Part 1: Finding A New Home For My Rabbit
You care about your rabbit and you want to find him/her a good home. But remember, not every potential adopter will share your knowledge, concern and compassion for animals. This guide provides the information you need to select a good home. It will help to ensure that the rabbit you are placing will still be well cared for in the next year and also throughout his/her lifetime.
More than 20 million animals are destroyed each year because there are simply not enough homes to go around. Always spay/neuter your rabbit before adoption; this avoids further breeding which results in more homeless animals.
Remember, do not release your rabbit into the outdoors – it is the cruelest fate of all.
- Shelter/Rescue: If your rabbit was adopted, the first place you need to start with is the shelter or rescue where you got your rabbit. Most shelters and rescues have it stated in their adoption contract if you are unable to keep your pet, the animal should be returned back to their organization. Even if you cannot find your copy of the contract, give them a call first to see how they can help you in your situation.
- Network: One way to place your rabbit is to get the word out that you are looking for a new home for your rabbit. This means to contact everyone you know; include relatives, friends, neighbors, work, clubs, church, veterinarians and anyone else you can think of. Talk to as many people as you can.
- Online: Post your rabbit up for adoption on www.petfinder.com.
- Flyers: Get a picture of your rabbit and make up a full-page flyer. Color shots get much more attention than black and white photos. Be sure to include information on the rabbit’s name, age, breed, personality, and what kind of home the rabbit would do best in. Post these everywhere you can. Be sure to include places that animal lovers go.
- Newspapers: List your rabbit in the classified section of your local newspapers. Be sure to never advertise your rabbit as being free to a good home.
Screening Potential Homes:
The following questions are designed to give you the necessary information about a potential adopter’s standpoint and level of responsibility.
- Why do you want a rabbit?Look for someone who wants a rabbit to be part of the family as an indoor companion. Beware of people seeking a rabbit for their children. Children almost always lose interest and their rabbits are often neglected and discarded. If a child calls, ask to speak with his or her parents. Beware of someone who wants a rabbit for breeding. If someone wants a rabbit as a gift for a friend or relative, insist that the person who will spend the next decade with the rabbit be involved in the process.
- Have you had a rabbit or other animal before? What happened to him/her?
People who have never had animals before should be advised on the considerable expense and responsibility involved in caring for them. This includes daily exercise (6 hours out of a cage), food bills, and veterinary costs. Someone who has had several animals lost, killed by cars or predators or has given away animals is undoubtedly a poor prospect.
- If you move or travel, what will happen? Caring for a rabbit is a 10+-year commitment. Remind your prospects that they will have to make arrangements for someone to care for their rabbit during vacations and must plan for the animal’s needs if contemplating a move. Ask what arrangements will be made in those circumstances.
- Are you willing to rabbit proof your home? A rabbit proofed area is essential. People without a rabbit proofed home or room might allow the rabbit the run of the house. This is dangerous for the rabbit and can be hazardous to the home. Be extremely cautious if people already have an unaltered rabbit in their home. They may have breeding in mind. For two rabbits to live in one household harmoniously, both need to be altered (spayed or neutered).
- Do you own or rent your home? If the prospect does not own, find out if the lease permits animals. Thousands of animals are “given up” each year when a landlord finds out and tells the renter that their pet breaks the terms of their lease.
- Does anyone in the house have allergies? If a member of the family is allergic to other animals, most likely he/she will be allergic to rabbits. Strongly recommend he/she see an allergist first and they may want to get tested. Some may even be allergic to hay, which is the most essential part of a rabbit’s diet.
- Warning: There are people who acquire rabbits to sell as food for humans or reptiles. These individuals often pretend to seek animals as family companions and bring others with them to gain your confidence. Do not think it cannot happen to you. Always ask for identification because legitimate callers will not mind this. Write down a person’s full name and address. Ask for and check references from veterinarians, neighbors and employers.
- Help the adopter to understand the basics of responsible rabbit care, including veterinary care and rabbit proofing the home. Inform them of all stipulations, such as indoor housing, minimum exercise requirements and precautions with other animals and children. These need to be put in writing and signed by the adopter.
- Require a $25.00 adoption fee. This will discourage people who sell rabbits for food, as well as those who may not be willing to make a serious commitment to care for the rabbit. Honest, responsible individuals looking for a companion animal will be agreeable to pay a small fee, especially when you explain why. If they cannot pay the fee, they cannot be expected to pay for veterinary care.
- Do not hand over your rabbit until you are completely satisfied. If you have doubts about the adopter, the potential new home, or the situation feels wrong in any way, go with your gut feeling. Do not be afraid to say, “No” or “Let me think about it.” Your rabbit’s happiness and life depends on it.
- To ease the transition, send along the rabbit’s cage, carrier, toys, and litter box. A listing of what foods and toy your rabbit likes and dislikes is also helpful. Most importantly, send along the rabbit’s complete medical history. Be sure to give them the House Rabbit Connection’s Rabbit Care Guide. Upon request, the HRC guide will be mailed to any address for free. Provide the House Rabbit Connection’s phone number (413-525-9222) and Web site (www.hopline.org) for veterinary referrals and answers to any questions they may have.
- Leave your name, address, home and cell phone numbers and your rabbit’s veterinarian’s information. Urge adopters to call if the have any questions or problems. After the adoption, make at least one follow-up phone call to the new home to make sure the rabbit is happy and well cared for.
- Acclimation Period: Advise the new owner not to give the rabbit free run of the entire house at first. Allow a few days for adjustment. A sense of belonging and good litter box habits takes time to develop in a new surrounding.
Part 2: I Would Keep My Rabbit If Only…
• Have you consulted an allergist?
• Is the allergy to the hay or the rabbit?
• All hays are not created equal – hays with more dust will aggravate allergies.
• Have someone else handle the hay.
• Keep cages clean and the amount of excess hay in the cage to a minimum.
• Vacuum regularly and run an air purifier.
• Have rabbit-free rooms in your home.
Before Getting Rid Of Your Rabbit, Consider This:
Many “undesirable” behaviors can be reduced or eliminated. For example, rabbits naturally entertain themselves by chewing and digging. There are ways to direct these behaviors towards safe toys and not your furniture.
Spaying/neutering your rabbit will reduce other awkward behaviors, such as circling, growling, biting, and marking territory, etc. A healthy, altered rabbit can be litter-box trained and makes a delightful companion.
People often say they do not have enough time to spend with their rabbit. While you are at work, your rabbit should have a large cage with plenty of room to move around in, safe toys, and food. When you are at home, although time spent interacting with your rabbit is essential, rabbits are also content to play in their safe area while you are nearby, paying bills, watching television, etc.
Surrendering a rabbit to a shelter will often turn a social bunny into a withdrawn, ill, or aggressive rabbit, which makes it “unadoptable.” Rabbits have strong and vibrant personalities. They thrive on routine and a social environment. You made a commitment to your little pet, and HRC would like to see that relationship work.
Rabbits naturally chew and dig. Rabbits must chew to wear down their teeth, which never stop growing. You cannot and should not eliminate this behavior. Often unwanted chewing or digging can be controlled with a few simple steps.
Effective rabbit proofing – a must in every rabbit home
• Coverings for electrical and phone cords
• Barriers and furniture protection
Alternative chewing material:
• Untreated willow baskets
• Twigs from non-fruit trees
• Cardboard tubes
• Untreated wood
• Alternative digging options (such as a large box filled with shredded paper)
Poor Litter Box Habits
Most rabbits can be trained with little effort. The following things can contribute to better habits:
• Spay/Neuter – Rabbits that have been altered typically have better litter box habits than those that have not. See our Veterinary Referrals page for a list of rabbit-savvy vets.
• Changes in the household can result in a temporary loss of good habits. A new environment or pet may cause a rabbit to display territorial marking.
• Reinforce litter box training with positive feedback.
• Additional litter boxes may be needed.
• The exercise area (not time) may need to be limited during the reinforcement training.
HRC can help with reducing/eliminating aggressive behavior. Aggression, spraying, marking territory with urine or droppings, and mounting can be minimized or eliminated with a spay/neuter. Please refer to the list of rabbit-savvy veterinarians on HRC’s Web site. Reinforcement of positive behavior with fruit treats helps to extinguish negative behaviors. Contact HRC for additional ideas pertaining to your unique situation.
Finding a new home for yourself and your rabbit is possible. It just may take a little time. Some landlords may make exceptions to “no pet policies” for quiet, caged animals. You will have to adequately rabbit-proof the area for the times when your rabbit is outside of his/her cage. Remember, rabbits are not rodents and a landlord cannot refuse you on those grounds.
Don’t Have The Time Change the location of the cage to a less isolated area. In other words, moving a cage from the children’s room or porch to the living room will allow the rabbit to interact easily and naturally with your family. Open the cage door when home and you will see your rabbit will find time for you. They are social creatures and will seek you out in the room you are in.
Still In Need
If you still need to speak with us or may have more questions that would help you keep your rabbit, please contact us and make sure we have your phone number. A House Rabbit Connection Educator will promptly give you a call.
The House Rabbit Connection cannot take rabbits from individuals. Our mission statement does not allow us to take rabbits from the public and our committed foster homes would be unduly taxed.