treats. If your yard is small enough they even would be efficient enough in keeping it trimmed. Just make sure they are safe from predators, you haven’t treated or sprayed your lawn and don’t mind some holes from digging! Did I forget to mention that their waste makes great fertilizer for your garden and it doesn’t even have to be cured.
6. Known vices. If you are well-versed in rabbit behavior you will already know what to prepare yourself for. No surprises as every rabbit will chew and want to dig. It is nearly impossible to ‘train’ this out of them. Instead you will have to approach these natural habits constructively and find outlets for this behavior such as providing them with different forms of stimuli and ‘bunny-proofing’ your home.
That being said, if you are looking for a rabbit as a pet please adopt from your local shelter. While I breed and raise rabbits I make sure I’m responsible in my breeding practices. I only raise a limited number of litters a year and try to home my rabbits to other ‘show’ homes rather than as pets as they are being raised for those purposes. I also only breed to the space permitted in my rabbitry to avoid over-crowding. I stress to all of my buyers that the rabbit is always welcomed back to the rabbitry if they can no longer care for it. Avoid buying from a pet store as this fosters irresponsible ‘bunny-mill’ type breeding and you will not be ‘saving’ a rabbit but instead supporting these practices. If pet stores see that baby bunnies are not selling then they will choose not to sell them. Typically pet stores are not knowledgable about rabbit behavior, what breed of rabbit they are selling or how to sex a rabbit. Just like the thousands of dogs and cats in shelters around the nation, rabbits suffer the same fate as they are irresistibly cute when they are little and people bring them home on a whim without knowing how to care for a bunny. Rabbits are not good pets for young children as they don’t understand that like most animals, bunnies prefer not to be picked up and would rather sit beside you to be petted. If you are considering buying a rabbit and you have children please first read this article by the House Rabbit Society.
I started showing rabbits when I was about 8 and I was heavily involved in 4-H. I feel this was an appropriate age as I was old enough to be responsible for caring for my rabbits and big enough to have the coordination and muscle strength to handle them by myself (but these factors are always based on the individual child). I urge you to do your research before you decide if a rabbit is the best pet for you. I grew up with animals my entire life and I’ve never been fazed by common rabbit behavior which does include some aggression and destruction. With any animal you have to remember that a dog is a dog and a rabbit is a rabbit and they will behave by their own innate natural instincts. I advise you to choose wisely when you look at adoptable animals or specific breeds. In general, the larger the rabbit the better the personality when it comes to a ‘pet’. From my own experience and on the advice of other rabbit experts I’ve found English Lops, French Lops, Flemish Giants or any breed over 8-9 lbs. for that matter is a safe bet. Some smaller breeds such as Holland Lops, Velveteen Lops and Mini Lops are also known to make great pets. I’ve owned many different breeds and while there are always exceptions (and I can think of many) IN GENERAL I recommend the lops and giant breeds for first-time rabbit owners as they are more consistently laid-back and less easily frightened.
My first indoor rabbit was a very sweet Jersey Woolie named Lulu. She was kept in my bedroom and I absolutely loved coming home from school to find her sprawled across my bed relaxing. She was only destructive when I didn’t pay enough attention to her and this resulted in some strips of my wallpaper being removed. I also had a Netherland Dwarf inside who was a sweetie and very docile and laid-back in comparison to others of his breed. My most recent rabbit indoors was an English Lop named Penelope who was an absolute doll and ‘like a dog’. Once again, she was only destructive when I didn’t pay attention to her during busy times (like finals week). She also liked to jump up in bed with me at night and sleep next to me. I did have another Jersey Woolie, Cassidy, that was Penelope’s companion and she had a more typical small breed personality and was not as nice of an indoor pet. Regardless, my experience with rabbits was an overall positive. Just remember it really does depend on the individual rabbit as they are all unique. They will definitely let you know when they want attention by bunny nuzzles and cuddling with you on the couch. A great site for watching some typical indoor bunny behavior is the blog The Rabbit House.