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My Pet World: Five questions to ask before adopting a rabbit

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

The description on the website reads: "Alana and Andrina are a bonded pair. They must be adopted together. They are somewhat shy ... and are very sweet and playful. They are litter trained (excellent litter box habits) and neutered. Prefer experienced adopter. Indoor housing only."

While this sounds like a description for two cats or kittens, this is actually an online description for two rabbits at the House Rabbit Society of Chicago, a rabbit rescue group.

This time of year, close to Easter, pet stores often have young rabbits for sale. Their cute, and therefore, difficult to resist, which is why there are rabbit rescue groups all over the country. As the third most popular pet in the nation, they are also the third most relinquished pet too.

While house rabbits make great pets, they aren't the right pet for every family. Here are five questions to ask before getting a rabbit.

Do you have children? Children can be loud and rambunctious. Rabbits need quiet, low-stress homes to thrive.

Do you have other pets? As a prey species, rabbits are often scared of dogs and cats. Some cats and rabbits, however, can live peaceably together; some cats are scared of some rabbits.

Are you ready for the commitment? House rabbits can live 8 to 10 years, about the age of a very large breed dog. (They sexually mature at six months old and become aggressive if not sterilized.)

Do you have time to play with your rabbit? You don't have to walk them, but rabbits need lots of supervised playtime outside of their cages every day to maintain their mental and physical health.

Do you have time to train your bunny? You can "clicker train" your rabbit to use the litter box, like a cat, sit and wait, like a dog, and touch a target like a bell, like a bird. Rabbits are very smart animals, and love learning with you. I believe if you train your pet, you will keep your pet. Visit the House Rabbit Society at or get the book "Getting Started: Clicking with Your Rabbit," by Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin to learn more.

If it sounds like your home is well-suited for a rabbit, then consider adopting from a rescue group. Great rabbits, like Alana and Andrina, are waiting for good homes.

Dear Cathy,

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My husband and I will be going away for a month and have two cats. We will not be taking them with us. Is it OK to leave them at the house for that time with someone coming in daily to feed, change water, and clean their litterbox? They do not have any special needs and mostly nap during the day. Last year, they went to my son's apartment and may do so again. I am hesitant to leave them for the month. Will they be OK? -- Susan, Lehighton, PA

Dear Susan,

Your cats will miss you, but they should be fine if someone checks on them daily.

Make sure your pet sitter replenishes water and food, sifts the litter box, and provides them with lots of attention daily. He or she should be very chatty with the cats and verify seeing both cats at each visit. Let your pet sitter know where your cats like to hide, so he or she knows where to look for them if they don't come out. However, the cats will likely come out during every visit since they are hoping it will be you.

Ask the pet sitter to take pictures of the cats and text them to you during each visit. It lets you know the pet sitter has arrived and provides some peace of mind by seeing for yourself that the cats are alright. You also might consider installing a video camera for the part of the house where the cats typically hang out, so you can check in on them while you're gone. (Be sure to let the pet sitter know if you do that.)

For their safety, give the pet sitter the name of the veterinary hospital you use and any pertinent information about their health. Set out their cat carriers in case he or she needs to take them to the vet.

When you return, your cats will either be delighted to see you, greeting you with long meows and body rubs, or irritated that you left them alone, making all sorts of short, but loud guttural sounds of their displeasure. You will know the difference. Either way, they will forgive you and be thrilled to see you again.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)



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