Yes, you heard me right. Rabbits make great house pets, not cage pets. I should know because I have one.
Like everyone else I used to associate rabbits with hutches and hay. I also thought they were the kind of pet that only little kids had. But a couple years ago, someone told me that it is possible to litter train a rabbit and keep it inside the house, much like a little dog. This person's mom had one for several years. And because my heart yearned to have a little dog, but my pragmatic self knew that I didn't have the time to really take care of one, I was sold!
Most of us in Los Angeles live in apartments and therefore we have no backyard. It then becomes mandatory for those who have dogs to walk them about 2-3 times a day. As much as I love dogs, I know that I wouldn't be able to commit to such a routine.
But with a potty-trained rabbit, a person like myself can have the joy of a cute, cuddly and affectionate little animal that has doggy-like qualities. My Sugar Bear actually does know his name and is able to come when called (that is if he is not preoccupied). Because he is so well behaved, I am able to take him out in public. On days when it is really hot inside, we go to the park and I let him run around on a harnass and a leash.
Rabbits can actually be trained on a much more sophisticated level. In Europe, they are trained to run obstacle courses and jump over high hurdles. Check it out on YouTube by typing "bunny jumping competitions" in the search field.
House rabbits are actually quite common in a lot of places besides LA. Students at UC Santa Barbara keep them at their apartments, and on occasion, bring them on campus. Here in Los Angeles, I feel like I am the only one who has an indoor, litter trained rabbit. When people learn that my rabbit doesn't have a cage, I get remarks such as, "You mean you just let him run around?" Most people express that they've never heard of anyone keeping a rabbit as a house pet.
It makes me quite sad to realize that the majority of of these animals are confined to cages practically 24-7 throughout their lives. Just because it seems acceptable, doesn't mean that it is. Rabbits may be quiet and docile, but they are very intelligent and affectionate with a lot of personality. Of course, when you are kept in a cage with little environmental stimulation, it may be hard for these qualities to be fully seen!
For those of you who are thinking about getting a house rabbit, please do the research first. There is nothing worse than buying a bunny, say from the Beverly Center, realizing that you can't keep one and turning it over to an animal shelter. Look online for articles on how to potty train a rabbit. It is important to really follow their advice, be very consistent a use rewards immediately after a successful behavior is performed. If the process of litter training seems too hard, consider adopting from a rescue group like B.U.N.S. whose rabbits are already house trained.
Even though my rabbit does not have a cage, I do keep him confined behind a sliding door in my apartment so that I know he is not chewing wires when I am not home. And lastly, the quality of your relationship with a rabbit or any other animal makes a huge difference in their behavior. With the time that you do not have to spend on walks, play with your rabbit, and show him/ her a lot of affection. The rewards are worth it.
I love being a rabbit owner. Besides the fact that I don't have to walk him, I like the fact that Sugar Bear's poop does not smell. And he does not bark. Owning a rabbit is a little less pretentious (if not highly unusual) than an expensive pure bred small dog. But one thing he does have in common with these pimped up little dogs is a pimped up little wardrope.
So what if Sugar Bear is a little spoiled?