Every year a Easter approaches, I cringe just thinking about how many adorable little baby bunnies will be purchased, then abandoned (pet rabbits CANNOT survive outside), or flooding animal shelters. 6 years ago, I was just as impulsive when I decided to take on a pet rabbit.
My in-laws were shopping local yard sales and knowing that Aaron and I were looking to take on a small animal for our apartment at IU, they called us to tell us that someone was giving their rabbit away for free at the yard sale. Awesome, I know. We decided to take her, and promptly went to the store to buy her all the "necessities."
As we started doing our research, we learned we were doing all the wrong things: feeding her food that was a horrible diet (but is very colorful and enticing at the store), providing her bedding that was toxic (which is also very easy to buy at the store), and not giving her enough space for exercise. Learn from my initial mistakes and check out my tips for responsible rabbit ownership:
1) Rabbits need a diet of 80% hay and the other 20% should be fresh vegetables (ideally leafy greens). Don't bother buying the colorful trail mix at the pet store - most of it is junk and should not be consumed by rabbits. To save money per pound, we buy 50 pound boxes of hay from a feed store.
2) Look for a rabbit-savvy vet. Most of the time, you end up having to go to an exotic vet and paying a premium unless you are lucky to find a vet who has gone out of his or her way to study rabbits.
3) Rabbits need lots of space - our rabbit Mimzy has a 3 ft. x 9 ft. cage, and she is let out every evening for supervised exercise.
4) Be prepared to clean - a lot! While rabbits are easily litterbox trained, they get their hay EVERYWHERE. And the hay they eat makes the room where they live smell..... organic.
5) Get your pet rabbit spayed or neutered. They are EXTREMELY susceptible to reproductive cancer and fixing them prevents these from developing.
6) Most rabbits do not like being picked up and are extremely fragile (they can break their own backs by kicking too hard). When they bite, it REALLY hurts (trust me, I know - Mimzy is a biter!), so they may not be ideal pets for small children.
7) They can live between 7-10+ years. Mimzy is 8 years old now!
Aaron and I will undoubtedly adopt another rabbit after Mimzy passes because we've fallen in love with the little creatures, but they are definitely a lot of work!