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Special Considerations for Rabbits


Diane McClure

, DVM, PhD, DACLAM, Animal Resource Center Veterinary Services

Last full review/revision Aug 2020 | Content last modified Oct 2020

If a rabbit is not picked up or held properly, its back can possibly break. Therefore, rabbits may be more suitable as pets for older teens and adults than for young children.

Rabbits may be housed inside or out. However, rabbits are sensitive to heat. Hot, humid weather, along with poorly ventilated hutches or transport in poorly ventilated vehicles, may lead to heat stress and death. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 80°F (27°C) may cause your rabbit to become sick. Domesticated rabbits have difficulty with temperatures below 50°F (10°C). Rabbits kept outdoors in climates with temperature extremes must be provided with a fairly large shelter that is heated in winter and cooled in summer. If the rabbit is kept inside, a fairly large cage must be provided when the rabbit cannot be supervised. When the rabbit is allowed to roam free indoors, extra care must be taken to ensure that the rabbit cannot access and chew on electrical wires, carpeting, or other inappropriate items.

Rabbits have a physical and psychological need to chew. Providing your rabbits with a variety of items to chew on will allow them to keep wearing down their constantly growing teeth and will also help to keep them from getting bored. Hay, cardboard, straw, untreated wicker baskets, nonpoisonous pieces of wood, and pine cones are all good choices for chewing.

Rabbits frequently groom themselves. Like cats, they swallow loose hair, which then passes through their digestive tracts and comes out in their droppings. Unfortunately, an excessive amount of hair can lead to hairballs that may block digestion or cause other medical problems. Rabbit owners should regularly brush their pets with a soft brush to help prevent this from occurring. Rabbits with long fur require daily grooming, and rabbits with short fur should be brushed at least twice a week. In addition, rabbits shed every 3 months. One shedding may be light and the next one heavy. During these times, extra care must be taken to brush the rabbit and remove excess hair from its hutch or cage to reduce the possibility of hairballs. During these shedding periods, you may notice some bald spots. These should fill in again after the shedding period is over. Shedding can last anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks, depending on the type of rabbit.

Some people are allergic to rabbits. In addition, if you are allergic to hay, a rabbit may not be the best pet for you because rabbits require hay at all times.

Many states have legal statutes that forbid selling, bartering, or giving away baby rabbits that are less than 2 months old. Refer to your state laws and county ordinances, which may restrict the possession of rabbits, before you get one.

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