The Pet Directory Small Animal Article - Choosing a Rabbit: Should I Get A Nice Little Girl Rabbit?

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Choosing a Rabbit:
Should I Get A Nice Little Girl Rabbit

By Susan Batho

How many times have we heard that line?…. All I want is a nice little girl rabbit… and how many times have we wanted to reply, there is no such animal.

Whilst visions of sweet cuddly, compliant fluffies dance in their heads, we see visions of the real girl bunnies: hormonal, territorial, and protective. We see the grunting, the rushing at you with teeth barred, and yanking the food scoop out of your hand come dinner-time. Admittedly, somewhere in the shed, there's a few cuddly, sweet girls, but often they've had their kits and are ready for a safe, non-hormonal retirement – kind of like us post-menopausal humans who look forward to our time without children (unless we can hand them back!), without chemically driven cycles, and doing our own thing. It may not be their vision of sitting under a tree, cropping the fresh grass in some safe backyard, but it's a pleasant illusion off peace and time off none-the-less.

Which rabbit should I choose?

So, with a sigh, we have to shatter some illusions about bunnies in the interest of not having to accept back a bunny because it bit their youngest child (who was tugging at its ear at the time), or was just plain nasty. In the wild, the girls (does) dig their warrens, they protect them from other females and other animals, and make a warm nest off chewed grasses and soft belly fur. They often cover the warren entrance whilst they forage during the day, so their kits will remain protected. The boys (bucks), on the other hand, often live in disused warrens or in hollow logs, and have only three drives: to eat, to sleep, and to reproduce. To this end, they are often endearing, cuddly, and wanting to make love to you, to the cat, to their toys, or any of your clothing that may lay around.

Your doe will see her hutch as her territory and really object to you putting your hand in it, or trying to take her away from it. Every two weeks she may shmooze up to you for some cuddling, but equally, on the other week, she will grunt at you and turn her back on you. And does getting her desexed change this? Will she get fat and affectionate and lose all her drives? Not necessarily. The urge to protect her space is a strong one in some does, and it doesn't matter what you do, it remains. And desexing may not really be an option in does. Not many vets will perform the operation as there is nearly a 50% rate of death or complications. It's not a straight forward procedure like the castration of a buck, but one that is invasive and complicated due to the shape and positioning off the "two-horned" uterus in does.

Is it possible to live with a doe? Of course, it is. There are lots of ways to share space with a doe, as they often have great personalities and bond strongly with you. Rabbits are smart, they can adapt and learn, and as long as you can too, life with your rabbit, even a girl rabbit, can be rewarding. But first, ask yourself, is this my pet or my children's? If it is going to be a pet being handled constantly by children, consider getting a buck first and foremost. Breeders are always looking for homes for quality, healthy bucks. However, if it is going to be your pet, then here are a few tips.

You are the boss. Pet her every single day. Let it be a routine for you. Show fear and weakness and she will use it to her advantage and you'll find yourself in the situation that most cat owners do… being the animal's servant. She will realise that despite her grunting, nipping, and show, you are going to give her affection regardless and she will come to accept it and enjoy it. Do it before feeding her if possible, so that she will expect and respond to affection and get rewarded. If she is not young, start when she is eating – if she is hungry enough, she is going to tolerate your touch.

If she is intent on taking a piece of you when you put your hand into her space, then use a distraction. Soft toys, a piece of fresh food, a treat… whilst she is dealing with these, you can do what you have to do.

Establish a cleaning routine. She goes out to play, you clean. Don't do it whilst she is still in her space – she will just get further agitated by your invasion. The idea is to give her a reward for her leaving her hutch, and to give you time to do what you have to do.


My house bunny was a real learning experience for me. Her name was Fred. Fredrick became Fredrica when I handed her to the vet to be desexed and he was laughing so hard over the phone, I barely got out that I would have to rename her. And Fred ruled my study. She had an indoor cage on a coffee table in front of the folding bed lounge, and she would watch me intently as I opened and shut the latch. She learnt to do it herself. I came home from work one day to find that she had let herself out and the study was now considered her turf. Woe betide any cat that thought they could come in without permission, let alone a stranger, whose ankle was fair game for bites. I even saw her intimidate a tradesman who had followed me into the study to get paid.

I was privileged to share the space with her, despite being another female. We established our routine of feeding and affection. She would come up, and bop her head beneath my hand for pats, and when she was hungry, she was very insistent about it. My lap became something to be used to get to somewhere else, and the keyboard was victim to many thumpings when I was not paying her enough attention. It was a constant war of who was going to win: I needed to work on my computer, she wanted attention and feed. Eventually, the keyboard became wireless and was packed in the drawer when I was not home, and I saved myself some money. When she wanted mating, she would get really aggressive about attention, even giving the cat a hard time by demonstrating on him what she was after. He was not amused and learnt to avoid her when she was like that. Otherwise, they would share the lounge and watch animal planet together, grooming each other with no thought of their interspecies friendship.

My relationship with Fred spanned many years and she was one of the best companions, I've ever known. I still find the occasional bunny ball in the bookcase, or under something. Just Fred reminding me she was there.

So, yes, it is possible to live with a girl bunny – but a nice little girl bunny, no. A quirky, moody bunny instead – yes!

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