Housing, Litter, and Diet are Crucial

Question:
I am an 83 year old woman in good health mentally and physically. I would like a pet but don’t want the “baggage” of a cat or dog. I’m considering getting a rabbit. I don’t have a good yard for outdoor activity, however.

Dr. Nichol:
I know what you mean. If you wanted baggage you’d adopt a politician. I’d vote for a rabbit instead. Be aware that these creatures are different; they are not cats with long ears or little people in furry suits but members of a different species.

Your shiny new bunny will be a strict vegetarian with a GI tract designed for processing large volumes of fiber. Timothy hay should comprise the bulk of its diet. Alfalfa must be avoided. A very small amount of vegetables are fine. Happy bunnies are known to learn tricks in exchange for berries. Be aware of your cuddle bunny’s digestive dark side; rabbits naturally eat some of their fecal matter, as it comes out of their anus. They do this to absorb vitamins E and K. See, they’re not just like us.

Rabbits love to sniff around, explore, dig, and chew. If you don’t constantly supervise when your wascally wabbit (cq) is loose in the house you will need to pet-proof by wrapping electrical cords with duct tape or encasing them in PVC pipe. Set your bunny up for success by providing amusements like wood blocks, hanging bird toys, and a box full of hay for digging. An enclosure will save your furniture from being turned to sawdust when you’re out on the town. A cage should be big enough for hopping a few steps, standing up, and lying down stretched out.

Your house will also need a bunny bathroom. Train your rabbit by confining it to small area with a litter pan. He may eat his litter so use aspen bark, sawdust, straw, hay, or shredded newspaper. He’ll learn faster with a target; the Fetch! page with my picture facing up is sure to help.

Rabbits are a prey species; ready to panic and bolt at the first hint of danger. A well-loved bunny needs to have its fear of being a menu item respected. Remember, rabbits are friends, not food.