Everything You Need to Know About Owning a Pet Bunny

 

In this post, I allow my inner animal lover to fully emerge, because I really love animals. My Grandfather Papa calls me Dr. Doolittle. And I love it. And it’s accurate. And I got it from my Grandmother, Mimi. I love dogs and horses and birds and guinea pigs and cows and whales and basically all animals. Kinda not fond of skunks, but that’s only because they my living places have been 2nd hand skunked multiple times before. Like, who has to deal with that multiple times in their life?!?! Once in college, twice in adult life. The first time it happened in adult life was in our pink house in Navasota and honest to goodness Kenton and I lost our minds. I had bowls of vinegar in every room and Kenton dowsed his mustache in Lavender oil before bed. I wish you could have seen us. We were just bickering and buzzing around like bees trying to escape the smell to no avail. I think the part of our brain that can reason was disabled by the oppressive smell and we just completely lost it. At the time we were beside ourselves, now it’s funny. Maybe type 2 funny, but funny nonetheless. 

But this post isn’t about skunks or horses or dogs or any of those things, it’s about BUNNIES!!!!!!!!!!! In this post you will:

1) be fully introduced to Howie and become completely acquainted with his person, 

2) enjoy a lot of personal iPhone pics snapped in moments of ridiculous Howie preciousness, and

2) learn everything I know about how to care for rabbits and what it’s really like to own a bunny.

So if you’re not into it, please feel free to keep scrolling, but if you’re curious about owning a bunny or just want to see a lot of cute pictures of Howie, this post is for you. So, please enjoy:

World, meet our bunny: William Howard Taft. Or, Howie. Nicknames include: Lit, Little, Litty Lou, Litty, How, Bub, and probably a few others.

Howie is part Lionhead and part Dwarf Rabbit, or so the pet store told me. And btw – Howie is from a pet store, but if I were to get another bunny, I’d probably to adopt first. There are tons of bunnies people grow tired of or don’t know how to care for them so they give them up to a shelter or try to sell them on Craigslist. Anyway, back to Howie. He definitely has a little half lion mane which breaks my heart it’s so cute, but nothing about this dude is Dwarf – he’s a chunker. 

I’ve had Howie since June 2013. I was a student pastor then, and we’d just gotten back from our very first summer camp as a youth group and I’d planned the entire thing. I reminisced with my dear friend Shelby recently, who interned for me that summer, who recounted the story though belly laughs. Apparently, she left me for a weekend to rest after camp, and came back and I had a bunny. All I remember is being in an almost depression-like state after camp because I’d planned it for so long and it went so well and I had no clue what to do with myself when it was over. So… I got a bunny. Bounced back no prob after that. Thx How. But when Shelby got back she was all, “I leave you alone for one weekend and you get a rabbit!!!!” Yeah.. yeah I did. 

The above is teenage Howie. I couldn’t show you baby Howie without preparing you first. He is LITERALLY (Chris Trager voice) the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. 

So the story is my mom and I stopped by Tomlinson’s pet store in Austin on the way home from lunch one Saturday when I didn’t have Shelby watching me to make sure I didn’t do something absurd like get a bunny. The moment I saw him I loved him. BUT HOW COULD YOU NOT? That tiny white dot on his nose is so unfair. However, we did leave without him, but I kept thinking about him. I was dating Kenton at the time and asked what he thought about me getting a bunny/asked if it was okay, because I knew we were going to get married. Even if he said no, I would have gotten him anyway, because the next day I went back to see if he was still there and came home with my new baby bun. 

When he was a baby he had a crazy mane and tufts of hair on both sides of this tail and I died every time I looked at him. 

He didn’t stay little long. But big How is just as cute as little How.

Howie has been a big part of my life. God speaks to me through animals, especially bunnies. He always has. God has used Howie to show me His love many times. He’s part of my family. So it’s not abnormal for him to be included in life events. These inclusions are super obvious choices for me, but I’m also self aware enough to know they’re a little extra and probably peculiar. But I’m Dr. Doolittle, so I super don’t care. 

Howie had a cameo at our engagement session, which still makes us laugh. 

And Little Bub made it to our wedding rehearsal too…. I’m dying laughing at this. My sister Sara told me she had a surprise for me and I get to the lake (where K and I got married) and HOWIE IS THERE BY THE TREE AKA THE ALTAR. So regal. 

Howie did NOT make it to our honeymoon in Kauai, but here he is chillin with my dad while we were gone. 

While we were in Kauai my parents would let him play in the backyard and he was so bad. My dad could never catch him, so he resorted to throwing a towel on him to snatch him up before he could dart off again. 

Okay here’s another good one. For one of the Easter services I taught when I was a youth pastor, I brought Howie out at the end. I can’t remember what point I made with him, but I’m sure it was a stretch. I just wanted to find a way to bring my rabbit to church. Also I’m dying at how terrified Howie looks, haha. Also had a puppy at church once, too. THAT was AWESOME.

Howie is awesome. He’s my favorite little guy. I love him so much, and I have a lot of people ask me about him and what it’s like to own a bunny. And I say IT’S GREAT. But there are a lot of little details about owning a bunny that people don’t expect. It’s not all fun and games, though most of the time, for me, it is. So this blog post has been a long time coming, and I hope to answer all the questions you have about having a pet bunny. 

 

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1. BUNNIES ARE AFFECTIONATE AND RELATIONAL. 

Yes, snuggle bunny is a real thing. Bunnies love to snuggle. Generally, they love their friends. If you get two bunnies (who are already friendly), they’ll love each other and snuggle together. If you get one bunny and interact with him enough (more on that later) he will bond with you, and you’ll be his bunny bud. If you have one bunny and get another one later, I do know you have to exercise care when introducing them and give them lots of time to acclimate to having a buddy to avoid accidents. But I just have one, and Howie is connected to me. He knows who I am. He knows my voice. He listens to me when I talk. He knows the phrases I use to communicate with him. He hops in his cage when I tell him to. He knows his name. And he loves to snuggle with me. When I do yoga and lay on the mat, he runs over, asking for pats and finally will just lay next to me, like in the photo below.

Howie loves to be patted and loved on. Here he is, above, putting his face on my knees and begging for attention. IT’S ADORABLE. And it’s because he knows me and has a relationship with me. He doesn’t do that with anyone else. Seriously, they’re so relational!

Oh also, Howie licks me like a dog. For evidence of this check out my Howie highlight on my Instagram stories. For bunnies, licking is a sign of affection. Bunnies groom one another as a way to show love, so Howie licking me is his little way of returning the favor when I give him pats. Which he asks for all the time, by the way. The other day, I was spread out working on the floor, and he ran over and put his head under my hand and wouldn’t move until I pet him. 

People are often surprised to hear about How sweet and sociable Howie is. I hear a lot of “mean rabbit” stories. I have some of my own. I think the key to ensuring your pet bunny is kind and sociable is to interact with them on a regular basis. I handle, talk to, pet, hold, and interact with Howie almost every single day. It’s been this way from Howie’s baby days. I think this is why he’s grown into a nice, sociable bunny. Sure, personality goes into that equation, but repetition is basically training, so all the times I handled Howie, I was training him to enjoy and kindly tolerate being handled by humans. This is why rabbits are more of an investment than some people expect. I’ve heard stories of people dumping rabbits because they tire of them and say they aren’t friendly. Who knows the real reasons why, but I have a hard time believing that if someone commits the time and care necessary to invest in forming an amicable, relatable rabbit, you’ll get one. So, my greatest advice to people considering getting a rabbit is to 1) be fully committed, and to 2) be consistent with interaction until a good relationship has been established. Then once it is, you’ll watch your bunny’s personality blossom. Basically, you’re earning trust. Think about it – they’re tiny prey animals. All they really have is a set of mediocre teeth and some fast feet for defense. So any time spent with them is teaching them that you’re a safe place, a friend, and the provider of good things like food and treats and time out of their cage is time investing in your relationship with your rabbit. If you adopt your rabbit and they’re already a little older or haven’t been handled since they were a baby, it’ll just take a little more time. With any animal trust is earned!

Also something to note – rabbits can be great pets for kids! But if they get threatened or have bad/painful experiences with children, they can become aggressive and act out. So I think supervision and helping kiddos learn how to handle bunnies is probably key in avoiding any rabbit related trauma for them. 

 

2. BUNNIES DO WEIRD STUFF.

I think this is both a pro and con of having a pet rabbit. Howie is constantly making me laugh. Rabbits love to explore and jump on things, so countless times I’ve walked into a room and found him on my desk….

On a chair…

Hiding in boxes…

On my bed…

Straight creepin…

Or jumping on me.

One time I even found him on top of his cage. I was like, “Dude.. how?! Why?!?”

Bunnies can be mischievous. To them it’s normal bunny behavior, but to us it can be a hassle. Rabbits to chew on things. They build their nests meticulously and to do so, they are equipped with feet to scratch and teeth to gnaw through branches and grass. If you want to have a free-range bunny or semi-free-range bunny, you’ll need to bunny proof that room or your whole house. This means hiding/covering cords. Howie has chewed through at least two expensive computer chargers and endless phone cords. One time my phone was charging and suddenly flew off my desk and I was like, “What the heck!?!”. But I looked down and saw Howie running away dragging my phone behind him. In some cases safe guarding base boards and protecting wood furniture legs may be necessary. Rabbits will also chew through carpet and rugs. But getting angry at bunnies will not train them against these habits. They’re smart, but not smart enough to connect the dots between a ruined rug and a lecture. They will however respond to verbal cues. Howie knows he’s not supposed to chew on furniture or walls because I’ve told him so. Seriously! He knows that when I say “no” or clap or snap at him (he really hates snapping) when he’s doing one of these things, that the unsavory noises I’m making will stop as soon as he does. Hence, Howie now knows not to do those things. But you have to be consistent. So whenever Howie is out of his cage, I keep an eye on him, and anytime he does something against the rules, I say “Howie” and snap my fingers until he stops, which is usually right away.

By the way, Howie is a semi-free range bunny. He’s only let out of his cage when I’m around to watch him, but he’s out of his cage almost any time I’m in the room. 

A great way to train your bunny not do chew off limits items is to supply things he can chew on. This is also important for dental health. Additionally, bunnies like to be mentally stimulated. That actually helps them live longer. They love to explore new environments and try new things. It helps them to stay young and active. New toys and papers and cardboard box castles make Howie very happy and prevent him from relapsing into bad behaviors. I also take Howie outside to give him something new. My outdoor rules are I’m always there to protect him from predators like hawks and stuff, I keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t eat a poisonous plant, and I make sure he doesn’t get too hot. 

Notice Howie surveying his cardboard box kingdom and cords neatly wrapped in a bucket to the right which has prevented damage to my property as well as keeping Howie safe from chewing through a wire and hurting himself. Note – when I use boxes, I usually always remove tape so he doesn’t eat adhesive. 

 

3. BUNNIES CAN GET ALONG WITH OTHER ANIMALS.

For us ‘get along’ is relative though just this morning Bowie affectionately licked How’s face and Howie DIDN’T RUN AWAY. So that was big for us. But Bowie and Howie do coexist well. That took a lot of time though, and training. By nature, Bowie isn’t an aggressive dog, but even he had to be educated about how to interact with Howie. To be fair, all he wanted to do at the beginning was basically sit on top of him. Bowie wants to be as close to the other animal as possible. But obviously Howie was not okay with this and ran away. Bowie eventually learned that if he restrained himself, Howie would come to him. So for us, it worked out great. They have a really peaceful, funny, begrudging relationship. But it took time. Rabbits are fragile though, if they get too frightened they can have a heart attack and die. So ensuring that your bunny feels safe during the introductions to other house animals is extremely important. If you know your dog has that hunting gene you’ll 100% need to be your bunny’s advocate and teach Doggo to treat this one like a family member.

 

4. BUNNIES CAN BE LITTER BOX TRAINED.

This is so awesome, and it’s very easy to do. Rabbits naturally like to situate their bathroom in one corner of their living space, so all you have to do to litter box train them is take note of which corner of their cage they’ve designated as their potty corner, and put a litter box there. Easy as that. Even when I put Howie’s door down to let him out of his cage and he’s running around his room, he’ll hop back into his cage to use his litter box. However, in our last home he decided to create a new potty corner outside his cage, so to solve the problem, I just put a litter box down whenever he was out. If you watch The Office, every time I look at the photo below I hear Michael Scott say, “You know me, I be poopin’.” 

 

5. BUNNIES LAST LONG AND ARE AFFORDABLE. 

Rabbits can live 8 to 12 years. Yes, you read that right. This is why they are an investment. They could be around for a while. But the upkeep for bunnies is low. Costs are the initial purchase (or adoption fee) of the bunny, a nice cage (there’s a healthy ratio for the size of the cage to the size of the rabbit) and then food, litter and bedding and the occasional vet visit. THAT’S IT. Because Howie uses a litter box, I save a lot of money on bedding because it stays clean for such a long time.

A note on vets/vet bills: I do recommend spaying/neutering and sometimes vet visits are necessary. I watch Howie’s behavioral patterns like a hawk and therefore know if he’s ever not feeling well, so we basically never make vet visits. However, I do know where the closest small animal hospital is for the chance emergency, and I do recommend you don’t take my advice on vet related topics because I’m not a vet. If you want a better idea of what medical bills you could pay for for a rabbit annually, I recommend you call a vet and ask what they recommend in regards to regular bunny vet visits.

Here are all the things we get for Howie on a regular basis:

  • Oxbow Pellets (every day – It’s important to get a rabbit food without all the extra stuff, no seeds, no colorful things, just pellets that contain around 12-14% protein. Fiber is also important for bunnies. Helpful links on all this at the end of the post. I feed Howie maybe 4 table spoons of pellets each day, and as much hay as he wants. They can and should eat alllll they hay in the world and it isn’t bad for them, but if your bunny is a gorger, too much pellets can lead to weight problems which leads to all sorts of other health issues.) 
  • Timothy Hay (every day – we actually get ours at Tractor Supply by the bale to save money)
  • Orchard Grass and Botanical Hay (for variety as a treat)
  • Pine Shavings (we buy ours at Tractor Supply for $5 and the bag lasts months and smells amazing)
  • Litter (we change his litter box probably once a week)

Quick note – bunnies tummy’s are continually digesting. They’re like horses in that they can’t vomit and they graze constantly. That’s why they need access to fresh water and Timothy hay all day, as well as access to a quality pellet. Their stomachs are designed to constantly be moving and digesting things. They eat all day. So if your bunny stops producing poop (they poop a lot), that’s a sign of intestinal strain and you ought to call your vet ASAP and probably take them in. 

Also, House Rabbit Society is where I go if I want to know reliable, wholesome information about Howie. They’re a great resource. I also just discovered this site that has a ton of really great info like this post about which veggies are actually good for your bun

Apparently there’s some debate about fruits and veggies for buns. I recently read that the oldest house rabbit lived to be like 17 years old and the owner only ever fed him water, hay, and good pellets. Other sites say it’s good to inffuse your bunny’s diet with fresh fruits and veggies, which is what we’ve done. But bunny sized portions! Not human portions. Only a few bites of sweet stuff because they don’t need sugar, and bunny sized salads with good veggies. Howie’s favorites are Kale (which they should consume in moderation), Bananas, Carrots, Strawberry hats, and Lettuce. He’s more of a veggie guy, but he begs like CRAZY for Bananas (check those videos out on on Howe Insta highlight, too). It’s very cute when he eats them. 

 

6. FINALLY, BUNNIES ARE ADORABLE AND MAKE GREAT COMPANIONS.

This is obvious. But I needed a section to show you all the funny, cute ways Howie likes to lounge. Please enjoy all the many restful phases of Howie.

I call this one “Long How.” He stretches out real long and sicks his feet out.

This one is called a Loaf. No explanation necessary. 

This is a Flop or Floppy Fish. It’s hilarious and to lay down this way bunnies literally flop over on their side and look like a dead fish. Howie does this a lot and sometimes he gives me a heart attack because he looks DEAD. 

This is just a funny one to share. When I sit Howie on his booty in my lap his arms just stick straight out and it kills me every time.

And on the companionship deal: I work from home. If I didn’t have B and How to keep me company, I think I’d lose it. They’re great coworkers and they make long days at home editing and emailing really happy. 🙂 I mean they’re the face of EBP, am I right?

 

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Okkkay that’s about it. But here are some old family pics because I know that’s what you really wanna see, right?

So that was A LOT.  I hope it gave you a great amount of material to make a very informed decision if you’re considering getting a pet rabbit. They require a commitment of love and care and attention, but the return on that invest is high! They’re relatively inexpensive and can enhance your life and your family’s life greatly!

So here’s my final advice:

GET A BUNNY!!! Do it! They’re freaking great! But ONLY do it if you’ll commit to being their bud for life, because as this last glorious photo displays, your bunny will be your ride or die from day one of your adventure together. 

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