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Rabbits as house pets
Rabbits in general
Member Name: dmullier
Rabbits in general
Date: 10/09/00, updated on 26/11/00 (473 review reads)
Advantages: Just as engaging and intelligent as a cat
Disadvantages: Ignorance of the public at large
Now I don’t want to get into a puerile argument about which animal is a better pet than another. What I will do is put the case for the humble rabbit. The way I see it you can put a dog on one end of the pet spectrum, in that they are quite a time consuming and dependent animal whose loyalty can seldom be questioned. On the other end I’d put cats. They are far more independent and only do things and give affection when it suits them. I’d put rabbits somewhere between the two. Now, my experiences of cats are pretty limited, so please don’t take offence if you disagree strongly, but I feel that certain people suit certain pets. If you haven’t got the time to spend then a cat is an excellent pet. If you have a family and are dependent anyway then what better than a dog for taking out for walks?
I have several rabbits. One, Sneak, is a house rabbit and three others live in the garden. Now most people seem to labour under the misapprehension that rabbits are stupid boring animals. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It may be the case that most rabbits that people meet are stupid, boring creatures, but that is simply because they live in solitary confinement and are under stimulated. Have you seen the film Papillon, where Steve McQueen emerges from his stint in solitary confinement and acts as if he is subnormal? Get my drift? Rabbits have, in fact, a similar size of brain to a cat and although their behaviour is different, it is every bit as complex, given the right stimulation.
On to Sneak. Sneak lives in our house, in fact he has the complete run of the house when we are in or out. He has a litter tray downstairs and sleeps on a mat at the foot of the bed. When we are at work he loves to sit on the back bedroom window so that he can keep an eye on the garden. You see rabbits are easier to house train than both cats and dogs, for the simple reason that they like to crap in the same place and it doesn’t t
ake much convincing that that place should be a litter tray. Sneak weedled his way into the house. After we came back from holiday (Sneak sunnying himself at my Mum ‘n Dad’s) we put him in the kitchen because we hadn’t brought his hutch home. In the morning there wasn’t a current in sight, we just opened the door and he dashed into the garden. We lived like this for a year until we moved house. Sneak, rather like a dog, just battening the hatches until the door was opened in the morning. When we moved to a new house we invested in a litter tray.
Sneak is a joy to live with, he is a truthful animal, if he can’t be bothered with you he goes upstairs and sits on his mat. Otherwise, he loves to sit by the fire, so he can keep an eye on what’s getting scoffed (nan bread, biscuits, any type of fruit (including fruit cake) will all be swiftly whipped out of your hand in the blinking of an eye. He’s amazingly strong and the firmest grip will not suffice, he is quite capable of ripping a full apple out of your hand). He loves his humans and will treat them to a wash before bed. He also has plenty of amusing behaviour, whether it’s being vicious and darting for your feet, dancing round your legs or swinging on the curtains. His least enduring behaviour is jumping on the bed in the morning. Sneak’s favourite pass time though is his bunnies. He loves showing off to them. They are in a pen (or vice versa) as the 3 of them are neutered (2 female and one male), whereas Sneak is fully “tackled-up”. My mate once commented that it’s like some adolescent riding up and down on his motor bike. Before you say “poor lad”, he has managed to sire 18 bunnies (hence the chop for the others).
If you see the light and decide to bring your rabbit indoors the only real pitfall is nibbling (wires mostly). Since a rabbit doesn’t have hands they tend to “examine” things with their
teeth. A rabbit’s thought process might go like this. “What’s this? …. Oh it’s knackered”. Sneak is long past this sort of behaviour, but it is nothing worse than a dog chewing the legs of furniture or a cat ripping the crap out of the settee, just protect things and let them get over it. Rabbits are also fiercely territorial. People who do come into contact with rabbits often say “mine was bloody vicious, couldn’t get near them”. This is because they are shoved in a hutch and the last thing the poor sod wants is some inconsiderate human dragging them out of it. The solution is not to put them in a box. Also, some rabbits don’t like to be handled. Take Sneak, he is the most confident and friendly rabbit you’ll meet. He’ll come up to anyone and allow them to stroke him as he kicks his legs out, but he does not like to be picked up (would you?). He’ll put up with me picking him up, but he doesn’t like it. He’s too experienced to struggle, he just keeps quiet until you put him down. Picking Sneak up isn’t usually necessary because he will usually come in from the garden when he’s called (you see an intelligent and responsive animal). Unless he feels like having you on. Rabbits do have a large mischief gland. Sneak will only do things wrong when there are humans about to see him and shout at him.
People often think that Sneak is some sort of exotic pet, “a rabbit! In the house! Incredible!”, this annoys me, it just shows the ignorance of the person concerned. Look at the size of my rabbit’s head, is it smaller than your cat’s? No.
Rabbits are not good pets for young children. It is a very big mistake (mostly for the rabbit) to think of them as a hamster or gerbil. Would you give a cat or a dog to a young child? Rabbits are, as I have said, intelligent and are very good at letting you know how happy they are (not as good as a do
g because they can't wag their tails). They will usually do this by nipping or downright biting. Rabbits communicate with a series of gentle to vicious nips (to humans and other rabbits). A child is less likely to respond to a gentle nip and so they might get the full on jaw. I tend to enjoy teasing Sneak and he has rewarded me with a permanent scar on my wrist. But, unlike a dog, they are not likely to cause serious damage that warrents plastic surgery. Sneak enjoys being teased most of the time, but when he does get fed up he makes it pretty plain before attacking me. His ears go back and he looks sideways at you before comming in for the kill. Igonore this behaviour at your peril.
The other bunnies have very different personalities. Skamp is the boss (of his 3), but is a quite little bully. Chocky is in the middle and is perfectly horrible to young Jasp, although she is a lovely fat cuddly rabbit. Jasp is a nervous, skitty rabbit (I wonder why Chocky).
Like any pet though, you just love ‘em no matter what species they are when they are amusing and responsive.
To see pictures of young Sneak (and Chocky, Skamp and Jasp) check out me web page www.mullier.co.uk and go to the photo section. There is also a link to the British House Rabbit association (from which you can get details of the House Rabbit Handbook).
Oh and BTW the old style mixed rabbit food is well out these days. Rabbits are very picky and tend to leave the bits they don't like, which can result in mineral or vitamin defficency, resulting in brittle bones. Nowadays you can buy a single element food called Excel.
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