When it comes to pet ownership, the majority of families have dogs and cats. My family, however, is a bit unconventional. We have indoor pet rabbits! Four of them to be exact!
During my childhood, I was exposed to a wide variety of pets. Of course, we had dogs and cats, but we also had goats, geese, rabbits, rodents, birds of all sizes, reptiles and a horse. I have the fondest memories of all of my adventures with my beloved pets!
When I got married, my husband and I continued that tradition. We always owned dogs, cats, and my horse, but a ferret, a rat and a snake rounded out our family. And then we had kids. At that point, we became a regular cat and dog family.
Eventually, our cat and dog passed away from old age, and we were so busy with 4 kids that we just moved on. All we had left were small pets that belonged to our children. There was a void, but we just weren’t ready to fill it with a new pet.
We never did end up getting a new dog to fill the void. Instead, we added two baby rabbits to our family!
My daughter, Lexie, had been asking for a pet rabbit for many years. I had outdoor pet rabbits as a young child and an indoor, litter-trained rabbit when I was a teenager, but the timing was never right for our family to own one. After years of asking, we finally said yes to Lexie’s wish in September.
My dad took Lexie and Dylan to a local farm that raised rabbits and told them to pick out their pet. They returned home with TWO female rabbits, and we could hardly say no considering the alternative was harsh. If they had remained on the farm, their future involved being sold for food.
We quickly fell in love with our “rescued” rabbits and began to realize just how much fun it was to keep them as indoor pets! With daily handling, they can became playful, loving pets, and with proper care, they can live long lives indoors.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT KEEPING RABBITS AS INDOOR PETS:
The most important thing I want you to know about keeping rabbits as pets is that contrary to popular belief, rabbits do best as indoor pets! They need daily handling and care in order to thrive in your home, but caring for them is inexpensive and simple.
The first thing you need to do before getting a pet rabbit is buy your supplies! The cage/hutch is going to be your most expensive purchase, but after that, the expense for caring for your pet rabbit is minimal.
- Rabbit Cage or Hutch – Purchase a roomy cage that is easy to clean.
- Bedding – From experience, cedar bedding works best. It’s inexpensive and effective against odors.
- Water Bottle and Food Dish – Choose a large water bottle and a food dish that attaches to the cage.
- Chew Toys -Rabbits love to play and they love to chew! They should always have wooden chew toys in their cage. These are inexpensive, but you can also use sticks from outside.
- Salt and Mineral wheels – These are very inexpensive, hang on the side of the cage and last for months!
- Food, Hay and Treats – Rabbit Pellets daily, hay several times a week and treats as needed. You can also feed your rabbit fruits and vegetables. You can find great information HERE.
- Harness – Rabbits can be walked and (carefully) taken outside. Start training them with a harness early on.
- Playpen – Playpens are inexpensive, and allow your rabbit to get exercise while remaining contained. Rabbits love to chew so they need to be supervised while they are loose in your home!
- Litter Box and litter – Rabbits can be litter box trained!
- Brush – Purchase a simple brush for daily grooming.
- Carrier – A small pet carrier is handy for trips to the vet.
CHOOSE YOUR RABBIT:
Once the cage is set up, it’s time to choose your rabbit! There are many breeds of rabbits to choose from, ranging in size from small to large. Our rabbits are Californian rabbits which is a large, but friendly breed. Our 9 month old babies are 12 pounds!
It really doesn’t matter if you get a male or a female, especially if they are young. We have both genders and they are both equally as loving and playful. Plus, it is incredibly difficult to distinguish between genders when they are babies!
Rabbits can be purchased at a pet store or from a breeder. If you have young children, I do believe that it’s important to get a young rabbit so it gets used to living with children. Rabbits can be adopted from shelters, so check with your local shelter first!
- Feed pellets (give hay as often as preferred – we give it every other day)
- Change water daily
- Scoop out soiled spots in the cage and litter box
- Handle your pet rabbit
- Play with your rabbit and give it a quick brushing
- Clean out the cage completely
- Empty the litter box and refill
- Take your rabbit outside for some exercise and grass
- Give your rabbit a bath! A few inches of warm water and small pet shampoo is all you need. Start this when your rabbit is young and they will love it!
Rabbits need minimal veterinary care. A yearly checkup is recommended, but vaccinations are not required. Your pet rabbit can also be neutered, and I highly recommend it if you have more than one rabbit! (See below!)
Start training your pet as soon as you bring it home!
- Handle your pet frequently to get it used to being held.
- Put on the harness for a few minutes each day, then move on to walking on a leash. Once that’s mastered, you can (carefully) take your rabbit outside.
- Brush your rabbit each night and introduce bathtime early. Start by wiping your rabbit with a wet cloth. Once it has your trust, sit it in an inch of warm water, then gradually increase the water level and introduce shampoo.
- Litter train your rabbit by putting a few droppings in the box. Place your rabbit in the box several times a day. Repetition is key! Once they regularly use the box in their cage, you can introduce one in their play area, too.
- Kids under the age of 5 should always be supervised while handling their pet rabbit, because rabbits could get injured with rough handling. They should always be handled gently, so they remain calm and friendly.
- Always supervise your rabbit when it’s out of the cage. They love to chew, and it could put your carpeting, furniture and electrical cords at risk!
With lots of love and proper care, your rabbit could live 8-12 years and some have even been known to live into their teens! These fun and friendly pets require the same level of commitment one would give to a dog or a cat, and they have a lot to offer in return.
As for our journey with owning rabbits, things got a bit crazy! Arctic and Bernie were identified as being female by the “experts” but that wasn’t the case. By the time we realized they were actually a boy and a girl, it was too late!
There’s a positive side to everything! My kids were able to witness the miracle of childbirth, watch the babies grow and help hand raise baby bunnies until they were ready to go to their new loving homes. It was an incredible experience!
From the time our babies were a week old, we had a wait list of potential owners. They just went to their new homes over the past two weeks, but we kept our two favorites babies, which is how we ended up with four!
Although it was an amazing experience for my kids, we don’t want it to happen again! The vet assured us that this happens all the time, but we already have a plan in action. Bernie is scheduled to be neutered, and the babies, Elle and Sara, will live in two separate cages until we are absolutely certain of their gender!
The moral of the story? If you get more than one rabbit, keep them separated until you know for sure what they are!
As for my family, we are having so much fun with our four incredibly sweet, friendly and adorable pet rabbits!