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I love all animals (even sharks, which are terrifying), but my favourite ‘pet’ animal are rabbits.
We’ve toyed with the idea of adopting a dog but always come back to house rabbits. I love cats too, but there are a few issues:
- My boyfriend is allergic to them. If i want to keep him (I do), and he wants to be able to breath (he does), we can’t have a cat.
- They eat birds and get run over, but I’d feel awful to keep a cat cooped up that desperately wanted to be out, so I’m limited to very old/indoor cats. That’s fine by me though.
- I don’t know how I feel about feeding a cat a vegan diet. I know there are foods available but the science is new and cats are obligate carnivores. Not having a cat is just easier, morally.
I love house rabbits. They’re a lot of fun, and low maintenance in my opinion. Whether an animal is high maintenance totally depends on your lifestyle.
I don’t travel much, and I’m used to having to rabbit-proof everything, so that’s fine by me. I would find having a dog that needed to be walked multiple times a day high maintenance.
So, why are rabbits such a good pet choice for vegans?
- Rabbits are naturally plant-based
- There are a lot of rabbits that need adopting
- Rabbits are low-waste
Rabbits are naturally plant-based
So you don’t need to wonder where the meat that they eat came from, or wonder if you can feed them an unnatural diet.
Rabbits aren’t vegan, by the way. There are many, many accounts of rabbits snaffling up bits of meat that fell on the floor and eating them with gusto.
I’ve had house rabbits for all of my adult life, and I’m here to tell you that they will eat ANYTHING. Or at least chew on it. They thrive on destruction and chaos.
But if you want a pet that’s optimal diet is 85% hay, then rabbits are for you – the rest of their diet is veggies and pellets.
Like I said before, I don’t know where I stand on the whole feeding-cats-a-vegan-diet thing.
I wouldn’t be willing to risk the health of my cat, but also I know that a lot of cat food is very low quality and it’s super hard to trace where the meat in pet food comes from.
I’ll just stick to rabbits.
There are a lot of rabbits that need adopting
I would advise adopting a pair that have been spayed/neutered. Yes, it’s more expensive than rocking up to a pet store, but bonding and neutering rabbits is expensive and stressful.
You might assume that the main reason that there are so many rabbits in shelters os that they’re bought as kids pets and then the kids lose interest, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Rabbits can be mean, and they’re not always cuddly. Very few of them enjoy being picked up.
This would be fine for adults – a pet that doesn’t climb on your lap when you’re trying to work may sound ideal, but remember that 1. rabbits are often chosen for kids and 2. rabbits are prey animals.
If you cuddle a dog and it doesn’t like it, it may warn you off, by growling or some other warning behaviour. Dogs are predators, and they have the luxury of being able to offer warnings to other animals before biting them.
With prey animals, it’s different. If a rabbit senses that it’s in danger, it has to gain the upper hand immediately. It can be a matter of life and death. Rabbits bite if they feel threatened, and it ain’t a warning bite. This can be a little…off-putting for kids.
Don’t pick up your rabbit. It’s an extremely unnatural feeling for them, akin to being carried off by an eagle.
Sit on the floor and let them come to you. Stroke them between the eyes with a finger, and don’t try to grab them.
Rabbits are low waste
Herbivore manure can go into your compost bin, so if you use compostable bedding, you can just empty the litter box into the compost and you’re done.
If you don’t have a compost bin you can still collect bunny poop and use it to make fertiliser for you plants. Just add some boiling water and leave it to cool, then add it to your watering can.
It’s high in nitrogen but gentle enough that it won’t burn your plants.
Rabbits will also eat a lot of scrap veggies – the tops and tails of carrots makes great treats, as do the leaves and stalks of brassicas, and lettuce stubs,
They also LOVE a good box, so you can recycle Amazon boxes as bunny toys. Other toys can include toilet roll tubes and paper bags.
You don’t need to buy rabbit toys (although they love those stacking cups for babies) – give them an old towel to dig in and they’ll be entertained for hours.
Non-vegan specific reasons rabbits make great pets
- They’re a lot of fun
Pet rabbits have a reputation for being boring, because we tend to think of them as being sat in a hutch all day.
If you give a rabbit a big enough pen (or let them free roam), you’ll be treated to a dazzling performance of acrobats on a regular basis. Rabbits are SO fast and jump SO high, it’s incredible to watch.
- They’re comparatively cheap to keep
All pets incur some costs, and I would advise getting pet insurance, but rabbits are fairly cheap. They don’t need any expensive equipment or food.
You don’t need an expensive hutch – a couple of cheap x-pens will do as a base, and plastic tray will serve as a litter box. We probably spend less than £50 a month on everything our rabbits need.
Vet trips can be costly, though less so than for dogs and cats since small animal surgery is usually charged by the hour, not by the actual operation. We still dropped £320 on 48-hour round the clock vet care for one of ours though!
- They don’t smell
Unless you don’t change their litter tray often enough.
Rabbits are very easy to litter tray (it takes days rather than weeks), though the degree to which they can be trained varies from rabbit to rabbit.
Most will wee in the box straight away, and rarely have accidents, but will still poop on the floor every now and again. Since rabbit poop is dry and doesn’t smell (due to the diet of hay) it doesn’t really matter to me.
However, one of our rabbits never EVER pooped outside of her tray. When she was under surveillance at the vets she even found a box to poop in. The vets were very impressed. This is rare, but worth a shout out.
- They clean themselves
Don’t bathe rabbits. They really don’t like it and it can even send them into shock. Some need grooming, others don’t.
If you don’t want to be bothered with grooming, pick a short-haired or rex breed, but even they may need some help come moulting season.
- They don’t make a noise
Er, kind of.
Ok, so you won’t be kept up by the sound of your rabbit’s barking, but they do have a tendency to start loudly eating boxes at 3am, and don’t get them a ball with a bell in it.
But on the whole, rabbits are pretty quiet.
That being said, some do vocalise more than others. One of our current buns stamps and grunts whilst she’s doing zoomies, which is freaking hilarious, but the other one is silent when she’s binkying but is the loudest chewer ever.
I think house rabbits make incredible pets, and can be great pets for kids if the kids are told how to behave around them.
They’re fun-loving and mischievous, but they don’t need walking or training (usually). I had rabbits before I went vegan, but I do appreciate not having to research how to most ethically feed a carnivore/omnivore.
As always, please please please adopt from a shelter rather than buying. Baby rabbits are extremely easy to come by in shelters, but consider adopting an older bun.
I recommend keeping your rabbit/s in the house. Wild rabbits rarely live past 2, and outside pet rabbits rarely live past 5. House rabbits regularly live past 10 with no health problems. Two of mine lived until they were 11.
They’re great pets, and deserve better than being relegated to the position of ‘starter’ pet.