Rabbits make lovely pets for caring owners. Although they have long had a reputation as being pets suitable for children, most people now believe they are more suitable for adults or older children, owing to their specific needs.
Some of the rewarding behaviours that rabbits can show, including being responsive to the presence of their owners and showing joy – the jumps that happy rabbits make are called binkies. Rabbits also play, burrow and make nests with their bedding material. Their coats are soft to the touch and in the main, they are very gentle pets when correctly handled. Rabbits should always be kept in pairs as the companionship of their own species is very important to them.
Although rabbits don’t need to be taken for walks, their hutches need cleaning daily and they need access to an area that’s large enough for them to take exercise. Many standard hutches are now considered to be too small for most rabbits and some people now tend to opt for small garden sheds or indoor pens and rooms, so that their pet has enough space to express natural behaviour. In some countries, keeping rabbits indoors is likely to be much safer than keeping them outside.
Rabbits are prey animals and therefore can be easily startled or frightened by inexperienced handling. A rabbit that is being held, but not well restrained, can damage their backs, even causing spinal fractures which are often fatal. Fearful rabbits may freeze and this is sometimes mistaken for a positive reaction. For instance, if a rabbit is laid on its back, many people believe that the trance-like state reflects complete trust and relaxation – in fact, this is a highly stressful experience for the rabbit. Their strong back legs mean rabbits should only be handled by people who are strong enough to hold them correctly if they kick out – this is one of the reasons they are not ideal pets for very young children.
Many people who own rabbits also own other types of pets too and love their rabbits just as much as they love their cats or dogs.