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This is quite a hard question to answer – all pets are high maintenance to some degree. Personally, I find house rabbits low maintenance because they fit in really well with my lifestyle and I love spending time with them.
I don’t intend this article to make you think rabbits are low maintenance – I want to highlight all the factors that make them seem low maintenance, and go through why they can be quite high maintenance, for example rabbits don’t bark, but they do loudly chew boxes at 4 am.
What do I mean by high maintenance?
High maintenance means different things to different people. For example, I find dogs high maintenance because they need to be walked and it’s not really fair to leave them for a few hours.
I work long hours some days, and that wouldn’t be fair on a dog. Not only that, but when I’m tired after a long day’s work, the last thing I want to take a dog.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE dogs. My boyfriend and have volunteered at our local dog shelter for over five years, and I love walking dogs at the weekend. But I’m not in a position to take one on full time.
Rabbits are low maintenance because:
They don’t need walking
I’m not the most outdoorsy person going, and I have a pretty physical job, so I’m not in a position to take care of a dog.
But rabbits can get plenty of exercise at home if they’re given a great set-up. I love sitting down after work and watching my bunnies tearing around the living room.
Whilst rabbits don’t need to be taken out for a walk, they do need a large space to run about in.
Not all breeds need a lot of grooming
But all rabbits need some degree of er, maintenance.
Some breeds do, like Angoras, and overweight rabbits may need a little help staying clean. In the main though, rabbits don’t need to see a groomer.
Holly and Daisy groom one another, and have pretty short fur, so at the moment I just keep my eye on them. If they start to moult excessively, I’ll give them a brush.
Other essential maintenance, like nail clipping, scent gland cleaning, and basic ear care, can be done at home (although vets are happy to do it too).
There isn’t a lot to do, but depending on the rabbit, it can be quite stressful, since not all rabbits like to be held. I never pick my rabbits up if I can help it, preferring to do nails and brushing on the floor where they feel safer.
Bear in mind that it can be difficult to find groomers that take rabbits, so if you do decide to get an angora rabbit, you’ll probably have to learn to groom it yourself.
If you have two they entertain each other
This is actually pretty sad, because I’ve had rabbits that were devoted to me and then dropped me like a stone when I bonded them with another rabbit.
I’ve written an article about rabbits living alone, and some are fine on their own, but in my experience you have to work harder to get them to exercise. Pairs will often play together, and chase one another around. If you have a single bunny, you’ll have to play with them even more.
It’s actually really fun – one of our single buns used to LOVE to chase me. It was terrifying when we first got her because she liked to bite, but once she settled down and we realised she was playing, it was a lot of fun!
They’re quiet (vocally, anyway)
Rabbits makes a variety of noises, but they’re usually pretty quiet. You’re unlikely to get noise complaints about a rabbit.
Having said that, they’re active early in the morning, and two rabbits tearing around a room can be noisier than you’d think.
Also, there’s the midnight thumping for no discernable reason. I’m beginning to think I have ghosts.
You can usually leave them for longer than you could a dog
I obviously don’t mean for days at a time, but you can go shopping for the day and your rabbits won’t care. We’ve even gone away overnight and just had my mum check in on them.
Rabbits are high maintenance because:
They can be very destructive
Other animals can be too, but rabbits are destructive by nature. It’s really hard to train a rabbit not to chew, because that’s what they do. I recommend giving them plenty of things to chew, like sticks and willow balls, and covering up stuff you don’t want chewing.
Your rabbit doesn’t know that baseboards are important to you, and it’s almost impossible to teach them.
They’re quite delicate
This varies from rabbit to rabbit, but they scare easily – to the point where they can have a heart attack and die. They can also go into GI stasis for seemingly no reason, and they can struggle with recovering from anaesthesia.
Rabbits are also at risk from predators. I know that loads of people have rabbits living harmoniously with dogs and cats, but they’re still at risk from strange animals. It’s one of the many reasons I wouldn’t keep my rabbits outside.
You need a rabbit-savvy vet
I’m really lucky to have a number of great vets near me, but I know that a lot of rabbit caregivers struggle to find vets that are experienced with rabbit medicine.
Luckily, as the popularity of house rabbits keeps increasing, so does the number of rabbit savvy vets.
If you’re struggling to find a good vet, ask for recommendations in the House Rabbit Society Facebook group. I’m sure someone there will be able to recommend a great vet nearby.
Rabbit boarding is pretty scarce
If you travel a lot and don’t have friends or family to rely on to rabbit sit, it can be difficult finding someone to take care if your rabbits whilst you’re away.
Final thoughts on whether rabbits are high maintenance
Rabbits can be high maintenance, but in a different way to other pets. They’re certainly no easier to care for, and they’re definitely not suitable as so-called ‘starter pets’. If you get a pet for your kids, that pet is your responsibility.
So whilst I think rabbits are low maintenance, it’s more that case that we suit each other’s lifestyles. I don’t travel much, and I’n happy to chill on the living room floor and stroke my bunny’s nose for a few hours.