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Your First Rabbit:
Getting to Know Rabbits

What should I know about rabbits before I invite a rabbit home to live with my family and me?

To answer this question, RabbitWise invited Dr. Muggins Rocko Rabbit, well-known for his publication "Introducing the Companion Rabbit" and a frequent consultant to RabbitWise, to help us out. For those of you who have not met Dr. Rabbit before, he received his Ph.D. in Interspecies Communication from Lagomorphs University, Philadelphia. He is widely published and sought after as a lecturer on a variety of topics pertaining to rabbit and human interactions. He lives in the metropolitan DC area with his human and rabbit companions. This is what he had to say:

"I am delighted to be of service. My name is Muggins Rocko Rabbit. My expertise is in inter-species communication with a specialty in rabbit-human interaction. I have been asked by RabbitWise to help you decide whether or not it is a good idea for you to share your life and your home with a companion rabbit. I am very pleased that you are interested in one of my kind and I want to ensure that you both enjoy a long and happy life together. To that end I would like to introduce you to what we rabbits are all about. That way you can make an informed decision about making the commitment to give a rabbit a permanent and loving home.

"To avoid misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations resulting in another rabbit ending up in a shelter or worse, here is what I think you should know and take into consideration about us rabbits before you bring one of us home."

Professor Rabbit

"You probably didn't realize this but we rabbits come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Mostly everyone is familiar with the small and dwarf breeds, that is, rabbits that are from about 2-6 pounds. But we rabbits are also medium sized, from 6-9 pounds, large sized, from 9-11 pounds, and giant sized, from 12-26 pounds. The bigger we are, the larger our habitat has to be.

"In a cage-free, rabbit-proofed environment where we are free to explore, we rabbits reveal ourselves to be intelligent, creative beings with individual personalities. We respond to our names, usually come when called, and are affectionate with our humans by giving them rabbit kisses. Social creatures, we do best when we have a fellow rabbit companion.

"Consummate decorators, problem solvers, and engineers, we entertain ourselves by rearranging furniture, figuring out how to open closed doors, and devising construction projects. Industrious types, we love being kept busy. Insatiably curious, we are happy to supervise your projects as well.

"No need to buy a new security or alarm system. If anything is amiss, we rabbits thump our hind feet to alert the warren, our human family, that there is danger about. We have excellent hearing, up to about a mile away, and have built in motion detectors far superior to anything human technology has come up with.

"Throw away your paper shredders because we can do that for you. We are experts at recycling books, newspapers, telephone directories or catalogs. As great consumers of the written word, we have become excellent literary critics.

"Natural athletes, we will be happy to teach you rabbit games such as the Bunny 500. That's where we race through the house at top speed, using furniture as an obstacle course, and you try to catch us. If we're in show-off mode we will throw in those straight up in the air jumps with a half turn and a twist known as binkies.

"We have a good sense of humor except when our human has been unfaithful to us by snuggling a strange rabbit. Our sense of smell is far superior to yours so don't even think that you can get away with it. We appreciate fidelity in our human companions.

"We don't need to be walked, we don't fuss or act out when left alone during the day, and we can coexist with the family dogs, cats, and other small mammals as long as we are properly intoduced. Fortunately, most rabbit rescue organizations can help you do this.

"I hope that I have been helpful. For additional information, I have included the suggestions below."

  • Rabbits live 8-12 years or more.
  • We are easily litter-box trained but also mark territory with urine and "bunny berries." These are pea sized, easily picked up, and do not stain. Urine can be cleaned with white vinegar.
  • Because we are prey animals, we may fear being picked up but we do enjoy sitting by your side.
  • You must "rabbit proof" your house because rabbits chew and dig.
    How to Rabbit Proof your home.
  • For us to remain healthy, you must understand our unique digestive systems and feed us correctly.
  • Rabbits can be easily injured by mishandling, making us unsuitable companions for small or unsupervised children.
    Read more about children and rabbits.
  • We need periodic veterinary exams.
  • One female rabbit can produce 40-50 offspring per year. Humans think that this makes a good arguement for spaying and neutering.
  • We bond with our primary human caretaker with whom we like to play and manipulate for treats. To show our appreciation, we groom them.

Recommended Reading

Harriman, Marinell (1995). House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live With an Urban Rabbit (3rd ed.) Alameda, CA: Drollery Press.

Smith, Kathy (revised 2003). Rabbit Health in the 21st Century: A Guide For Bunny Parents. Kansas City, MO:

Recommended Class (DC Metro Area)

Introduction to Rabbitology: A Course in Basic Rabbit Behavior and Care.

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