Rabbits are intelligent, social, very clean – and definitely not starter pets like goldfish or hamsters, as some people believe them to be. Just in time for Easter, here are some interesting things you may not know about these “hoppy” little creatures.
1. Rabbits are not the same species as hares, which, among other things, are larger and less social.
2. Rabbits, hares and pikas, a mouselike burrowing animal, belong to the order of lagomorphs. They were classified as rodents until 1912.
3. You probably know a doe is a deer, a female deer. It’s also true, but a little less lyrical, that a doe is a rabbit, a female rabbit. Also, just like deer, a male rabbit is called a buck.
4. However, the animal rabbits are most similar to are not deer. They’re most similar to horses, according to MSPCA-Angell, which notes, “They have similar eyes, teeth, and ears (those belonging to many prey animals), as well as a similar diet and behavior. Clearly, their size is much different…”
5. Rabbits are born blind and spend their first few days in a nest lined with grass and their mothers’ fur. Unlike the Easter Bunny, rabbits don’t really lay eggs, but hopefully you already knew that.
6. Rabbits definitely deserve their reputation as being extremely fertile. Does are pregnant for 30 days and may have a litter of four to 12 babies, called kits (short for kittens). They can start reproducing as young as four months, and can have 800 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren during their lifetimes.
7. Besides No. 6, another good reason to spay or neuter pet rabbits is because it will make them live longer. Rabbits that have been sterilized can live 10 to 12 years, up to four years longer than those that haven’t. Females who haven’t been spayed have an 80 percent higher chance of getting reproductive cancer.
8. Scary fact: A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing. Fortunately, they’re naturally kept short by the normal wear and tear of chewing. Lots and lots of chewing, that is — about 120 times a minute.
9. Like cats, rabbits can be trained to use a litter box.
10. Also like cats, rabbits will groom themselves, as well as any rabbit they’re bonded with, as often as five times a day.
11. Bunnies don’t have the ability to vomit, so it’s important to only feed them healthy, appropriate food like hay, grass and vegetables. They also can’t cough up hairballs after all that grooming, so it’s important to regularly brush their coats to prevent shedding.
12. Rabbits eat their poop. Icky, yes, but they have to do it. They need to digest some of their food twice, so they eat their soft “cecotropes” (nutrient-packed droppings). What’s commonly known as “rabbit pellets” are what comes out after their second round of digestion.
13. Happy rabbits will do what’s called a “binky:” They’ll jump in the air and spin around, kind of like a bunny Baryshnikov.
14. Happy rabbits will also “purr,” making a chattering noise with their teeth.
15. Rabbits are crepuscular, a creepy-sounding word that just means they’re the most active in the early morning and early evening. This makes them good pets for working people.
16. Rabbits need about four hours of exercise and playtime a day to keep them happy and help prevent osteoporosis.
17. Just like TV antennas used to be called “rabbit ears,” real rabbit ears do serve as a kind of antenna. They can pick up sounds from every direction and are capable of hearing from two directions at the same time.
18. In the wild, rabbits live in burrows called warrens. One warren in Europe had 450 rabbits and 2000 entrances, according to the RSPCA.
19. After cats and dogs, rabbits are the third most popular pet in the United States, and, unfortunately, the pet most frequently abandoned. Many people have the wrong impression that they don’t live long and are easy to care for – neither of which is true.
20. It’s not a good idea to give bunnies (or chicks, ducklings or any live animal) as Easter gifts. Here are five good reasons why.