Living with Bunnies: So much for “low maintenance”

With Easter coming up, I thought I’d do a series of posts on what it’s really like to own a rabbit (or to be a “bunny slave” as they would put it) – just in case any of you see my photos and think “gee, bunnies sure are cute – maybe I’ll get one for Easter!”

A lot of people are under the misconception that rabbits are a “set it and forget it” type of pet – but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Those of you who follow my bunny photos on Twitter, Instagram, or Mastodon, will probably notice that I often post the most photos in the morning and I sometimes refer to this as “morning playtime.”

This is because rabbits need exercise just like any other pet. If you keep them in an enclosure (as I do), you have to let them out to run around – just as you need to take dogs for a walk if you keep them inside.

Most rabbits are much, much bigger than hamsters, gerbils, or even guinea pigs, so unless you have an absolutely enormous enclosure for them, you’ll need to let them out to play and run around. And unless your rabbits are very well behaved, and your house perfectly bunny-proofed, you’ll also need to spend that same time watching or supervising them as they play. Bunnies have a natural instinct to chew on things (much like how cats have an instinct to scratch) so you need to keep an eye on them in case they do something naughty.

Some rabbits can be placated with chew toys (much like how you’d give a cat a scratching post), but not all can – different rabbits have different personalities and respond to things differently.

With my buns, I generally let them out for about an hour in the morning and again in the evening – and during that time I have to stay and watch them pretty closely, as they still haven’t quite learned not to chew things (mainly biting at the carpet).

So, unless you’re willing to spend that time with a rabbit each day (or if you can afford to give them enough space – like an entire room, which also needs to be protected from the rabbit’s instinct to chew things), maybe a rabbit isn’t for you and you should consider another pet – or just get a chocolate or candy rabbit if you’re thinking about Easter.

Stay tuned for more insights as to the “true” experience of being a rabbit owner!

Living with Bunnies: Shedding (aka the Furpocalypse)

Living with Bunnies means dealing with the inevitable “furpocalypse” that comes with almost any animal that sheds fur.

With Easter coming up, I thought I’d do a series of posts on what it’s really like to own a rabbit (or to be a “bunny slave” as they would put it) – just in case any of you see my photos and think “gee, bunnies sure are cute – maybe I’ll get one for Easter!”

Being fuzzy animals, bunnies shed their fur just like dogs and cats do, and as a result they need regular grooming (brushing). But in addition to the regular shedding of fur, bunnies also go through periods of heavier shedding (sometimes called “molting”), usually in line with the change of seasons (although not always).

Now, the severity of shedding for any bunny depends somewhat on the size and breed, but all sizes and breeds need at least somewhat regular brushing sessions. And different kinds and sizes of bunnies will require different kinds and sizes of brushes, too – long-haired bunnies will need a different kind of brush than short-haired breeds.

This is the amount of fur I got off of my bunny Chuck after just 2 minutes of brushing.

Still, no matter what kind of bunny you end up with, there will be a fair bit of brushing required – and that means a lot of fur, as well.

Both of my bunnies are relatively short-haired breeds, yet even they produce copious amounts of fur (as you can see in this picture). If you have a long-haired breed, you can expect even more fur.

Even aside from the fur you get during brushing, there’s the fur that just naturally comes off of bunnies all the time – this fur will float on the breeze and settle all around your house. (Trust me – bunny fur will find its way everywhere, even into places you can’t imagine.)

So if the idea of that much fur floating around your house isn’t appealing, and you don’t like having to brush an animal frequently (and collect and dispose of all that soft, fluffy fur), then maybe think twice before getting a bunny – especially if you’re thinking of getting one for Easter. (After all, chocolate bunnies don’t shed!)

Stay tuned for more updates and stories of what it’s like to live as a “bunny slave!”

Living with Bunnies: Litter boxes

With Easter coming up, I thought I’d do a series of posts on what it’s really like to own a rabbit (or to be a “bunny slave” as they would put it) – just in case any of you see my photos and think “gee, bunnies sure are cute – maybe I’ll get one for Easter!”

People are often surprised when they learn I let my rabbits run free around the house (under supervision). I often get asked things like “don’t they poop and pee everywhere?” – and then people are shocked to learn about how rabbits use a litter box.

One of the ways I describe rabbits as pets to people is that they are kind of like “vegetarian cats” – and that goes for their litter box habits as well. Rabbits naturally like to go in one place, so they can learn to use a litter box quite easily (especially once they’ve been spayed or neutered). Like any animal you’ll have some accidents while they are young, but it’s not hard to do and they generally learn pretty quickly.

The dark side to using a litter box of course it that you, as the rabbit owner (or “bunny slave”) then have to clean said litter box… and this is something not a lot of people talk about.

I have 2 rabbits, one of whom is quite large (13 pounds), and they share a single litter box – so it gets quite dirty quite quickly, which means I have to clean it very frequently. I usually clean it at least once per day – which means once per day I:

  • Take the dirty litter box out to the garage (possibly also spending some time on my knees to scoop up hay and poops that may have gotten scattered around the litter box – just like cats, bunnies sometimes scatter stuff around their box when they jump in & out)
  • Either scoop out the soiled litter (the buns usually use just one side of the litter box) or sometimes I just empty the whole thing into a trash bag
  • Fill it with fresh litter
  • Put a big pile of fresh hay at one end
  • Bring everything back out

Depending on how many rabbits you have, and how large they are (and how large your litter box is), you might have to do this more or less frequently than I do. You may also want to clean the litter box more frequently if you’re sensitive to the smell – rabbit poop doesn’t smell, but their urine does have a bit of an odor – and there’s only so much that odor absorbing litter can do. Again, this will depend on your rabbits and also on where you keep them – if there’s good ventilation, for example.

Cleaning a litter box like this isn’t something people often think of when they think of keeping a rabbit in their home – but just like with a cat, it is something you have to be prepared to do. So if the thought of having to clean a litter box every day isn’t appealing to you, maybe think twice before bringing home a rabbit – especially if you plan to bring it home as an “Easter bunny.”

Stay tuned for more on what it’s like to be a “bunny slave!”

Living with Bunnies: Feeding the Beasts

With Easter coming up, I thought I’d do a series of posts on what it’s really like to own a rabbit (or to be a “bunny slave” as they would put it) – just in case any of you see my photos and think “gee, bunnies sure are cute – maybe I’ll get one for Easter!”

A lot of people think that feeding a rabbit is just a matter of giving them some “bunny chow” the same way you might give dog food or cat food to a dog or a cat – but it’s not that simple. Although I often describe rabbits as “vegetarian cats,” when it comes to feeding them they kind of have more in common with horses than with cats.

Just like horses, rabbits in the wild will graze on grass and other plants – so the number one component of their diet needs to be hay (you can’t really “graze” rabbits outside). A rabbit should always have fresh hay available to eat at any time – which leads to my next point.

Just like horses, rabbits can go “off their feed” if they get sick or if they don’t eat anything in a while. And if a rabbit stops eating their GI tract basically shuts down and they can die quite quickly. So you always need to make sure a bunny has food – such as hay – available pretty much at all times.

Given that hay is the #1 component of their diet, it shouldn’t be surprising that rabbits can eat an astonishing amount of hay, which means that depending on how many rabbits and how big they are, you may need to keep quite a substantial amount of hay in your home (if you can’t get it quickly from somewhere local). In my case, I keep a 10 pound box of hay on hand at all times – and even though it is compressed somewhat, 10 pounds of hay is a fairly big box.

Beyond hay, rabbits can also be feed rabbit pellets – provided they are appropriate for the rabbit’s age (don’t give young rabbit pellets to adult rabbits) and don’t contain a lot of filler. But pellets are almost a supplement – they should not be fed pellets as their primary food. My 2 rabbits only get a very small scoop of pellets in the morning and evening – despite the fact that they are fairly big (6 pounds and 13 pounds, respectively).

The final component of a rabbit’s diet should be fresh vegetables – but remember that not all vegetables that are safe for humans are safe for rabbits. Dark leafy greens such as chard, kale, romaine lettuce, parsley, dandelion greens, and so forth are all great – but if you’re not sure, look it up online; it’s easy to find lists of “safe” greens. Rabbits will also eat some greens that we humans might not enjoy – such as the green leafy tops of some vegetables which we’d normally toss.

Like the vegetarians they are, rabbits enjoy a nice salad – I give mine a big handful with dinner (but not breakfast). Of course it also goes without saying the greens need to be fresh – if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t give it to your rabbit either.

Finally, I have to touch on the subject of carrots – the stereotypical “bunny food.” Carrots are actually more of a treat for rabbits than staple food – they have a lot of sugar in them – so don’t give in to the cartoon stereotype of “all a rabbit needs to eat is carrots.”

So that’s a quick overview of what it takes to keep a rabbit fed – and if that seems like a lot of work and a lot of stuff that you need to keep on-hand all the time, maybe think twice before picking up a rabbit on a whim (especially if you were thinking of getting one as an Easter present).

Stay tuned for more insight into the life of a bunny slave!

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day?

Apparently today is Take our Daughters and Sons to Work day.

gus and betsy under my office chair


UPDATE: You can follow the adventures of Gus and Betsy now on their own blog, The Life and Times of Bunnies!