Bunny lovers - Experience with Rabbits

I live with 2 rabbits who roam freely throughout the house and we have a warm and loving relationship. Once they learn to trust you, rabbits are amazing, affectionate, and social. You need to take the time to socialize them and learn about their basic body language.

I am always amazed by the sitters who include “small pets” in their sitting abilities as rabbits require a lot more care than people typically expect, and so it’s important to be prepared! They usually require more maintenance than cats …

Bunnies need to be monitored carefully for signs of illness: decreased appetite, weight loss, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, soft fecal pellets. Any change in appetite is significant!!! If the bunny stops eating, it needs to be seen right away (within a few hours) by an experienced rabbit vet!!

They are prey animals who hate being picked up from the floor and cuddled. Rabbits do not have flexible spines like cats, so improper handling can cause serious or fatal injuries.

Curious to hear from the group -other bunny lovers and/or sitters- about their experience and maybe sitting stories to share.

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I’ve never had rabbits, but you’ve rather put me off sitting for them. I’d be a nervous wreck :pleading_face:

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:grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:
another remark …: rabbits don’t deal well with stress

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We did a housesit recently that included caring for indoor rabbits and, to be honest, I thought they were very easy to look after. I think they need more attention than cats but don’t think the amount of care they need is enough to put any sitter off.
Most of the things you mention are typically things that you would look out for with any type of pet.
The main thing with rabbits is knowing how to handle them ( never by the ears!!!) Some rabbits love to be held - others find it distressing so it is important to have that knowledge from the home host before they leave.
They are really inquisitive. inside rabbits need lots of play and things to keep them occupied and to chew on otherwise they can be extremely destructive.

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Hi @Petra welcome to our community forum, thank you for joining and bringing your bunny care wisdom to the conversation … we do have many pet bunny families on the forum and as you say it would be really interesting to hear some bunny sitting stories.

Enjoy connecting with other members and thank you again.

As well as your excellent tips and insights here are some from the Blue Cross also.

Angela and the Team

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Yes ! This site is my bible for rabbit care, this is where I learned everything I know now about them!
Having had cats all my life, rabbits were a kind of new territory for me, and I had to start from scratch : you think you know a lot about pets but all species are different !

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I also live with two house rabbits! Unfortunately I always have that one destructive bunny that makes roaming freely impossible. But they have their own “room”, and when I am home they get to visit me in the living room and can still destroy the pillows on my couch, books in my shelf or mobile phone chargers. :wink: My girl Ella is very social and likes to be pet all paws on the floor. My boy Max unfortunately only sees me as the person serving his food and prefers to be left alone outside of meal times.

I have been on trusted house sitters for almost ten years and hence had a lot of different sitters. Some were bunny people, some not. I had sitters who have had bunnies themselves and were amazing. Other sitters had some previous bunny experience and sometimes insisted to do things “their way”, or thought they knew everything and didn’t ask enough questions. So very often I was happier with the sitters that had very little or no previous experience with rabbits, because they would always follow my instructions to the dot and ask questions about anything.

I personally don’t agree that bunnies need more monitoring, or at least I never looked at it that way. Most of my sitters told me that they found looking after the bunnies quite easy because they don’t need any entertainment. The biggest challenge for them usually is buying/finding new greens. My bunnies’ diet consists of 90 percent greens, and bunnies eat a lot! So it is impossible to provide greens for more than a few days. This summer I started picking greens from the meadows nearby and therefore tried to give my summer sitters a quick introduction on what they could pick themselves when they were running out of food. As for shopping, my local market isn’t always predictable, so my shopping list will usually consist of lots of “if you don’t find this, buy that” instructions. Some sitters figure this out better than others. :slight_smile:

But in general, I find sitters very willing to adapt to any pet’s special needs. Last year my one bunny had a dental procedure and needed to have the wound cleaned for longer than I thought. So I showed my sitter what to do and he did it brilliantly, although I don’t think he has ever done anything like this before.

However, I sometimes feel that very few sitters apply for house sits with bunnies. I have lived in Copenhagen, Berlin and now in Riga with my rabbits, which should all be desirable destinations for city people. I usually have a few sitters to chose from, but not many. So it would be nice if more people understood what amazing pets they make.

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Hello Elke,

Thanks a lot for sharing your experience!

I am relatively new to rabbits, and thought at the beginning that they were quite “carefree” …

And indeed, they are, if all is OK and the bunnies are in good health They sleep most of the day, and are active in the morning (until 11) and starting again in the afternoon, waking up around 5pm. They eat around 7-8 in the morning and same in the evening (19.00-20.00). So perfect timings for a sitter!

But if you consider that some situations maybe life urgency for bunnies so you need to have someone present that is aware of those signs, recognize the urgency & may take the right decision: run to a specialized vet !

I am new to this site (got the link from a friend) and wanted to check out if there were sitters with bunny experience before subscribing. Also, as I may travel for business more frequently in the coming months, my leaves may be short duration but also short notice … And, it is mandatory! So looking for someone nearby and/or someone willing to come frequently to my place.

I am in the south of France, close to Nice Airport, so kind of “desirable” location. But hearing that sitters applications are not so numerous frightens me a bit …

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Ha, me too. I had a phone chat with a HO with rabbits. She said, “you must be here nearly 24/7 to observe them. If there is any concern, you must be prepared to take them to the emergency vet immediately!”

Pass.

Hi Petra, I didn’t see your response until just now.
The vet issue you mentioned I don’t consider very dramatic. A rabbit that doesn’t want to eat, even the favorite treats, needs to see our regular vet. Every sitter understands that.

I have been on this site for ten years and travel an average of maybe five times per year. The trips were from long weekends to six weeks. Some sitters I found on rather short notice. I always found someone, although sometimes with a bit of compromising.

It always went well and I cannot think of a better solution for my rabbits. Unless you have a friend or relatively that will always be available, this is better than any “bunny hotel” or paid sitters that will only come to feed the pets.

That sounds quite over protective. I work full time, so my bunnies are alone at home most days. It sounds as if the problem was more the home owner and not the type of pet.

Hi, @Petra. I have some rabbit experience (third sit coming up, same rabbit). Under normal circumstances (pre-covid), I would spend Feb - May in Nice. If the world doesn’t shut down again, I’m going back this spring (19/3 - 23/4). If you need a sitter for a short duration during that that time — and I can get to you by public transport — I might be able to help.
I know that’s a lot of ifs, but I thought I’d mention it…

I see the occasional listing with either rabbits or Guinea pigs, neither of which I have experience with. Do they bite? Can you hold them or pick them up safely? Are there things to watch out for? I’d love to become more familiar with them if any sitters/owners would like to share their experiences.

I used to have guinea pigs and in fact used to breed them. They are lovely animals, and it is very unusual for them to bite. They can move very quickly and are very likely to injure themselves seriously if dropped. How easy they are to handle will depend entirely on how much they have been handled……You can expect to be greeted loudly by Guinea pigs whenever you approach! Rabbits can be very loving or absolute terrors, again depending on how they’ve been handled, does can be very aggressive, but they can also be very friendly ‘house’ bunnies who have the run of the house…. -

I’m a rabbit owner (currently three house rabbits). Generally speaking, rabbits do not like being picked up and strongly prefer to be stroked with all four paws on the ground.

None of mine (six in total to date) have been aggressive and I would venture to say that an aggressive rabbit has been mistreated in the past. They are territorial (eg, need to be carefully introduced to a new rabbit companion) and this can lead to them ‘not allowing’ people into their hutch. I’ve never experienced this; I dont know whether it’s because all mine have been house rabbits (albeit with their own dedicated space, although no ‘hutch’) or because all of mine are neutered.

Important things to know about rabbits:

  • a rabbit not eating requires an urgent vet appointment. Rabbits’ digestive systems are designed to be in constant motion; if it stops (because they’ve stopped eating) a rabbit can die of gastro-intestinal stasis within hours - and even if not death, it can be very hard to ‘restart’
  • female rabbits must be neutered (even if you are only keeping females and therefore breeding is not a concern). Something like 80% of unneutered females develop womb cancer by the age of 5
  • hay hay hay hay and more hay. Hay forms like 80% of a rabbit’s diet. It keeps their digestion moving, it keeps their fast-growing teeth in shape and all that chomping is good for their mental health.
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For rabbits, I recommend the book Living with a House Rabbit by Linda Drakes and Helen Flack (for all rabbits, not just house rabbits). It’s been awhile since I read it but I thought it provided a really good overview.

I also recommend this website for understanding their body language, I found it really useful when I first got a rabbit:

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Such wonderful information here from @Ketch regarding rabbits and @Foldor13 regarding guinea pigs.

My guinea pig has only nibbled me once and I’m almost positive it was accidental. Guinea pigs are very social creatures that crave attention/interaction, especially if they are solo without any companion.

loving the bunny talk. i had a bunny many many years ago for a while but I had to give him up when i had to move. i’ve sat for a couple bunnies once. i was doing a THS sit and the HOs sister in law wanted to go on holiday and asked me to pop around and feed their rabbits. they had a nice outdoor area so I’d let them run around out there for a while every day. i would totally do bunnies again.

ironically, i’m currently parked up across from a small field and there is a group of about a dozen bunnies over there playing and having dinner. it’s super cute!

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@Ketch Isn’t it male rabbits that are neutered and female rabbits that are spayed?

Neutering is, er, neutral… :laughing: It covers both sexes. If you want to be specific then males are castrated and females are spayed.