When you think about getting a pet rabbit, you're likely to think first about going to the pet store. Instead, you may want to consider adopting a bunny from a humane society or an organization dedicated to rescuing homeless rabbits.
At any given time, there are hundreds of rabbits – if not more – in shelters because their owners have abandoned them. It is sad to see them waiting there. The adoption process is not the "quick-fix" of a pet store - go in, buy, go home. But the rewards of adopting from a shelter far exceed any saved time going somewhere else. Reward One. You saved a life. As with other shelter animals, if you don't take the rabbit he may not be here tomorrow. Most shelters eventually euthanize pets that aren't adopted.
Reward Two. Shelter rabbits have been checked by a veterinarian, socialized and groomed at no cost to you. They are not put up for adoption if they are sick or aggressive. The animal is also spayed or neutered, if old enough, before you go home too. This prevents more unwanted rabbits ending back at the same place.
Reward Three. You have a better chance of knowing whether this is the right pet for you. You can usually take the bunny out in a "get-acquainted" area to see how you will get along. This is much better than going along with the wishes of a child in a pet store who wants a bunny on the spot – a bad idea. These are often the very parents who wind up abandoning the animals.
You can also contact the House Rabbit Society, a non-profit group of folks who rescue bunnies whose time is up at the shelter. Society members take the rabbits into their homes until they are placed with new owners. The society also has the animals spayed or neutered. For more information, visit www.rabbit.org.
Are You Ready for a Rabbit?
Owning a rabbit takes time and attention. You should think of a rabbit as you would a puppy. And ask yourself whether you have the time to care for it. For example, will you be home during the day to care for a baby rabbit?
Young rabbits require much more time and care. A baby will start off cuddly and adorable, and then, like human teenagers, will change behaviors. They can end up causing you some grief with their bad behavior until after they are spayed or neutered. (They can be spayed or neutered after 4 months.) An adult is much calmer, more easily trained and more of a joy. In adopting, what you see is what you get.
What About Rabbits and Children?
If you have very small children, you're probably better off with a large rabbit, one they cannot pick up. Small bunnies can be injured, often seriously, by children dropping them. In fact, rabbits and children under 10 may not be a good match unless the child is used to small animals and is good with responsibility. This is particularly true if a child is rambunctious. Rabbits prefer a quiet, peaceful environment.
No matter how responsible a child is, the parent MUST be the primary caregiver who supervises feeding and the child/rabbit interactions. For example, it takes a savvy adult to watch for the symptoms of a rabbit who is sick.
What makes for a healthy bunny? Bunnies in good health are bright-eyed, curious, lively and have a good appetite. (It is very serious if a rabbit stops eating for even a day.) There should be no discharge for the eyes or nose and the droppings in his litter box should be monitored. If they start to get smaller than usual, it could be signs of a hair block; not noticing could mean the difference between life and death.
The caregiver of the rabbit must also provide a diet that consists of all the right things: plenty of fresh off-the-bale timothy and oat hay, plain green alfalfa pellets without treats (and limited for adults), and proper greens (carrot tops, parsley, etc., introduced slowly and always fresh and rinsed). The caregiver must see that the cage is large enough (at least 3 feet X 2 or 3 feet) and that the rabbit is off the cage wire and on something soft. The new bunny owner must also be willing to clean the litter box twice a day.
The rewards of getting a bunny from a shelter can outweigh buying from a pet store. Pet stores usually always sell their bunnies, or a breeder will take them back. In shelters and humane societies, the bunnies don't get a second chance. You may be the only chance a bunny has.