Are you thinking of welcoming your first house rabbits as pets into your home? Choosing your first pet bunnies can feel extremely overwhelming.
I know how nerve-wracking it can be since you want to make the best choice for everyone. Fortunately, the whole choosing a pet rabbit story doesn’t have to be so scary.
If you’re about to welcome a little hopper into your family, make sure you’re prepared. Here’s what you need to know.
By Chris Friese
Why Choose House Rabbits As Pets
Before you get your first rabbits as pets, ask yourself the following question: Is a rabbit the right pet for me? Rabbits have some specialized needs that will need to be addressed. Unlike what most believe, they aren’t the easiest pets to keep. Here are a few things to help you decide if a pet rabbit is, after all, the best pet for you.
- Rabbits can live for many years. Many reach the age of 10 or even higher. Are you ready for that commitment?
- Bunnies have special diets. Did you do the research?
- Rabbits need somewhere safe to live in with lots of space to run. Can you provide that?
- Rabbits need special vets. Do you have a vet in mind already?
- Bunnies can be messy while being potty trained. Are you ready to clean up daily?
- Pet rabbits can get along with other pets if properly introduced. Are you ready to put in the time?
- Bunnies can be trained to do tricks. Are you game for some playtime?
- Pet rabbits need a friend and lots of attention. It’s usually best to get two. Are you ready to love them?
- Rabbits are quite fragile. Can you protect your new fluffball from excited kids and other pets?
Once you’ve answered all these questions and you still want your bunny, take a look at what you need to get before bringing your new pet home.
Things You Need Before Getting A Pet Rabbit
Before bringing your new hopping friend home, make sure you already have everything ready to make your bunny feel at home. House rabbits as pets need a bit more than cats and dogs when it comes to their care. Make sure you have the following before bringing your bunnies home:
- A rabbit hutch
- Food bowls
- Water bowls or bottles
- Litter trays
- Rabbit safe litter
- Rabbit safe chew toys
- Hay feeder
- A playpen
- Baby gate
- Rabbit proofing supplies
- Floor protection
- Rabbit safe cleaning supplies
- Puppy pads
- Rabbit carrier
- Bunny bedding
- First aid kit
- Grooming supplies
- Healthy rabbit food
If you need a bit more information on these supplies, check out our article on preparing for your first rabbit.
To get set up, choose a location in your home like a room or corner of a room to dedicate to your bunny. Make sure this area is free of anything your bunny rabbit can destroy such as electric cables.
Set up the playpen in such a way that it protects the walls, but still gives your bunny some space to run and jump. This playpen needs to be high enough so that the rabbit doesn’t simply just jump over it.
Inside this playpen, you can set up a hutch or a cage. This will be the sleeping quarters for your bun. Place some bedding inside made from hay or something similar. On the floor of the playpen, you can place a floor protector. Also, dedicate one corner to the litter tray. Keep in mind that you might need to move the litter box to your rabbit’s preferred weeing corner.
Add some rabbit safe toys, a food and water bowl and you’re just about ready to go. House rabbits as pets are usually free raoming in the house. If your bunny will be doing this, you will need to protect any wooden furniture as well as electric cables. Read more about this in our article on rabbit proofing your home.
Once you have a cosy bunny home set up, you’re ready to start choosing a rabbit for your family.
How To Pick A Pet Rabbit?
Picking bunnies to bring home can be extremely exciting but also nerve-wracking. To make the choice easier for you, I’ve put together a few things to consider when choosing a pet rabbit. Here’s what you need to think about.
Things To Consider When Choosing A Pet Rabbit
The first thing you’ll need to think about is the size of your potential rabbit. Bunnies come in all sizes from very small dwarfs to giant breeds. What you choose will depend a little on what you can offer your cotton-tailed friend.
If you have a lot of space but prefer a small bunny, then there is no reason to worry. More space is always better after all. The problem comes in when you have only a small apartment with very little running space for your bun. Giant breeds need a bit more space to stretch their legs. If you want one of these, make sure you have the space.
Make sure you have your pet’s best interest at heart when choosing a size bunny.
If it matters to you how your bunny looks, you might want to choose a breed that suits you. Just like dogs, different breeds look and act very differently. If you’re confused, do some research on rabbit breeds before you get a bunny.
For those who want a very active breed, it’s best to stick to the smaller bunny breeds. If you want a lazy rabbit that loves to cuddle, a big breed may be better. Keep in mind that not all breeds act the same.
If you like cuddly house rabbits as pets, consider a flemish giant or a continental giant. These breeds are also big enough to not be at risk when interacting with small children and other pets like cats.
It’s always good to know if you want a baby rabbit or an adult. There are many rabbits in rescues that need homes. Unfortunately, most of these are already adults. If you’re willing to take in an adult, it’s always a great idea to look at a few rescues.
If you want a baby rabbit of a specific breed. You can either ask rescues if they have any or contact a breeder. Make sure not to get your baby before 8 weeks old. They still drink from mom until they are around 6 weeks old.
Also, make sure the breeder is reputable and keep their bunnies in good condition. Backyard breeders must be reported to your local SPCA to prevent animal cruelty.
Different rabbits have different personalities. If you want outgoing house rabbits as pets, try choosing one that comes to sniff you. These bunnies are curious and won’t mind being handled.
While choosing your bunny, also make sure to pick it up. If the new bunny struggles a lot, it might not like being handled. If you want to cuddle it, choose one that doesn’t struggle when sitting on your lap.
Female bunnies are usually the more difficult gender. If you’re a first-time rabbit owner, a male bunny might be a better choice. Male rabbits tend to be much calmer, less destructive and less territorial. Female rabbits on the other hand are more independent, more territorial, sometimes quite aggressive and very destructive.
If you have a lot of patience, experience and time, a female bunny can make a perfect pet. If you’re not so confidant yet and don’t have a lot of patience or time, rather consider a male bunny. Remember that there are always exceptions.
House rabbits as pets aren’t the cheapest critters to keep. Are you ready for the investment? They are long term pets that require special foods to stay healthy. They also need special cages to keep them out of trouble when you aren’t around to keep them safe.
Bunnies also need special veterinary care. If you’re prepared to invest in your rabbit friend, then you shouldn’t have any problems. Just keep in mind that they aren’t the cheapest pets to keep.
The special needs of rabbits
Bunnies need a very specific diet. You will need a lot of hay and veggies to keep them healthy. This can become quite an expensive process.
They also need special veterinary care so make sure you have a vet in mind before you get your pet. If something goes wrong with a bunny, it usually goes very wrong very quickly. Don’t wait until the last minute to find a bunny savvy veterinarian.
If you already have other pets, you will need to think about how you will be integrating your house rabbits as pets. Very small bunnies like Netherland Dwarfs, it isn’t the best idea to keep them with predators like dogs and cats.
Larger bunnies do better since they don’t immediately trigger the hunting instincts of your other pets. If you have chickens and guinea pigs, however, your bunnies should get along just fine with them.
They will also be just fine with cats and dogs if you get a kitten or puppy at the same time as your bunny and raise them together.
The last thing you need to consider is your family. Does anyone suffer from pet allergies? Just like cats and dogs, rabbits also have dander in their fur. They also shed heavily as cats do. For this reason, you might not want one if someone is allergic.
If you have small kids, you also might want to put off getting a bunny. Small kids are very rough and might injure your fluffy friend by accident. If you’re willing to supervise, however, it might work out. It might also be best to get a giant breed instead of a small one.
You will also need to establish who will be caring for this bunny. There is a lot of work that goes into rabbit care. Litter boxes need to be cleaned every second day, poop needs to be picked up, water needs to be changed and the bunny needs to be fed. All of these tasks can take quite a bit of time. Make sure everyone knows their duties.
Also, make sure that a rabbit suits your lifestyle. If you travel a lot, this pet might not be the best choice for you. Rather get something like fish that won’t miss you too much when you’re gone. If you’re a stay at home parent or if you work from home, on the other hand, bunnies are great pets. They thrive on attention and need a lot of love to stay tame.
Selecting your first Pet Rabbit
Now you might wonder how exactly you’re supposed to only choose one or two rabbit out of the whole bunch. Here’s what you need to look for:
- Housing conditions
Cleanliness, health and housing
A clean bunny is usually a healthy bunny. If the bunnies have a dirty bum, look a bit scruffy or has wee stains all over, you might want to find out a bit more about them before getting one.
You can also evaluate the health of a bunny by doing a physical examination. Healthy bunnies usually have clear eyes with no mucus in the corners. The nose should be twitching, be dry and mucus free. If the bunny is continuously sneezing, it also might be sick.
The area under the tail should be clean and poop-free. The spine should be felt but not prominent and definitely not visible. The same goes for the pelvis and the ribs. The ears should be erect (except if you have a breed such as a lop), clean and moving freely.
The whole body posture of the bunny should be alert, curious and ready to either play or run. A rabbit that is overly skittish may have never been handled or is feeling sick. If the bunny seems listless, it might also be sick.
While checking the bunnies for health and cleanliness, also check their living conditions. Bunnies kept in smelly, nasty environments usually aren’t very healthy. Rabbits are very clean animals. If given the choice, they won’t ever get themselves dirty.
Also, check the living conditions of the parents. If they aren’t present, ask to see them. Some backyard breeders will show you the babies, but they won’t show you the nasty conditions these kits were kept in.
Every bunny has its own personality. Some are sweet and cuddly while others are super active and curious. You will need to spend some time with the rabbit you’d like to adopt to get a reading on its personality.
Some can be very shy and only really start to show you what they are made of once they get used to you. If you can, visit your bunny of choice several times before it’s allowed to come home with you.
This might not be important to you, but how much your bunny costs will be directly related to its health and quality. Cheap bunnies often have health issues and have been bred by unknowledgeable people. This is not always the case, but unfortunately, it happens often.
Bunnies that cost more are usually of a specific breed and prized by the breeder. These are the bunnies in the best conditions since breeders usually prize their animals and only send the best out into the world. They also often attend shows and courses to learn how to breed for health and quality.
The best option, however, is to adopt. Adopting a bunny means you give one poor soul a happy ending. Unfortunately, these rabbits aren’t always in the best of health and might have some trust issues. This is expected since their previous owners more than likely abused or abandoned them. If you have the patients and money, however, I would highly suggest adopting a bunny in need.
What questions should I ask when selecting a Pet rabbit?
Before taking your new rabbit home, there are a few things you must straighten out with the current owners or breeder. Here are a few things you must ask:
- Have the bunnies ever seen a vet?
- Do they have papers? (pedigree papers, breeding registry papers, change of ownership papers)
- Who are the parents?
- Can I see the parents?
- Background of the parents/rabbit in question
- What does the enclosure look like?
- The expected size of an adult
- Space requirement of the breed
- Can I have a feeding guide?
- Is the bunny male or female and how to check
More about choosing your new rabbit
Sometimes it’s not the most straightforward process to choose house rabbits as pets for your family. Here are a few things you need to ask yourself:
Which breed of rabbit would be best?
Not all rabbit breeds are the same. Some are large and can weigh 10kg (22 pounds) or more. Others are small and can weigh as little as 1kg (2.2 pounds).
You will also need to decide if you want your rabbit to have long or short fur. Keep in mind that rabbits with long fur require much more grooming and personal attention than those with short fur.
The last thing you’ll have to consider is colour. Rabbits come in many colour varieties with a stunning amount of different colour patterns. Not all of these might be appealing to everyone so make sure you choose something you like.
What are the signs of a healthy rabbit?
Healthy rabbits are easy to identify. Look out for the following signs that your bunny is in good health:
- Clear, mucus free eyes
- Dry, mucus free nose
- No sneezing
- Clean, mobile, erect ears (unless it’s a Lop)
- Clean, neat, shiny fur
- The area under and around the tail is clean
- No pee stains on the fur
- Alert, curious and active disposition.
Is owning house rabbits as pets expensive?
Rabbits might seem like super easy pets, but this isn’t always the case. These critters need special living arrangements and food to keep them safe, happy and healthy. You will need to get the following for your bunny:
- Food bowls and water bowls/bottle
- Sleeping hutch
- Bunny proofing supplies
- Chew toys
- Rabbit pellets
- Rabbit safe cleaning supplies
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Litter trays and rabbit safe cat litter
For more on what to get for your bunny, click here. As you can see, bunnies aren’t the cheapest animals to keep, at least initially. If you’re willing to invest in your little friend, however, you won’t be disappointed.
Where should I keep my rabbit?
Rabbits can be kept as free-roaming pets if you’re willing to bunny proof your home. Some people dedicate one room to their rabbits and close it off with a baby gate. Bunnies do just fine outside as well as long as the area is safely enclosed, has shelter and is large enough for them to run around. Keep in mind that they need enough space to run and do all kinds of rabbit things.
Where can you find a pet rabbit?
There are only two places you should ever consider buying a rabbit from. The first is a reputable breeder that is registered with a breed registry and the second is an animal rescue. Never buy a bunny from a pet shop or someone that just breeds their pets unethically. These bunnies are often sick or so badly bred that they have health issues for life.
Tell me the best place to get a Pet rabbit?
The best place to get a rabbit is from either an animal rescue or a registered breeder. This way you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into without being lied to about the condition your rabbit is in or the best care for it.
What if I already have other pets at home?
Rabbits can get along with other animals if introduced properly. Dogs can be trained to leave the bunny alone for instance. Cats are a bit more difficult, but you can get past the danger by getting a large rabbit breed. They can also successfully live along with guinea pigs, chickens and other non-aggressive pets.
By Ed Brey
Do rabbits like to be picked up?
No, most rabbits hate this. They are prey animals and being picked up feels like being captured by a predator. This is super stressful to them and should be avoided where possible. If you need to pick up your bunny for any reason, make sure to support the back and hindquarters and hold your rabbit close to your body so it feels safer.
How often do I need to see a vet?
The frequency will depend on where you live. In some countries, rabbits need to get yearly vaccinations like dogs and cats to avoid serious illnesses. In other countries, it might only be necessary to see a vet on the rare occasion that something is wrong. It’s always good to do a yearly checkup, so if you can, get into that routine.
Should I get two bunnies instead of one?
Yes, it’s always better to keep rabbits in pairs. They are extremely social creatures and will bond with a partner for life. Bunnies kept on their own will become bored and lonely easily which often leads to destructive behaviours and depression. Just make sure to bond them properly. Pet rabbits fighting can get quite dangerous to everyone involved.
Does a rabbit need special care?
Yes. Rabbits need a special veterinarian. The vet needs to be knowledgeable in the care of rabbits and other exotic pets. Make sure you have a rabbit savvy vet in mind even before you get your new friend.
Common Pet Rabbit Mistakes
If you’re a new rabbit owner to be, take a look at the following mistakes to avoid them yourself.
- Living arrangement problems
Many bunny owners get their rabbit before they are ready for it. This leads to a scramble to put together a cage and get all the necessary things a rabbit needs to live a happy, healthy life.
- Get house rabbits as pets before doing the research
Rabbits are long term pets. It’s best to do the proper research before you get your new pet. Rabbits aren’t the easiest pets and they definitely aren’t for beginner pet owners. Make sure you know exactly how to care for your new fluffy friend before it comes home.
- Feeding the wrong diet
People often believe that pet rabbits can live on carrots and lettuce. This unfortunately is not true. The main food in your rabbit’s diet should be hay with the rest only being supplements. If you’re wondering how to correctly feed a bunny, take a look at this article.
Now that you know a bit more about choosing your first pet rabbit, it’s time to select your long time fluffy partner. Make sure to create a list of what you want before you go rabbit hunting and do the proper research. Once you’re set up and prepared at home, it’s time to bring your cotton-tailed friend home.
Let me know in the comments below how you found your new pet rabbit.