What to expect
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House Rabbit! What to
By Dana Krempels, Ph.D.
One of the most common questions we receive
is, “Are rabbits more like cats or dogs?”
The best answer is…neither!
Dogs and cats have been bred for centuries to lack innate
fear of humans. Rabbits,
however, have been bred primarily for meat, fur and physical
when you adopt a bunny, you adopt a lovely, domestic animal with
the heart and spirit of a wild animal.
It is more challenging to win the trust of this sensitive,
intelligent creature than it is to win the heart of a puppy or
kitten, which have been bred to trust you from birth.
The myth that certain rabbit breeds make
better pets is just that: a
myth. We have known
aggressive lops (supposedly gentle and friendly),
super-affectionate dwarfs (supposedly hyper and mean) and every
type of personality you can imagine in our hybrids.
There are as many rabbit personalities as there are
If we had to compare the rabbit personality
to that of another animal, we might say…horses!
Rabbits are highly intelligent, interactive and
affectionate. Once a
rabbit bonds to a human family, she/he will be intensely loyal and
loving—but may also sometimes be bratty or willful.
A rabbit is very…rabbit.
And rabbit people are special people who live happily with
these complex, intelligent, and demanding little souls!
Bunny Handling – and Not
One of the most common misconceptions people
have about rabbits is that they like to be held and cuddled.
This is probably because they look like plush toys.
Many people are disappointed to learn
that their bunny does not like to be held.
But consider, for a moment, the natural history of the
rabbit. This is a
ground-dwelling animal, and prey item for many predators.
It is completely against the nature of the rabbit to be
held far above the ground where it cannot control its own motions
and activities. When
you force a bunny to be held against her will, you reinforce her
notion that you are a predator who is trying to restrain her.
Holding her while she struggles and kicks is not only
dangerous for the human (sharp claws!), but also for the rabbit.
We wish we didn’t know how many young rabbits come into
our vet’s office with broken legs, necks and spines because
people (usually children) insisted on carrying them around and
handling them against their will.
If you love your bunny, you won’t let this happen to him
Unfortunately, many people buy rabbits
without understanding their true nature.
That is one of the main reasons these lovely, intelligent
creatures are “dumped” shortly after they reached sexual
maturity and begin to assert their strong personalities.
But it’s easy and fun to live with a rabbit, once
you understand the way they think.
Thinking Like a Rabbit
To understand rabbit behavior, begin to think
more like a rabbit! Here’s
a beginner’s guide…
Buy a copy of The House Rabbit Handbook by Marinell
It is the most accurate, up –to-date book about rabbit
care on the market.
Remember that a rabbit, unlike a carnivorous, predatory dog
or cat, evolved as a prey species.
Hence, most rabbits are naturally shy.
It is up to you, the flexible human, to compromise and
alter your behavior so that the bunny learns you’re a friend.
Once you have done this, you will have won the unending
love and loyalty of one of the most special creatures in creation.
Many bunnies are naturally
friendly and outgoing. Others
are shy, at least at first. If
you happen to have a shy bunny, here is the best way to win his or
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