Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

5 Common Pet Rabbit Myths & Misconceptions

A close-up of a pet rabbit.

Adopting a new pet is a commitment that requires follow-through and responsibility. This is why prospective adopters should thoroughly research their new pet before beginning the adoption process. If your family is considering adopting a pet rabbit, we encourage you to read these common pet rabbit myths and misconceptions to ensure you are prepared to become a bunny parent!

In March of 2024, Kelsey with Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society (MCRS), a local 501c3 nonprofit, joined us for a Facebook Live to debunk these myths and misconceptions about pet rabbits. You can watch the video replay or read a summary of Kelsey’s responses below.

 

Myth: Rabbits are great Easter gifts.

Unfortunately, people continue to believe that a pet rabbit is an acceptable Easter surprise! In the past year, MCRS rescued many domestic rabbits that were found abandoned. Not always, but often, abandoned rabbits result from the practice of giving rabbits as Easter presents; once the new owner realizes that rabbits can be complex, challenging pets, they release the pet rabbit outside. MCRS wants people to know that pet rabbits are much more than just something to provide for Easter. 

Myth: Rabbits are amazing pets for kids. 

Younger children will not be able to care for a rabbit by themselves. Rabbits can be great pets for older children, but only if there is a parent or an adult directly supervising the interactions and monitoring the pet’s health. Here are a few reasons why: 

  • Rabbits are prey animals, so they tend to hide their illness or injuries. An adult will be better able to detect subtle changes that may indicate something is wrong.   
  • As prey animals, rabbits are more nervous than other types of pets. They likely won’t come right up to you or express affection in the way that dogs and cats do.  
  • Small children aren’t careful at picking up animals, and rabbits need to be handled in a very specific way to avoid injury. For example, if you don’t restrain a rabbit’s back legs, they can kick and badly injure their spines.  
  • It’s not realistic to expect a child to perform all of a pet’s care duties. Small children can certainly assist, but cleaning a cage, ensuring the rabbit is eating, and providing the proper amount of socialization is too challenging for a young child alone.  
  • Rabbits tend to get grouped with guinea pigs or rodents. And while they are small mammals, too, they are more intelligent than other small mammals and require more space. Often, pet rabbits free-roam the house and are litter-box trained.  

A woman holding her pet rabbit.

Myth: Bunnies love to cuddle. 

Bunnies are soft and cute and certainly seem tailor made for cuddling! But while humans may love to snuggle a soft, fluffy rabbit, the feeling isn’t always mutual! Pet rabbits often don’t enjoy cuddling and snuggling. Again, they are prey animals. When they’re getting lifted off the ground, their instincts tell them a predator has caught them. 

Instead, a rabbit will likely prefer that you spend time on the ground, at their level. Rabbits can be affectionate, loyal pets who love their humans. But when it comes to cuddling, you’ll need to do so on their terms.  

Sometimes, you will need to pick up your rabbit for necessary things like nail trims, vet appointments, or emergencies, so it is important to know how to properly handle your rabbit. In general, they don’t like to be scooped up or cradled like a baby. It’s all about respecting your bun’s boundaries! 

A rabbit in an outdoor enclosure surrounded by hay.

Myth: Rabbits can be outdoor pets. 

Many of us have seen a backyard rabbit hutch. However, rabbits aren’t meant to be outdoor pets. Here are just a few reasons why: 

  • They are sensitive to temperature extremes, especially heat (even as low as the high 70’s). 
  • Outside, they are more prone to dangers like flystrike, parasites like fleas and ticks, and diseases. 
  • They are more vulnerable to predators including dogs, cats, foxes, and birds of prey.
  • Keep in mind that rabbits can get so frightened just by seeing or hearing a predator that it can cause them high anxiety and stress.
  • They are separated from their companions (you – their people) and that doesn’t provide them with the best bond.

Myth: A pet rabbit can survive like a wild bunny if no longer wanted.  

No, they’re not like wild bunnies. Since they’re prey animals, they’re sitting ducks if left to fend for themselves outside. If you decide you can no longer care for your pet, surrender them to an organization like MCRS or another rabbit rescue.  

Obviously though, a pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure! Don’t acquire a rabbit in the first place without knowing exactly what’s required of you.  

A close-up of a pet rabbit.

More things to consider before adopting a pet rabbit: 

  • They often live 8-12 years, sometimes longer. 
  • They require a safe habitat. 
    • You will need to rabbit-proof your home, especially if you let your rabbit free-roam. They can be litter box trained! But you’ll have to prevent cord-chewing and ingestion of toxic plants, as well as other potential hazards.  
  • They require enrichment. 
    • You can teach your rabbit agility or tricks! 
  • They require regular veterinary care 
    • Your family veterinarian will notice any lumps or bumps, and thoroughly examine your rabbit’s mouth and back teeth to check for overgrowth. Your rabbit will also need annual vaccines, including for RHDV2 
    • You’ll also want to make sure your rabbit is eating and pooping regularly.  
      • GI stasis is a very dangerous condition wherein a rabbit stops eating. Even 8-12 hours without food is a big concern. If you notice your rabbit has stopped eating, this condition warrants an emergency trip to the vet.
  • Spaying/Neutering  
    • Most rabbit rescues, like MCRS, will spay/neuter rabbits prior to adoption as rabbits have a high risk of reproductive cancers. Rabbits are also hormonal animals, and young rabbits in particular can be very territorial. It is also not unusual for unspayed/unneutered rabbits to “urine spray,” lunge at people, or bite 

Two bunnies snuggling on a bed together.

Before adopting a pet rabbit, do your research to ensure a rabbit is the right fit for your family. We encourage talking to organizations like MCRS, as well as a family veterinarian that sees rabbits.  

Seeking veterinary care for your avian or exotic pet? All of our local veterinary partners who see small mammals are listed on our website: https://aercmn.com/about-us/locally-owned/ 

Need referral care for your avian or exotic pet? You can set up an appointment with our Avian & Exotic Medicine Service. Learn more here: https://aercmn.com/veterinary-services/avian-exotic-medicine 

About MCRS: 

Minnesota Companion Rabbit Society (MCRS) is a 501c3 nonprofit founded in 2002 to serve companion rabbits and their people through adoption and educational programming. They are an all-volunteer organization dedicated to improving the lives of companion rabbits by educating the public and assisting Twin Cities animal shelters. In 2023, 133 rabbits were adopted through MCRS, and they currently have 83 rabbits in foster care. You can help MCRS provide foster homes, supplies, and funds for veterinary care to rabbits in need by donating. Learn more about mncompanionrabbit.org. 

More Reading:

Avian & Exotic Medicine Fast Track Triage

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