Part 3 - Issues Facing Small Animals - Rabbits and Other Small Animals
Let's talk bunnies - or rabbits, whichever name you prefer - finally.
A Handsome Rabbit at the Bunny Sanctuary in Burlington, VT
Bunnies require a LOT of work. More than guinea pigs. They may eat similar things and be able to live in a cage some of the time, but beyond that, the workload can be even more overwhelming. Their life is longer, with an average of span 8-12 years, which means a more significant commitment. Rabbits are NOT a children's pet. An adult in the household must want one too and be willing to take on the care. Young children and bunnies can be a dangerous combination if not watched carefully.
That's likely why an estimated 90% of rabbits purchased as pets for children are abandoned, rehomed, or die. (bunnyrabbit.org)
I scrolled through NH Craigslist again, this time counting bunnies listed for rehoming or adoption in the past month - 82, and VT Craigslist - 28. I thought I would share a few comments from some of the craigslist posts.
- "...discovered I'm just not a rabbit person."
- "8-month-old bunny, outdoors, no spot to put him for the winter"
- "She's so sweet and only five months old, but I don't have the time or the space I want to give her..."
- "4-year-old house bunny - rehoming because the daughter's gone off to school for next several years..."
- "Unexpected litter due to buck escaping..."
There are also 23 rabbits available for adoption via Petfinder and another seven at Upper Valley Humane Society.
Rabbits are social creatures, just like guinea pigs, and like guinea pigs, that means they want to be a part of the household with the family. This can often include dogs and cats. The most significant difference is that while a guinea pig can live happily in a large enough cage with the occasional floor time and lap time, a bunny needs to spend much more time out of its cage.
Bunnies have long legs for hopping and running, right? Running is a fear-driven reaction, so that's not great, but hopping, well that's normal. A cage doesn't give enough room for really hopping about; those long legs need to be allowed time outside the cage to stretch and bounce around more. It makes sense, right? Just like dogs need to get outside and run around, just like we need exercise, rabbits need to be out of their cage as much as possible.
According to my research, rabbit cages need to be at least eight sq. Ft, and tall enough for the bunny to stand up. Preferably the enclosure will have two levels, as rabbits like to jump up in their cage. No wire bottoms though, these can hurt delicate bunny feet. With a cage this size, there is also a need for about 24 sq. Ft of exercise space which the rabbit(s) can play in for at least five hours per day. This would be a suitable basic set-up for 1-2 rabbits according to rabbit.org. Other options include x-pens and larger areas blocked off by grids or baby gates.
Fabulous example of a rabbit cage via brighteyessanctuary.org
As bunnies are often easily litter trained, many people will bunny-proof an area, room, or their whole house, to let the rabbit(s) be both free and among the family. There should be a safe area to put the rabbit at night, even if it's a rabbit-room.
A great example of a sectioning off an area! Rabbit Wonderland via bunnyapproved.com
One crucial aspect of bunny ownership is spaying or neutering your pet for several reasons. Female rabbits are prone to uterine and ovarian cancers, and both males and females become less destructive, less aggressive, and calmer. It's also great because you can have male/female bonded rabbits and not worry about babies!
Bunnies need companionship. Humans can indeed be a great companion if they can give the rabbit all the time and attention it needs, but bunnies still do better if they have a friend or two of their own species. Like with guinea pigs, having two rabbits isn't necessarily double the work, but it is double the fun. Not only do you get to see different personalities, but watching the animals interact with each other in their unique way is particularly enjoyable, and it sure makes for happy rabbits! (More resources on rabbits listed at the bottom.)
Bonded pair snuggle time!
And what about those other cute, small furry creatures? Rats, gerbils, hamsters, and mice all have their own specific set of needs. Rats need to spend time with you, they are very social creatures, trainable, loving, etc., but can quickly become less fun if they get ignored for a long time. Gerbils are desert animals and need a specific kind of bedding. Hamsters like to burrow. Each species needs to be researched. I don't even have time to get into sugar gliders, ferrets, chinchillas, or hedgehogs!
Neglecting the care of any small animal, no matter how tiny, is going to reflect in the interactions you do choose to have with that animal when you feel like giving them attention. Letting your child neglect the care of a small animal just because it's a hamster in a cage or another creature you don't see regularly, teaches your child disrespect for animals. It's showing your child that animals don't deserve respect and love, or, at the very least, those small animals are throwaways, maybe just dogs and cats are the only ones that deserve our unconditional love.
We don't have a long lifespan! Please take loving care of us the WHOLE time!