Many people have no idea that rabbits can be housed indoors or that they make excellent pets for adults. Rabbits are often bought as a “starter pet” for young children and then housed outdoors in a hutch, where they are fast forgotten. Needless to say, this is not an acceptable life for a rabbit, or for that matter, any pet. In addition, rabbits are the 3rd most surrendered pet at shelters. Many rabbits end up at shelters because their owners did not realize that rabbits do have more needs than they thought or that they are NOT a “starter pet” for their children. In fact, I advise anyone with children against a rabbit, unless the parents really want one for themselves. Rabbits are perfect for working adults since rabbits like to sleep during the day and are awake and active in the mornings and afternoons/evenings.
However, this is not a post about who should or should not have rabbits. It’s a personal decision and a 10+ year commitment to bring a rabbit into a household and it’s one that everyone has to make for themselves. I would just like to lay out how life plays out with our own rabbits. We have 4 rabbits in our house, who are free range. This means the rabbits can roam about the house (although we have it divided because all four don’t get along) as they wish. Houdini has his condo into which he will hopefully welcome Willow, soon and Yuni and Odin live under the bed. It’s their choice and their preferred place, unless they are sitting in front of the fan.
A typical morning, therefore, starts with 2 pairs of rabbit eyes staring at us, willing us awake. If we dare to sleep past 8 o’clock, we may get a little nudge to help us wake up, or we hear a food bowl being thrown. Something like that is certain to wake us up. After all, rabbits enjoy a strict schedule and like their meals to be delivered on time. As a rabbit owner, you have to respect that and act promptly. That said, some rabbits are hungrier in the mornings than others. It is advised you place your steps carefully as some rabbits walk between your legs in anticipation of their breakfast. In our house, we take the food bowls to the food bag and fill them there, instead of taking the food bag to the food bowls. This has proven to be safer and less messy. Yuni and Odin scarf down their food as if they haven’t been fed in ages, while Houdini and Willow like to take their time, eat about half of their food immediately and then come back later to finish their breakfast.
After breakfast, it’s usually nap time for the rabbits, which gives us the chance to clean their litter boxes. It is imperative that the litter boxes be cleaned at least twice a day, otherwise Yuni will consider her litter boxes too full and refuses to use them. In addition to clean litter boxes, a fresh handfull of hay is required. However, we have to be careful that the favorite litter box of the day is not needed while we are cleaning litter boxes. If the litter box is needed but unavailable, the result will be a protesting puddle of pee or pile of poops, or both.
Rabbits are great at protesting anything they don’t like and you will be the first one to know. Turning their backs at you and ignoring you hurts, but you might be able to turn that around with treats. When treats are rejected, however, hay boxes flipped and the hay spread everywhere to cover up for protest pee, it’s serious and you better figure out what you did wrong fast.
Speaking of treats… Yuni and Odin have started charging us for passing them. Every trip through the kitchen must be paid for with a treat. This has lead to some anxiety on our part. Now, every time we have to go to the kitchen, or through the kitchen for that matter, you will find us looking around for Yuni and Odin. If they are under the bed and cannot be seen, it’s a good start. We’ll tiptoe towards the kitchen, hoping they missed us passing by. Once in the kitchen, the next question is whether or not we can be quiet enough not to alert the two. The opening of the refrigerator door is something that can pull Yuni and Odin from their deepest sleeps and within the blink of an eye, we have one, if not two rabbits in the refrigerator, blocking us from closing the door. Only a treat can convince them to move. The sound of the coffee grinder has much the same effect. Yuni and Odin stand at attention in front of the refrigerator door and demand payment for such noise.
Sometimes, we are able to escape all the way to the bathroom. However, Yuni and Odin are perfectly able to count and know when one of us is not where we are supposed to be. Then, the bathroom door is opened and immediate payment is demanded. Yuni usually sends Odin first. Odin has to open the door and he is the one who has to go inside the bathroom to remind us that we forgot something while Yuni is waiting (guarding) outside the bathroom door. It has happened on occasion that we took a shower before making sure the rabbits all had their breakfast. Let’s just say, we’re happy to still be alive. Yuni and Odin are perfectly capable of looking into the shower and make sure we notice their disapproval and take appropriate action.
While Yuni likes to just stare at us, Odin has developed a 3-step system to guarantee our attention. The first step is a slight nudge against our ankles. If we don’t respond, he’ll give a second, more forceful nudge. This opens a 1 second window to give him the attention he wants, before he starts scratching our ankles and feet. This usually does the trick (after all, even though we cut his nails regularly, it still hurts to be scratched). What he wants really depends on the situation. Sometimes, a round of cuddles will do, sometimes a treat is required. However, he never requests us to brush him or powder his leg because he has peed on himself. These actions always result in high disapproval and a thump as he races under the bed to hide.
Houdini and Willow are more subdued in that regard, however, they will also let you know when you did something wrong. Houdini is a very vocal rabbit, expressing his displeasure about anything with different types of grunts, as well as boxing actions. A single low grunt means as much as “no, but go ahead”, a louder grunt or a double grunt means “I really don’t like this”, repeated grunts with boxing action means “no, hell no, get away from me!” Willow usually just runs and hides. These two gladly accept treats, but they don’t beg for them the way Yuni and Odin do. Willow and Houdini seem to be content as long as they have access to anything the can be climbed. Willow has no problems making a 30″ jump onto the desk, thus far beating out Houdini. Neither one appreciates a brushing and neither sees it necessary to have their nails clipped.
Knowing your rabbits and allowing them the freedom to live in your house with you, instead of having them locked up in a pen or cage (or worse, the aforementioned outdoor hutch), makes life with your rabbits so much more enjoyable. Many rabbit owners have their electronics caged in, and not their rabbits.