If you’re thinking that live bunnies are as sweet and static as the chocolate kind, think again.
They’re high maintenance, they have specific health issues and some will even growl at you when they’re angry or irritated.
That’s right. Growl. Like a cat or a dog.
Just ask Tammy Wilford, who has been raising and selling rabbits for 14 years. Now she has only one, a 3-year-old mini rex she calls Diamond LaTara. And though she’s cute, Diamond, like all pets, has her own personality traits.
Yes, she does growl at Wilford when agitated. And she hides when she doesn’t want to be bothered.
She also has traits that are characteristic to all rabbits, which, Wilford said, is most important when considering a rabbit as a pet.
“You have to do your research,” Wilford said. “A lot of rabbits end up in shelters, because people don’t understand how to care for them.”
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First and foremost, prospective bunny owners must understand a rabbit’s dietary needs.
“People are under the assumption that carrots and lettuce are the best things for rabbits,” Wilford said. “Not for domestic rabbits. Carrots are too sweet, and too many of them can be fatal. They can cause the rabbit to go into gastrointestinal stasis.”
So, in the days when she sold baby rabbits, Wilford made sure her customers were up on their research.
“I’d ask the person, ‘Hey, look, are you ready?’” Wilford said. “I’d tell them, ‘This is what they eat; this is what they don’t eat. Take care of them, because they’re very fragile.’”
So, what’s the best diet for a rabbit?
“It’s 80% hay,” Wilford said. “It’s good for their digestive system. Their system can’t be without food for over 12 hours. Hay also helps them with their teeth, because their teeth continuously grow.”
The other 20% of a rabbit’s diet should consist of pellets.
“They’re only supposed to have a fourth of a cup of pellets, because they can become overweight if they have too much,” Wilford said. “So, you mix the pellets and the hay, along with some long leafy green vegetables like romaine lettuce. But you can only give them a minimal amount of lettuce.”
The water content of lettuce can cause diarrhea.
“You can also give them a little treat,” Wilford said. “But that also has to be in moderation. They love a banana. And when they really like something, they quiver, and a person who has a bunny needs to know that in case they think something’s wrong.
As for their personalities, rabbits are social creatures, craving their humans’ company.
And rabbits, just like dogs, like playing with their own toys, and Wilford even challenges Diamond LaTara.
“I purchased these IQ toys that are for dogs and for cats, and she’s mastered them,” she said. “I take a lot of time with her.”
And if you’re not paying attention to them, rabbits can become depressed.
“They’re lovable, sociable animals,” Wilford said. “If you lose interest, they get sad. They want love, and they want to be interactive.”
For some, adopting a cute little bunny is endearing at first. “But when it reaches a certain size, (the rabbit) is let out in the backyard and neglected, because it’s high maintenance,” Wilford said.
That’s when rabbits are susceptible to predators or end up in animal shelters. “They’re the No. 3 animals in shelters behind dogs and cats,” Wilford said.
Wilford recommends potential rabbit owners research possible diseases to which rabbits are susceptible.
“They’re prone to eye diseases and anything that cats and dogs are prone to,” Wilford said. “So, it’s a good idea to get pet insurance. You just have to be aware of the different things that can happen with the rabbit.”
People need to know that though rabbits self-groom, they need to be brushed to avoid hairballs. Unlike cats, rabbits are unable to regurgitate hairballs, which could eventually block their digestive systems.
Rabbits also can be taught to use litter boxes. Spaying and neutering will make litter box training easier.
They also have other characteristics of which to be aware.
“You can’t frighten them,” Wilford said. “They can’t bear a lot of noise. It stresses them out. When you stress them out, it can send them into GI stasis.”
This is only the tip of the iceberg in rabbit ownership. “The best way to learn is research,” Wilford said. “Always do your research, and a lot of it, before getting a rabbit. There’s a lot of joy, but there’s also a lot of responsibility that goes with it.”
6 ideas for throwing your pets a party
Dog days of spring
To honor the fun, quirky and lovable sides of your pooch, throw them a bone by hosting a doggone fantastic party. Invite some of their favorite furry friends.
Serve up favorite dog delicacies like homemade Peanut Butter Bacon Banana Dog Treats (see strawberryblondiekitchen.com for the recipe) or store-bought Ziwi Good Dog Rewards Air-Dried Beef Dog Treats, rated among The Strategist’s top 10 dog treats of 2022. And don’t forget a bacon-topped layer cake or pup-cakes.
Provide plenty of activities for pups, such as a ball pit or supersized bucket for bobbing for tennis balls. Use retired shoes to construct the ultimate scavenger hunt. The hound who finds the most gets a prize.
Unlike their canine counterparts, kitties can be rather finicky about who they frolic with. So unless you know for certain your whiskered one is a fan of a fellow feline, it’s best to keep the guest list limited.
Be sure to have plenty of catnip on tap. Sneak it into clever morsels, such as Carrot and Catnip Kitty Cat Treats (recipe on epicuricloud.com) or toys like CiyvoLyeen’s six-pack of plush Sushi Cat Toys with Catnip (shown in the image here, $15.99 at Amazon). Create a scratching post palace fit with plenty of claw-digging surfaces, a catwalk and other obstacles suited to paws and playfulness.
If you want to get fancy, consider constructing an outdoor kittytopia, taking inspiration from diycuteness.com — with multilevel cat trees or a bi-level shelf enclosure. Invite your cat’s human guests to wear their cat pajamas and treat them, in turn, with cake pop “yarn balls,” and “hairball cookies” (round-ball cookies covered in coconut).
Birds of a feather party together
Before gathering a flock of feathered friends, it’s important to remember that birds can be picky about with whom they choose to socialize; a wrong pairing can result in more than a loss of a few feathers.
Most all exotic birds love fresh fruits and vegetables. Just make sure you pick those that are safe — some produce like avocado can be deadly. Make a spread of chopped delights for beaks to bury into. As an extra treat, parrots and parrotlets go bonkers for parrot cookies (Oven Fresh Bites has a number of flavor options available on Amazon.com).
Set up perches of varying shapes and sizes, with engaging toys, ropes and interactive features.
Play a variety of fun songs, as many a bird has been known to “get down with the get down” when hearing a favorite tune.
If your flock happens to have clipped wings, delight them with an ultimate outdoor birdbath and fountain.
Mouse warming party
Want to deliver your mouse, rat, hamster, gerbil or guinea pig a squeaky good time? If so, your first order of business should be the acquisition of exercise running wheels.
Make sure each hamster has a mini-party hat and all guinea pigs have a seat at the tiny table. Provide an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables (based on the dietary needs and safety guidelines of your particular rodent).
Set up a rodent fun run where rats and friends can play hide and seek. Place bare paper towel and toilet paper rolls, plastic balls and small, safe toys in an enclosed area. Wikihow.com has a DIY schematic for rats that’s fairly easy to make.
Remember to keep same species together and maintain a careful eye on all partygoers. Not all tiny furballs will get along.
Is your cat, bird, hamster, horse or hound expecting? Delight family and friends when new litters make their way into the world. Once new mothers have had time to rest and adjust, invite a small group for a quiet viewing of the new arrivals.
Prior to the emergence of your pet’s offspring, send out baby shower invitations and don’t forget to “register” for toys, snacks and grooming essentials the mother will appreciate for her new brood.
Find your fur-ever companion
Don’t have a pet yet? Consider hosting a pet adoption party. Partner with a local animal rescue, especially one that has a surplus of adoptees.
Print pictures of adoptable pets, write a little bio about each (e.g. This is Barkley, a 5-year-old beagle who loves evening walks and scratches behind his ears) and hang them on a line with clothespins. Provide adoption application sheets on clipboards with any fees and other important details.
While guests ponder which pet to offer a permanent or foster home to, serve them animal-themed foods and drinks — puppuccinos (cappuccinos), meow mix (Chex mix), Goldfish crackers (in a real glass fishbowl) and cheesecake triangles (made to look like mice).