Whenever I dump out a basket of fresh laundry, Mrs. Buns - our resident rabbit - scoots onto the scene. While I fold, she hops around joyously on the piles of warm clothing. It's just one of the ways she makes me smile. Mrs. Buns has happily shared an apartment with my boyfriend and me for three years now. Like any roommates we've had the occasional turf war, but we've also shared countless hours of fun. I can't imagine our place without her.
And I'm not the only one who finds a fluffy, goofy pet appealing. Bunnies are soft, small and quiet, so they're attractive to many parents who think they'll be easy "starter pets" for their children. But if you're considering a long-eared companion for your family, there are a few things you should know before you and your kids start down the bunny trail.
Look before you hop.
• That baby bunny you fall in love with may live for 10 years. Sooner or later, the kids may move on to other things and the bunny may land in your lap. Make sure you want one, too.
• To a rabbit a good home is a calm home. They are so sensitive to stress that sudden loud noises, such as a dog's bark or a toddler's high-pitched squeals, can actually cause some rabbits to go into shock, which can be fatal. With patience and persistence, some dogs and cats can be taught to live with a rabbit, but buying a bunny now may mean putting plans to adopt Bowser on hold.
Handle with care.
• First the bad news: children and rabbits can easily hurt each other. A frightened or defensive rabbit may bite or scratch. A child who handles a bunny incorrectly or drops it can injure its fragile bones. A rabbit can break its legs or back simply by kicking to escape a child's grasp. And most don't like being picked up and held.
• Now the good news: both rabbits and kids - they're not called rug rats for nothing - enjoy playing on the floor. And, as Mrs. Buns can attest, bunnies love snuggling beside you on the floor. Once kids learn this, everyone's happy.
• There's also lots of other ground-level fun that bunnies enjoy. Our favourite is Find the Bunny, when Mrs. Buns hides and waits for us to discover her.
Home is where the hare is.
• Pet rabbits should be kept in the house, where they're safe from predators, extremes of weather and illness that may otherwise go unnoticed. It also helps to socialize them as pets. Usually people keep them in a large cage, but some brave souls go for free-range.
• Most bunnies can be trained to use a litter box within a few weeks and some may even start to use one on their own.
• A rabbit cage will need cleaning at least once a week; a litter box more often. Tidying them takes time and can sometimes be stinky. Most kids are happy to hand over these jobs to a willing parent as soon as they can.
• To stay healthy and happy, caged rabbits require regular supervised runs and playtime out of their cages but in the house. Make sure someone's available to bunnysit when you're away.
Move over and Make room for a home wrecker.
• Rabbits instinctively chew and dig. House bunnies may satisfy this urge by tearing apart a carpet or devouring computer wires (my boyfriend swears that our discriminating Mrs. Buns only selects the more expensive variety of wire). Amazingly, rabbits - they're vegetarian, after all - have been known to acquire a taste for leather.
• Bunny-proof your house and you will protect your treasures and your pet.
This means taping down wires, keeping plants out of reach and closing
off-limit areas. And provide rabbit-friendly munchables such as untreated, unpainted wicker baskets.
Watch your money go down the rabbit hole.
• A large cage can cost up to $200 and a water bottle about $2. Your rabbit will munch up a steady supply of vegetables, food pellets, timothy and hay. And for a house-trained bunny, you'll need a
• You'll want to spay (about $199) or neuter (about $135) your rabbit - to prevent breeding, behavioural problems and serious health conditions - and follow up with annual checkups (about $54). Veterinarians who are experienced with rabbits are a rare breed: you may have to search.
So, can a bunny really be a good pet?
• Absolutely. Mrs. Buns has become an affectionate if somewhat stupid member of our family. I fall in love with her every time she hops out to greet me at the front door or lies across my slipper while we watch TV at night. And I suspect I'm not the only one: sometimes I find my boyfriend dozing on the couch with Mrs. Buns nestled contentedly in his arms.