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Thursday, 27 September 2018

Top 5 Mistakes I Made When I First Got My Pet Rabbit (& How I Lost Money Doing So)


As much as I don't want to admit my mistakes as a bunny momma, I feel like this post is very important to share as there is so much misinformation out there about how to care for a bunny. You see, many of the products sold in pet shops aren't actually suitable for rabbits. To be honest, I'm kind of confused as to how most of the supplies are still allowed to be sold as they aren't recommended by any vet, rabbit rescue groups or shelters. I'm not a bunny expert by any means but I do want to tell you all about what I've learned, which mistakes I made, how I corrected them and how I could have saved a lot of money if I had known all of this information before getting a pet rabbit.

1) I bought a cage

Rabbits do not belong in cages, they are animals that just like dogs and cats need to be able to run around free, in a bunny proofed room and/or play pen. The cages sold in pet stores, specifically marketed for bunnies, aren't suitable at all. They are too small and not appropriate for them to stay in. The cage I bought for Chloé is now currently being used as her litter and digging box. Even though that is a great idea, I honestly wish I hadn't bought it in the first place and had purchased a play pen instead, which is a much better and cheaper alternative to a cage! We got her a large play pen from Topmast (which is actually a puppy pen) and even though our baby bunny is 100% free roam at this point, we do use it to barricade the sofa at night to avoid her from chewing and/or ingesting anything that might be harmful. We also use it when she is being babysat by pet sitters, to make it easier to keep an eye on her, as free roam rabbits do need to be supervised closely.

2) I fed a rabbit muesli mix

Feeding your rabbit a muesli mix is basically the equivalent of feeding your child Mc Donalds every day. It's unhealthy and I didn't know you weren't supposed to feed that. It can cause severe problems with their digestion and put them at risk for obesity. We started feeding Chloé the pellets from Selective after having slowly weened her off the mix. It took about a month but we got there. We were told by our vet that the pellets she has now are really great because of the high percentage of fiber, so we plan on keeping that on track, but he also said that they aren't necessary to her diet as rabbits are completely fine just being fed hay and fresh leafy greens. We decided to keep feeding her the pellets for now because she really enjoys them and because it's what she was used to before, that might of course change in the future. Pellets from the brand Selective are rather expensive but Chloé never actually ate everything that came in the muesli mix so we ended up throwing a lot of that out.

3) I got a litter box for rodents

First and foremost, rabbits aren't rodents they are Lagomorphs, and second: the litter boxes sold specifically for rodents are way too small for a bunny. I'm talking about the ones that look like you can place them in the corner of a cage. Even if you have a dwarf rabbit, like mine, a large litter box is the way to go. They'll be more likely to use it and eventually actually enjoy it. Chloé loves her litter box, I got her the Pluggis from IKEA, which isn't even sold as a litter box to begin with, it's a designer recycling bin and a cheaper alternative to the litter boxes sold in pet shops. Not only does it look good - it will actually save you some coin!

4) I didn't do my own research

Big mistake. Chloé was sold at a pet shop and bought by a family member of ours (read her full story here: What It's Like Being A New Bunny Momma). When me and my boyfriend 'adopted' her, because she wasn't wanted anymore, I was given all her toys, leftover bedding and food. Instead of doing my own research in how to care for a rabbit or seek advice from professionals, I just went with whatever I was told by her previous owner. Stupid. Luckily that didn't last long, I have a passion for watching Youtube videos and I started subscribing to content from fellow bunny owners, who also let their rabbit free roam. What I learned from those bunny parents was truly eyeopening, I didn't know anything about having a pet rabbit, really. Of course I don't recommend using Youtube as a reliable source but it honestly helped me out a lot. I threw away loads of 'rabbit supplies' that weren't suitable for Chloé (some which I had ignorantly repurchased already) and replaced them with the right ones.

5) I thought bunnies were low maintenance pets

Even though this isn't necessarily a mistake that I made, I did underestimate the amount of care that a rabbit actually needs. As a stay at home girlfriend I quickly learned bunnies aren't low maintenance at all. They are animals that require a lot of attention, a lot more than cats and dogs do. They aren't suitable pets for children, as they generally do not like to be picked up, or cuddled - and they need to be watched just as closely as if they were your two year old toddler. Fun fact, I spent 200€ on a pet sitter this Summer. There were a lot of cheaper options but considering how good Chloé's memory is, I wanted to make sure that all her needs were met and that the place she was staying at was as homey for her as possible. I didn't want her to stay in a cage and I didn't want her to come back home with any kind of behavioural problem. When she got spayed she was so traumatised by the surgery that she hid under the couch for 3 weeks. She also clearly remembers I'm the one who brought her in and it took me a long time to bond with her again after that. Rabbits are sensitive animals, they need to be shown they're loved even though they aren't the most sociable of creatures, their space needs to be respected, they can't be chased around, they need to be fed high quality food to avoid serious dental problems and something as small as having friends over can cause them to have severe anxiety and issues with their digestion. They can't be left in a room alone but they also can't be staying somewhere too noisy. I asked my boyfriend what he thought was the most difficult part of taking care of a free roam bunny and his answer was that many times he needs to put Chloé's needs first. Coming home from work and crashing in the couch is no longer the option.
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