When we first decided to delve into the world of house rabbits, I’d envisioned a scene from Disney’s Snow White. They’d dance around my feet, plait my hair, turn our home into a woodland wonderland and the best part would be when they’d spring clean my house every day, so that I too, could take a very long nap. Snow White always seems immensely happy with the little herd of rabbits that cleaned up after her, so surely I’d be the same, right?
We’ve lived with our new housemates for almost three months now, and as with all cohabiting relationships, we’ve reached the stage where our annoying traits are starting to come to light. They struggle to hide the look of despair on their cute, squishy, little faces whenever Amelia and Penny walk into the room, eager to play. And although I haven’t mentioned it to them yet, the trail of sawdust they leave around the house is becoming tiresome (hoovering every day? I thought that was their job!).
I would go as far as saying they’re the easiest and most pleasurable creatures that I’ve ever shared a house with (probably more so than the Dominic…maybe even the girls). And as I receive so many messages and comments asking about Velma and Bugs, I thought I’d give you an honest account on owning a pair of house rabbits.
Rabbits are clean animals.
When it comes to personal hygiene, rabbits will put you and the rest of the household to shame. While Velma and Bugs compete in the game, ‘who can wash the most’ – constant licking, grooming, and performing what can only be described as rabbit-yoga to reach every crevis of their teeny-tiny bodies – the other two small females in the house like to play the game, ‘who can avoid the sensation of water on their skin the longest’. They are forced to do it, but they’d very happily ‘forget’. So, yes, when it comes to personal hygiene, rabbits score a 10/10 – they need stop cleaning (themselves, not the house).
They also do an admirable job of keeping their hutch/cage in order – no easy feat when your home interiors are predominantly made up of sawdust and hay. Our two also have the added bonus of being litter trained, which helps confine all of the mess to one area; ideal for cleaning out the cage (or so Dominic tells me). And even if you decide not to litter train them, rabbits will, after a while, find a spot to pee and stick to it – a lot like us.
Rabbits are clean animals, and they live in clean conditions. Rabbits, however, do not give a shit about our homes. It’s almost as if they’ve decided to take all of their messy, disruptive urges out on us, using sawdust as their weapon of choice. If you do decide to welcome rabbits into your family, then please be prepared for the impending sawdust storm that will follow – because it will come for you. Whether you’re picking them out of their cage, stroking them, feeding them, whatever activity you decide to do that involves a rabbit, it will also inevitably result in a flurry of sawdust, everywhere. It’ll get in places you wouldn’t believe possible; it’ll form a strong attraction to your most worn, or most treasured belongings – my dressing gown and my chunky knit blanket (cry!). Your floor will simply become the foundations on which they build their sawdust city. And in case you were under the illusion that they will run Henry the Hoover around the house to clean up after themselves, they don’t (Snow White really is all a lie).
They are quiet animals
Absolutely – and this is the part I love about them the most. Apart from the occasional sleepy grunt or snore from Bugs and the sound of Velma’s claws frantically attempting to run on the wood flooring when Penny walks into the room; they’re silent 99.9% of the time. Owning rabbits means you avoid: loud barking, incessant meowing, the noise of a squeaky running wheel throughout the night, and uncontrollable squawking. They partake in only minimal noise activities such as jumping, walking, sleeping and eating, so if you’re easily agitated by animal noises, rabbits are the pets for you. If only my kids would share their love of being quiet.
They’re easy to litter train.
No pooing their knickers in the middle of Zara, no weeing in car seats the moment a two-hour car journey commences, and no fear of the toilet bowl – yep, rabbits are much easier to toilet train than small humans. I only have the two to compare, but litter training a rabbit is piss-easy (excuse the pun).
Similar to when you toilet train your little ones, the first week of training your rabbit will be a blur of droppings and puddles of wee. For anyone that hasn’t seen rabbit poo before, it’s small, dry and easy to pick up (and according to our nephew, looks and is edible, a lot like chocolate drops). Rabbit wee, however, is the dangerous stuff. This is the poison that will stain your walls (rabbits like to spray upwards), your floor, your sofa, and has a strong scent if it is missed or forgotten about. But, before you swear off the idea of owning rabbits as you imagine your newly-painted white walls turning yellow; one of the positives of owning rabbits is that they like to do their business in the same area. So, within just a few days of living with you, they’ll choose their preferred location for pooing (usually a hidden corner) and that’s where they’ll continue to go. You don’t have much input in this decision (like most pets, your house becomes theirs from the moment their adorable tiny paws step foot in the door), but once they’ve made it clear where this corner is, put the litter tray there for optimum success.
So, it takes very minimal effort to litter train a rabbit, they almost train themselves. Velma only took only a few days and although Bugs was slightly more resistant (she refused to believe that our rug did not double up as her toilet), anytime they did have an accident outside of their litter box, we would simply pick it up and pop it into their tray. Over a few days, we saw a noticeable decrease in the number of rabbits droppings we were standing in, meaning that the little balls of fluff had finally sussed it.
They like to chew.
Erm, yes, unfortunately this is true. This is a trait we thought we’d avoided, but we were premature with our smugness (sorry for all the, ‘my rabbits don’t chew’ comments, people). We also foolishly believed that having the remnants of a tree in every room – log piles, tree stump seats, tree trunk room dividers – would create an easily accessible, natural, chewable diversion should Velma and Bugs ever have the urge. Well, the urge did surface around three weeks ago, but not on the wide range of wood available to them, or on their chew toys in their hutch. Instead, they found something much more satisfying to gnaw through – wires. And not just any wires, they carefully selected the wires that mean the most to us; iPhone chargers, laptop chargers, Penny’s battery powered fairy lights that stop her crying about the dark during the night . They chewed through all our lifelines. Dangerous for them, inconvenient for us and a stark lesson to always hide your wires (according to Google, they’re attracted to the noise and vibrations that a live wire makes).
Thankfully, skirting board corners, chair legs, sofas and rugs have all escaped the wrath of rabbit teeth (for now), and I suppose if you compare a rabbit chew mark with a dogs, the damage is far less.
They’re great to cuddle.
When I was 10-years-old, we had a rabbit called Caramel who lived in a hutch in the garden. Throughout the summer I would put on her harness and let her frolic around the garden, while endlessly stroking and cuddling her. Then the colder months came along, and soon Caramel felt like a chore. She wasn’t allowed in the house so standing outside, in the rain, wet and cold all for the sake of a two-minute cuddle didn’t seem very appealing. So, I stopped. Over time, she became more aggressive – biting and scratching and hated being picked up – which caused me to dodge her cage even more. Since then, I’ve never been interested in owning a rabbit.
Then last December, and with the power of YouTube, we started to uncover videos of house rabbits. It became apparent that the more you handled a rabbit, the more accustomed to it the rabbit becomes (I now feel pangs of guilt whenever I think of my rejected Caramel). So, from day one, we’ve made a conscious effort to handle Velma and Bugs as much as possible. Not only do they have free reign of the house throughout the day, but they also have pride of place on the sofa with us every night, for a cuddle. Sometimes Velma will prefer to jump down and take advantage of a child-free sitting room (only returning to bully Bugs into doing the same), but mostly they’ll willingly sit and be fussed over for around an hour a night. And as Rex Rabbits have a unique plush texture to their coat – a lot like soft velvet – stroking them becomes addictive.
Rabbits are not boring.
I thought for years that they were because honestly, Caramel was. These two, however, are far from boring. They genuinely make us laugh every day, with their intelligence, playfulness and funny characters. Velma thumps if we don’t open her cage before we make our breakfast on a morning (a sort of, hello, I’m here!). And although we don’t allow her to go upstairs, she’s relentless in her attempts to make a break for it; the pitter patter of her claws on the hallway floor often foils her plans, and she’ll scarper as soon as we make a move to stop her, only to try again a few minutes later.
Bugs, on the other hand, is mellow and amiable. She’ll take great pleasure in licking you; your face, feet, hands, socks, everything. But, the most physical action you’ll get from her is when you place an apple in front of her face.
Rabbits are good with kids
As long as your children are taught the correct way to handle a rabbit, then yes. Penny is still learning, and sometimes her methods look like a form of torture. Needless to say, we try to discourage her from picking them up at all.
They’re very friendly and inquisitive animals and love to play games; fetch and knocking down stacked toilet roll tubes are both a favourite of ours. And if either Amelia or Penny lie on the floor in the sitting room, they know they’ll soon be swarmed by both rabbits, who will emerge to nibble them, lick them and jump all over them.
That’s it, that really does cover it all. Rabbits have their annoying traits – a bit like us – but on a scale of irritating animals, they score pretty low. Will they mess up your house? Absolutely. Will they be good playmates for your kids? Absolutely. Will they be a good new addition to the family? Without a doubt.
Do you own house rabbits? Have you considered taking the leap? If you have any questions, please ask away, I’d be happy to help.