Why rabbits should NOT be “starter” or classroom pets
Many people think rabbits are less of a commitment than dogs and cats, but this is simply not true. Sadly, this misconception is leading to some terrible consequences in Australia and other countries.
Rabbits are one of the most commonly abandoned animals, and many sadly endure serious neglect after impulse buys during popular holidays like Easter.
Some schools decide to get rabbits as “low maintenance” classroom animals, which can be a huge problem, too. Classroom bunnies are often kept in tiny enclosures with a lack of exercise and social interaction, especially after school, during weekends and over the school holidays. Read more about getting a “classroom pet”.
This is not to say that bunnies aren’t wonderful companion animals — they most certainly are! They are sensitive, intelligent and social animals who also get bored easily and usually need special vets. This means they’re just as big a commitment (arguably even bigger) than dogs and cats.
Here’s what you need to know before bringing home a bun:
1. Rabbits need a lot of space and shouldn’t be kept in a cage
Just as you wouldn’t keep a dog or cat confined in a small enclosure, rabbits should not be kept confined in a cage or hutch.
Rabbits are highly inquisitive and need a lot of enrichment to keep their minds occupied. They also need a lot of space to run and exercise (like a secured yard) and toys to play with and chew on. And yes, they can be litter-trained!
2. Rabbits get stressed easily with handling and aren’t ideal for small children
Rabbits don’t make an ideal “starter” or “first pet” for small children. Sure they’re cute and fluffy, but they’re also prey animals, which means being handled or cuddled can be very stressful for them.
Rabbits are fragile and can’t be handled the same way dogs and cats are. They can also be quite timid and take longer to build trust, especially with new people.
If you’re looking for a “first pet” for small children, it’s best to adopt a dog or cat. Visit your local animal shelter or rescue organisation and ask to meet animals that are good around children.
3. They usually need special vets
Another common misconception is that rabbits are easy to care for, but bunny parents will tell you that they’re just as big a responsibility as cats and dogs — maybe even bigger!
Rabbits are considered “exotic” pets, and a lot of regular vets aren’t familiar with treating them, so you’ll need to find a local vet who is. As mentioned before, rabbits are quite fragile and succumb quickly to illness and disease. If you notice your rabbit isn’t eating any food, you need to take him to the vet. Here are some great tips for understanding and caring for your rabbit.
Remember, you can’t just leave a rabbit in a tiny enclosure at the bottom of your backyard. If you notice any signs of illness, you need to call your vet.
4. They can live for more than 10 years!
With proper care, rabbits live 10–12 years.
5. They are very social
Rabbits get lonely and need plenty of social interaction. Considering getting two buns instead of one so they can keep each other company while your family is at work or school during the day. They’ll play together, groom each other and snuggle up together to sleep (nawwww!).
6. There are a lot of rabbits in Australia waiting for a forever home
Sadly, because of all the misconceptions that exist around keeping rabbits as pets (whether at home or at school), there are plenty of abandoned rabbits who need a new home.
Please consider rescuing a rabbit instead of buying one from a pet shop, a breeder or online. Here are some bunny rescue groups in Australia:
- The Rabbit Sanctuary: http://www.rabbitsanctuary.com.au/
- Paws and All Animal Rescue: https://www.charlottesrabbitrescue.com/
- Porsche’s Rescue: http://www.porschesrescue.com/
- RSPCA NSW: https://www.rspcansw.org.au/adopt/
- Animal Welfare League NSW: http://www.awlnsw.com.au/adopt.htm
- Rabbit Run-Away Orphanage: https://www.rabbitrunaway.org.au/
- The Bluey & Alice Bunny Refuge: http://www.blueyandalicebunnyrefuge.org/
- RSPCA Victoria: http://www.rspcavic.org/adoption
- Freedom for Farmed Rabbits: http://www.freedomforfarmedrabbits.com.au/rescue/adopt-a-rabbit/
- Brightside Farm Sanctuary: http://brightside.org.au/meet_the_animals/adopting_from_brightside
- RSPCA Tasmania: http://www.rspcatas.org.au/adopt
- RSPCA South Australia: http://www.rspcasa.org.au/adopt/rabbits/
- Rabbit Rescue: http://www.rabbitrescue.org.au/
- SAFE Perth: http://www.safeperth.com.au/index.php/en/adopt-a-pet/rabbits-availalbe
- Little Paws Rescue: http://www.littlepawsrescue.org.au/
- Rabbit Haven: http://www.rabbithaven.org/
Please note it is currently illegal to keep rabbits in QLD.
Know any other rescue organisations? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are MANY more things to learn about welcoming a rabbit into your home. This website is a great place to learn how to be the best bunny parent you can be. When done properly, it’s an amazing and rewarding journey for families with older children. However, it’s safe to say that rabbits should never be “classroom pets”.