Hop to It: The Other Four-Legged Friend You Might Consider Adopting
For an animal that plays a sizable part in Western lore, many people wouldn’t think of having a rabbit for a pet.
Truth be told, neither would I, except for the friendlier breeds, like Flemish Giants, which are pretty hilarious the first time you see a full-grown specimen. But some people do like having them around.
I have a friend who owns four rabbits (including two Flemish Giants), so I’m going to let her expound upon the pleasures of raising bunnies.
I will say one thing for rabbits, some of them are awfully cute, whether they’re bringing Easter candy or not. Hey, I could use one of those Cadbury Creme Eggs once in a while now that I think about it. Maybe a little hopping furball in your Columbia Heights apartment would do you some good in 2013?
Ask people what type of pet they have and most will gladly tell you about their dog or cat. However, more and more people are now telling others about their pet rabbits. These quiet creatures make excellent house companions, so it’s no surprise that people are pleased to let these lovely lagomorphs hop right into their hearts and homes.
[ Related: 4 D.C. Pet Stores That Will Set Tails Wagging ]
If you opt for one of these long-eared lovelies, be sure to get them spayed or neutered by a rabbit-experienced vet. If you adopt from a rescue, this will already be done for you (a little bonus to reward your good life-saving karma). Rabbits are considered an exotic pet, so not every vet will have familiarity with them, but having the procedure makes litter training easy and eliminates undesired behaviors and health problems.
When you litter train your rabbit they can roam your home just like Fido and Felix, but be sure to bunnyproof first: Cover wires, which are very tasty to bunnies, and move potentially poisonous plants. Rabbits not only like to chew, they have to chew. Since their teeth grow continuously, they need chew toys to keep their teeth short and in working order. Toys also stimulate them mentally; a bored bunny is a destructive bunny.
A rabbit’s needs are simple and inexpensive, and here they are:
• A cage with plenty of room to hop and stand on their hind legs. Most people don’t realize that typical small pet cages sold in pet stores are inadequate. Many opt for a pen instead, placed on top of a piece of linoleum to protect their floor. Some bunnies enjoy a blanket or rug. (Just make sure they won’t chew it.)
• A litter box full of litter such as CareFRESH Natural (no woodchip litter because it causes respiratory problems for rabbits and even some people), a water bottle and a dish for pellets (Oxbow Animal Health is a trusted brand).
• Food: You need to give your critter unlimited timothy grass hay to regulate its digestive system. Rabbits have sensitive stomachs, and their diet must consist of 80 percent timothy grass hay, 10 percent pellets and 10 percent vegetables. Fruit can be offered as a treat now and then, but too much will upset their system.
• Oh, and don’t forget a few toys. Rabbits aren’t picky at all. Give them a cardboard box to hide in and a smaller one to toss and chew, and they will be grateful.
Rabbits spend their days doing bunny things: grooming themselves (they are very clean), being with their humans and exploring their surroundings. They enjoy simply observing you in your natural routines, sitting beside you while you watch TV or exploring your abode looking for neat things to play with.
And like the rest of us, they also love lounging around. They like to watch, listen and sleep. Some rabbits even like to be held, but not every bunny enjoys this, which should be respected by their guardians. Rabbits also shouldn’t be pestered or pursued by any resident dog or cat with a strong prey drive; unfortunately, rabbits can even die from stress.
One of the unique and most endearing aspects of pet rabbits is getting to witness their very bizarre display of behavior called a binky dance. “Binky” is the term for their uncontrolled outburst of physical energy when they’re overcome with joy. It’s quite a spectacle. The first time you see this peculiar performance, you may be taken aback and wonder what the heck your rabbit is doing, but rest assured they are just being a very happy bunny. During a binky, they will run crazy-fast zigzags across the room, leap high into the air while twisting simultaneously, and flop their head and flip their ears in a wild display of happiness.
Although it appears eccentric – and yes – even a bit psycho, you can’t help but smile, and this is how you know for sure that you have a very happy bunny.
So hop to it! Rescue a bunny and you just might binky too. For more information on rabbit care and adoptions, Rabbit.org is a comprehensive resource. – Cynthia Pfeffer Koerber, Animal Rescuer, Educator
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