10 Facts You Might Not Know About Bunnies

FRI 20 APRIL 2018

Bunny rabbits make excellent pets. However, owning a pet rabbit is not very common in Australia compared to other countries such as Europe and the UK. This is partly due to the rabbit ban that still exists in Queensland, which makes it illegal to own a pet bunny.

As such, rabbit ownership is generally little behind the times in Australia. Many people unfortunately still assume rabbits are best kept outdoors or in a cage, and class them intuitively as a pocket pet, rather than a companion buddy like a cat or a dog.

This couldn't be further from the truth. To address some common misconceptions, we've compiled some interesting rabbit facts that may surprise you.

1. Rabbits are not rodents

Rabbits are often thought of as similar to other rodent species such as guinea pigs. In fact, rabbits belong to the order 'Lagomorpha', which is separate to the order 'Rodentia' where guinea pigs, mice, rats, porcupines, and even beavers belong.

Due to this assumption, many people also assume that rabbits are best kept outdoors at all times in a cage or hutch. This brings us to our next point...

2. Rabbits should not be caged

This is a common and tragic misconception. While rabbits do enjoy having a burrow-like enclosure to hide away in, they also need at least 30 hours per week to come out and explore. Rabbits are very clever and can develop anxiety and psychological issues if left in a cage and ignored. They are very clean animals and are happiest when given room to live and enjoy a territory.

Rabbits can be completely housetrained, and can even learn to use a cat flap or pet access door, so they can go in an out as they please. It is best to provide a 'barn'-like enclosure for them to nap in. However, just like a cat or dog, a rabbit may prefer to lounge on the couch and sleep the afternoon away.

3. Rabbits can be housetrained to use a litter tray

It is easy to train a rabbit to use a litter tray, particularly if they are young or have been desexed. Rabbits have excellent memories and come to know their territory well. Just like humans, they prefer to have one place designated for toileting, so litter tray training is definitely achievable.

While rabbits can easily be trained to use a litter tray, it should be noted that it's best not to use cat litter. Instead, materials such as soft hemp bedding, wood shavings or straw is more suitable.

4. Rabbits are social creatures

Rabbits are adorably social. In the wild, they are social with each other and form groups known as a colony or a herd.

Most rabbit owners report that when raised as house pets, they follow the owner from room to room like a dog or cat. They are often cuddly and enjoy being petted, in similar frequency to cats. While they don't usually learn their name, they will often come when called. However just like with dogs or cats, every rabbit has a different personality.

5. Rabbits are playful

While their personalities do vary, rabbits in general are playful and need at least four hours of exercise per day to prevent boredom and osteoporosis. They enjoy playing with humans, soft toys, and even other pets. The internet is packed with heart-melting videos of pet rabbits playing chasies with dogs or cats. Many bunnies even learn how to play fetch!

When rabbits are excited, they elicit a behaviour known as a 'binky', which involves gleefully bounding into the air and twisting their head and body in opposite directions before falling back to the ground. It may be done standing or running, and is often called the 'happy bunny dance'. (Is that not the cutest thing you've heard today?)

6. Rabbits can purr

When they are content, rabbits purr. It is not the same as a cat's purr, instead it sounds more like a light chomping or chattering of teeth.

7. Rabbits can live up to 15 years

Most rabbits will live to be 8-10 years old, but some can live to be 15 years of age! Unfortunately many people don't realise this, and may see a pet bunny as a short term commitment. You should not consider a bunny as a pet unless you are prepared to put in over a decade of love and care.

8. Rabbits aren't good pets for young children

Rabbits are very sensitive and can become very stressed if forcefully held against their will. Loud noises and unpredictable behaviour can also make them very frightened, and less likely to seek out affection. Because children can quickly become bored with pets that don't seek out affection, rabbits then often become neglected and ignored, which is devastating and not an ideal outcome for any household.

9. Rabbit teeth never stop growing

Just like guinea pigs, rats, and mice, rabbit teeth grow continuously. They require chewing objects such as wood, hay, and chew treat toys so they can grind down their teeth daily. If left without objects, their teeth can become overgrown, painful, and impede their ability to eat.

10. Rabbits chew 120 times a minute

Not only are rabbits very fast chewers, but they also like to choose their favourite food and grind their teeth down. Most of their diet (around 80%) should consist of fresh grass or oaten hay with some balanced pellet food, and plenty of fresh leafy greens with some chopped fruit, carrots, and other vegetables.

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Posted by Dr Carla Paszkowski

When Carla isn't talking about petcare at PetCircle, she enjoys playing mum to her fluffy little cross-eyed feline fur baby, Smudge.

Carla suggests to read:

The health benefits of owning a pet ▶

A beginner's guide to rabbit care ▶

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