Rabbits as pets: Pros & Cons

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Please don’t tell my rabbits I made a pros and cons list.

But then, if they cared that much they wouldn’t chop on a cardboard box at 2am.

Why house rabbits make great pets

Rabbits are cheap to feed

A big-ass bag of rabbit food costs about £20 and lasts months. I prefer to buy smaller bags s it stays fresher, but I have tried the biggr bags and my rabbits are happy to eat months-old pellets.

A month’s worth of hay probably sets me back about £6, but again, I could shrink that cost if I bought by the bale. I have nowhere to store a bale of hay though, so i guess that’s a moot point.

I grow fresh herbs for my rabbits in an Aerogarden, which is cost effective IF you bought herbs anyway and like growing stuff. I’m not recommending you drop £100 on a fancy herb grower unless you go through a lot of them. You could just as easily pick dandelions for free from your local park or garden or whatever.

Rabbits are cheap to entertain

Get a stool. Hang a towel over the stool and you have yourself a top tier rabbit toy.

Don’t overthink rabbit toys. Just give them things that are safe for them to chew and throw around and they’ll be happy. Toddler toys like stacking cups are popular. Mine love cardboard boxes and toilet roll tubes, but wooden/wicker boxes (make sure it’s untreated) are great options if your rabbit tends to eat cardboard.

Rabbits don’t require exercise

Okay, this isn’t true, but when they exercise, you don’t need to. When you walk your dog YOU have to do the walk as well. Even if your dog runs around while you stand there, you still have to go outside.

With rabbits, I just open the two doors on the pen and watch then run in circles like the world’s cutest formula one.

Rabbits should have enough space in their set up to be able to exercise whenever they want.

Rabbits don’t smell

I mean, they can smell, but they shouldn’t. Their fur usually smells nice, their pellets smell ok and hay smells lush. They don’t go out, roll around in fox poo and then trail mud over your carpet. Mine don’t anyway.

Rabbits are an environmentally friendly pet

They’re herbivores (not vegan – mine would 100% eat me if they could) and you can compost their bedding. We actually use a compostable litter tray so we can tip their whole litter tray into the compost bin. I sometimes collect their poop and make bunny poop tea to use as a house plant fertiliser – it smells way better than the liquid seaweed I also use.

Rabbits don’t require much training

Er, kind of. They don’t require training in the same way cats don’t require training. It’s possible, but difficult to do and not really necessary unless in certain situations.

I’ve never had much success in training my rabbits to come to me (unlike with cats) but I can train them to go back into their pen.

But you don’t need to worry about training them not to jump up or to sit or roll over or anything. You absolutely can, but you don’t need to. Dogs, on the other hand, really need to learn at least basic commands for the safety or everyone.

Rabbits, like some dogs, do seem to know when they’re doing something naughty. IF my rabbit goes to investigate behind the sofa, I just need to call her and she rushes out and pretends she wasn’t doing anything.

Why a rabbit may not be a good pet for you

Rabbits are destructive by nature

It’s not something you can (or should) train out of them. You can try to redirect their bunstruction efforts onto old boxes and other toys, but you will never be able to 100% trust your rabbit not to destroy the corner of your sofa.

Chewing is what rabbits do, as dogs like to sniff. It’s how they perceive the world. If you want something to remain unchewed, bunny proof it. It’s not fair to tell off your rabbit for chewing the sofa, and then allow it to chew a box – they don’t know the difference.

Rabbits aren’t always cuddly

Some are, don’t get me wrong. But I’d say the majority aren’t. My rabbits will tolerate me sitting on the floor and stroking them, but they’ve NEVER come up to me and asked for strokes (treats, on the other hand…).

I don’t ever pick up my rabbits, unless I’m clipping their nails. They don’t like it. If I need to cuddle something, I go to my mum’s house and grab her 18-year old cat.

It doesn’t bother me that my rabbits would be mortified if I tried to get them to sit on my knee. For one thing, they’re 1000 times less scared of me than when I first brought them home, so that’s a-ok.

Holly will flop flat out on her side knowing that I won’t bug her. Trust is more important than affection. And who knows, in five years, maybe she’ll be tamer! She keeps coming up to me when I’m sat on the sofa and standing on her hind legs to look at it. One day I’m sure she’ll jump up, but if she doesn’t, who cares? She’s like a priceless museum exhibit – look, but don’t touch.

Rabbits can kick, bite, and scratch

And they mean it. And it hurts. Dogs are predators (believe it or not) and they use their aggression in a different way to rabbits, even if it stems from the same root (usually fear). A dog biting you is often a warning, or they’re trying to tell you something (like I’ll 100% eat you).

A rabbit bites you to incapacitate you enough that they can get away. No energy is wasted in a warning. They have one chance before a predator gets them. A bite or scratch will often draw blood. They sometimes nip when they’re playing and that’s bad enough.

Rabbits get scared easily

Things that have scared Holly in the last month:

  • Next door’s baby laughing
  • Me getting up when she wasn’t expecting me too
  • Dave walking through the living room
  • The milipede getting into her box (I don’t blame her to be honest) – don’t worry, Millie only eats leaves.
  • The extractor fan
  • Nothing. Nothing at all.

And yet things that should scare her (dogs barking, fireworks, my boyfriend playing loud video games on the TV a foot above her head) don’t bother her at all. I can get up 20 times in one day with no issue, but then stand up and she runs into her box, stamping.

Rabbits can die of fright remarkably easily. If you live somewhere very noisy, or have friends that bring dogs over, that could prove stressful for a rabbit. There are absolutely rabbits that couldn’t care less, but you’d have to check with a lot of rescues to find one.

Final thoughts

I think rabbits make incredible pets. I love cats but wouldn’t have one for various reasons (boyfriend’s allergic, busy roads, birds), I love dogs but don’t have the time for them (we do walk them for our local shelter though).

Rabbits are the perfect pet for me. They’re quiet and chill, but also funny and somewhat neurotic.

Holly likes to be stroked but it has to be 100% on her terms, so sometimes I’ll go to stroke her and she gets up very quietly and goes and sits in her pen. The look on her face is priceless – she’s mortified at my audacity. We call it her ‘do not touch face’. It’s like she can’t believe I’d stroke her. And yet other times she’ll sot for hours whilst I stroke her (behind her eyes and between her eyes ONLY).

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