Amy's RabbitRant of the Month Archives
Pet Stores and Your Rabbit
This may be something you haven't thought about before, but I'd like you to think about it now. When you buy a bunny at pet store, you're encouraging rabbit breeders to continue their work. And unfortunately, their work is contributing to the huge numbers of rabbits that are abandoned each year. It's pretty easy to buy a cute fuzzy bunny on impulse in a pet store. And, as the House Rabbit Society well knows, so many of those "easter bunnies", bought on impulse, end up released in parks or dumped on shelters a few months later.
Even if you have the best intentions and would NEVER think of abandoning a bunny, it's important to adopt your bunny from a shelter and not a pet store. That way you are helping solve the problem, not contributing to it. And don't forget: pet stores are driven by profit, not by love of bunnies. So when you buy a bunny from a pet store, it's pretty likely that they won't be able to tell you if he or she is healthy or even if your new bun is a he or she! (It takes a person who's worked with many rabbits to be able to tell the difference.) A dedicated rabbit rescue group like the HRS works hard to make sure the bunnies they release for adoption are healthy and well adjusted. And they're an invaluable source of information on bunny care, as well! Visit the House Rabbit Society's website to find the HRS location nearest you, or check your local Humane Society or SPCA. They always have bunnies waiting for good, loving homes.
And there's something else to keep in mind: when you buy your pet supplies at a store that sells animals, you are giving your economic approval to the store owner and the animal breeders they buy their pets from. There are many pet supply stores that sell supplies only, and supporting them is easy -- their prices are often lower!
One good example is a U.S. chain that has recently moved into the Canadian market: Petsmart. (Okay, they sell fish, but you don't often hear of schools of abandoned guppies being set free in a park, now do you?) Petsmart sells a wide variety of supplies for all animals, and best of all, they provide room to local animal shelters to help arrange pet adoptions for abandoned animals. It's a great system.
However, as I browsed the shiny new aisles of our local Petsmart store, I was saddened to find piles and piles of huge bags of pine and cedar chips, meant to line the cages of bunnies and other small animals. Well, pine and cedar chips, though they smell nice, emit dangerous gasses which will damage your bunny's liver. (Just a note: Petsmart is just one of many stores/chains that carries these chips. And the only way most stores will stop carrying these products is if people DON'T BUY THEM.)
There is an easy solution: stop using pine or cedar. And consult an experienced rabbit veterinarian for further information. And visit this page.
Okay, so NOW what do you put in your bunny's litterbox or cage tray? Well, in the States, there are a whole assortment of safe products including Care Fresh, CitraFresh, Cat Works, Cat Country, Critter Country litter. In Canada, we can get Yesterday's News, which is a pelleted newspaper product (and therefore, environmentally friendly, too!). You can also line the bottom of the cage with many layers of newspaper, which serves to catch messes as well as making the wire floor easier on your bunny's feet. And, in a pinch, buy a large bag of rabbit food pellets...they make safe litter, too. Just be careful that your bunny doesn't eat too many of them! Clumping and clay cat litters are VERY DANGEROUS for bunnies...do not use them!
There are other products that are widely available in pet stores, but should be avoided, such as sugary treats -- such as slices of sugar cane -- which can upset the delicate balance of essential organisms in your bunny's tummy and make him or her very sick; seeds and nuts (much too fatty for your bunny...they don't need it!); alfalfa hay (it is much higher in calcium than timothy hay, so ask your pet store to carry timothy...most stores can order it now!) -- however, if your bunny won't eat anything other than alfalfa, it's still better than no hay at all; alfalfa cubes (they are made of compressed, short fibres of hay and are not sufficient to give your bunny necessary fibre).
The best thing you can do for your bunny is to arm yourself with information. An excellent reference book is the House Rabbit Handbook, by Marinell Harriman. It is available in your local bookstore, or via mail order. It is an essential part of every bunny person's library. Contact Drollery Press, 1524 Benton Street, Alameda, CA 94501, phone (510) 521-4087 or Amazon.com.
Disclaimer: Amy is not a vet. She is a person who loves rabbits. Please consult a qualified rabbit veterinarian when making any changes that will affect your rabbit.