Bunny Care Basics
Many people keep their pet locked up in a hutch in their backyard. Once the excitement over the new pet wears off, this can make for a lonely, and sometimes abused, animal. Bunny Buddies encourages rabbit owners to keep their pet inside. "Many people who have kept their bunny outdoors are surprised when they bring them inside to discover that the bunny has a personality," says Helen Swann, president of Bunny Buddies. "It's not just a lump in a hutch! Rabbits are smart, entertaining, affectionate, and lots of fun, but not if their only connection with a human is when they toss food into the hutch."
Keeping a rabbit indoors requires some "bunny-proofing" to ensure the safety of your house and your pet. "Electrical cords have to be covered or made inaccessible, and wooden furniture is attractive to many bunnies," says Swann. Poisonous plants should also be moved out of the bunny's (and Baby's!) reach.
If you do decide to keep your rabbit outside, the proper cage is important. "Consider building a large enough pen, so the child can actually go inside and play with the rabbit, without having to pick it up or fearing it will run away," says Snopek. "A regular hutch surrounded by a 6-foot by 6-foot wire enclosure works well for one family I know. To protect the rabbit, the enclosure must be completely cat- and dog-proof, dug into the ground, and covered on top." And keep in mind that a rabbit can contract rabies if bitten by an infected wild animal, such as a raccoon, so a secure enclosure keeps the rabbit and your family safe.
"I had rabbits as a child," says Stockton. "I remember one of them being attacked by a neighbor's dog and killed. I was horrified." To ensure this does not happen to her son's rabbit, she had her husband build a cage that sits on a wooden table. "And, we only let him run in the backyard if he's supervised," she says. "It only takes a second for something to happen."
"Most Easter bunnies do not reach their first birthday!" says Abel. "They often die young or they are released outdoors or to a shelter. If they don't die, they are often banished to a lonely life in a backyard hutch. Parents need to realize that pets are not disposable. Your responsibility to the rabbit does not end if the child tires of him."