Before deciding to own rabbits, keep in mind the responsibilities that come along with rabbit ownership.
By Audrey Pavia
Cleaning your rabbit's hutch daily is a necessity for good rabbit health. Also allow your rabbit to exercise by letting it out of its hutch to roam the yard.
Whatever the reason you keep rabbits—be it for meat, fiber or as a pet—raising rabbits comes with responsibilities. Before adding a rabbit to your urban farm menagerie, consider these rabbit-keeping essentials:
Daily Rabbit Chores
Your rabbit’s hutch needs to be cleaned daily. During these clean sweeps, you will also need to wash and refill its water bowl or bottle and provide fresh hay, pellets and greens. Allowing it two to four hours to exercise outside the hutch is also beneficial to your rabbit’s health and well-being.
Remember, when keeping rabbits as pets, they are voracious chewers. If you allow your rabbit inside, make sure electrical, computer and telephone cords are covered with plastic tubing and wooden table legs are covered in bubble wrap. Some rabbits like to chew on cloth, so rugs, pillows and other upholstery items may be in harm’s way if a rabbit is given the run of a room.
Digging is another rabbit habit, and you may find the corners of your carpet lifted up if you let your rabbit roam free in a carpeted room. You’ll need to protect the corners of your carpeting if you have a rabbit with an inclination to dig. Offer digging options in the form of untreated grass mats as an outlet for your rabbit's digging urge, or monitor your rabbit as it roams the backyard.
If your rabbit becomes sick, take to a veterinarian right away. If your rabbit’s illness is serious or prolonged, you may spend hundreds, or possibly thousands, of dollars for diagnosis and treatment. (Postponing care often increases veterinary care costs, so always bring your rabbit to the vet when it first shows sign of a medical condition.)
If you go on vacation or business trips, you’ll need to find someone to care for your rabbit while you’re gone. Keep in mind that caring for a rabbit is different from pet-sitting a dog or cat in both feeding requirements (rabbits need an ample supply of hay throughout the day) and interaction (a rabbit needs supervised time outside its enclosure in a stress-free environment). Make sure your caretaker is fully aware of your rabbit’s needs.
Before embarking on rabbit ownership, think long and hard about these responsibilities and whether you really want to take them on. Rabbits can live for nine to 12 years, so providing a home for a rabbit is a serious commitment.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is a technical writer by day and an urban farmer by night (and on weekends). She and her husband live on a 1/2-acre urban farm in Norco, Calif., where they keep horses, chickens, rabbits, cats and a dog.
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