Rabbits as Pets

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Thinking about breeding bunnies

March 2005

we now have a male bunnie, marshu, whom we just love. he lives in our play room and is free to roam about as he pleases most of the time. he is extremely mellow and lets the kids (4 and 2) pick him up and hold him and rest their heads on him. indeed he is much like a family dog. we jokingliy talked about getting a female bunnie and having baby bunnies, and now that's all our son can talk about. i think it would be fun too. so i'm wondering, what are the things we need to think about. we know that we will need to be able to find homes for the babies, but will having a female bunnie around change the temperment of our sweet and mellow little marshu? will there be any smells or behavioral issues that go along with having a female. do they need separate cages? is it ok to have the male around when the female is having the babies? please, any advice would be greatly appreciated. thank you! liesl

First off, I think breeding bunnies is a bad idea. I'm sorry, and I don't want to be judgmental, but there are just too many animals out there already that need homes, and you may find getting rid of them to be more difficult than you anticipated. This is particularly true if you don't breed special types, like the Rexes or mini lops, or what have you. Ordinary bunnies are a dime a dozen.

Second, breeding sounds fun, but it's not always easy. I've had mice, hamsters, rabbits, cats, dogs, ferrets, birds, reptiles etc., and I will tell you that breeding anything can be (but not always) disastrous. Rabbits can, and do, get vicious -- both with each other and with their human pets. Females may eat their own young. The males will do that, too.

If you seriously want to breed rabbits, you will have to separate the male and female. You will have to make sure the female is comfortable and stress-free, or she may abort, kill the babies, eat them, or refuse to take care of them.

Here's a story for you:

My son had two hamsters. When my son was seven, he decided it would *fun* to breed them. During ONE DAY, they fornicated until there was semen everywhere -- the female was covered in it, the cage was a disaster. Both hamsters were exhausted. Female gives birth and things are progressing well enough. One of the babies dies. Mother eats half of it. My son, already freaked by the previously mentioned fornicating, gets really freaked out. I clean out the half eaten baby. Yuck. The father is returned to the cage some time after the babies are well able to look out for themselves. Father kills the babies, the mother is almost mortally wounded trying to defend them, and we weren't around to stop the carnage. The mother has a huge, gaping wound on her side and the babies are all dead. The father, who was once a dear and loveable pet, is so damaged by the female that he dies shortly after. Son is no longer even interested in the thought of owning, let alone breeding, any small animal ever again.

Okay, those are the worst case scenarios, but I have seen rabbits turn vicious after breeding, or at the very least, lose interest in their human friends.

If you do decide to go on with this idea, please have everything ready, be prepared, by a book or two to educate yourself, and ABOVE ALL -- find homes BEFORE you have the babies. Otherwise, you may end up with a bunch of bunnies you didn't want in the first place. Oh, and rabbits do not ever stop screwing so you can't let them run around unless you want to see your kids utterly revolted by the whole experience after a (short) while. heather

we were going to adopt or buy a bunny for our daughter and learned a lot about them from the house rabbit society (rabbit.org) There were so many, dozens upon dozens, up for adoption, just at the local shelter in Richmond as well as in other shelters in the east bay, also we looked on Craigslist and there were always multiple postings from people who could no longer care for their bunnies (or kids lost interest or parents find out they chew wires and carpets, etc. or they're cute when little but grow huge) I am trying to be non-judgemental; and you are obviously putting a lot of thought and caring into this, I just really believe it will be nearly impossible to find homes for all the bunnies which are as dedicated as you (expect 8-10 year lifespan.) And, there are sooo many that need homes and/ or are slated for euthany. Anyway I guess it's not the most child- centered opinion, as it would be incredible to see the birthing, but my opinion is it would be better to spay and adopt a new fixed bunny friend (they do usually get along great with other bunnies and appreciate the company) This link is a similar opinion from the House Rabbit Society website, they also have info. on the behavior and health benefits of spaying/ neutering on the main page: http://www.rabbit.org/adoption/hidden-cost-of-breeding.html Chris
When I was growing up, my family got rabbits so that I could raise them for a 4-H project. I thought that I had two boys, but I ended up a rabbit breeder at the age of 10. Although I was very excited about it, I can say that I don't know if I would want to go through with it again. Male rabbits must be kept away from the baby rabbits at all time, until they can defend themselves. They are not his babies, but, rather his competitors. I had numberous dead bunny experiences. Also, a young female rabbit that has a large litter will kill a few if she feels it is too much for her.

Getting rid of the young rabbits is sometimes nore difficult than you can imagine. The way that we did it was to sell the rabbits to other kids in 4-H or to our neighbors. I hate to imagine how many of my pets ended up as Sunday dinner. I know that there are always several unwanted rabbits listed through Hopalong rescue. Breeding animals is a big commitment, and you need to ask yourself if Berkeley needs more rabbits. I wish you luck if you do, but it is not always easy work. anon

please, please reconsider about breeding bunnies. like cats and dogs, there are many bunnies living in shelters; however since they are not as popular, the bunnies don't have as much chance to be adopted. your bun would probably love a bunny friend and playmate, but for their own health, bunnies should be spayed and neutered.

please go to the House Rabbit Society in richmond (www.rabbit.org) where they can give you advice. you can visit all the bunnies there and set up some dates for your bun so he can find his dream mate. they have bunnies of all ages, so if you are determined to raise a juvenile, you could adopt a young bun. anonymous

If you look on the animal rescue websites you will see lots and lots of rabbits needing homes. It is as irresponsible to breed pet rabbits as it is to breed family dogs or cats, hence the huge push (and in some places actual laws)to neuter pets. Yes, you may be able to find homes for your particular bunnies, but at the expense of another one that may not be adopted. I'm sure it would be great fun for your family to watch your rabbit reproduce, but, as adorable as they are, the world doesn't need anymore bunnies. Jan
You're probably going to get a lot of responses about this but PLEASE don't breed bunnies just for the fun of it. There are too many rabbits dumped at shelters that get euthanized. I know because all my rabbits are from shelters and several were about to run out of time. Also small rabbits are not good pets for young children because they are too delicate and can break their backs if dropped. If you want to teach your children about animals having babies, you can visit the Little Farm at Tilden Park or a petting zoo.

The House Rabbit Society may also be able to give you information about places to visit. The miracle of birth is a wonderful experience for the whole family but I ask that you consider the consequences of unwanted baby bunnies. Nancy

Please re-consider your idea about how ''cute'' it would be to have baby bunnies. Baby rabbits are indeed adorable, but hundreds of rabbits are euthanized in Bay Area shelters every year because people buy the rabbits and then decide not to keep them. Bringing more baby rabbits into the world seems unethical when there are so many perfectly fine rabbits needing homes already.

Besides, you have no guarantee that the female you bring home and the male will get along. In fact, rabbits can fight viciously upon first meeting each other (and can very seriously injure each other). So while you might be able to hold the female down while the male mounts her, you may very well have to cage them separately to avoid their fighting or mating over and over again.

Strange rabbits will also pee and scatter soft poop all over the house in an effort to mark their own territory. This gets really messy, especially if you have young children in the house.

Finally, you would have to separate the boy babies and the girl babies by the time they are three months old, or else risk them mating and creating yet another generation of baby rabbits.

If you really want baby rabbits, there are some lovely ones at the House Rabbit Society right now (I think they're about 8 weeks old.) And if you wait about a month, the shelters will have their annual glut of baby ''Easter'' bunnies that were bought on a whim and then discarded. If you adopt one of them, you would be saving a life instead of creating another (unwanted) one.

Susan Davis, co-author, ''Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature''

You know how you go along in life and pick up odd bits of information that you never think you will use? Well, I once worked with a woman whose family had raised rabbits when she growing up. She told us quite a bit about breeding bunnies and there was one very key piece of information I remember. You never bring the male bunny (buck?) to the female rabbit's pen because she will attempt to kill/castrate him with her teeth.

Whoa! Instead, you always bring the female bunny to the rabbit's bachelor pad :) I hope am remembering it the correct way around). You might want to triple check this on some rabbit website to avoid bunny carnage.

Anyway, good luck with breeding the rabbits! Never thought I would be able to pass this information on, but it made quite an impression on me and the rest of the office. Watch out for the teeth!

Please reconsider your desire to breed rabbits. If you visit your local humane society, shelter or rabbit rescue, you will see many lovely bunnies that need homes. I can honestly think of no good reason (given the circumstances you described) to bring more animals into the world and certainly not because of a child's curiousity. In my opinion, it doesn't matter that you can ''find homes for them''. If those people really wanted a rabbit, please encourage them to adopt one of the thousands of rabbits out there that need homes. There must be a better way to satisfy your child's curiosity and to teach him nurturing skills, etc. For the sake of all the homeless bunnies out there, please don't breed more! An animal lover

Eco-friendly bunny care?

Feb 2004

We have a new rabbit and I was a bit taken aback by all the stuff we could buy for him at Petco. I want to avoid lots of packaged and processed stuff . What is the most environmentally sensitive (and cheapest) way to provide food and bedding for a bunny? Like, can I use shredded paper grocery bags for bedding? Can I feed him vegetable parings instead of those green pellets? Thanks! Colene

A great resource for bunny care is the House Rabbit Society, they are located in Richmond. Their web address is www.rabbit.org I have used the sight over the past several years for guidance in caring for our netherland drawf bunny.

Regarding fresh veggies over pellets; I was told domesticated rabbits do not have the same digestive system as wild rabbits, and should only be given very small amount of fresh veggies. Our bunny is 6 years old and has never needed medical attention. So, we must be doing something right! Kate

We are also relatively new rabbit owners, and by far the best thing we've done for our bunny is visit the Richmond House Rabbit Society. http://www.rabbit.org/rabbit-center/ -- call before you go to make sure they're open, since the hours seem to be in flux recently. They are incredibly knowledgable about rabbits, have examples of a range of cages from plain to deluxe, and they run a small store which sells a variety of food and toys (our rabbit loves her willow tunnel and willow ring; she also loves cilantro, which was a recommendation I got at the HRS). There is also a lot of information available on the main house rabbit society web page, http://www.rabbit.org including an FAQ on diet.
Hello! I'm a national educator with the House Rabbit Society and also the co-author of a book on the natural and cultural history of rabbits, so I there's lots of info I can pass on to you.:

You can go to the HRS website for jillions of pages of info on rabbit care (www.rabbit.org). But in the short term, if your rabbit is in a wire-bottomed cage, be sure to put a thick towel on it, or even a board, so he can get away from the wire, which can cause sores on the hind feet. If you give him a litterbox, filled with an organic litter like Cat Country or CareFresh, he will learn to use it (especially if you neuter him--email me if you want more info on that). Pine shavings, cedar shavings, and clumping litters are very bad for rabbits! Shredded paper doesn't absorb much urine, so it gets very rank, very fast (same with straw and newspaper). Believe me, I've been there and done that and it's GROSS. Be sure to give him some time outside the cage every day, too, whether it's in a puppy pen or a small room. Rabbits are built to run, after all, and when cooped up in cages can get pretty antsy (or depressed). Since mine are litterbox trained, they're ''free range'' in the house.

For food-the pellets aren't that expensive, especially if you buy them from a feed store or the HRS center in Richmond. (Avoid the pet store stuff--it tends to be expensive and filled with not-so-healthy ''goodies'' like peanuts and banana chips). A good grass hay is crucial for good digestion- -again, buy a bale from a feedstore ($8 will last you a year) versus the old dusy packaged stuff at pet stores ($5 for a week's worth!). There's a whole list on the HRS website of ''safe'' vegetables for rabbits, but parsley, carrot tops, kale, broccoli, and romaine lettuce (no other lettuce) are all good. To keep costs down for my three rabbits, I hit the farmer's markets and Safeway.

An indoor rabbit isn't the cheapest pet, by the way, but they make wonderful companions--smart, social, affectionate, and cute as the dickens! Our rabbits earn their keep by providing excellent manure for the compost (you can put the droppings right on the soil, too), teaching school kids about bunnies, and providing much love, affection, and entertainment for the whole family. Do email me if you have more questions--this is sort of my thing, whacky as it is! Susan

Good places for rabbit advice are the House Rabbit Society in Richmond, (510) 970-7575, www.rabbit.org, and the VCA Bay Area Animal Hospital in Oakland, (510) 654-8375. I feed my rabbits vegetables, greens, pellets, and hay, but I don't know how essential the pellets are. If the website isn't clear, the staff at the House Rabbit Society will help you out. They're very knowledgeable and really nice to talk to. Nancy

Where to get a Dwarf Rabbit

November 2001

Michelle Stern My 14 month old daughter and I volunteer at the Piedmont Gardens senior residential facility. The bunny they had for the past 6 years recently died and they are interested in getting a new pet. The seniors really loved Maggie (the bunny) and would greatly benefit from having another animal share their residence. I consider myself to be quite an animal fanatic, and have encouraged the staff to purchase a bigger cage as well as a play pen for their new addition. I'd love any suggestions on types of cages or play pens that would be suitable. But my main question is: Does anyone have any suggestions of where to get (purchase or adopt) a young dwarf rabbit?

Contact the House Rabbit Society: www.rabbit.org (Great website) They are in Richmond: 148 Broadway 510-970-7575 They have rabibts for adoption (some lovely senior rabbits that need homes) as well as hutches to buy or perhaps they could donate If you need a member to pave the way, please email me. I like them very much. We have tried to find a companion bunny for Benny through them, but he has fought with other rabbits. Catherine
Where to Find a Dwarf Rabbit: We bought our son a Dwarf Rabbit (Dwarf Polish) at Lucky Dog Pet Shop on San Pablo (south of University) last year at this time. She is a great pet, and the staff at the time were very knowledgeable about care, etc. Donna
I don't know what a dwarf rabbit is specifically, but I do know that the Alameda Animal Shelter has rabbits quite often, if not continuously. I believe one worker has made the rabbits his pet project (no pun intended). They're at 748-4585, open 11-4 M-F, 10-4 Sat. To get there, go North on Grand from Grand x Buena Vista. Turn left on Alaska Packer Way and left on Fortmann. The shelter is right in front of you. Jennie
Regarding looking for a dwarf rabbit -- they are wonderful! But PLEASE PLEASE do not BUY one. As in the case of cats and dogs, there are way too many out there and chances are, if you adopt, you get the bonus of not having to train one (often). We have had several dwarf bunnies and they were truly house rabbits -- free roam of the house. They would use their cages to relieve themselves, then hop back out. The best resource for you is the House Rabbit Society. Unfortunately, I do not have a current address, but I do know that they are based out of the East Bay (Berkeley area?). I'll bet that they are online. This is a tremendous resource, with lots of ideas for playgrounds, appropriate toys, etc ... They also have a large foster program, where they will set you up with a rabbit which is appropriate for your needs/desires. It is a WONDERFUL place! I will try to find my info. and let you know more specifics (we are undergoing a big remodel and I cannot even find my socks!). Feel free to e-mail me with questions! Trish
Hi. I'm a volunteer at the House Rabbit Society adoption center in Richmond. We have many eligible rabbits rescued and ready for adoption. They are all spayed and neutered before they are placed for adoption. Susan Stark, the shelter director, is very good at matching humans to rabbits. Currently we have many individual male and female rabbits up for adoption. We also have some bonded pairs looking for a good home too. The adoption center is open Monday through Friday 1-6 pm . Saturdays and Sundays the center is open from 11-6 pm. The phone number for the adoption center is 510-970-7575. The address is 148 Broadway in Richmond. The website for those interested in more information on the house rabbit beth
If you don't get any leads here, you might try asking Stanley, the man who runs the Little Farm at Tilden Park. As they have rabbits there, he may know which breeders offer different rabbit breeds. I don't know his phone number, but I am sure you could get it from the Park.
There is a 'Raising Rabbits' project at LeConte Public Elementary in Berkeley. Betsy Sako is the teacher in charge. They raise dwarf (Jersey Wooley) and small breed (Dutch) bunnies, and I believe they have one or maybe two available now, or very soon... These animals are very sound temperamentally and are used to lots of interaction with people and petting, although they have been housed outside and are not litter box trained. The bunnies would be healthy animals that have technical faults that disqualify them from being eligible for rabbit shows. Chris

Thinking about getting a rabbit for 4-year-old

Dec 1999

Hi, I would like to purchase a rabbit for my 4 year old daughter. Are rabbits good house pets and where should I purchase it? Thank you Nicole

Have you thought about borrowing animals from the Lindsay Museum? They have rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats to borrow for a week at a time. You have to be a member of the Museum $50 plus $5 fee for pet library card. The reason I suggest this is because when I wanted to buy a guinea pig as a pet, my neighbor suggested that I try it before purchasing. We did and got to know the ins and outs of each pet. We found that rabbits are a lot of work and somewhat unwieldy for a young child (too big to hold, and kicky), but very nice to pat if it sits still. I got tired of cleaning the cage every other day. After about a year of off and on borrowing, we met a rat that just captured our hearts (this was a surprise because I had no experience with rats at all.) It is a great pet for our family (and 4 year old) because it is small enough to handle, not too messy,and very smart. I have been able to teach my daughter more about respecting animals because the rat can clearly indicate when it wants to be held and when it doesn't. She will come out of the cage when called and walk onto our hands, or she will look at us but not come out. I have found that hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits mostly don't want to be caught and held initially...but will perhaps enjoy cuddling when caught. The Lindsay Museum is in Walnut Creek. Their number is 925/935-1978. Karen
You can check the bird shop on College Ave (Your Basic Bird) and see if they have any bunnies at this time of year. Though, I recommend adopting one from the SPCA or through the House Rabbit Society. These agencies tend to have older rabbits that were surrendered and are hard to place. Most people want baby bunnies and not a mature rabbit. The House Rabbit Society (you can find them in the phone book and on the web) can give you great advice on which rabbits are available and which would be suitable for a younger child. But bear in mind, a rabbit will need more care than a cat. You will need to bunny proof your home to ensure your house is not ruined and the rabbit is not injured. For instance, rabbits love to chew (it is how they file their rapid-growing front teeth)--on furniture, drapes, electrical wires, sofas, etc. Like a cat, rabbits can be litter- box trained. They can also be trained (if young enough) to walk on a harness with a leash.

I think rabbits make great pets, but they do require more attention than a cat. They can be affectionate or aloof--also like a cat! I highly recommend you read up on rabbits before you buy/adopt one. If you adopt one, chances are you will find one that is a mix breed. On the other hand, I purchased a beautiful rabbit that was too inbred and she was vicious. I returned her to the pet store (who accepted her back grudgingly) and I adopted my current rabbit from the Oakland SPCA. I understand the Rex breed is good, friendly rabbit for children (these are the ones that look like the velveteen rabbit and feel really soft). I would, however, stay away from the 'toy' or miniature rabbits. These ones tend to be very skiddish and don't do well around children. One piece of advice on a baby rabbit. If you purchase a baby bunny and you want the rabbit to be a 'lap bunny', I suggest you hold and pet him/her a lot. This will help the rabbit adjust to being held, cuddled, and petted a good deal. If the rabbit is left alone too much, then it will be afraid of you when you do hold it. Hope this helps. Jeanette

to nicole who is thinking of purchasing a rabbit for her 4 year old. I recommend against it, having had a number of rabbits in classrooms and a couple at home. rabbits look very cute and as if they should be good pets. unless you are willing to spend a lot of time with the rabbit, house breaking and also letting it out of the cage, it will not be a good experience for you, your child, or the rabbit. eventually the rabbit spends more and more time in the cage and soon is banished into the backyard. rabbit temperaments are also unpredictable. many of them do bite - electrical cords, papers, fingers, etc. you also have to be very careful about how to pick up a rabbit. their back legs must be supported, but this can be difficult to do as they kick. a child, in particular can have trouble with this. and, if the legs are not supported, the rabbit can easily break its back. sorry to be so discouraging. lily
re: buying a rabbit - the lindsay museum in walnut creek has a pet library of sorts (at least they did when i worked there). You can borrow a rabbit for a week or so to see how you like him/her. They will give you instruction on care & feeding. Also, the Lindsay is a fine organization promoting native wildlife. They have a wildlife hospital, as well as activities for people of all ages. I recommend checking them out. U can visit their web site at: http://www.wildlife-museum.org

More advice about rabbits

I had a rabbit when I was a child and didn't think it was very interesting. It was nervous and didn't like to be held. But a friend of mine had one that he let run around the house and liked a lot. However, you have to make sure a loose rabbit can't find anything to gnaw on. Fran
We just got a dwarf rabbit for my son who is 6.5yrs for Christmas. He really loves it. They are great pets, very friendly, easy to care for, ours is potty trained , she really responds to the children and us, at night she hops around and then comes on our laps and licks our fingers. We love her. We got her at Lucky Dog Pet shop on San Pablo in Berkeley. They are very knowledgeable about their needs too. She's only 7in.long and will not grow much more. Bernhard