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How to Buy a Pet Rabbit (Step by Step)
Looking to find rabbits for sale in your area, start with RabbitsforSale or you can find rabbit breeders in your state by consulting Rabbit Breeders which has comprehensive listings of rabbits for sale or adoption around the United States.
Rabbits are becoming an increasingly popular pet for many American families. The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recognizes around 50 different breeds which gives aspiring new rabbit owners lots of choice when looking for that perfect pet rabbit to buy.
Before getting started, it’s important to have some basic knowledge about rabbits and their health and care needs. Just because they are small animals doesn’t mean that they are low maintenance. They need a similar amount of care to a pet cat or dog in terms of food and training. You will need to find an appropriate rabbit hutch or cage to keep them safely in and this cage will need to be cleaned once a week.
In this article we will walk you through all the necessary steps required to buy your first pet rabbit, including considering the cost and the best places for you to find your new rabbit.
Some basic rabbit facts to get you started
Rabbits have a lifespan of between 9 and 12 years with smaller rabbit breeds usually outliving their larger counterparts by a year or two. Male rabbits are known as “bucks” and female rabbits are called “does” (as in “a doe, a deer, a female deer”). An old fashioned word used to describe rabbits is the curious word “coney” – although you will most likely hear this term among professional rabbit breeders.
Rabbits reach sexual maturity from the ages of four months to six months, so unless you want a rapidly expanding rabbit family, its important to get your new bunny spayed or neutered. Particularly if you end up buying two pet rabbits.
Rabbits are social animals and they do well in pairs – and if you feel confident to care for a pair of rabbits, consider adopting a pair if you feel confident in looking after two rabbits over their 12 year lifespan.
Where can I buy my pet rabbit?
There are lots of places where you can buy pet rabbits ranging from commercial pet stores, animal rescues, shelters, professional rabbit breeders and specialty websites which help you find reputable rabbit sellers in your area.
Avoid purchasing from commercial pet stores
Our first recommendation is that you don’t buy your new rabbit from a commercial pet store. This is because pet stores often source their animals (including kittens, puppies and hamsters) from large breeding facilities like puppy and kitten farms. Rabbits for sale in pet stores often come from these types of mass-breeding facilities which are more concerned about profit margins than animal welfare.
Rabbits sold in pet stores are more likely to have digestive problems from the stress of living in a pet store day after day – with strangers and children poking at them all day. You should only buy a new rabbit from a pet store if you can verify that the animal came from a reputable breeder or animal shelter and you are confident that it has been well cared for since it was born.
Buying a pet rabbit from an animal shelter or rescue
Rather than buying from a pet store, it’s better practice to buy your new pet rabbit from a local animal shelter or rescue. The staff at these places are more likely to have more knowledge and insight about rabbit care than pet store staff. Rabbits found in animal rescues and shelters are also more likely to be in better health and more socialized than rabbits sold in pet stores.
Pet store rabbits are more likely to be caged all day with little outdoor roaming time and much less socialization than animals found in shelters or rescues. Staff working at shelters and rescues are generally passionate about animal care and their priorities are based on their love of animals rather than simply commercially driven pet store owners.
Before buying a new rabbit, visit the local shelter or rescue and talk to the staff. Ask them how they care for their rabbits and what type of post-adoption care they offer. Many animal shelters and rescues will work together to rehome their animals and they should have lots of rabbit care tips to share with you.
Generally speaking, when you buy a rabbit from an animal shelter or a rescue you can expect to pay less than you would from a pet store or a breeder. Animal rescues and shelters usually make sure their rabbits for adoption will be desexed, wormed, microchipped and vaccinated.
Buying a rabbit from a shelter which is already sterilized and in good health will save you money further down the track. Another option to buy a pet rabbit is to approach a professional breeder particularly if you are after a specific breed of rabbit.
What to expect when buying from a rabbit breeder
Before approaching a rabbit breeder, it’s important to do some homework and find a professional breeder who has been proven to be reputable and only sells healthy rabbits. A good rabbit breeder is usually not strictly commercially driven, rather they are driven by their passion for owning, showing and breeding healthy stock.
A good quality rabbit breeder will be happy to offer you information and advice about rabbit care. They will also only agree to rehome their rabbits to customers who can prove they will provide healthy and happy homes for the rabbit’s full lifespan.
When you are vetting rabbit breeders, take the time to visit their breeding facility. Look over their cages and rabbit housing – these should be clean, well maintained and the rabbits should look healthy and alert. Don’t be afraid to ask the breeder questions about their breeding practices. If you want a specific breed – ask for papers showing genetic records.
If you buy a pet rabbit from a breeder, the price you pay will depend upon the breed you are interested in as well as the lineage of the rabbit you are considering. Offspring from prize-winning rabbits will fetch a higher price.
Don’t hesitate to ask for references or testimonials from other customers who have purchased rabbits from the breeder. You can also ask for a written health guarantee for the rabbit you are purchasing. This is more important if you are paying a few hundred dollars for a single rabbit.
A reputable breeder will never try to sell you rabbits in poor health as they not only love their rabbits but they value their reputation in the rabbit breeding community. If you feel like the rabbit breeder you are dealing with is trying to pressure you into a purchase, it’s better to look elsewhere.
There are many reputable rabbit breeders across the United States. There’s lots of information you can find online including in rabbit fancier groups on Facebook and other social media with information about rabbit breeders in your area. The best place to start of course is Rabbit Breeders which has the largest directory in the United States.
After you have found a rabbit breeder who can sell you the type of rabbit you are looking for, your next steps are to prepare your home for bringing the new rabbit or rabbits home.
Things to do before buying a pet rabbit
Before paying for a new rabbit it’s essential that you have performed a health check on each potential rabbit candidate. Rabbits purchased from a reputable breeder, animal shelter or rescue are likely to be in good health, but you should still conduct a basic health check.
Things to look for in your prospective new pet rabbit include:
Bright eyes which are dry with no signs of mucus or discharge.
A constantly twitching nose which is dry (and no mucus is present).
Healthy and shiny fur coat.
Teeth appear aligned and strong.
Evidence of a healthy appetite
Active and hopping around the cage.
Calm demeanor and well-socialized.
You can also ask the breeder if their rabbits are litter trained but it’s not a deal breaker if they aren’t. You can easily train your new pet rabbit to use a cat litter tray in the corner of their rabbit hutch or cage – which reduces waste and makes cleaning easier.
If your rabbit is well socialized it won’t mind when you pick it up and pet it, noting that most rabbits don’t particularly like being held (unlike cats and dogs). They do however love being petted and a happy rabbit which is accustomed to human contact may not object to a stranger petting it.
If you are dealing with a reputable rabbit breeder, they should also be able to take you through a full physical examination of the rabbit you are interested in purchasing.
A final word of advice around purchasing a new rabbit is to ensure that you only buy a rabbit which is at an appropriate age. While newborn baby bunnies less than 8 weeks old are adorable – they are far too young to be separated from their mothers. It’s better to purchase a rabbit at least four months old and the breeder you are purchasing from should be able to give you a date of birth and information on the rabbit’s parentage.
If you have the capacity and confidence to care for more than one rabbit, consider buying a pair. Rabbits can become quite lonely if left in a cage all day without another rabbit for company. That said, you should never leave a pet rabbit in a cage all day. They need socialization, affection and some outdoor roaming time – if you can manage to keep them safe from predators.
When choosing a pair of rabbits, male-female pairings work well – but remember to make sure they are sterilized after four to six months unless you want a rapidly expanding bunny family. When choosing to buy a pair of rabbits, make sure the rabbits that you choose get along with each other.
If you choose two intact male rabbits there is a chance they will fight with each other. Two female rabbits will get along but males are always more territorial. Once they are desexed, this territorial fighting behavior is less likely, but still possible. So you need to make sure that the pair of rabbits you buy, can live together in harmony.
If you are choosing to buy two rabbits from different breeders, you need to introduce the rabbits to each other before deciding on whether this particular combination will work. If you are not planning to breed your rabbits, it’s always better practice to make sure your new rabbits will be sterilized at the appropriate age.
Desexed rabbits are generally happier, healthier, less prone to territorial and destructive chewing behaviors. So consider getting your rabbits sterilized or choosing already desexed rabbits when selecting that new pet rabbit.
Setting up your new rabbit’s home
After you have selected your pet rabbit or pair of rabbits to buy, make sure you have purchased the initial supplies to set up your new rabbit’s home. This includes a multi-level rabbit house, hutch or enclosure. You can build your own rabbit hutch or you can purchase a commercial one already constructed. You will need sturdy terracotta food bowls, a water bottle or bowl, a litter box and an abundance of chew toys.
Your rabbit hutch should be covered in hay or straw which is their bedding. If you are litter training them, get a litter box and scoop. Your rabbit hutch should include a nesting box where they can sleep and feel safe.
When you buy a pet rabbit you can expect to pay anywhere from between $50 to $200 or more for the initial purchase. This will be determined by the uniqueness of the breed, where you purchased your pet rabbit from and whether they are spayed or neutered. You will need to factor in the additional costs of sterilization a little further down the track. To get your new rabbit set up complete with food, rabbit enclosure and necessary supplies you can expect to pay around $300 to $400 on top of your initial rabbit purchase.
Longer term, you may spend around $1000 each year for food, veterinary care and necessary supplies. So before you purchase your new pet rabbit, remember to include the ongoing costs into your budget.
Finally, you should be able to put aside the necessary time to care for your rabbit or rabbits. This includes cleaning their cages, purchasing and supplying their food and taking time to play with them each day. You should allocate an hour per day to let them play and roam outside their cage. Rabbits need to be fed twice daily on average and you should make some time to talk to them and bond with them.
If you want to get into breeding or showing rabbits, you will need to allocate even more time researching how to go about this and taking time to prepare them for show.
Becoming a new rabbit owner is a very rewarding experience. Most rabbit enthusiasts won’t mind committing to the lifetime commitment of looking after their new addition – keeping in mind that their lifespan ranges from between 9 to 12 years.