Long Ears and a Cotton Tail
A few years ago, I decided that I could manage a second pet and that my dog would accept another animal in the household. For years, I had wanted a rabbit so it was finally time to fulfill that dream. I located the cutest mini lop bunny that was about eight weeks old. She had white fur with a few black spots and long black ears that were soft as velvet. She even had a white “cotton” tail that turned out to be about two inches long but it folded up to look similar to a large cotton ball. That long tail was the first surprise.
It was not original, but I named her Thumper. I thought I brought home a sweet little bunny but I found out that, at times, her personality was more like that of Attila the Hun. I considered having a sign made that said “house protected by attack rabbit” to put on the front door. Even at eight weeks old, she was not afraid of my Australian Cattle Dog. Thumper was very friendly when she was being held or while hopping around the house but touching a paw would result in a nip. Cleaning her cage was a huge concern. I could put things in her cage all day long but she never wanted anything removed from her cage including her water or food bowls. She did not want me to remove her droppings (poo) when I cleaned her cage. She would launch herself at me with her front claws flying and her teeth showing as she growled. Yes, I was on the receiving end of many scratches and a few bites. When she bit, she tried to bite to the bone. Before long, I found a technique that worked for both of us. Just as she began her attack, I would quickly pin her to the floor of her cage. Then, I picked her up and deposited her on the floor where she got to hop around the room. Once she was out of her cage, she was not concerned about what happened inside her abode. I safely cleaned, she hopped, and both of us were happy.
In Southeast Texas, raising rabbits is a popular 4H or FFA activity for children who do not have the space to raise cows, lambs, or pigs. Their rabbits are raised for meat, not to become family pets. Since my knowledge of production agriculture is almost nil, I want to discuss having rabbits as pets.
Rabbits can be excellent pets who may live eight to ten years. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, dozens of different breeds, long or short coat lengths, and with ears that are upright or lop ears that hang down. Rabbits may weigh from two to over fifteen pounds. White fur is a predominate color for some rabbit breeds and may include spots or patches of black or tan. Solid colors of black, gray, tan, and red are common and a few animals sport a patterned coat. Short haired rabbits require occasional brushing while long haired rabbits require more frequent grooming. The American Rabbit Breeders Association recognizes 49 different breeds of purebred rabbits. A few of the more popular breeds are the Holland Lop, the Dutch, the French Lop, the Californian, the Netherland Dwarf, and the Flemish Giant. The majority of rabbit breeds have upright ears but the lop ear breeds have long ears that hang down and may touch the ground.
Rabbits may be kept inside the house or outside in a secure pen. Inside rabbits live in a more climate-controlled area. By being inside, they may receive more social interaction with their human family members. They need a cage that is appropriate to the expected size of an adult rabbit of their breed. If they are allowed to hop around outside their cage, it is imperative for them to have attentive supervision because rabbits have a tendency to chew on inappropriate things, especially power cords and cables. Rabbits may be kept outside but they are sensitive to heat and cold so if they are kept outside there are some additional considerations. They need plenty of shade in the summer and a heat source in the winter months. I knew a family who had an outside rabbit. In the summer they filled up quart size plastic jugs with water and froze them. Then, each morning they would put a frozen jug in the rabbit’s cage. The jug slowly defrosted during the day and provided cooling for their rabbit. The outside rabbit’s cage needs to be exceptionally secure for safety reasons. Obviously, it is important to keep the rabbit from wandering away, but more importantly, the cage must be secure to keep predators out. Many rabbits kept in outside cages or pens have been attacked and killed by roaming dogs.
Rabbits have specific dietary needs. Every day they need commercial rabbit pellets, good quality hay, and fresh water. Fresh greens and other types of raw foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, and bananas may be provided occasionally. But there are many foods that are not good for rabbits. Therefore, it is important to research the types and quantities of foods that are appropriate for your rabbit. Another thing to think about is veterinary care for a rabbit. Rabbits are classified as exotic pets, along with, snakes, birds, and other small mammals. Most veterinarians treat dogs and cats, so they may be less familiar with the exotic animals. It is recommended that you find a vet who specializes in exotics to care for your rabbit.
Rabbits make excellent pets. They are great sized animals with beautiful coats and long ears. They can be friendly and cuddly and, with care, a rabbit can be a loving family pet for many years.