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Be My Honey Bunny
Wednesday, 15 July, 2015
Are there any drawbacks to owning a rabbit? They're so high on the pet cuteness scale they practically have their own chart. That fluffy fluff, those long soft silky ears and bright (beady?) eyes... they seem like the perfect pet and for many they are. 2014 statistics suggest that there are between 6-9 million rabbits as pets in the US and in 3% of households in the UK, making rabbits the third most popular "companion mammal" in those parts of the world.
What is a Rabbit?
A rabbit is not just a rabbit - they're so much more! He or she is one of eight different genera in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha. This means there are lots of different types of bunnies with big names, found all over the world. And FYI (we'll make a Trivial Pursuit champ of you yet!), a male rabbit is called a buck, the female a doe, and a young rabbit is a kitten or kit.
Rabbits differ from rodents because they have two sets of incisor teeth (which you'll know about soon enough) and their top front teeth grow at a rate of 3mm a week. Rats, etc., only have a single pair of continuously growing, razor-sharp incisors (which sounds even more terrifying).
And, the answer to that question you've always wondered about: What's the difference between a rabbit and a hare? Rabbits are altricial, which means their young are born blind and hairless; hares are born hairy (surprise!) and sighted, which makes them precocial. Hares are also usually bigger than rabbits (although, have you SEEN the GIANT rabbit?) and hares have not been domesticated.
What's Not To Love?
Let's look at what you might not love about Thumper (more about that below) when you welcome him into your humble abode. The great thing here is that the cons have pros; every cloud has a silver lining and so on. Except spraying - not much good to find in that.
Spraying: Males (especially if they aren't neutered) are prone to territorial marking by spraying; females by contrast sometimes leaving their pellets (okay, poop!) around. Which brings us to...
Pooping: Yes, birds do it, we do it, even educated fleas do it... Rabbits poop,but the upside is that they can be trained to use a litter box fairly easily over time.
Thumping and Chomping: Rabbits are active and excitable but not noisy. They may thump and bump but it's their curiosity about your computer cables and persistent desire to chomp at your most precious documents that may get you down. Can be avoided by rabbit-proofing you home (which of course is the easiest thing in the world to do!).
Aggressive (or Feisty?): Rabbits are big on personality; they are bundles of individuality. Meaning, some (especially the males - sigh) can be quite aggressive, which is not great for very young children. Aggressiveness can also be a sign of frustration (not enough exercise or you need to have Thumper neutered).
Cost: Initial costs can be low but expenses add up over time; remember to factor in housing, litter, and vet bills (including spaying/neutering).
The Fun Part
Yes, rabbits are beloved pets of many happy families and it's not hard to see why. There are lots of upsides to having them around (including long lifespan of between 8-12 years):
Smart: This might come as a bit of a surprise, but they're clever little critters! They'll learn to respond when called and can be taught tricks, including jumping. There's even, by George, a rabbit jumping show held The London Pet Show.
Sassy: They've got oodles of personality and have even been described as "gregarious" - which suits them as they can be really outgoing and entertaining. Also, Thumper will generally get along with Felix and Fido - and this includes felines who can be difficult with other family pets (no names mentioned, Fido). Just monitor the initial first meetings. :-)
Clean and Healthy: Rabbits are clean animals relatively disease-free, although they do need an annual vet visit to check that all is well.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Super Bunny! Rabbits have superb senses of smell, hearing and vision, and nearly 360° panoramic vision. So, if feel like you're being watched... you are!
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means that they are active in the mornings and the evenings but spend most of the day sleeping or relaxing.
Binky: Say what? "Binky" is Thumper's physical expression of happiness. He'll run and do a kind of mid-air jump-twist with a flick of the feet (not to be confused with a full-blown seizure). Their binky activity is your joy to behold. (Rabbits also do a version of a purr - more of a hum - when they run around someone they like. Awwww...)
Lastly, although the rabbit represents kindness, sensitivity and compassion in the Chinese Zodiac, they also symbolise fertility in your home. :-) So, unless you want endless bundles of fluff flying around, please do have your honey bunny neutered - at 4 months old for boys and 6 months for girls. This will also stop Thumper from humping... everything. :-)