Rabbits make great pets. They are docile and quiet. Only a small amount of space is required for housing. Food is inexpensive and readily available. A pet rabbit can be kept indoors. They are trainable and you can teach them to use a litter box. Before bringing home your first rabbit, there are some considerations to keep in mind.
Why a pet rabbit
The first thing to consider is why do you want a pet rabbit? Is your child interested in a 4-H project where they will show the rabbit and perhaps breed them for pets? Do you want a pet rabbit as a first pet for your child? Perhaps you live in a condo or apartment and want a good indoor pet that is quiet and can go without being detected by the neighbors. Maybe you are interested in heritage breeds and rare breeds of rabbits and you want to help rebuild the numbers through careful breeding. Did you want an pet that can also bring in some extra cash through breeding or selling of fur—see the Examiner article on Pet rabbits: angora breeds.
If you or anyone in your household has allergies to dogs, cats, or horses, then a pet rabbit will not work for you. All rabbits shed. If you are allergic to animal dander, a per rabbit will make your life miserable.
Rabbits are very docile creatures and will get along with your other pets. However, if you have a dog or cat, you will have to provide protection for your rabbit from these pets. Never leave a pet rabbit and a dog or cat unsupervised. The prey drive may become to strong and even the best trained dog may eat your rabbit. For obvious reasons, keep pet rabbits far away from pet snakes.
There are many rabbit breeds to choose from. Some rabbits have short, shiny fur that is a breeze to take care of. Others, like the Angora rabbit, require daily brushing and they shed like crazy. Decide how much work you want to put into your pet rabbit. If daily brushing, combing, and snipping are not something you are willing to do, choose a rabbit with short hair. Lop eared rabbits have long ears that droop. The best way to find out about rabbit breeds is to contact the American Rabbit Breeders Association.
Size is another consideration. Larger rabbits cost more to feed and house than smaller ones. Pet rabbits range in size from dwarf to giant.
Dwarf rabbits range in size from two to four pounds. These rabbits make great pets for young children because they are small and easy to handle. A dwarf rabbit requires a small hutch which will not take up much room. Some dwarf breeds to consider are: American Fuzzy Lop, Britannia Petite, Dwarf Hotot, Holland Lop, Jersey Wooly, Mini Rex, Netherland Dwarf, and Polish.
Small rabbits are somewhat larger than dwarfs. They range in weight from four to seven pounds. Smalls do not take up much room and they are suitable for young children. Their compact size makes them easy to handle and care for. Common small breeds include: Tan, Mini Lop, Havana, Harlequin, Florida White, English Spot, English Angora, and Dutch.
Medium rabbits start reaching larger sizes. They range in weight from eight to 10 pounds. At this size, they may be a little too large for smaller children to handle safely. Larger rabbits require larger hutches and more food. Some popular breeds of medium rabbits are: Rex, Satin, Palomino, New Zealand, Californian, and Champaign D’Argent (a heritage breed), New Zealands and Californians are most often bred for meat.
Giant breeds are just that—very large rabbits. They range in weight from 10 to 15 pounds. Rabbits this large cannot be easily handled by small children and they require more food and much larger housing. Popular giant breeds are Giant Flemish, Giant Chinchilla, Giant Angora, and Checkered Giant.
Rabbits come in just about every color imaginable--some rabbits are multicolored. If you want something more than a little white bunny, look into Flemish Giants which are tan, Chinchilla which are gray, and any type of Rex, Tan, or spotted.
Before deciding on a pet rabbit, check the veterinarians in your area to see if they are familiar with rabbits. You want the name of a vet before there is an emergency. Rabbits do not require routine vaccinations, heartworm or flea prevention. You just have to keep their houses clean and dry. If you have a male rabbit (buck) and you want to let them run loose in the house, get him neutered. If you keep him intact, he will mark everything in the house and your house will smell like a rabbit litter box.
Lynda Altman loves animals and is “mom” to three rescued dogs; Izzy, Sophie, and Romeo. She is very concerned about pet health issues. Prior to the birth of her 4th child, Lynda owned an exotic pet business. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.