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Rabbit Myths

Picture of doe with babies

I’m sure you’ve talked to other people about rabbits and have heard many things about them.  Some of these things may be just myths and not actually true.  Here are a few rabbit myths …….

 

 

Myths people say about about rabbits…..

 

  • MYTH: Rabbits are always the happiest outside.
  • TRUTH: Rabbits kept outdoors in a backyard hutch are sometimes forgotten and neglected. This often happens once the initial novelty wears off, especially with children. Rabbits are gregarious creatures who enjoy social contact with their human caretakers.  Far too often, they are relegated to a life of “solitary confinement” and are subject to extreme weather.  Rabbits do not like strong winds or rain and their kits may have a harder time surviving in cold temperatures. Excessive heat will also kill a rabbit. They are also more prone to contract diseases spread by flies, fleas, mosquitoes and ticks, all of which can adversely affect their health and their life span. They can die of heart attacks from the very approach of a predator – even if the rabbit is not attacked or bitten. If scared enough, a rabbit can break its own back by jumping too hard.  The easiest way to provide social stimulation for a companion rabbit is to house him indoors, as a member of the family.  Naturally this cannot be done if a several rabbits are owned or if you raise rabbits on a commercial level such as us. If your rabbit is to be housed outside, try to have at least a three sided structure for it with a roof.
  • MYTH: Rabbits love to be picked up, stroked and cuddled, and they never scratch or bite.
  • TRUTH: Although some rabbits do tolerate being handled quite well, most do not like to be picked up and carried. A rabbit feels the most comfortable when his/her feet are on the ground. They are a small creature and will be about 3 to 5 feet off the ground when picked up by an adult.  This is way up there for a small rabbit. To see for yourself, lay down on the ground with your head flat on the ground. Now have an adult walk by you. Note how far up their waist is when you are laying on the ground. This is what a rabbit sees.  As far as being held or snuggled with, most rabbits do not like it.  Now it is possible to train your rabbit to snuggle with you on the ground when you are down to their level. Just approach them and talk to and pet your rabbit while you are on the floor with them down at their level. Keep repeating key words like “snuggle” for example. Rabbits will learn from repetitive words or actions. However, if rabbits are mishandled, instinct kicks in and they may nip or even bite to protect themselves. Remember, even though cute and precious, they are still animals. If they feel insecure while being carried they may also scratch to get down. Unspayed / unneutered rabbits often exhibit territorial behavior such as “boxing” or nipping when their territory is “invaded” by the owner.  The best way to get your rabbit use to being handled on a daily basis is to start when they are young or just weaned from their mother.
  • MYTH: Rabbits are very low-maintenance and great starter pets
  • TRUTH: Although rabbits don’t have to be walked like dogs, rabbits are anything but low-maintenance. They can definitely not be allowed to roam outside like a cat.  If taken outside, they must have supervision.  Their cage or quarters must be cleaned daily.  Fresh food and water must be provided on a daily basis and rabbits also need some type of hay each week for their digestive tract.  Rabbits can not vomit so their diet has to be watched closely. There are lots of foods out there, like iceberg lettuce or celery, that may kill a rabbit. Rabbits are very fragile animals and certain health problems can become chronic and can require regular (and sometimes expensive) veterinary treatment. To complicate things, veterinarians skilled in rabbit medicine are often hard to find.  A veterinarian with training in exotic animals needs to be used.
  • MYTH: Rabbits only live a year or two, so no long commitment is necessary.
  • TRUTH: Rabbits raised on a commercial level may live up to 3-5 years and well cared-for indoor rabbits can live 7-10 years, and some live on into their teens. The ratio of years compared to a human varies.  Depending on the breed, an average may be 7 to 1.  So a 10 year old rabbit may be approximately 70 in human years.  This is approximately the same life span as some breeds of dogs, and requires the same long-term commitment.
  • MYTH: Rabbits are rather dirty creatures and they put off a strong odor.
  • TRUTH: Rabbits are actually immaculately clean animals. Once they have matured and are spayed / neutered, they go to great lengths not to soil their cage or living quarters. If trained, they will readily use a litter- box, and if the box is cleaned or changed daily, there is no offensive odor.  Even if not spayed / neutered, rabbits usually have less of an odor than other animals.  Also, rabbit manure or droppings do not have a strong odor as other manures do, such as chickens, pigs or cows.
  • MYTH: Rabbits do not need veterinary care the way dogs and cats do.
  • TRUTH: Although rabbits in the U.S. do not require annual vaccinations, regular veterinary checkups may help to detect small problems before they become big problems. Naturally, this cannot be afforded if numerous rabbits are owned or if they are raised on a commercial level like us. Community or companion rabbits should be spayed / neutered by an experienced veterinarian. This not only reduces hormone driven behaviors such as mounting, lunging, spraying, and boxing, but also protects females from the risk of uterine cancer, the incidence of which can exceed 50% as rabbits grow older. Overall, rabbits do not have many health issues if their surroundings are cleaned and sterilized on a daily basis and a well balanced pellet feed and hay are used.
  • MYTH: Rabbits do fine with a bowl of rabbit food and all rabbits love and should eat lots of carrots.
  • TRUTH: Carrots are high in sugar and should NOT be given to your rabbit. Most rabbit pellet feeds do provide the needed vitamins for a rabbit to be healthy, however some feeds are better than others.  Try to avoid any feed that has corn or a corn filler in it. Corn is very hard on a rabbits system.  The single most important component of a rabbit’s diet is grass hay, which should be provided daily or at least weekly. Rabbit pellets should be given only in very limited quantities; 1oz. of feed per lb. of your rabbits weight should be sufficient.  For example, an 8lb. rabbit should get 8oz. of feed per day.  Also, beware of foods that are dangerous for a rabbit to eat.  There are many out there that will kill a rabbit like celery or iceberg lettuce.  More information on foods to avoid go to the “Feeding your Rabbits” at the Helpful Resources Page.
  • MYTH: A small cage is fine for rabbits.  They do not require much living space.
  • TRUTH: Rabbits have powerful hind legs designed for running and jumping. When they have ample room you will often see them jumping and twisting in excitement, especially at a younger age.  They need enough living space that will permit them this ample freedom of movement, even when they are confined. Rabbits also need plenty of room to fan or lay stretched out on those hot summer days.  A correct size cage also helps when breeding or when raising out kits. Rabbits put off a lot of heat and a doe with numerous babies needs that extra room to stay cool.
  • MYTH: It’s fine to leave a rabbit alone for a day or two when you are gone.
  • TRUTH: Rabbits need daily monitoring to remain healthy and happy. They must have fresh water and feed daily.  Again, rabbits are very fragile animals and problems that are relatively minor in some species may be life-threatening to them.  If these problems do occur the rabbit may require immediate veterinary attention.  If you do have to travel, it may be good practice for you to have someone check on the rabbit(s) daily.
  • MYTH: A doe will kill or won’t nurse her young if you handle her babies.
  • TRUTH: Rabbits are fine with the smell of a human hand and get accustom to it, especially if it’s the same person handling them daily.  You, however, do need to avoid perfumes or hand lotions that may irritate the doe.  She may not be use to these scents.  If your hands are clean, most does are fine with you handling their young.  If you do foster kits to an existing litter, it would be good practice to gently roll the babies and mix them up together in the nest.  This makes them all have the same smell. Many growers will put a small amount of chest rub on the does nose before fostering to make sure she can’t smell a difference.
  • MYTH: All rabbits like each other.                                                                        
  • TRUTH: Rabbits are very territorial and don’t want any strangers or interlopers in their turf. They usually need to be caged separately. To be caged together, rabbits must pick out their mate much like a human would. This process is called bonding. This is done to get two rabbits to be friends and love each other.  Rabbits will bond for life. A bond does not have to be male and female. If raised together from a young age, two males can become bonded as well as two females, but again this has to be done at a young age.  When caging any rabbits together, it helps if they are fixed.
  • MYTH: All brands of rabbit pellets are the same.                                    
  • TRUTH: Most pellets contain the needed vitamins for a rabbit, but many also contain foods that can cause stomach issues. They may be filled with high calorie contents that can cause your rabbit to become overweight or contain ingredients that causes diarrhea. And as we all know, diarrhea is a killer for rabbits. Do your homework and a little research before deciding on a brand of feed for the breed of rabbit owned.
  • MYTH. Rabbits do NOT bite or nip.                                                            
  • TRUTH: They actually will and may do this for several reasons. The main reason is to communicate with you. Rabbits can’t talk so they may nip at you. They usually want you to do something like pet them or scratch their nose.  It’s normally not too painful but can be. Even if not hurt, when nipped, let out a loud yelp. They will usually understand that they have hurt you and this can train them not to nip again in the future.
  • MYTH. Having a single rabbit, I don’t need to get it fixed.            
  • TRUTH: In all rabbits, having them fixed or altered will help with their disposition and help calm them down. In female rabbits it can also help prevent ovarian cancer. You need to do some reading online and research to determine what is best for your rabbit breed.
  • MYTH: Rabbits make the best pet for small children.                  
  • TRUTH: This could not be more untrue. Rabbits require a good amount of care and maintenance. They need to be monitored closely for their safety. Children tend to want to hold and pet rabbits, and the rabbit may not like that. An older child that understands the responsibility of caring for a pet rabbit may make a better parent than a young child.  Make sure you are willing to commit time and patience on training your child to be a good rabbit parent.  Teach the child that a rabbit needs love, attention, proper food, water and care on a daily basis. It’s imperative to teach the child how to hold, carry and pick up a bunny, otherwise the bunny can suffer permanent injury or worse.
  • MYTH: Rabbits can run really, really fast.                                                    
  • TRUTH: Rabbits are indeed very fast hoppers and runners. But this is usually for a short distance. They tire out very quickly.  Rabbits will use a burst of energy to run really fast and then stop.  So, yes they are fast but not for long.
  • MYTH: Rabbits can see really well but do not have good hearing.
  • TRUTH: Actually rabbits have very good hearing and can hear things at a pretty good distance away. They are an animal of prey and are usually on alert to some degree.  They listen for danger from approaching predators.  In fact it’s not uncommon for a rabbit to recognize the sound of your approaching foot steps. Since rabbits are easily alarmed and always ready to bolt in a seconds notice, we always announce ourselves to our rabbits as we walk through the buildings. This helps calm them down, knowing its us.  This helps them to not be afraid that the noises they hear are just us.
  • MYTH: Rabbits can’t smell very well.                                          
  • TRUTH: A rabbits sense of smell is very good and so good in fact normal cooking smells may not smell nice to your rabbit. Don’t be surprised if your rabbit disappears when you are cooking some very strong smelling foods.  Cleaning agents or strong odors will also irritate a rabbit.
  • MYTH: My rabbit is young and small so it needs to be kept warm
  • TRUTH: This is only true with newborns or kits less than three weeks old. Rabbits like to be kept between 60 and 70 degrees°F. Anything over 80 degrees°F could be dangerous. If temperatures get high, a rabbit could suffer from a heat stroke.  Remember, rabbits have a thick coat of fur on them so no matter where they are, they will be warmer than a human would be. If you’re warm, they’re hot! Rabbits are unable to sweat except through their feet and heat is only released through their ears. Be smart and watch that thermometer.
  • MYTH: Rabbits can breathe out of their mouth just like a human
  • TRUTH: Rabbits can only breathe out of their nose so never, ever block or cover their nose.
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