A Little Bit of Background
It was never intentional that we get a house bunny, but my former boss, (the best boss that will ever be) bought ‘Betty’ for the office, my colleagues and I had a dream of a bunny that ran around the office, legged out like a dog, and gave great cuddles at break time. Yet, after a mixture of her chewing through the internet cables and me feeling guilty leaving this cute baby bunny in the office alone overnight, she was ours. It started off with me taking Betty home every night and back into the office every morning, this involved a huge cage and the boot of a mini, a real struggle! For a while she lived under my desk and was still classed as ‘the office bun’, but the novelty soon wore off and she stayed at home permanently. My husband and I upgraded her cage to a more aesthetically pleasing wooden house and seven years later she is our beloved house bun! I did try a lead, the dream being getting out of my car and going into work with a bunny on a lead, however the reality was quite the opposite, with her refusing to get out of the car initially and then when I placed her on the floor she would run until the lead ran out of give and fall over. I perhaps could have persevered a little more with the lead, but gave up on this idea pretty quickly as it involved me getting into work on time, I am often running late, so getting a bunny as well as myself to work on time was challenge enough, without adding lead training into my morning routine.
Caring For a House Bunny
Day to day, a bunny is fairly easy to look after, Betty eats a tea-cup full of pellets morning and night, with hay to keep her going in-between. She has a bowl of water rather than a bottle, for some reason she just preferred this after getting a poorly tummy one time and us desperately trying to get her to drink, we tried a bowl and never changed back- she lapped it up like a puppy. For a while I had given her the option of a bottle attached to the side of the cage as well, however it was never touched so I stopped bothering and removed it.
For treats, I get Betty spring greens every week on the big shop. I get the shop delivered, carry the bags down hallway into the kitchen, I put the bags down on the floor and she sniffs around until she locates the greens, pulls them from the bag and starts nibbling the tops of them, I let her nibble for a few minutes before I put them away. I give her a leaf every few days and she absolutely loves them, some days running to the fridge every time I open it to try and guilt me into giving her one, and I always give in. Other treats I often get Betty are carrot biscuits and a carrot topped carboard box, she enjoys these and they don’t seem too unhealthy. I had read somewhere that the more colourful the treat, the worse it is for the bunny as its likely to be full of sugar, so I try to avoid the brightly coloured nibble treats and stick to the ‘Rosewood Naturals’ brand for any other treats.
Every couple of months my husband and I clip Bettys nails, we did begin by getting this done at the vets, but as our confidence grew in handling her, we bought our own set of clippers and whilst one of us held her the other clipped her nails, its fairly easy to do as long as you are holding the bun firmly. Similarly to human nails, you cut the white but leave a little, when you can see the pink below, this is too short and would make the nail sore if cut. Alongside the clippers I also bought a rabbit brush and comb, I keep on top of brushing Betty whenever I feel she needs it, particularly when she is molting. Rabbits shed their coats twice a year and their full coat is replaced, when this happens the hair can be a lot if not kept on top of, we quickly changed from having a carpet in our main family room to wood flooring, meaning we could hoover and sweep rather than feeling like there was hair in the carpets, I imagine in a similar way to how cat owners deal with cat hair.
I clean the litter tray out every other day, or atleast every three days lets be honest. I have a tray within the hutch and fill it with white tissue bedding, Betty does 95% of her business in the litter tray, with a few droppings going elsewhere in or around the cage as they get stuck to her fur or feet as she hops about. I found litter training easy, it took a week or two of picking up messes and putting them into her litter tray and she got the idea that this was the place for it! Puppy pads are a good purchase when litter training, as I did find that she tended to go in the same area anyway, animal instinct I suppose, so putting the pads down here saved much clearing up.
The hutch we upgraded too was fairly big compared to a standard cage, it was more like a two story house, however pre covid this is where Betty would spend the majority of the day as my husband and I both have jobs that mean we are out of the house during office hours on the week days, so we wanted to make sure she had plenty of room. There are so many different types out there and I think that the size required depends how often you are going to let a house bunny roam free. I let Betty out (downstairs only) whenever we are home, which pre covid was before and after work up until we went to bed. When working from home during the covid pandemic, we would let her out of the hutch all day, however she actually spent the majority of the day relaxing in it, as this was her happy safe space rather than somewhere she was trying to escape from, we even kitted out the bottom with fake grass (more aesthetically pleasing and nice for bunny to relax on, win win!)
During the summer we will let Betty roam freely in the garden, making sure it’s ‘bunny proof’ and that there are no gaps around the wall or fences that she could escape through, even the tiniest spaces, you would be surprised how little they are under all that fur, they can squeeze through anything! It’s also useful to note that bunnies love to dig, so digging under a fence is something to be wary of, as well as if there are any dogs or cats in the area that could come into the garden and spook or attack bunny. For this reason we never leave her outside unless we are there to keep an eye on her.
If we are both away and looking to leave Betty overnight, we find that one night is okay, depending on what time we are back the next day, either a friend will pop around in the morning to give Betty pellets and water, or we will make sure we are back in the morning. For any longer than one night we do tend to take her to stay at my husbands parents, as house bunnies are used to a lot of attention and affection, on their terms of course, so to suddenly leave them for long periods of time can cause them to get lonely, particularly if you have one single house bunny.
I do wish we had got two house bunnies at the same time, and it is a conversation my husband and I have had a lot. Due to the circumstance in which we ended up with Betty, she was a single bun, she was actually the runt of the litter, however after having her for some time and learning more about bunnys and their needs, we did discover that without a lot of attention they can be lonely without a companion. This caused me to look into getting a guinea pig as a friend that Betty could nurture, due to her dominant nature we didn’t think Betty would approve of another rabbit four years into being the boss and worried she would see another bun as competition, but we quickly learnt than mixing guinea pigs and rabbits is a big no in the animal world, in fact pets at home would not sell a guinea pig to me if mixing with a rabbit. The reason we did not get a second rabbit is because we don’t want to keep rabbits forever and getting another a different age to Betty would mean we would potentially always be in a cycle of getting one a companion when the other passed away, so we make sure we give Betty plenty of attention, but this is something to consider if you are just starting out on your house bunny journey.
The Pros and Cons
My favourite thing about having a house bunny, is getting to know their personality, it really shocked me when getting to know Betty how ‘dog like’ bunnies are, they are affectionate and have their own characteristics. For example, Betty is quite grumpy and isn’t over friendly to anyone but my husband and I unless she is in a good mood, I’m not sure if this is to do with her breed, she is a mini lop and I have read about other mini lops being the same, whereas I know other breeds of bunnies can be more friendly and approach people for a stroke, Betty would never approach a stranger for a stroke but will do to us. She will hop on the sofa at night and leg out beside you or leg out on the rug and watch TV. She is happy being in our company, when we are cooking in the kitchen she will come in and sit and watch and follow us into the living room for the evening. When she is particularly happy, she does what we call a ‘happy hop’ correctly known as a ‘binky’, this is where they do a little jump in the air to show they are happy and sometimes flip their back-end round, it’s lovely. Prior to having Betty, I thought that rabbits were dull animals kept in a cage outside, but they can be so much more if you get to know them. Don’t get me wrong, Betty does also grunt if she is in a bad mood, but we all have our grumpy days!
I get asked a lot if I would recommend having a house bunny, I have listed below what I consider the pros and cons of having a house bunny and will leave you to make your own mind up!
- Their individual personalities and the way they express their moods and affection.
- The ‘feeling’ of a pet being in the house is one I really do love, you are never home alone!
- You can leave them overnight, less commitment than a dog as no walking required and no kennel fees.
- The pure cuteness.
- The outfit potential (puppy outfits do fit, I’ve tried!)
- The hair shedding and therefore the hoovering!
- The vet bills – These are not too bad, the annual vaccination is roughly £70.
- The chewing – You do have to watch a house bunny for chewing (again I am not sure if this is related to breed) but I am on iPhone charger cable number 70,000, also skirting boards!
- Allergies – Not an issue for me but sometimes people can be allergic, this could affect friends and family coming to your house.