The Invisible Pet: Adopt a Rescue Rabbit
What’s up with invisible rabbits?
You may remember Harvey, the invisible 6’8” rabbit who befriends Jimmy Stewart in the 1950 film classic “Harvey.” And then there was the macabre doom-saying rabbit visible only to the title character in the cult classic “Donnie Darko.”
Rabbits may be the invisible pet. We think of dogs, cats, birds, and fish as pets before we think of rabbits. And yet, rabbits are the third most common animal surrendered to shelters, after dogs and cats, but no one seems to know how many rabbits actually live in shelters, as they are not counted separately but lumped in with “other” animals. A search on PetFinder shows more than 4,500 adoptable rabbits near my home alone.
I recently began volunteering with Rabbit Rescue, a California rescue that currently has about two dozen rabbits in its shelter and at PetCo stores in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’m making videos like the one heading this article to help raise the visibility of rabbits and hopefully help find these rabbits a good home.
What’s up, doc?
Watch the video and you’ll see what a fun pet a rabbit can be. Like dogs and cats, they’re personable and have their own idiosyncratic personalities. They’re intelligent, affectionate, love human interaction, and can share a home with dogs and cats if properly chosen and introduced. They love to play with toys. They’re clean animals; they groom themselves like cats, and can be potty-trained. Clint Eastwood and Miley Cyrus have rabbits.
In the safety of a home, they can live up to 10 years or longer, more than twice their life expectancy in the wild, making them good companion pets. And their playful, whimsical nature will keep you entertained the whole time.
But as with any other pet, adopting a rabbit is not a decision to make lightly. Unlike dogs, behavioral problems are not a major reason that rabbits get turned in to shelters; it’s mainly because the owners were unable or no longer wanted to care for them.
They are not “starter pets.” They are not hard to care for, but do need special care.
Rabbits need daily care and can’t be left alone for a weekend. They don’t need daily walks like dogs, but do need space to romp around, and a careful diet. And you’ll need to rabbit-proof your home: They like to chew on things because their teeth continue growing throughout their lives and need to be worn down. (Rabbits are “lagomorphs,” similar to rodents but with an extra set of incisors.)
They don’t necessarily need a lot of veterinary care, but when they do, it can be expensive because not all vets have experience with them. And rabbits have delicate bones, meaning they’re probably not good for families with small children.
A time for rabbits
February is Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month, but that’s not the only time or reason to bring a rabbit into your home. PetFinder offers “10 Reasons Rescued Rabbits Rule” to help you decide whether a rabbit is right for you.
Also check out the informational sites below, as well as books and magazines. Rabbits may be the invisible pet, but having one can change the way you see things.
PetFinder: “Top 10 Rabbit Basics”
American Animal Hospital Association: “Read up on rabbits—before you adopt”
Video: “Why Are So Many Rabbits in Shelters?”
Humane Society: “Want a Pet Rabbit?”
Animal Planet: “Pets 101 – Rabbits”