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Rabbits/I have a healthy bunny... Is he happy?

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Question
This may seem like a ridiculous question, but I have never had a rabbit before. I have a 4 month old dwarf lionhead house rabbit who has been the picture of health and an ideal pet. I have no other pets and he seems pretty content, "binkies" constantly, "tooth purrs" whenever he's petted, frequently cuddles on our laps for hours at a time, and its rare not to see him stretched out full length on his side. I understand all of these to be side effects of a happy bunny, but several people much more rabbit savvy than me have insisted that his cage is too small (2'x 3'), he doesn't get enough playtime (minimum 3-4 hours) and he will never be a well adjusted, emotionally healthy bunny unless he has a bunny friend. I don't want to short change the little guy but I'd have to stretch my finances to get him a friend and I'm not sure I have the resources to bond two rabbits properly. He's never acted aggressive or aloof, but maybe I'm mistaking loneliness for affection? Is it cruel to have just one rabbit? does he need more space and freedom without a companion as a diversion? Any insight from an expert would be very much appreciated.

Thank you,
Nadia

Answer
Dear Nadia,

The cage does sound a bit too small.  But if your bunny is not at all destructive, has good litterbox habits, and your house is "bunny-proofed" then there is little reason to ever close him up in the cage.  All our own bunnies have completely free range, as would a dog or cat.

You can keep the cage open and supplied with litterbox, food, water, etc. for a "home base" that your bun might like to use as a sleeping spot.  But he will be very happy if he can wander freely, at will.  It will just require that you make sure there are no hidden dangers that he could get into if running free and unsupervised.

A companion is not absolutely necessary if your bun has plenty of love and attention from you.  But if he's alone during the times bunnies are most active (morning and evening), then you might consider setting up a "blind date" with your local rabbit rescuer to see if he likes any of the available girls.  He must be neutered first, though.

If you are happy with the situation as it is, then don't rush things.  He's still young, and you have time to make these decisions.  Once he reaches full sexual maturity he may push your hand by exhibiting unwanted behaviors such as spraying, mounting, etc. and then you'll all be much happier if he's neutered.  At that point, consider a pal.  Until then, just make sure he's loved and has plenty of play time outside his cage and he will be a happy, well-adjusted bunny.

Good luck!

Dana  

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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