Pet Rabbits As Gifts: The Good and The Bad

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Rabbits have always been a popular choice as an Easter surprise, but they’ve been increasingly popular lately as gifts for other occasions such as birthdays. Despite their fuzzy appeal, though, there are a lot of drawbacks to giving one as a present. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Potential Benefits of a Gift Bunny
With rabbit ownership up to about 5.3 million bunnies in the United States alone, it’s pretty clear that many people consider them to be a great companion. Bunnies come in a much wider variety of shapes and sizes than most people realize. There are over four dozen different breeds ranging from the tiny Netherland dwarf to the Flemish Giant, which can be over twenty pounds. They come in a range of coat lengths and colors, so there’s probably one out there to suit anyone’s idea of what’s cute.bunnyselfie

The physical appeal isn’t all bunnies have to offer, though. When properly socialized, they can be quite companionable and have a lot more personality than many people realize. They’re both affectionate and full of lively intelligence, displaying individual personalities and interesting behavior that often combines the social traits of a dog and the independence of a cat. Their intelligence allows bunnies to respond well to positive reinforcement. They can be taught to use a litter box, so they can be even be permitted free run of the home as long as chewable wires are picked up.

Bunnies are also pretty inexpensive and require fairly little maintenance. In addition to a generously-sized cage, they need food, fresh water, hay, and litter for the box. Basic health care is also needed, particularly when it comes to being sure the animal is spayed or neutered, and the cage or litter box will need to be cleaned regularly. Other than that, most of what they need is fun and social stimulation, which is the whole reason people want a companion animal around in the first place!

With all of these positive attributes, they can be a great idea for a gift as long as the potential owner is totally on-board. Just because it’s a present doesn’t mean it has to be a surprise, so let the recipient make the decision. That way they’ll be able to prepare, and you’ll be able to share the fun of picking out the perfect bunny.

Problems with Giving a Rabbit as a Present
Despite the good things about bunnies, giving a live animal as a gift is always tricky, so don’t buy one on impulse. A new pet comes with an obligation to take care of it. In this case, that obligation can last ten years or more. While the maintenance required is not as intense as, for example, a dog, busy people or travelers may feel encumbered by the need to give food and water, refill hay, and clean the cage, and lack of time for playing will lead to a bored rabbit that could develop behavior problems like excessive chewing.cleancage

The expense of health care may also be a concern for some people, particularly in areas where small animal veterinarians are pricier. If the recipient cannot afford to have their new pet spayed or neutered, they could end up with an animal that is territorial and aggressive or one that sprays urine on the walls. The concern around flea bites comes up. Just make sure you have the flea facts when it comes to rabbits.

The biggest potential danger in giving someone a bunny is that the person simply might not want it in the home. An unappreciated gift is fine when it can just be tossed in a closet, but when it’s a living creature, it can end very badly. The worst-case scenario is a neglected animal that winds up being sent to a humane shelter and possibly even euthanized.

In the long run, giving a companion animal to someone that cannot or does not want to take care of it is a recipe for disaster for both the animal and the reluctant owner. Don’t risk a surprise; instead, be sure that the pet is wanted before going ahead with the gift to make sure it will be welcome and loved.

Litter Training Your Pet Rabbit: 3 Tips For Success

bunnyearsCaring for a rabbit and building a relationship with your furry friend can be just as fulfilling as owning a larger animal. Many people are surprised to learn that, with proper commitment, they can be fairly easily litter trained, allowing them the freedom to play outside of their cage more, if you feel comfortable doing so. Below are some tips and tricks for the successful training of your animal, helping to aid you toward the right path to owning a well-behaved companion.

Initiating Litter Training
If you decided to start training your house rabbit, you will need to start the process by placing one box in the corner of her cage. You can then carefully watch her when she is outside of her cage, waiting for signs that she is about to urinate, such as her lifting her tail. When you see any possible signs, it would then be appropriate to encourage her to use her designated box.

As you expand your sweet pet’s play area, you will need additional boxes, at least for a period of time. These should be strategically placed on both levels of the home. You may want to keep in mind that you will need to expand her exercise and play space rather slowly. If you give her the run of the house during the first week, she may not be able to make her way back to her cage, and nobody wants a lost pet.

litterboxPlace three or more boxes on each level, especially in places she is already apt to urinate or pass pills (feces). Eventually, you will be able to remove rarely used boxes, making the number of boxes you have to clean more manageable. In addition, placing a small amount of pills from the box in the cage in the other boxes will signal that they are correct places to eliminate.

Choosing a Litter
There is a great deal of conflicting information about which products are the best to use for your house rabbit. Some products run the risk of being ingested, some are toxic, others can mold, some don’t have a fresh scent, etc. If you want something that will not harm your rabbit, but is also not overly expensive, newspaper and other natural alternatives may be the best choices.
Newspaper with soy-based ink is certainly appropriate to use, but keep in mind that there are other factors to consider and options to choose from.

A thick layer of newspaper may be enough to absorb your animal’s urine, but if not changed frequently, it could leave the house smelling less than fresh. In general, veterinarians will probably want you to stay away from clay, deodorant crystals, anything that clumps, pine and cedar shavings, and corn cob products, as they could pose health problems.

A great suggestion is wood pellets that you would use in a wood pellet stove. Always stay away from wood pellets that are covered in any type of lighter fluid or accelerant. A good indication of this is if the pellets say “fast lighting.” In addition, a natural option made from Aspen bark is safe to use.

Regression and How to Reteach the Basics
Sometimes, it’s possible for you indoor rabbit to maintain great habits for years, but suddenly, she is urinating outside of the box. Two possible reasons for the abrupt change in habits are health issues or external stressors. If you can first make an appointment with your veterinarian, it would be very helpful.

Some possible health reasons for a sudden lack of designated box use include urinary tract infections, E. cuniculi, arthritis, or sludge found in the bladder. If your pet is found to be in good health, turning to the changes at home is a good next step.

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It may take some extra reassurance, time, and treats to bring the animal’s stress level down. Unfortunately, it does not take rabbits more than a few days to unlearn good habits, so disruptions in the home may mean a few weeks of work in order to retrain. A suggestion to aid in helping your little guy learn again is to use a new box in a new location, filled with some hay and treats.