Bunny or no bunny?
May 25, 2005 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering getting a pet rabbit, and looking for pros and cons.

I'm also considering getting a small dog, but then I saw this (thanks quonsar) and thought, hmm, howsa 'bout it, Doc?

I've never owned a bunny before, and have had pretty limited experience with them. I need basic information about what I could expect. Will they come when you call them? Are them snuggly? Will they keep me up at night? Can I leave it loose in my apartment? Etc.

posted by Specklet to Pets & Animals (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Rabbits poop. Dogs have been bred for 15,000 years to understand human emotions and to follow a human as a "pack leader". Dogs who did not do as humans wanted died without progeny. Rabbits have been bred for 10,000 years as a source of food and fur. Rabbits that were not good eating got their progeny sent to an early stew-pot too.

So I wouldn't expect the affection or understanding or trainability you can get from a dog, in a rabbit.
posted by orthogonality at 5:13 PM on May 25, 2005

Sorry, clarification: yeah, I know a rabbit is not a substitute for a dog and would not expect said trainability, affection, etc; I'm looking for experience-based observations.

Also, it's my inderstanding that rabbits can be trained to poop in a litter box... Unlike a dog.
posted by Specklet at 5:17 PM on May 25, 2005

I'd like to tack on a rider here, if I may: what's the best (legal) way to either kill or permanently scare away rabbits who have taken to frequenting one's back yard?
posted by Krrrlson at 5:23 PM on May 25, 2005

Also, in my experience, rabbits stink worse, are stupid, and can rape your sweater.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:26 PM on May 25, 2005

Specklet writes "I'm looking for experience-based observations."

Sorry, I should have specified that as a child, my sister had upwards of thirty pet rabbits. and I liked them, but, they don't really make good pets. They're cute, they're warm, and they're furry, and they poop and breed. That's about it.
posted by orthogonality at 5:30 PM on May 25, 2005

Rabbits poop

Seconded. A freind described them a "little hopping shit machines."
posted by jonmc at 5:31 PM on May 25, 2005

They make good pets if you have them one at a time. I have had very affectionate rabbits who knew us and liked to snuggle. And yes, they can be litter trained; I have known very smart rabbits. One came and went out the front door like a cat or a dog, but came in from outside when called.

They like to chew on stuff if left alone -- wires, wooden baseboards, whatever -- so they need to be trained out of that if you want them to run around the house on their own. This is doable, though.
posted by librarina at 5:39 PM on May 25, 2005

The house rabbits that I've known have been sweet and affectionate. Here is a good source for information.

Sorry, I should have specified that as a child, my sister had upwards of thirty pet rabbits. and I liked them, but, they don't really make good pets. They're cute, they're warm, and they're furry, and they poop and breed.

Yeah, that's pretty much how not to keep rabbits. Thirty! Christ. Should you get a bunny, definitely have it neutered or spayed. Same goes for a dog.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:42 PM on May 25, 2005

Yes, yes, yes they like to chew. Carpet. Down to the padding. The precious cable tv cable, down to the copper. More phone cords than we could count. Electric cords to the point we wondered if he had brain damage from the shocks. Don't leave your bunny loose.

The poop was never much of an issue for us, as ours was easily litter trained.

I found our bunny a bit dull but I am used to cats.

There was a MeFi thread a few months ago that started as some kind of cute bunny link and segued into a discussion about rabbits in general - you might want to search in the blue.
posted by SashaPT at 5:45 PM on May 25, 2005

Sometimes they pee when you pick them up.
posted by michaelkuznet at 5:46 PM on May 25, 2005

Not personal experience, and slightly off-tangent, but:

Don't buy a pet rabbit (or bunny). Animal shelters tend to have more than enough, particularly a month or two after Easter, when all the cute bunnies for kids are being dumped (in various places) because, it turns out, the bunnies and the kids don't get along that well. (Ten top reasons that rabbits are abandoned.)
posted by WestCoaster at 5:49 PM on May 25, 2005

My sister had a pet rabbit. They are, indeed, little hopping shit machines, and if let loose around a small apartment, they chew through absolutely everything.

That being said, there's nothing quite like Bunny Valium: being greeted with a nose-to-nose rub at the end of a long, hard day. Or watching him literally leap for joy and land facing the opposite direction. The cute!

I'm no longer in touch with my sister, I'd be very surprised if you couldn't google up some additional information on care and feeding. If I spent more time at home, I'd seriously consider adopting one myself.

(oh, god, ratemybunny. Adorable)
posted by Space Kitty at 5:51 PM on May 25, 2005

Around here (Vancouver) there are hordes of them running amuck and vandalizing the shit out of anything they can sink their teeth into.
posted by ori at 5:55 PM on May 25, 2005

I had plenty of rabbits as a kid, and my sister has a rabbit for her kids now, and I've got to agree with everyone who says they don't make really good pets. None of ours ever liked being held. At most they would tolerate us.

Maybe the sweet, affectionate rabbits people have mentioned here were the product of someone spending a lot of time socializing the rabbit. We didn't put a huge amount of effort into getting ours tame.

That's a good link, WestCoaster.
posted by agropyron at 6:06 PM on May 25, 2005

Rabbits are quiet -- they don't bark, they don't meow. They're not strong smelling as long as you do your part to keep them clean. It's not too hard to train one to use a litter box but even if it misses the litter box occasionally, it's generally a lot easier to clean rabbit poo off the carpet (since it essentially comes out as little poop pellets) than cat or dog poo.

Similar to how cats claw things, rabbits do like to gnaw. Keep valuable things like furniture and electrical wiring away.

Like dogs and cats, different rabbits have different personalities. Some are not very friendly, others love to be held and tickled.
posted by event at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2005

I had a roommate that had a rabbit. It chewed thru electrical cables and, worse, the friggin phone line on multiple occasions. You go a few days and wonder why the fuck no one loves you any more and then pick up the phone and it'd be dead. AVOID!

My dog, on the other hand, ROCKS!
posted by dobbs at 6:56 PM on May 25, 2005

Wow, I'm surprised to see so much anti-bunny sentiment.

Robocop_is_bleeding and I have 2 rabbits (Robocop and Captain Grendel). I think they're the perfect pets- they don't make noise (much, Robocop snores sometimes and they honk when they're pissed off). We keep ours in 2 super-huge cages side by side, but let them run around the apartment when we're home. They're litterbox trained, and rarely miss their boxes; we clean their boxes once or twice a week, so they're not stinky at all.

Robocop is a very friendly bunny, he often hops up on the couch and just hangs out with us, and loves to be pet. Grendel is pretty moody and likes to do her own thing, but I blame that more on my getting her too young and not doing a great job of socializing her. Neither of them love being held, but they tolerate it well enough. Oh, and the binkies! They do the cutest little bunny dances when they're happy. They seem to recognize their names, but they're more likely to come when you shake a bag of treats at them or rustle something that sounds like it could be food (speaking of food, we feed them as much hay as they can eat, and once a day they get three greens, usually lettuce, parsley and spinach).

I don't consider them any more high-maintenance than a dog or cat, and I'm thankful in the winter that my pets don't need to be walked outside when it's freezing.

They do tend to chew, especially their cage bars, which would sound really annoying if you slept in the same room with the critters, but if you don't, then it won't keep you up at night. Ours are pretty good about staying away from wires, but we do try to keep things we don't want them eating out of their reach.

I definitely agree with what WestCoaster said about not buying them. There are so many adoptable bunnies in shelters and foster homes. We adopted Robocop, I bought Grendel, and Robo is by far the sweeter and better behaved bunny. The pet store also completely lied to me about her breed, as she was supposedly a "dwarf," and is now nigh on 10 pounds.

I could go on and on, feel free to email me with any questions!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:59 PM on May 25, 2005

One more thing- another reason why adopting is good: it will be fixed when you adopt it. I spent an ungodly amount of money at the vet getting Grendel fixed because I bought her from a pet store. That alone should be motivation for adopting.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 7:03 PM on May 25, 2005

If you choose to get a rabbit, definitely adopt. After Easter, the shelters fill up because parents think they'd be a cute present for the kids and then realize later they take work and chew stuff. A quick google search should turn up multiple rescue groups, or a call to your shelter may help, they probably are still getting the Easter bunnies now. My parents found a rabbit in their back yard a month after Easter, adopted it and its been a great pet for them for the last few years.

That being said, they do chew. Your best bet is to make areas w/ sensitive wires innaccessible. Wrap any cables that are less than 2 feet from the ground in split loom cable, and spray it with bitter apple from time to time. That will at least help the problem, if not fix it all together. Also make sure your books/paperwork are high enough to avoid the chewing. Keep the rabbit out of your computer room if you can, since computer cables are far too expensive to be chew toys.

I'd really recommend spending some time with a rabbit before you bring one home - go to shelters, friends, pet stores, etc. before buying one. Make sure you're compatible, make sure you can deal with blowing about $100 a year in wires if you're not careful, and learn how to litter box train them. Long story short (too late): they're adorable, quiet, can be difficult but very loving. Not the pet for everyone, but if you like them, they're quite nice.
posted by TommyH at 7:15 PM on May 25, 2005

I am also a rabbit owner. My rabbit is litter-trained and both my girlfriend and I are very attached to her. Rabbits are unique in how the express themselves-- cats and dogs seem very alike when you compare them to rabbits.

But we don't plan on getting another rabbit. They're just too dumb.

But a rabbit is a better pet than a little dog. Because rabbits don't yap and they don't look as undignified.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:28 PM on May 25, 2005

Read every FAQ on the the House Rabbit Society new bunny page. All of it. Beginning to end. If you still want a rabbit and are willing to do everything listed in every FAQ, then I think you will be an excellent rabbit mom and will enjoy your adopted bunny friend for many years.

If any of what's listed on any of those FAQs looks overwhelming, please don't get a rabbit. So many of them are abandoned because people buy rabbits without the first clue what they are getting into.

Having lived with dogs, cats, and rabbits, I have to say that cats are the easiest to live with, followed by dogs, with rabbits a far distant third. They are cute beyond measure, but they don't like you much and will chew everything in your home. And then poop on it.
posted by jennyb at 7:28 PM on May 25, 2005

Oops! Your specific questions:

Will they come when you call them? Only if you repeatedly give it a treat after you call. And do that every couple days so it won't forget. (I can't stress how dumb they are).

Are them snuggly? No. They will use you for warmth when they get old, but you can't cuddle them because they don't like to be restrained.

Will they keep me up at night? Very probably if you have to sleep near the cage. They bang on anything loose. For hours. Like they have OCD.

Can I leave it loose in my apartment? When you're home, you can let it be unsupervised. Just be sure that all wires are secured and then expect it to destroy something you never even thought it would notice.

And this is so important that it must be emphasized every possible way:
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:38 PM on May 25, 2005

If you, like me, couldn't read what Mayor Curley was emphasizing because of his overuse of tags, this is what it said:

posted by jacquilynne at 8:18 PM on May 25, 2005

Rabbits are gross. Like rats with big ears. I don't get the appeal. They are filthy rodents. Good god, look at the alternatives. Rabbits are truly awful and shit everywhere and eat stuff and are just disgusting. I would think you could pull an equivalent pet for free from any local sewer.
posted by xmutex at 8:44 PM on May 25, 2005

Haven't gone the dog route, but have had lots of rabbits, rodents, and a cat.

Thoughts on bunnies:
-They can run unsupervised as long as cords are hidden/sticky/smell like mint/whatever your treatment is. Two of ours have had the run of the whole house.
-Some of them do fetch. We had one that loved to fetch balloons around the house. No idea why she liked it so much.
-Rabbits with good personalities do cuddle and do want attention. Some of them can be downright demanding about it. Above post about not liking to be restrained is true for most, but restraint is not necessary for cuddling, eh?
-No forced walks - bunnies are easy to box train. (Also, pine or corn litter doesn't smell as bad as the clumpy stuff for cats.)
-Quiet pets, as long as you control the toys. Ours had wire cage homes that they liked to throw wood around in when they were bored of running amok in the house.
-Like dogs and cats, there are a wide variety of personalities. Adopting an adult instead of a baby would be doing yourself a huge favor in understanding what the bunny is like.
-Also like dogs and cats, some of them are dumber than dumb, some of them are not. See the personality note above. My rabbits were all smarter than the nitwit cat I have now.

The warnings:
Do get it neutered/spayed, do be aware that they can live up to 15 years, and do consider getting an adult from the humane society. Do not keep it outside, do not set it free outside if you get tired of it. If you can get two rabbits, or a guinea pig companion, they'll be much happier.
posted by whatzit at 8:46 PM on May 25, 2005

rabbit = lamest, meanest, most aggresive, bloodthirsty pet i've ever owned. kicked, bit, clawed, chewed, spat, shat at every opportunity. seriously (no python jokes from me): i will never own a rabbit again.
posted by RockyChrysler at 9:53 PM on May 25, 2005

I had a bunny for a couple of years and we had to get rid of him because of the chewing issue... I wouldn't ever have one again as a pet. Mine wasn't cuddly at all--and he certainly wasn't trainable. Just my experience, though. I would also suggest, like everyone else, that you do not buy one new--adopt one for sure. When we tried to get rid of ours the first time, our local shelter just told us straight up that most of them get euthanized because of the sheer number that get dumped. We eventually found a nonprofit that took in bunnies and potbellied pigs--both animals that people like when they're little and cute, and then don't want when they get big and uglier.
posted by fabesfaves at 10:19 PM on May 25, 2005

Summary of this thread: bunnies have personalities; some are nice and some are obnoxious. All of them poop and chew and jump around cutely.
posted by almost incandescent white tuxedos at 12:45 AM on May 26, 2005

The messiest thing about rabbits in my experience so far is the hay, but that's swept up pretty easily. I built our cage structure myself out of Neat Idea Cube modular bookshelf parts (wire squares held together with zip-ties), some tarp, and board. It was much cheaper than the store-bought cages and can be modified to fit your space.

The only wire issue we've ever had has been when one chewed through an AV cable that was hanging out near some hay. Beyond that, nothing. We keep wires near their normal hang-outs (the Bunny Castle, the hay box, the couch) hidden, just in case.

I was pretty skeptical when Banjo got Grendel. In my experience before that, bunnies were either ignored pets left in the backyard hutch or a delicious meal. Grendel won me over when, on out first interaction, she brought me her stuffed toy duck. Now, she tends to do her own thing, but will still hang out with me from time to time. She seemed to like the new Sleater-Kinney album for some reason. Robocop has always been the better bunny, he'll hop up on the couch and hang out what I watch Deadwood.

They will come when I call them, faster if I have a bag of treats.

I'd suggest adopting a bonded pair from your local HRS. They'll usually be adults, pretty mellow, and would take up about as much space as a single rabbit.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:48 AM on May 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

They're just not nice pets, really.
posted by anadem at 7:05 AM on May 26, 2005

I am surprised - why all the rabbit haters?

I personally wouldn't have one but that's because I don't have the time to devote to one (and two are better than one, both fixed of course).

When I met some rabbits a friend of mine has, I was astonished at how much they actually interact with you. His rabbits will pick up a toy and throw it at you. You throw the toy. Rabbit will pick it up and throw it back. Now, granted, they can't really fling it far, but I was still amazed. His rabbits also play a form of tag where they run up to you and bump you with their head and then run away looking behind them like, "Chase me!" If you do they scamper away slowly until you "tag" them. Awesome.

Some rabbits are cuddly, some aren't. Socialization is important with them. I'd do lots of research before adopting.

And for all the people who are negative towards rabbits because they chewed phone cords and the like - DUH. Rabbits chew. If you don't want them chewing things they aren't supposed to, don't let them near those things. Running around free from a cage is awesome, but not unsupervised. They're not being bad, they're just being themselves.
posted by agregoli at 7:17 AM on May 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I read the thread again and I'm still surprised at all the mean comments. Don't listen to them if you want a rabbit. Many many people get rabbits without any research or knowledge of how they are or how they can be - they're not dogs or cats. They have different needs and different ways of communicating those needs. Many rabbits become unsocialized and neurotic in bad conditions. I agree with the poster that said read the entire house rabbit society website, and then decide.
posted by agregoli at 7:23 AM on May 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

Also, it's my inderstanding that rabbits can be trained to poop in a litter box... Unlike a dog.

little dogs can be litter-trained, too. But they will yap a lot more, and generally be more hyper & irritating than bunnies.
posted by mdn at 7:42 AM on May 26, 2005

I was petting my friend's cute little bunny once when, out of the blue, it scratched the hell out of me with its hind leg. They have sharp nails and their hind legs are naturally very strong. If they decide to, they can do some pretty serious damage. This was not a little scratch. Just say "no" to bunnies.
posted by wsg at 8:45 AM on May 26, 2005

Thanks all, lots of great info here! (I wanted to keep on marking things "best answer" but it was starting to get ridiculous.)

It seems to me that bunnies are similar to cats in that personality varies wildly from animal to animal. Sadly, I have to say that it sounds like the chewing thing might be too much of a problem for me: I do a lot of paper artwork/have driftwood and kelp sculptures and dried plant parts and bird nests around the house.

I think if I can find a smallish non-yappy dog, that's probably the way to go. (And maybe try litter training it? Huh.)

Thanks again.

Rabbits are gross. Like rats with big ears. I don't get the appeal.

They're just not nice pets, really.

Thanks for your informative contributions to the thread, guys. Jeez.

posted by Specklet at 9:44 AM on May 26, 2005

"I was petting my friend's cute little bunny/cat once when, out of the blue, it scratched the hell out of me with its hind leg. They have sharp nails and their hind legs are naturally very strong. If they decide to, they can do some pretty serious damage. This was not a little scratch. Just say "no" to bunnies/cats."

Lots of mean comments, and anecdotal non-information. I wonder why bunnies brought out the worst in AskMe?

To original poster, I'm glad you at least got enough info to make a decision - sounds like your place is a bunny chewing heaven! =)
posted by agregoli at 9:53 AM on May 26, 2005

Oooh. I want one, too. Do cats and bunnies get along?
posted by crapulent at 10:42 AM on May 26, 2005

Yeah, I was surprised at all the bunny hating niose, too, agregoli. I really did get what I needed out of the responses though: if I had a slightly different life style, a bunny would be fun, but I think a dog is the way to go.

Now, what kind of dog do I want...?

On preview: crapulent, on the site I linked to, I saw more than one picture of cats and bunnies snuggling! I think it really depends on your cat, however. My cat (no longer have her) would have seen the bunny and thought I brought her a fun, new, tasty toy!
posted by Specklet at 10:46 AM on May 26, 2005

I don't think it's so crazed and unhelpful for people to report that they have had strong unpleasant and (especially) unexpected reactions to bunnies as pets.
posted by redfoxtail at 3:25 PM on May 26, 2005

I didn't say it was crazed of unhelpful to be anti-rabbit. However, comments like these are just annoying noise...
posted by Specklet at 8:46 AM on May 27, 2005

(And maybe try litter training it? Huh.)

A lot of pet stores sell extra large litter boxes for small dogs, but you are still expected to take them out for exercise etc. Most dog people do not see it as a replacement for walking, but more as a way to reduce the number of "accidents" one tends to face in the early days of dog ownership...
posted by mdn at 3:33 AM on May 29, 2005

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