Advice on living with a house rabbit

Advice on living with a house rabbit

Oh, Betsy. You chewed the cables and furniture? Again? And now you stamp your foot because my music is too loud? Oh, Betsy…

We’ve all been there, right? Had a little vat of wine at lunch time, strayed into a pet shop, decided with a housemate’s encouragement that a pet rabbit would be a brilliant addition to a student flat? No? Maybe just me, then.

Like so many rabbit owners before me I bought Betsy, my gorgeous orange Rex rabbit, on something of a whim. Seeing a beautiful baby animal in a pet shop and thinking what a sweet and cuddly pet she would make before researching the animal and its needs thoroughly first is a common blunder amongst potential pet owners.

Betsy, my pet house rabbit, and her elephant friend.

The have you really thought about this bit

Pet rabbits may seem easy and straightforward, but are in fact one of the most misunderstood (yet popular) furry companions. An estimated 75% of the 2 million pet rabbits kept in Britain alone are not cared for adequately, with their need for exercise, company and mental stimulation often being overlooked.

A few months after buying Betsy I realised just how little research I had done! If you are going to take the plunge and buy a house rabbit, be prepared for litter training traumas, chewed valuables, ruined cables, and battles of will.

A new shirt had been ruined after its first wear (never leave your clothes on a drying rack within your rabbit’s reach), books and records chewed, cables bitten in half, and a cricket bat rendered unusable due to a thoroughly gnawed handle. And that’s just not cricket.

The house rabbit advice bit

Many folks buy a rabbit as a cuddly pet for their children, only to realise that while rabbits are affectionate in their own way, they don’t show it in the manner a cat or dog might. As a natural prey animal, most rabbits don’t enjoy being lifted off the floor for a hug, but show their love through licking and nuzzling.

It’s in a rabbit’s nature to chew and dig, so if you buy a house rabbit you have to accept this as part of their behaviour and modify your home accordingly. Personally I keep Betsy in her cage when I’m not with her, as I know I would come home to all sorts of damage otherwise, but there are people who manage to rabbit-proof at least one room of their home effectively for their rabbit’s use.

Experience has taught me the following:

1) Never, ever leave your rabbit roaming unattended around your house in areas that haven’t been bunny-proofed. EVER!

2) If you left your rabbit unattended, chances are a precious possession has been ruined, and you may have run the risk of your bunny being hurt. It’s handy to have a friend or family member nearby in possession of proficient soldering iron/ glue gun/darning skills.

3) Prevention is better than cure. I managed to find cable covers in Ikea which are fairly effective if you don’t mind your room looking like the back of a tumble dryer. Taping cables neatly to the legs of units can also work, as they will become less likely to tempt a mischievous rabbit.

4) Spaying and neutering is a must; it will calm your rabbit down, help them to use their litter tray more effectively, and prevent the development of uterine cancer in female rabbits – up to 85% of which will develop the disease by the age of four if they haven’t been spayed.

The why you should give it a go bit

While there may be irritating or difficult aspects to your rabbit’s personality, they have a lot to offer. Rabbits are intelligent animals with a complex personality – Betsy loves to shake and throw her rattling ball or wrestle veg off me when she’s playful. She also loves to sit beside me to have her head stroked when she’s feeling affectionate, or simply stomp her leg and hide if I’ve put my music on too loud.

You have to understand your rabbit to get the most out of them, but after eighteen months together and a lot of repairs and clean ups, Betsy and I are able to live in harmony, with only the occasional foot stamp from either of us.