Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is a Rabbit the Right Pet for Your Family?

What is Required of You as a Rabbit Owner to Ensure a Healthy Pet

Rabbits are synonymous with Easter, however owning a rabbit is a year-round commitment. While a cage or hutch contains them, rabbits need daily interaction for both physical and mental health purposes. When deciding

whether or not a rabbit is the right kind of pet for your family, here are some things to consider:

Longevity - A rabbit can live anywhere from three to six years. It is not uncommon for many rabbits to live beyond six years, however, owning an older rabbit means that it will have to be cleaned more often, as sometimes it is harder for older rabbits to lift themselves up when they use the bathroom. Another consideration of having a rabbit that is older would be the need to constantly evaluate the feet and ears. An older rabbit is not as agile as a younger one; therefore, feet need to be examined to check for any sore hocks. In addition, a rabbit will not clean herself as good as when she was younger and ears will need to be inspected to check for ear mites.

Diet - A rabbit will always need fresh water, rabbit pellets and hay. The hay is necessary to help facilitate the wearing down of the rabbit's constantly growing teeth. Hay also helps keep the gut active and prevents many blockages due to the ingestion of fur and other substances. Fruits and vegetables are treats for rabbits and include bananas, carrots, leaf lettuce and apples. These, however, should only compensate for 10%, at most, of the rabbit's total diet.

Grooming - A rabbit will need its coat groomed as often as possible. Breeds like the Angora or Jersey Wooly will need to be groomed at least daily. Coats need to be checked for matting and underneath the scut (tail) for any residue of wastes that may have accumulated on the rabbit's coat. Another part of grooming is to inspect your rabbit from head to toe. Ears need to be checked for mites, teeth need to be inspected for broken teeth or malocclusion, and nails may need a trim. Hind feet are susceptible to sore hocks and will need an inspection to make sure fur is present, or a sore hock is healing properly.

Vet care - While rabbits do not require the usual shots like cats and dogs do, they still need to go to the vet. Find a veterinarian that has experience with treating rabbits. Rabbits can be spayed and neutered; which

is a good idea if you are planning on keeping more than one rabbit. Even two males should be neutered, as they will get along better, however two sisters from the same litter will usually get along peacefully and may not require spaying.

Rabbits' systems are very fragile. Once a rabbit is sick it will immediately require vet care, so be sure to have your vet already lined up and make a visit so he/she can become acquainted with your bunny. If your rabbit is injured or sick, it will grind its teeth very loudly, scream, or try to run off and be by itself. This is often accompanied by a loss of appetite. Should this happen, carefully wrap your rabbit in a towel and immediately call your vet.

Only you can decide if a pet rabbit is right for your family, but if you feel you are in doubt, wait and contact some local rabbit rescue groups. They may have an education program available to let you "try out" what it is like to own a rabbit. Also, if you have other pets, take them into consideration when you are contemplating adopting a bunny. You vet can provide you with advice about integrating your rabbit into the family, which includes an introduction to the other furry members of your household. Remember though: never bring home a bunny until you are absolutely ready to care for it for the remainder of its life.

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