Adoption sounds like it should be straightforward. But sometimes it’s not. In fact, sometimes it can seem daunting. From home checks to questionnaires to adoption fees, you might wonder if “adopt, don’t shop” is actually worth it. It is. But preparing yourself for the process can make adoption a whole lot easier. So, how do you prepare for rabbit adoption?
Why You Should Adopt
There are a lot of reasons to adopt rabbits.
First, when you adopt a rabbit you’ll save a life. Most rabbits come to rescues through no fault of their own. Give a great pet a second chance.
Also, the adoption fee covers more than the cost of the rabbits. They may include:
- Spay / neuter
- Behavioural training (if necessary)
Some rescue organizations, like Beloved Rabbits also offer rabbit care advice and bonding services.
Finally, when you adopt, chances are, your new pet has already been part of a family or foster family before. They know the ropes!
Where to Adopt Rabbits
What to Consider Before You Adopt
Adopting rabbits isn’t as easy as paying the fees and bringing your bunnies home. Rabbits aren’t simple pets, and they require specialized care. Before you adopt, consider the following.
Rabbits Are NOT Low Maintenance Pets
Think you can adopt a rabbit, stick your bunny in a hutch and visit once in a while? Think again.
Rabbits have complex social needs, as well as the physical needs that we all have. They want to be part of your family, and can suffer physically as well as emotionally if they are lonely. For this reason, rabbit welfare organizations recommend keeping more than one rabbit.
So before you adopt a rabbit, make sure you have the time to give your rabbits the regular attention that they need.
Rabbits Don’t Like Being Cuddled
Who doesn’t look at a bunny and want to cuddle it? Unfortunately, most rabbits don’t feel the same way.
You see, rabbits are prey animals. This means that they generally assume that anything larger than themselves will try to eat them. If you surprise a rabbit by picking it up, it might bite or scratch you. It may also injure itself trying to escape.
If you slowly and patiently earn your rabbits’ trust, they may allow you to pick them up. But then again, they may not.
If you’re looking for a pet to cuddle, you’d do better with a cat or dog than with a rabbit.
Bunnies Need a Special Vet
Every pet will need a vet at some point. But many general veterinarians do not treat rabbits. Before you adopt a rabbit, make contact with a rabbit vet and, possibly an emergency rabbit vet. That way, when you need a vet, you’ll be prepared.
Some care your rabbit might need includes:
- Spay / neuter
- Flea control
- Dental care
- Nail trimming
- GI Stasis
- Treatment for flystrike
The RWAF maintains a database of rabbit vets in the UK, to help with your search.
Rabbits Live a Long Time
With proper care and feeding, a pet rabbit may live between eight and twelve years. Are you prepared to take care of a pet for that long?
Rabbits Need a Lot of Living Space
We agree with the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund: a hutch is not enough. In addition to spacious living quarters, rabbits need all-day access to a large amount of exercise space.
When you adopt a rabbit your rabbit setup should include a spacious, predator-proof, weatherproof hutch or shed. It should also include a run or other dig proof area that your rabbit can access all day long for exercise.
The Adoption Process: What to Expect
What should you expect when you go to adopt a rabbit? Here are a few things you might encounter.
1. The Questionnaire
The goal of any animal rescue is to find the best home for that rescue’s animals. So the first step is often asking questions to determine suitability of an applicant’s home. You may fill out the question at the rescue itself or online. Or a representative may ask you questions over the phone.
Some questions a rescue might ask you include:
- Your address
- Whether you’ve owned rabbits or other pets before
- What happened to them
- Whether you currently own rabbits
- How many pets are already in your home
- What types of pets you currently have
- Why you wish to adopt at this time
- Whether there are children in your home
- How many people of any age live in the home
- The ages of household members
- Whether you intend for the rabbit to live outside or inside
- If you own your home or rent
- If your home has a garden
- Whether you currently have a vet
- If you intend to adopt one rabbit or more than one
- How much time you plan to spend with your adopted rabbit
- Where your adopted rabbit will live
- What type of outdoor access your adopted rabbit may have
To name a few.
2. A Vet Check
Some rescues will want to speak to your vet before allowing you to adopt a rabbit. They may want to make sure that your past and current pets were vaccinated in a timely manner. They may also want to determine whether you provide adequate health care for your pets.
3. A Home Visit
Some organizations will want to perform a home visit, to make sure that your home is safe and comfortable for a rabbit. They may want to inspect your rabbit enclosure, or hear about your plans for a future enclosure.
4. Adoption Fees
Adoption fees not only support the rescue organization, but they may also cover things like microchipping, spay and neuter, behavioural care, and more. Again, some rescues’ adoption fees may seem steep, but remember that your money is buying more than the rabbit alone.
5. Getting Your Setup Ready
When you are finally allowed to bring your bunny (or bunnies) home, you’ll want to have that home waiting for them. Here are some things to consider.
First, there’s the question of bonding. If you’re bringing home two unbonded rabbits, or introducing a new rabbit into your bunny family, you’ll need to go through the bonding process.
This means that you’ll need to house your rabbits separately, but in close proximity to one another while they get to know one another. A two-tier hutch for separate living can be a good choice.
A rabbit hutch should have at minimum room enough for your rabbit to:
- Stand up without its ears touching the ceiling
- Lie down without touching any of the walls
- Hop from one end to the other three times
The RWAF recommends a space that is at least three metres by two metres by one metre high.
This is a minimum space per rabbit. If you have more than one rabbit, you will, of course, need more space.
A hutch will not be enough. Fortunately, many of our hutches work with our runs to provide an integrated living / exercise space that is very generous indeed. Alternately, you can build your own custom enclosure.
Safety, of course, should come first. Rabbits and other garden pets face a number of dangers. It’s important to address them.
You might not think you have predators living in your area, but once adopt a rabbit and he’s living in your garden, you may get a visit from:
- Birds of Prey
- Cats and dogs
Predator-proof your enclosure ahead of time. Make sure that any wire used is chew-resistant, and secure all doors with a padlock or other stout, predator-proof lock.
Our hutches and runs are made with fox-proof wire. The run access doors also lock from the inside, for greater nighttime security.
It’s important to protect your rabbits from the elements, and a rescue will want to see that your enclosure is prepared.
A hutch cover made to fit your hutch can protect your rabbits from the rain. An insulator can keep them safe when temperatures drop. And a sun shade can protect your rabbits from the sun while they exercise.
And if you live in a warm climate, you’ll need to keep your bunnies cool in the summer.
Dig-proofing your run and enclosure is paramount. You want to keep predators from digging in, of course. But you also want to keep your rabbits from digging out.
In addition to dig-proofing your enclosure, why not give your rabbit a place to safely dig? It’s not difficult to build a dig and forage box from a storage container.
Food and Water
Do you know what makes a healthy rabbit diet? Hay, of course, and lots of it. You might also want to supplement with a small amount of pellet food. Make sure your rabbits have plenty of fresh water at all times.
Potential Problems and Solutions
Any new relationship will have its wrinkles. Fortunately, there are ways of ironing them out.
My New Rabbit Doesn’t Like Me
According to the National Animal Welfare Trust it can take months for a pet to settle into a new home. And that definitely goes for rabbits. Bunnies are homebodies. Moving to new digs can be especially stressful for them.
Go slowly, patiently, and gently. Spend a bit of time with your rabbit every day, and let your rabbit take the lead. Learn about rabbit body language, and take the time to bond with your rabbit on their terms. It may take a bit longer than you’d prefer, but in the end, the bond will be worth it.
The New Rabbit Fights With My Other Rabbits
How would you feel if a stranger turned up one day, expecting to share your home? It’s the same for your rabbits.
It’s Just Not Working Out
Another reason to adopt from a rescue is that many of them will take a pet back if it doesn’t work out, or if the adoptive family is unable to keep it.
Are You Ready to Adopt a Rabbit?
Does it seem like a lot? It can be. But you’re bringing home a family member, not a piece of furniture. And being prepared for the process will make it easier.
Do you have a rabbit adoption story? We’d love to hear it!