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How to choose your exotic animal


31 March 2021

The decision to adopt an animal is a decision that requires thinking about at first. For a cat and a dog we all know that we need to invest time and space, but how to choose for an exotic animal. They are small and often seem independent, but is that really the case?

With young children they are great because of their small size, lower cost, but again, is this true?

Also, several people ask me if the child will be able to handle it. For all species, including dogs and cats, adult supervision is recommended. An animal should not be left with a child unattended, since handling involves a risk to both the child and the animal. However, some species are less “fragile” and more easily handled than others.

In this article, we will therefore look at the rabbit in order to see its characteristics.

Rabbits have a low cost in pet stores and are often sold as caged animals that eat only feed, but this is not true. Just like a cat, the rabbit needs to move and therefore needs space to run. Medium-sized enclosures (minimum of 4ft2), semi-freedom in a room or even complete freedom in the house are recommended, but beware, these little rascals may have a tendency to chew on wires and woodwork (variable depending on the individual). They also need a varied diet which can become expensive and increase your household. Indeed, they need to eat hay to ensure good wear of the teeth and a good amount of fiber in the digestive system. A rabbit should eat the equivalent of its volume of hay per day. Think about it, if you are allergic to hay or even hate dust, hay can be a problem for you, but is necessary for your pet. They also need leafy green vegetables, fresh daily, at the rate of 1 cup per kg of rabbit per day. It may not seem that much, but in the long run and especially in winter, it will increase your grocery bills. Dry food, on the other hand, is only required in small quantities and can be given only a few times a week (max 1 tbsp per day).

Regarding veterinary care, the female rabbits should always be sterilized from 6 months and ideally before the age of 2 years (but can be done later). The reason for this: cancer of the uterus (often malignant). They are very very common in females over 5 years old and can cause your rabbit to die prematurely. These little furballs also present tooth problems and frequent loss of appetite. A rabbit who stops eating should see or contact a veterinary clinic if the loss of appetite persists for more than 24 hours. It is therefore necessary to plan a veterinary budget in addition to the sterilization costs. For the veterinary aspect, it should also be noted that the risks of complications from anesthesia are greater in this species in comparison with dogs and cats.

 For cohabitation, it can go from easy to impossible with dogs, cats and other rabbits. It is important to be careful, to give your animals time, to monitor contact between them and to limit altercations as much as possible. Depending on the character of each, it is possible that the good understanding is not at the rendez-vous, just like in a cat.

Rabbits are interactive and can learn tricks, they love to be petted, but they often don’t like to be hugged (with some exceptions). They can be a bit independent. For young children, this is not the ideal animal, since they need to be handled with care and are nervous. Unfortunately, we often see leg fractures or even worse spine fractures associated with falls of the arms. Remember that the rabbit is prey in nature and keeps its nervous nature … They live for about ten years and unfortunately we see more and more abandonment with the increase in popularity of this species.

It is therefore important to think carefully and plan the adoption of a rabbit.

For adoption, do not hesitate to contact shelters to give a rabbit a second chance. They are often put up for adoption sterilized and will have already had a veterinary check up! You will therefore be more informed about your pet’s health status and the costs of sterilization will be absorbed, this implies higher adoption costs, but it is worth it.

After talking about the costs and their characteristics, but why embrace that silky soft furball? Rabbits are affectionate animals, they are always looking for love, they follow us and seek to be petted. They are also funny to be around, each rabbit has its character, its little habits. They are beautiful to watch, funny when they jump for joy (binkies). They are great composters and know how to fill your home with life and love. Their little face will change your life and you will be charmed every morning.

Dre Maude Gauthier-Bouchard,
B.Sc, DMV, IPSAV in exotic animal medicine.

Video credit: åke Wall sur pexels
Photo credit: Anna Shvets sur pexels, Toni Cuenca sur pexels