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Popular myths and misconceptions about rabbits
World of Pets Magazine

Popular myths and misconceptions about rabbits

Posted Saturday, April 4, 2015   |   1118 views   |   Family & Home   |   Comments (0) Despite being the third most popular pet in the UK, rabbits also sadly rank as one of the most neglected of all domesticated animals.

The sad reality is that many people don’t realise that the traditional image of a rabbit living on its own, in a hutch at the bottom of the garden, is the complete opposite of what a bunny needs to be healthy and happy. Jessica Thornsby demystifies the most common myths surrounding this popular, but sadly misunderstood small pet.

MYTH 1. Rabbits can live happily on their own, or with a guinea pig for company.
In the wild, rabbits live in large groups and are highly social animals, so the best thing you can do for your pet is to get it a friend - a lifetime of solitary confi nement is no fun for a bunny! A bonded pair of rabbits will spend their days cuddling, napping, and playing together, and will even groom one another as a display of affection.
 
The easiest pairing is usually a neutered male and a spayed female, although some same-sex pairings may get along. Regardless of the sexes involved, it’s crucial that both bunnies are spayed or neutered, to avoid aggression. Don’t be tempted to try bonding an unaltered rabbit with an altered rabbit (for example, a spayed male and unaltered female), as the unaltered rabbit’s hormones will encourage it to bully and dominate its more subdued, altered partner. Contrary to popular belief, a guinea pig is not a suitable companion for a rabbit, as these animals have completely diff erent nutritional needs. A typical rabbit is also considerably larger and stronger than a guinea pig, which may result in the rabbit bullying, and perhaps even injuring its companion.

MYTH 2. Rabbits are cheap pets.
While rabbits themselves are relatively inexpensive, providing proper care for your furry friends can be more costly than many prospective owners realise. You’ll need to spay or neuter your pets, vaccinate them, and probably have to take them to the vet for regular nail trimming. Rabbits can also suff er from a host of health issues that may result in expensive vet’s bills. Some rabbit illnesses can even become chronic and require on-going treatment, particularly dental problems.

Rabbits have specific dietary requirements. The muesli-style food that used to be a staple of the rabbit’s diet has since been proven to cause a variety of dental and tummy problems, and is actually no longer sold in the vast majority of pet stores. Instead, you should feed your rabbit a high quality pellet or nugget food, supplemented by an unlimited supply of hay, and a portion of green vegetables, herbs, or weeds. The occasional root vegetable such as carrot, or a piece of apple can be given as a treat.

If you’re unsure whether a particular item is safe to feed your rabbit, always check in advance. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) has prepared a list of rabbit-safe plants, vegetables, herbs and fruits. This is available on the web at http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/resources/content/info-sheets/safefoods.html and you also need to bear in mind that a diet of pellets, fresh food, and hay is more costly than a handful of rabbit muesli!

MYTH 3. A rabbit is the perfect pet for a child.
Rabbits are not as docile and cuddly as they look. As prey animals, rabbits are easily frightened, generally dislike being held and cuddled, and have a tendency to scratch and bite when they want to get away. Rabbits are also fragile animals, and can easily be injured if not properly handled. None of this makes rabbits particularly good pets for children. It also takes time for bunnies to trust their new owner, which can be frustrating for a child who just wants to play with them.

When spayed or neutered, and cared for correctly, rabbits can live between 6-10 years, so they’re a long term commitment. Will your child still be interested in their bunnies, a decade down the line? How will their rabbits fi t into their plans for university, a place of their own, or a full time job?

The reality is, the younger the child, the quicker they will lose interest in their new pet, particularly as rabbits cannot demand attention, unlike a cat or dog. If you’re considering adding rabbits to your family therefore, always assume that you’re going to be the one who is responsible for their welfare.
MYTH 4. Rabbits are outdoors pets.
Although the image many people have of a rabbit is of a bunny in a hutch at the bottom of a garden, rabbits are becoming increasingly popular as indoor pets - and with good reason! It’s much easier to protect rabbits housed indoors from extreme hot or cold weather, disease, and predators - the latter is particularly important as persistent attempts by a predator to reach your pets could be enough to cause a rabbit to suff er a fatal heart attack. Then there’s the fact that you’re always going to have a closer relationship with animals that live under the same roof as you, than those living at the bottom of your garden.

House bunnies can actually form very close bonds with their owners, and may even follow you around, lying down next to you or attempting to groom you, as they would a fellow bunny. Just because a bunny has lived outdoors previously doesn’t mean you can’t bring it indoors, as I’ll explain in the next issue. With time, patience, and some litter training, there’s no reason why an outdoor bunny cannot develop into a pampered indoor pet.

MYTH 5. Rescue rabbits are always going to less friendly and sociable, than a baby bunny purchased from a pet shop or breeder.
The sad reality is that countless rabbits end up in rescue centres through no fault of their own, and many of them are perfectly friendly, happy, and sociable animals. If a rabbit does have some issues, such as fear of humans or aggression towards other rabbits, most rescue centres will address these problems before putting the rabbit up for adoption. After you’ve brought your rabbit home, the majority of rescue centres will be happy to off er you advice and guidance, throughout the rabbit’s life.

Although it may seem easier to drive to your local pet shop and have your pick of the fluffy baby bunnies there, it’s always better to adopt, rather than shop. The vast majority of rescue centres routinely spay, neuter, and vaccinate their rabbits, and the volunteers will know each rabbit’s personality, likes and dislikes, so they can fi nd the perfect companion animals for you. And it’s also incredibly rewarding to adopt a rabbit that hasn’t had the best life, give it a wonderful new home and bond with it.

For more great articles like this get the No.17 Tales from Pets Corner issue of World of Pets Magazine below or subscribe and save.

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