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Misconceptions About Rabbits

Easter's on the way, so we will be bombarded with images of the cutest, fluffiest rabbits imaginable. This is when people think it would be great to buy a pet bunny. Sadly, most of these rabbits will be abandoned to die a premature death, because their impulsive buyers have misconceptions about them.

Misconception 1: "Rabbits Don't Live Long. This One Will Pass Away Before I Get Bored With It."

Wrong! Wild hares and rabbits may not live beyond four or five years because they'll get eaten by predators, shot by farmers, poisoned by pesticides, hit by disease, and run over by machinery. However, a domestic rabbit kept as a pet can live up to 15 years (larger breeds usually have longer lifespans than dwarf breeds). When you acquire a rabbit, be ready to care for it for an average of 10 years: given good health and diet, and no accidents. If you can't see yourself looking after a pet that long, don't buy a rabbit.

Misconception 2: "Rabbits Just Eat Grass, So If I Get Tired Of My Pet, I Can Set It Loose In The Park."

Wrong! Even wild rabbits need a wide range of suitable vegetation, and indigenous populations are already established in areas where the foods they need grow. If you dump your rabbit in a park, it will die of malnutrition or thirst, or be ripped apart alive by cats, dogs and crows, crushed by cars, or rot from fungal and wound infections. Pet rabbits have delicate digestive systems that require balanced diets of fresh hay, unlimited fresh water, a variety of fresh vegetables and good-quality pellets, not just grass.

Misconception 3: "Rabbits Are Easy To House; I Just Have To Cage Mine In The Backyard."

Wild rabbits have the constitution to live down burrows in fields, but your domestic rabbit is an indoor pet with a need for space. Wherever the enclosure is, 

  • It must be spacious enough to allow free movement.
  • It must be secure to keep the rabbits in and predators like cats, rats and snakes out.
  • It must be sheltered from heat, sun, rain and wind and yet well ventilated.
  • You must still let your rabbit out daily for a good, supervised run around the house or garden.

It is best to house rabbits indoors, playpen so they can run about and yet be safe from household accidents and electrocution (rabbits love chewing  electric cables). Don't put them cages with grille-bar or grid floors, because these will hurt and damage your bunnies' paws and hocks. Living quarters must be cleaned daily, and the rabbits groomed regularly, to prevent fungal infections and other health disorders.

Misconception 4: "Rabbits Make Convenient Pets As They Don't Need Human Companionship."

Pet rabbits get lonely just like dogs and cats do. Even if they live with other rabbits, they still love humans the a attention from humans they have come come to trust. They will pine for their owners when they are away. Rabbits that are socialised to human company will come up to you to demand pats, strokes and treats, and follow you around the house.

Misconception 5: "Rabbits Can Be Picked Up By Their Ears."

Rabbits should never be lifted by their ears, which are very delicate. When you pick up a rabbit, you must support its hindquarters securely, and use the other hand to get a firm hold around the chest and shoulders. Do you know that if you pick up a rabbit by its front legs or chest, leaving the hind legs dangling, it could panic, struggle and kick so hard that it could even fracture its own spine? So do not let inexperienced children or adults handle your pet. Always lift it correctly. Never try to flip it upside- down on a hard surface either, as this could also cause spinal injury and death. Always be gentle with rabbits.

Misconception 6: "Rabbits Have No Personalities, Don't Bond With You, Make No Sounds, And Are Always Running Away - Such Boring Animals!"

If a rabbit keeps scooting away from you, it is not because it's stupid, but because it does not trust you yet. If you have been startling it by making sudden approaches, speaking loudly or threatening to hit it, no wonder it's a nervous wreck. Rabbits that are consistently treated with patience, gentleness and calmness will gradually come to trust you and seek affection from you. Some rabbits even make soft sounds when they are excited to see you, or about the prospect of a treat. And a rabbit who is terrified or mortally, wounded can squeal as loudly as a car alarm - you should hope that you never have to hear that squeal from your pet.

Misconception 7: "Rabbits Are Such Sweet, Trouble-Free Animals."

People who impulsively purchase pet rabbits are often inspired by visions of sitting quietly at home with a docile bunny resting in their laps all day. Well, they could be in for a rude shock. Rabbits are active, inquisitive creatures who scamper everywhere, eat precious houseplants, destroy electric cables, scatter food about, and relieve themselves on furnishings if not toilet-trained. Some can even be aggressive - they may bite, scratch, headbutt you, kick and fight when picked up. If you cannot unconditionally accept a real-life rabbit like that, please buy a plush toy bunny instead.

Misconception 8: "Rabbits Can't Be Trained."

People who think rabbits cannot be trained end up confining them to cages all day. This is no way to treat an animal that needs room to exercise. Rabbits can be trained. They understand routines. If you patiently stick to a routine, the rabbit will gradually work out how best to interact with you. They can be toilet-trained too. Position the litterbox away from food and water bowls, and use different litter materials from their bedding so they don't get confused.

Place scraps of litter material that they have already soiled into the litterbox, and clean up the "wrong" places they have relieved themselves in. They will eventually know which is the "right" toilet - most of the time! Caution: Do not use commercial litter materials that clump together, like those for cat litterboxes. This is because rabbits may eat the litter, which could then clump inside them and kill them.

Rabbits Rights

Every year, pet rabbits get abandoned at nature parks and near the reservoirs after the Easter season. Being domestic pets, they cannot fend for themselves in the wild and they often starve to death or are left at the mercy of bigger creatures. People give rabbits as Easter presents without realising that a rabbit is a 10- to 72-year commitment (that's how long a rabbit's lifespan is).

Concerned parents have been known to toss pet rabbits out after they bit or scratched their young children. But rabbits start to get aggressive only when they smell danger. Teeny, who works as an advertising accounts manager, says: "Rabbits are animals of prey. When you smother them, they feel they are being attacked by a predator. So, the way to handle them is to pat or stroke gently."

Sterilising the pet rabbits also tones down their aggressive, instinctive behaviour. It also reduces their risks of ovarian and testicular cancer. Bunnies need a special diet. Cartoon character Bugs Bunny may be seen happily munching carrots all day, but in reality, rabbits should eat no more than one or two carrot sticks per week.

When bunnies over-nibble on carrots, they pass out urine that's reddish in color, because their delicate digestive system cannot process all the betacarotene. It's as unhealthy as the rabbits eating rotten, leftover vegetables that have been kept for many days. Fresh, green vegetables like cai xin, celery and parsley should be given to them, but it should be given only once a day to prevent them from coming down with diarrhoea. The staple food for rabbits is still dried, brown hay and pellets, which can be bought at pet stores.

Pet owners should keep their rabbits comfortable in a cage that's at least four times their length and twice their height. The cage should also have big holes for proper ventilation, and a plastic bottom - not a hard wire mesh that can cause sore hocks or swollen paws. Teeny, who owns three pet rabbits, says: "Bunnies may not be like dogs, where you can train them to do tricks, but when bunnies are happy, you'll see them do a jump-and-twist dance in mid-air. They are such a joy to look at!"


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