Merck Manual

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Selecting a Rabbit

By

Diane McClure

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

Last full review/revision Aug 2020 | Content last modified Sep 2020
Topic Resources

Buying Your First Rabbit

Questions to consider when buying a rabbit:

  • Do you have a suitable location for a rabbit cage (indoors) or hutch (outdoors)?

  • Who will be the main caregiver for the rabbit? A young child, an older child, or an adult?

  • Do you want a small or large rabbit? Larger rabbits are more docile and robust; these are recommended for younger children with adult supervision. Smaller rabbits are more suited for older, more responsible children and adults; these require greater care when handling.

  • Do you want a rabbit with long or short fur? Rabbits with short fur should be combed at least twice a week. Rabbits with long fur require more grooming. Combing rabbits helps prevent hairballs, which can block the intestines or cause other medical problems.

  • What other characteristics are important to you (color, ear type, sex)?

  • Do you plan to purchase more than 1 rabbit? Rabbits must be evaluated for compatibility. Keeping more rabbits also means providing a larger cage or hutch.

Sources of pet rabbits include pet shops, humane societies, breeders, and rescue organizations. Questions you will want to consider before choosing a rabbit include who will the rabbit be a pet for; what size, color, and type of fur do you prefer; and where will you keep your rabbit. When selecting a rabbit, make sure the animal is healthy and that its environment is clean. Ask what type of diet the rabbit has been fed and how it was reared and handled. Rabbits are most active in the early morning and evening, so visiting at that time of day may give you a better picture of the rabbit’s temperament.

A healthy rabbit should have well-groomed, shiny fur with no bare patches or obvious wounds. Fur that is wet or matted, especially around the chin or under the tail, may be a sign of medical problems. There should be no discharge from the eyes or nose and no discharge or crusting in the ears. Rabbits that are healthy are usually alert and curious when active. They should not be reluctant to move and should not show any lameness or stiffness.

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