Of all the NACs (new pets) we see regularly at the clinic, rabbits are now the most common. Its popularity is not difficult to understand. It is a charming animal, intelligent and an excellent pet. However, many new rabbit owners are sometimes disappointed by their new acquisition. Mostly because they were not properly informed about this long-eared mammal. The House Rabbit Society (http://www.rabbit.org/) has published a document that demystifies several misconceptions about rabbits. This international non-profit organization aims to save abandoned rabbits and educate the public about rabbit behavior and care. Here we have highlighted a few misconceptions.
1. Rabbits are animals that require little maintenance.
Although rabbit owners do not have to make them walk like dog owners must do with their pet, it is wrong to think that rabbits do not require care. Their cages must be cleaned every day and fresh vegetables must be offered to them. They need exercise every day and they have to be brushed frequently … In short, they require a lot of attention from their owners.
2. The longevity of the rabbits is short and consequently the implication of the owners is minimal.
Our clients are often surprised when we tell them that their rabbit will live between 7 to 10 years. Many of our patients are over twelve years old. It can be compared with the longevity of some breeds of dogs.
3. Rabbits do not require veterinary care.
Nothing is more wrong. Rabbits of both sexes must be sterilized. Annual reviews are essential to avoid health problems that could jeopardize their survival. Dental problems are not uncommon, especially in older individuals.
4. Rabbits are happier in a hutch outside the house.
During the summer season, several rabbit owners will install them in pens in the back garden of the house. These rabbits are often forgotten or neglected. They can, just like us , be sensible to extreme temperatures, mosquitoes and ticks. They can also be attack by wild animals.
5. Rabbits are not “clean” animals and have a strong odor.
Rabbits are as clean as cats and wash constantly. Once sterilized, they do not give off any odor. They may be trained to go to a litter box as long as it is clean and inviting.
6. Rabbits love cuddles.
Although many rabbits “tolerate” manipulations, many hate being held. About ten years ago, we had a rabbit as a mascot at the clinic. Gaston was as affectionate as a cat or a dog. When we arrived at the clinic in the morning, he was frolicking around us. He was overjoyed to see us everyday. But if you tried to pick him up it made him furious. Not exactly the candidate for someone who wants to cuddle their pet.
7. Rabbits can live in small cages.
Rabbits have muscled hind legs, made to run (and save themselves …). As a result, they need a lot of space to exercise.
8. Rabbits can be left alone for a few days when the owners are outside.
Rabbits need daily supervision. A small diarrhea that would be benign for a cat or dog can be quickly fatal for a rabbit. The loss of appetite, even for 24-48 hours can be fatal for a rabbit. During weekend absences, rabbits should be left in a boarding house or veterinary clinic where staff are familiar with rabbits.
9. The diet of rabbits is simple: a bowl of mold and a carrot from time to time.
The most important food for rabbits is hay. It should be offered freely. Fresh green leafy vegetables are also very important. The feed should only be available in very small quantities.
If all future rabbit owners were aware of these basic facts about their future pet, they would realize that Bugs Bunny is not unlike Garfield !
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact a member of the Clinic’s medical team (514-634-4190), who will be happy to assist you.