Five reasons to beware of rabbits! The shocking truth about bunnies! Rabbits' deviant behavior revealed!
If this were a listicle on Buzzfeed, that is how I'd grab your attention. Fortunately it is not, so let me just begin by saying that sharing a home with rabbits is not for everyone. There are certain realities of rabbit life that are unpleasant, even down right disturbing.
The best seat in the house - Rabbits like to sit in their litter box. If given the choice between a fuzzy, soft cushion and a used litter box, the rabbit will probably choose the box.
We call the litter box the "safe zone" because the bunnies will run there to avoid being picked up, after hearing a loud noise, or when they just want to be left alone. Rabbits (like cats) mark their territory. I think rabbits feel more secure surrounded by their smell. If you've ever washed a child's beloved blanky or stuffed animal, only to have the child sob that it doesn't smell right and you ruined it, then you understand.
King of the mountain - Even if rabbits are fixed (and they should be for many reasons), they will still mount one another to show who is in charge. It looks like they are using sex to dominate, which can be very hard to watch. The funny thing is that when rabbits mount to show dominance, they don't really care what part of the other bunny they are on top of. I've seen a rabbit mount another rabbit's head, even the abdomen.
Is that a coffee bean or a poo? - Even the best litter box-trained bunny will drop the occasional poo on the floor. The good news is that rabbit poo is 1) about the size of a pea or bean, 2) firm, 3) nearly odorless, and 4) dry to the touch after a few minutes. In short almost anything you touch while washing dishes feels grosser than picking up a rabbit poo.
These accidents seem to happen more when rabbits are eating, so we've placed the hay racks over the litter boxes.
Of course, sometimes these "misplaced" poos are not accidents at all, but territory markers. It's the rabbit version of building a wall to keep newcomers out.
Rabbit urine stinks! The longer urine is exposed to air, the worse it smells. If left too long the ammonia in the urine is enough to make your eyes and nose burn. It can make your rabbit sick too. Through trial and error we've found that if we place dry litter over any urine in the litter boxes, we can comfortably go a couple days before they need to be emptied. A mix of white vinegar and water is incredibly effective at deodorizing and sanitizing the litter boxes. It works on floors, rugs and furniture too. This cleaning method has the added benefits of being veterinarian recommended and super cheap.
Hay isn't just for horses - The majority of a pet rabbit's diet should be hay. In fact when we were considering getting a rabbit and were reading up on their care, we noticed that source after source said rabbits should have "unlimited hay". Hay is essential to keeping their digestive system working properly and is important to good dental health too.
Hay smells a lot better than cat and dog food. So why have I included it on this list of unpleasant realities of living with rabbits? What could possibly be upsetting about hay (aside from being allergic to it)? If you live with rabbits, you will have hay everywhere. You can sweep, you can vacuum and you will still find pieces you missed.
Think I'm exaggerating? I have found hay, in my bra more than once.
Is your rabbit eating its poo? The answer is yes...and no. You may be familiar with the fact that sheep and cows chew their food, swallow it, then regurgitate it and chew it again. Their grassy diet is hard to digest. Rabbits have a similar diet, but they digest it differently. A rabbit's food goes through the stomach and large intestine, then enters the cecum where it undergoes changes that make it more nutrient rich. The enriched substance (cecotropes) exits the rabbit the same way poo does, but that's all they have in common. One is vitamin packed and essential to good nutrition, the other is waste. The rabbit eats the cecotropes and gets the nutritional benefit. It's one of those things you don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about.
If you've read to this point and you still think you want a rabbit, that's great. If you've decided life with rabbits is not what you expected, that's great too. Aren't you glad you know that before you brought one home?
As I'm writing this, we're just a couple weeks away from Easter. It is a bad time of year for domesticated rabbits. Every year people buy adorable bunnies as Easter gifts without knowing anything about how to care for them. About a month later shelters are drowning in unwanted rabbits. These are the lucky ones. Others are released into the wild, as unprepared as you or I would be if we were dropped in the Amazon. We have a lot in common physically with the people who live there, but we have none of the survival skills. The same is true of rabbits released into the wild.
If you want to give an adorable gift this Easter, buy a stuffed rabbit, with a few chocolate bunnies for friends.