6 Cons of Having Rabbits

Let me begin this article by saying that I absolutely adore my rabbits. However, there are cons of having rabbits.

I have four fluffy bunnies—three boys and one girl—that I’ve pretty much devoted my life to.  I’ve had rabbits since 2010 when a flyer for free bunnies at a local grocery store essentially ruined my life.

Now, after becoming an experienced rabbit mama over the last eight years, I’ve discovered that while these four living creatures are one of the greatest joys of my life, they also really annoy me at times.

So without further ado, here are six cons of having rabbits.

1. They Eat a Lot

One of the cons of having rabbits is that they have high metabolisms, so they are pretty much constantly eating.

I feed my rabbits four meals a day (breakfast, snack, dinner, bedtime snack). This sounds ridiculous, but this is what works best for us since they eat so much and need regular feedings. So it goes without saying that they eat a lot of food.

The staple of their diet is fresh timothy hay, so they go through bunches of this. It helps wear down their teeth so they don’t have dental problems later. A rabbit’s teeth are constantly growing, so they need to be chewing a lot so their tooth roots don’t grow into their skull (this happened to Olivier last spring due to his being inbred; the surgery cost over $3,000, so yeah, don’t neglect to give them hay).

They also eat lots of fresh vegetables such as carrots, collard greens, kale, and red and green leaf lettuce. They occasionally get fruit for a treat (they are completely bananas about bananas).

Depending on if my garden is doing well, I do spend some money on rabbit food. If you have a garden, it’s a lot cheaper to own a rabbit! You can buy hay in bulk at your local farm store, just make sure it’s fresh.

2. They Poop Wherever They Want

While rabbits can control when and where they pee, they don’t have the same motivation to do this with their poop. All my rabbits are litter-trained when it comes to pee (most rabbits are instinctively so), but they poop everywhere.

Although this is one of the cons of having rabbits, fortunately, their poop is pretty cute, they are formed spheres that don’t make much of a mess. Regardless, I clean their living quarters numerous times a day to keep the area clean. When you have four of these critters, all that poo adds up.

3. They Are So Adorable You Just Want to Die

When I first saw Merthin and Olivier (in the below photo), just hours after their birth, the wonder and emotion I felt couldn’t be contained. Of course, I didn’t handle them until weeks later when this photo was taken, but they were so adorable I felt like I would throw myself in front of a truck to save their lives.

Having something this cute in your house means you bend the rules just a little to ensure that they are happy and comfortable, which is one of the cons of having rabbits.

My rabbits pretty much run my life. Is it because they are cute? Maybe. Is it because I love them? Yes. They are animals and do not respond to discipline the same way that children do, so instead of being angry that they accidentally bit you or ran away from you while playing outside, you just love them.

You love them so much that the cons of having rabbits don’t seem like a big deal.

4. They Shed

To me, this is one of the major cons of having rabbits.

Some rabbits seem to shed more than others. My two outside bunnies don’t shed much. My two albino rabbits, who are inside, shed terribly about two times a year. It’s honestly awful. I usually take them outside and gently pull all the loose hair off and let it float away in the breeze so it doesn’t float all around my house.

As one of the cons of having rabbits, there’s not much you can do about the shedding besides ride it out until the shedding process is over, which can take a couple weeks. If your rabbit is shedding often, for long periods of time, or losing lots of hair during non-shedding periods, this could be a sign of a nutritional deficiency and should be evaluated by your rabbit-savvy vet.

Otherwise, get the vacuum and lint rollers out.

5. Finding a Good Vet Is Difficult

Actually, finding a vet who will even see rabbits can be difficult. This is one of the most frustrating cons of having rabbits.

When we lived in North Carolina and Nadir and Fiver were experiencing gastric distress (also called GI stasis), I called about ten different animal clinics in the area only to be told none of them saw rabbits.

What’s even the point of being a vet if you can’t treat anything besides cats and dogs?

Fortunately, I was able to heal Nadir and Fiver by giving them water from oral syringes (as they refused to eat or drink) and abdominal massages. You can find out more about bunny distress here. I do not recommend treating your bunnies without professional vet care; I only did this because I had no other option.

Now, we live outside of DC where there are a few rabbit vets in the area. The one we go to in Fairfax is my favorite. It’s expensive, but after having had one of my rabbits misdiagnosed at another vet, I won’t go anywhere else. It’s not worth it.

If you’re considering getting a rabbit, ensure you can find a reputable vet who will see your bunny first. Otherwise, if a problem comes up with your rabbit, you won’t have anyone to turn to. The Internet is not a reliable source of information!

6. They Are Easily Stressed

This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest cons of having rabbits.

They are prey animals and easily scared. In the wild (like the wild rabbit above), their fear would keep them alive. In my house, it only serves to cause them and me additional stress.

What this means is that:

  • They should not be kept in homes with a lot of noise, such as barking dogs, loud televisions, or loud people. They really, really enjoy their quiet.
  • They absolutely hate the car. Some rabbits do better than others, but my two inside rabbits are petrified of the car, making vet visits and traveling very difficult and stressful for all of us.
  • They do not like being handled by unfamiliar people. Again, some rabbits do better than others, but mine are wont to bite and scratch you if they don’t know you and you try to handle them.
  • They do not like things happening outside of their usual routine or being moved to different living quarters.

Many people don’t realize that rabbits can actually die from stress (see the gastric distress link above). This is a very real concern for rabbit owners.

If you’re going to commit to a bunny, it needs to be in a quiet home where the rabbit can have its own space and live in peace while you take care of it and it gets some fresh air, playtime, and plenty of good food.

Having rabbits has been one of the great joys of my life, but my life and the decisions I make in my life pretty much revolve around these little critters. I love them and can’t really see myself without rabbits at this point, although I probably wouldn’t have four again, maybe just two!

If you’re considering getting a rabbit, know that these cons of having rabbits are real concerns for potential pet owners. Know before you adopt!

The Truth About “Humane”, “Free-Range”, and “Cage-Free” Meat and Eggs

chickens in cage

I know some of you nice people out there think that you’re doing good by buying only “cage-free” or “humane” or “free-range” eggs and meats.

While I will agree that this is the lesser of the two evils that come with harvesting food from animals, I will also argue that these are just marketing claims and are still not ok. The truth about free range is different than what these advertisements claim.

The Marketing Behind Organic or Humane Products

There’s a huge market out there for organic, free-range, cage-free, and humane animal products. People want to feel that they are making better, smarter choices by choosing these products.

The truth, however, is that these products aren’t too much different from conventionally-raised meat.

I’d like to begin with some excerpts from Michael Pollan, an author, journalist, and activist who I dearly love and admire. In his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he talks about “Big Organic” and what he found out it really means.

“I enjoy shopping at Whole Foods nearly as much as I enjoy browsing a good bookstore, which, come to think of it, is probably no accident: Shopping at Whole foods is a literary experience, too. That’s not to take anything away from the food, which is generally of high quality, much of it “certified organic” or “humanely raised” or “free-range”. But right there, that’s the point: It’s the evocative prose as much as anything else that makes this food really special, elevating an egg or chicken breast or bag of arugula from the realm of ordinary protein and carbohydrates into a much headier experience, one with complex aesthetic, emotional, and even political dimensions. Take the “range-fed” sirloin steak I recently eyed in the meat case. According to the brochure on the counter, it was formerly part of a steer that spent its days “living in beautiful places” ranging from “plant-diverse, high-mountain meadows to thick aspen groves and miles of sagebrush-filled flats”. Now a steak like that has got to taste better than one from Safeway, where the only accompanying information comes in the form of a number: the price, I mean, which you can bet will be considerably less. But I’m evidently not the only shopper willing to pay more for a good story.

With the growth of organics and mounting concerns about the wholesomeness of industrial food, storied food is showing up in supermarkets everywhere these days, but it is Whole Foods that consistently offers the most cutting-edge grocery lit. On a recent visit I filled my shopping cart with eggs “from cage-free vegetarian hens,” milk from cows that live “free from unnecessary fear and distress,” wild salmon caught by Native Americans in Yakutat, Alaska (population 833), and heirloom tomatoes from Capay Farm ($4.99 a pound), “one of the early pioneers of the organic movement.” The organic broiler I picked up even had a name: Rosie, who turned out to be a “sustainably farmed” “free-range” chicken from Petaluma Poultry, a company whose “farming methods strive to create harmonious relationships in nature, sustaining the health of all creatures and the natural world.” Okay, not the most mellifluous or even meaningful sentence, but at least their heart’s in the right place.

I also visited Rosie the organic chicken at her farm in Petaluma, which turns out to be more animal factory than farm. She lives in a shed with twenty thousand other Rosies, who, aside from their certified organic feed, live lives little different from that of any other industrial chicken. Ah, but what about the “free-range” lifestyle promised on the label? True, there’s a little door in the shed leading out to a narrow grassy yard. But the free-range story seems a bit of a stretch when you discover that the door remains firmly shut until the birds are at least five or six weeks old–for fear they’ll catch something outside–and the chickens are slaughtered only two weeks later.”

—From Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, pages 134-140 (pub. 2006 by Penguin)

The Food and Drug Administration’s Policy for Free-Range, PAsture-Fed, and Grass-Fed

The Food and Drug Administration’s free-range policy for poultry is this: the facility must show that the chickens have been allowed access to the outside.

This doesn’t mean that the animals are required to spend any time outdoors or even that they have gone outside at all during their lives. So while you might be purchasing chicken thinking that the chicken lived its life in a peaceful meadow, the reality is often far from this idea.

So what about eggs?

Turns out, the FDA doesn’t have any solid guidelines for what a free-range chicken egg should be, so this label really is just a marketing term, similarly to how the claim “dairy-free” has literally no backing according to the FDA.

But what about beef and pork?

So for these types of meat, pasture-raised means that the animal has been provided access to the outside for a minimum of 120 days a year while grass-fed means that the animal was fed a diet consisting solely of forage its entire life after being weaned off its mothers milk, but not necessarily that the animal was ever outside, just that they were fed grass and not grain (which, from a consumer standpoint, is healthier, but not really humane).

The Local Difference

I advocate for LOCAL meat and eggs. This does not mean you trust a supermarket to tell you the truth about free range, where this animal has lived, what it ate, or what its lifestyle was.

I do believe that buying organic (according to the USDA’s definition) is better even though I don’t necessarily believe it’s the most humane or sustainable way to enjoy meat and eggs.

You need to look for small grocery stores (and I mean really small) if you truly want local or humane meat. Some of these meat and egg products might not even be humanely raised or handled, just local, so you’ll need to find out for yourself how the animals are treated.

You need to go find these farms and actually see them for yourself. And if the people don’t let you see the farm even after you offer them money for their meat or eggs, you know there’s a problem and something disturbing is going on there and that they don’t want you to know the truth about free range.

If you want to buy your eggs and meat from the supermarket, going to a place like Whole Foods and buying products that say “humane” or “free-range” might not be any better than going to Wal-Mart.

How You Can Make a Difference

I would advocate for you to buy locally or just kill and skin that animal yourself.

Afraid of doing that?

You probably shouldn’t be eating meat then. If you’re not willing to go through with the actions that brought you your meal, what sense does it make to eat it?

You can make a difference by choosing to purchase truly local foods that ensure animal welfare and healthier products.

Oh, and “cage-free”? This term, according to the FDA, means that the chickens are usually packed so tightly into barns that they live in their own feces, get their eyes and feathers plucked on by other chickens, and are more prone to disease.

Happy eating!

4 Legitimate Reasons to Stop Being Speciesist Right Now

The word speciesist comes from speciesism, which is the assumption that you as a human are superior to animals.

This assumption has led people to do awful things, including animal testing, factory farming, and keeping wild animals in captivity.

Being speciesist separates you from the innate connection you share with the world. You and every animal, plant, and other life forms have something in common—you share life together on this planet.

Here are four legitimate reasons to stop being speciesist.

1. Animals Have Feelings

If you’ve ever had a pet, you know that animals have feelings.

They feel pain and sorrow. They feel excitement and joy. Many thrive with companions, others love to be solitary. You don’t need to be a scientist to recognize and understand that these majestic creatures feel.

Animals feel scared. They feel threatened. They feel happy and loved. Although you can’t always communicate to an animal how you’re feeling with words, you can by your actions.

2. We Are Not Superior

Ok seriously, how are you superior to some of the most beautiful and intelligent creatures on this planet? This turtle has been around for 150 million years and can hold its breath for five hours.

Your ancestors existed for what, 6 million years and you can eat a Big Mac? Big woop.

How can we be superior to other life forms when we all share the same life and planet? When you become conscious of the life that you are, you realize that you are superior to nothing and to no one. You are one with all life. We are not superior.

3. Become Conscious of Your Impact

When you stop being speciesist, you begin to understand more about your impact on the world.

If you are not superior, you must be the same. If you are the same, then how can you show such disregard for a life that you share with other species?

Recognize that others are impacted by your presence. The planet is impacted by your presence. Forget about being better or more or superior, be one. Realize how huge your impact is and what a difference you can make simply by shifting your worldview and making a conscious choice not to support animal torture.

4. Create a Better World

You don’t need to be in a position of power to make an impact.

For example, the food you buy. Where is it coming from? Is it from places that treated their animals with love and care? Is it from a place that began dismembering the animal before it was even dead?

The purchases you make have a huge impact on the planet. The realization that you are no better than other life forms changes the way you perceive and interact with the world. We can make a better world when we stop being speciesist.

Are You Speciesist?

Since we have a right to be humans, animals have a right to be animals too. Even bugs. Are you speciesist? Let’s find out:

  • Do you discriminate against other life forms that you perceive to be lower than you?
  • Do you smash beetles or spiders when you see them for no reason?
  • Do you never stop to pick up worms when they absently crawl onto pavement and sidewalks after a healthy rain?
  • Do you buy products that were tested on animals?
  • Do you think it’s totally fine to torture and kill animals for the sake of pharmaceutical products?
  • Do you believe that animals were made for people?
  • Do you believe it’s ok for animals to be used for entertainment purposes?

If you answered yes to four or more of these questions, you are probably speciesist. Being speciesist is being prejudiced against other life forms.

Why should we treat animals differently? Why should we discriminate against different kinds of animals?  People also have a right to their opinions, but consider how you impact others and the planet.

Give animals a little leniency. Be aware of your behavior as well as the animal’s behavior. I get that some people have had bad experiences with animals that they testify to. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge and we should love and accept all animals and creatures without smashing them upon first sight or assuming they’re aggressive without giving them a chance.

Wouldn’t you do the same with people?