January 22, 2023, marks the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rabbit begins. The rabbit is the luckiest animal on the Chinese zodiac and symbolizes the character traits of creativity, compassion and sensitivity. It is a great time to learn more about our furry friends.
“Rabbits are a much more complex and interesting animal than a lot of people think,” says Meghann Cant, BC SPCA’s manager, companion animal welfare science and policy. “They are a prey species so it takes some time to show their personality, but once they trust you, many are quite affectionate. They need attention and playtime outside of a cage to stay healthy and happy.”
How long do rabbits live? The average lifespan of a rabbit is seven to 10 years depending on the breed. Some rabbits can live up to 15 years.
What can you expect if you adopt a pet rabbit? A lot more affection and a lot more care than you might think.
How do rabbits show affection? There are many ways rabbits let you know they trust and care about you:
- You know your rabbit is bonded to you when they start to groom you by licking your arm or leg while you are petting them.
- It could be misunderstood as an attempt to trip you, but when rabbits are excited and feeling the love, they will run around your legs and sometimes between them.
- When they want you to pet them, they will nudge your hand or lower their head.
- They will lay down beside you with their legs splayed out or even flop on their back. This is a very vulnerable position for them to rest in. They are saying, “I trust you”.
More fun facts about rabbits:
- Rabbits purr. Although much quieter than a cat’s purr which comes from the throat, you know when your rabbit is content when they softly grind their teeth, causing their jaw to vibrate and their whiskers to twitch.
- Like cats, rabbits also scent mark. They have a special gland under their chin that releases a scent when rubbed on objects in their environment. This behaviour – called “chinning” – is used to mark territory. Rabbits may even rub their chin on their guardians to say, “You’re mine!”
- Baby rabbits are called kittens or kits. Mature male rabbits are called bucks and mature female rabbits are called does.
- Rabbits’ ears can rotate independently and they can hear up into the ultrasonic range, well beyond what humans can hear. Their ears also help keep them cool.
- Rabbits have nearly 360-degree vision. They can see from all directions without turning their head.
- Rabbits shouldn’t eat carrots. Their high sugar content makes carrots only suitable for treats occasionally. Grass hays like Timothy hay, orchard grass or oat hay should make up 80 per cent of their daily diet and fresh leafy greens like kale, bok choy, parsley and romaine lettuce combined with high quality rabbit pellets should make up the rest.
- Rabbits don’t like to be picked up and cuddled. They should be played with on the floor, letting them hop on and off your lap when they want to. If it is necessary to pick up your rabbit, always use two hands: one under the rabbit’s hind end and the other around their chest.
If you are interested in adopting a rabbit there is more to learn. If you are ready to add a rabbit to your family there are many available for adoption at the BC SPCA.