Rabbits make cute, cuddly, cunning pets

Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2003

Spring is here! And so are all those cute baby bunnies that welcome the end of another long winter.

Rabbits, being cold weather animals, make ideal pets to have in our area of Alaska. With so many different colors and varieties, there are rabbits for all walks of life.

Pet shops, feed stores, rabbitries and local 4-H members are good places to start your search for your new pet. Choose a rabbit that is at least one month old, alert and healthy.

If size is an issue, try to buy a rabbit that is a miniature or dwarf breed. All baby rabbits are small. The average weight of the standard rabbit is 8-10 pounds.

Pedigreed rabbits are one way to ensure your cute little "dwarf" is not a baby giant. All pedigreed rabbits should have a tattoo in their left ear that matches their papers. If a pedigree is not available, ask to see the parents of your mini.

A baby rabbit can be very "squirrelly." Most of the time, they have not been handled much. The best way to make a rabbit gentle is to carry it around with you every chance you get.

It may take an hour or it may take a week. Eventually, the rabbit will stop being afraid of the big, wide world and look forward to spending time with you.

Some steps can be taken to make things easier. Wear long sleeves when handling a new rabbit. It is best to keep the rabbit away from your face and neck until you are both comfortable with each other. If a rabbit is startled, it may try to run over your shoulder, digging its nails in for traction.

To pick up a rabbit, lift it by the loose skin over its shoulders. If it has been handled, you can just scoop it up, supporting the back end to prevent injury.

When carrying a rabbit, hold it in the crook of your arm and tuck its head under your elbow. It will feel safer and you will have more control.

Always supervise young children with a small rabbit. They are likely to grab it around the ribs, which are easily broken. Once they are shown that it will not hurt the bunny to grab it by its skin, small children, as well as their parents, are much more at ease.

If you obtain a rabbit that bites, please don't keep it. That can be hereditary and has nothing to do with abuse or defense. Some may growl or threaten when they have babies. Some may kick in fright. But biting is a sign of aggression and should never be tolerated.

With so many good, gentle animals in the world, why bring a bad one into your home?

If a rabbit was to live to old age, it would have about eight to 10 years. But, as with any small outdoor pet, an average lifespan of three to five years is more realistic.

Rabbits are territorial animals and do not like to be introduced to other rabbits of the same gender. If you want them to get along, they should be together before they are four months old.

Of course, if they are of the opposite sex well, they are rabbits. The new litter would arrive in about 30 days.

However, if not completely ignored, your rabbit will not need a pet of its own to keep it company.

If you spend the time, you can teach your rabbit tricks and to walk on a leash. Treat your rabbit like a dog, and it will act like one. Some even learn to fetch!

Pat Lytle has been raising mini-lops and other rabbit breeds for more than 13 years. She is the owner of Rocky Road Rabbitry. She is a member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and the Alaskan Rabbit Breeders Club.



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