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Adoption Before You Adopt

Did You Know...  //   Keeping Company with Rabbits  //   Are you Right for a Rabbit?  //   Finding the Right Rabbit  //   Looking Past the Red Eyes  //   Don't Become a Statistic  //   A Rabbit in the Classroom

Did You Know...

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Keeping Company with Rabbits

Are rabbits soft and fuzzy? Most definitely. Are rabbits as cuddly as they look? Not necessarily. Is a rabbit more like a cat or a dog? Neither. A rabbit is like a rabbit.

Are you expecting your rabbit to come running when called? They seldom do. However, having a carrot in hand may help. I have learned to call my rabbits out from under the bed about 10 minutes before I need them. They seem to show up "on time" this way.

Are you expecting your rabbit to curl up on your lap and sit with you? He probably won't. He may nudge your leg while you sit on the couch, expecting you to move over or pet him. Perhaps he will jump up and sit with you, allow you to pet him, and then scamper off just moments later.

Do you want to hold your bunny for hours? Well, most don't want to be held for hours. Most prefer you to be on the floor and meet them on their level. The floor is where your rabbit will allow you to snuggle with him and show your affections. This is where he is most comfortable.

The first rule in communicating with a rabbit is to get down on the floor. The second rule is also to get down on the floor. Rabbits need to be approached at their level–the floor. Spend time getting to know him where he is comfortable. If he seems to avoid you at first, spend time just sitting quietly on the floor, not approaching him, not trying to pick him up. Rabbits are naturally wary, but also naturally curious. Eventually curiosity will win out and your rabbit will come over to investigate you.

Try snuggling close, face to face. When he feels comfortable with you, he may allow you to pick him up. Do not rush this introduction. Remember, a rabbit is an animal of prey, and it may take time for him to gain trust in you. The first time he nudges you or grooms you, the process of trust has begun and a special honor has been bestowed upon you: He is communicating with you as he would communicate with a fellow rabbit.

As with any animal, or humans for that matter, each has his or her own personality. Some are active and crave attention. Some are shy or aloof. If a rabbit is shy, you need to make the effort to interact with him. Although shy rabbits may become more sociable with time, do not expect a different personality. This seemingly reserved behavior is actually more common and "rabbit-like" than the interactive rabbit of folklore who plays with the children.

Most important, love your rabbit. Whoever he or she is, whatever the color, markings, direction of ears, habits or personality, all are of value and deserve our love and companionship. Each will enrich your life in his or her own special way.

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Are you Right for a Rabbit?

Rabbits make wonderful companions for the right people.

Are you patient?

Have a sense of humor?

Do you enjoy watching the movements and learning the language of another species?

Does your schedule include plenty of time at home?

Are you comfortable spending a lot of time on the floor?

Are you not overly sensitive about your furniture or floors?

Basic facts

Rabbits can very easily be litter box trained

They can live to be 8-12 years old, sometimes longer

Rabbits are inquisitive, sociable animals

They make wonderful indoor companions

Rabbits can "tooth purr" when contented

Like cats and dogs, rabbits need to be spayed or neutered to improve health and behavior.

Most rabbits do not like to be held. They prefer to sit beside you for petting and to interact on the floor.

Rabbits like to play with toys, such as cardboard boxes,rattle balls, hard plastic baby

keys, untreated willow baskets.

Rabbits need to have things of their own to chew on (or they might nibble your stuff)

Rabbits need to be protected from predators, poisons, temperature extremes, electrical cords and rough handling.

If you think you would be the right person for a rabbit, contact us at (or fill out the adopter profile here)to find out more about adopting a rescued rabbit. Our website contains a wealth of information for you to learn about the care and needs of rabbit companions. We invite you to study these pages to learn all you can before deciding to bring a rabbit into your home.

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Adoption Center

Welcome to San Diego's first rabbit-only adoption center, "Bunnies by the Beach!" This new, state of the art shelter for rabbits showcases adoptable rabbits in a home-like setting and educates the public on how to properly house and care for domestic rabbit companions.

Hours for Store Pickup:

Monday: 12:00pm - 5:00pm

Tuesday: 12:00pm - 5:00pm

Wednesday: 12:00pm -5:00pm

Thursday: 12:00pm - 5:00pm

Friday: 12:00pm to 5:00pm

Saturday: 12:00pm to 5:00pm

Sunday: 12:00pm to 5:00pm

No cages here - the Center houses its adoptable rabbits in roomy exercise pens (aka x-pens) with toys, a large litter box with hay, food and water bowls and more. Bunnies get plenty of run time in roomy play areas and volunteers give them lots of love and attention.

The Center includes a housing area for the rabbits, a laundry room, intake (quarantine) room, a classroom for seminars and special events, a break room for volunteers, and the Bunny Supply Store which sells supplies for house rabbit companions.

Comfy sofas and chairs allow visitors to relax and snuggle a bunny or just watch them at play. It's a great place just to visit, even if you can't adopt.

The Adoption Center needs volunteers and rabbit sponsors - for a recurring donation of just $30 per month, you can virtually adopt a needy rabbit and ensure he or she has every thing needed to make life comfortable. To learn more about sponsorship email

If you'd like to volunteer, contact and complete our online volunteer application under the tab "Volunteer." Three shifts are available each day: 10:00 to 1:00 p.m.; 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.; and 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Check our calendar of events for upcoming Volunteer Orientation dates.

Help find homes for San Diego's homeless rabbits; they need your love, your care, and your support in helping them to be comfortable at the Center and to find new homes. Contact us to find out the many ways you can help.

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Rehoming Your Rabbit

Understandably, SDHRS volunteers never like to hear someone say, "I need to find a new home for my rabbit." We prefer to have people work to find ways in which they can keep their rabbit in the best location possible - at home with them. And, we will do all we can to help you with great ideas to make this work for you and for your rabbit.

SDHRS does not take owner-relinquished or "found" rabbits, but works with local shelters and humane societies to aid them in finding homes for rabbits in their care. There is an overwhelming number of abandoned rabbits, therefore SDHRS works closely with area shelters to prevent them euthanizing rabbits due to overcrowding, or inability to care for special medical or behavioral issues. Our few foster homes are always full with rabbits coming from shelters.

With our help, the shelters have good adoption programs for rabbits and do find them homes. By turning the rabbit into your local shelter, SDHRS can then help it through our shelter-support programs. You can see adoptable shelter rabbits at

If you do not want to take the rabbit to a shelter, your next option is to house the rabbit yourself (or board her) and advertise until you find the right home. Advertising is as simple as placing ads in local newspapers, on Craig's List, and on veterinarian (a really good method), pet supply and supermarket bulletin boards. It is possible to find good homes for rabbits, but it takes time, commitment and strategy.

Two local websites help your promote your rabbit for adoption: San Diego Animal Support Foundation has a link featuring Privately Owned Pets Looking For A Home. These are "courtesy" listings for those who do not want to relinquish their pets to a shelter.

There are two steps to finding homes for rabbits. The first is to prepare the rabbit for adoption. This includes spaying or neutering, litter box training, socializing, and learning bunny's health status and personality. The second step is to aggressively seek an ideal home by advertising and screening callers for suitability.

Spaying or neutering makes a rabbit calmer and easier to litter box train, and thus improves the chance of being adopted as an indoor companion. It also insures that no more unwanted rabbits will be produced after the rabbit leaves your home.

Litter box training is achieved by fastening a litter box to the side of the cage in the corner the rabbit uses as a bathroom. Once bunny is using the box, try him in a safe, bunny-proofed room with one or more litter boxes. ("Bunny-proofed' means a place where items that rabbits find tempting to chew, such as house plants and telephone and electrical cords, have been placed out of reach.) In a matter of days a neutered rabbit can be advertised as "house-trained."

The more attention you give your bunny, the more she will show off for prospective adopters. Petting the rabbit (most prefer the top of the head) will teach her to look for affection from humans. Follow up on any health problems with a trip to the vet, so you can tell the new owner what to expect. When placing ads, state your rabbit's strong points: "neutered," "house-trained," "affectionate," friendly." Asking a minimum $25 fee in the ad excludes callers wanting a free meal for their pet reptiles. People willing to commit to owning a rabbit will gladly pay an adoption fee.

To screen people who answer your ad, imagine what kind of home you want for your rabbit, and then stick to your ideal. Engage the caller in a conversation about their past pets to find out what they're looking for in a pet. Explain that you are asking questions because you want the new owner and the rabbit to be happy. Present a realistic picture of what rabbits are like. If you feel the home is not suitable, make an excuse. Politely tell the caller that your rabbit doesn't do well with children, isn't used to hutch-living, is scared of dogs, or whatever. Also, use our guideline "Before You Adopt" to formulate questions to ask prospective adopters, when screening for new homes for your rabbit.

At SDHRS, we look for indoor homes for our rabbits, so that they will enjoy lives that are both safe and social. The rabbit has an enclosed home (cage or x-pen) but is allowed some supervised freedom daily. How soon a rabbit becomes an un-caged roommate depends on how bunny-proofed the home is, and on the maturity and personality of the rabbit. The more involved the owner is, the more freedom the rabbit will be given. Another SDHRS criteria is that an adult, not a child, be the rabbit's primary care-giver.

We hope you have success in placing your rabbit.

If you are located in San Diego County, you can take your rabbit to one of the following shelters or humane societies who have rabbit adoption programs. Call ahead to be sure they have room.

However, as stated above, the best - and safest - place for your rabbit is is at home, with you.

Address/Phone Numbers of Shelters and Humane Societies that have rabbit adoption programs:

Central San Diego County Dept of Animal Services 5480 Gaines St., San Diego, (619) 236-4250

Chula Vista Animal Care Facility 130 Beyer Way, Chula Vista, (619) 691-5123

Escondido Humane Society 3450 East Valley Parkway, Escondido, (760) 888-2275

San Diego Humane Society, Airport Road Facility 572 Airport Road, Oceanside, CA 92058, (760) 757-4357

North San Diego County Dept of Animal Services 2481 Palomar Airport Rd., Carlsbad, (760) 438-2312

Rancho Coastal Humane Society 389 Requeza, Encinitas, (760) 753-6413

San Diego Humane Society 5500 Gaines St., San Diego, (619) 299-7012

South San Diego County Dept of Animal Services 5821 Sweetwater Rd., Bonita, (619) 263-7741

Websites that promote your pets for adoption:

Privately Owned Pets Looking For A Home www.sandiego

** If you adopted your rabbit directly from SDHRS, we will take that rabbit back into our program. Email to learn more. Have your adoption contract handy to tell us the rabbit's name, date of adoption, and name of adopter.

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Finding the Right Rabbit

When looking to adopt a rabbit, it is important to consider not only the health of the rabbit, but also the rabbit's temperament and activity level. Of course, you need to be attracted to your new companion, but the personality of the rabbit and the needs and expectations of your family members should weigh heavily when making your decision Are you looking for a quiet, older rabbit? Or maybe a smaller, active friend?

Remember, rabbits are like people in that they have a full range of personalities. Sometimes a "difficult" rabbit may not be so demanding in the right, experienced home. Do you have other pets? Small children? Live in an apartment or a house? All these factors must be considered when choosing a rabbit who is a good "match" for you or your family.

One of the many benefits of adopting through the San Diego House Rabbit Society with our network of foster homes, is that a rabbit in a home setting can let his personality begin to emerge. You, then, can rely on our foster parents to tell you a bit about the temperament of the rabbits you are considering adopting. Also, if this is to be your first rabbit, you can rely on our volunteers to help educate you about the care and needs of rabbits, and how best to integrate them into your family. Once in its adoptive home, your rabbit will continue to develop and learn to express himself. You may be surprised how much your rabbit can change and grow once in a loving, permanent home.

If you are in San Diego, contact us and let us help you find the "right" rabbit. You can reach us via email at or call us at 858-356-4286. If you are not in San Diego, visit theNational HRS website to see if there is an HRS chapter or other rabbit rescue near you.

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Looking Past the Red Eyes

New Zealand rabbits have long been used in laboratories because of their sensitive eyes and skin, for food because of their size and low-cholesterol meat, and as cherished pets. We prefer them as pets, of course.

Most of the white New Zealand rabbits we see are white with pink eyes, but there are New Zealands with black or red fur, as well. The average adult New Zealand is larger than most cats, weighing approximately 11 pounds. They have enormous stand-up ears and great bit "thumpers" (feet). The white New Zealands have very sensitive pink or red eyes, making them ideal candidates for the product testing world.

Unfortunately, New Zealand Whites are commonly portrayed as the typical Easter bunny. Once small white balls of fluff, the New Zealands soon grow to be large rabbits who quickly outgrow their "starter cages." All too often, we see adult New Zealand Whites abandoned in the shelters because "the kids can't hold her any more" or "he got too big."

Another common issue is their eyes. Some people are put off by the eye coloration and don't even consider adopting one--an unfortunate decision based solely on eye color.

The San Diego House Rabbit Society always seems to have more than our fair share of New Zealand Whites and mixes in foster care. As experienced rabbit caretakers, we have grown particularly fond of this often misunderstood breed. We know what a pleasure they are to have around and what wonderful companions they typically make, but we also know they will be hard for us to adopt out. Many remain in foster care for a year or more before finding their permanent homes, if ever.

We wish people could look past the eye color, past the large intimidating size, and see the gentle giants most New Zealands are. Of course, each rabbit has a different personality, but typically the New Zealands are some of the most amiable, sweet-tempered rabbits there are. Often they are overlooked in favor of their tiny lop friends, but once you share your home with a New Zealand, you will be pleasantly surprised and may just have found your new best friend.

See the Adoptables listings for New Zealands currently available for adoption. Because rabbits come into foster care faster than we can update this website, there may be other New Zealands looking for new homes. If you're interested in learning more about New Zealands and meeting one (or more!), call San Diego House Rabbit Society at 858-356-4286.

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Don't Become a Statistic

Why are they abandoned?

"The kids have lost interest," "We're moving," "She's chewing the carpet," and even, "He costs too much to feed." Nearly every day, we hear the many, many reasons people use to give up their pet rabbit.

Fortunately, for those people willing to make it work, there are answers. Rabbits can be spayed or neutered to enhance behavior, they can travel with you, and they can be trained - or perhaps we should say, their people can be trained. Then, of course, there are those rabbits who would be better off finding a new home - for their health and safety.

If only people would take the time to learn about the needs and behavior of rabbits before getting one, we would have far fewer abandoned rabbits in our shelters.

San Diego HRS does not operate a shelter and we rescue rabbits primarily from our local animal shelters. So, when we get a call from someone looking to give up their rabbit, we must refer them to their local shelter, or instruct them on how to find a home for the rabbit themselves.

You can help us educate others.

Education is the key. If you know someone who is thinking about getting a rabbit, please refer them to our web site or have them contact us to receive care information. Help them make the right decision prior to getting the rabbit, even if it means talking them out of getting a rabbit. Of course, if they would be a good home, refer them to SDHRS so we can help them find the right rabbit for their situation.

It's a 10-year commitment.

Along with education goes commitment. Getting a pet, any pet, should be a lifetime commitment. Lifetime. That means "for the life of the pet," not just while it is convenient. After all, would you leave your husband behind when you move? Would you dump your kids when you run out of food? Animals depend upon us (presumably the smarter of the two) to feed them, to provide shelter for them, to nurse them if necessary, and to be committed to them for their entire life. They depend upon us and we should be committed to providing for their every need.

We often like to remind people that when they are adopting, it's not "rent a rabbit," but creating a new member of the of the family for the rest of their life.

With your help and referrals, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of our rabbit friends, and to do our best to educate our community about responsible rabbit care and commitment.

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A Rabbit in the Classroom

If you have, or are considering getting, a classroom rabbit, the San Diego House Rabbit Society asks that you take some time to consider:

- the nature of rabbits,

- their needs, and

- what you want your students to learn from rabbits living in the school environment

The SDHRS does not place rescued rabbits as classroom pets.

We consider that few classroom environments can meet the many needs of rabbits as a home environment could. If you are considering a classroom rabbit, we hope we can convince you that it might not be a good idea. If you already have a classroom rabbit, we would like to help you improve the life of your classroom rabbit or one you know. All it takes are commitment to the rabbit’s well-being and accurate information about his or her needs.

Some Issues to Consider

Rabbits are intelligent and have a highly developed social order. If their personalities are not stunted by boredom or abuse, they commonly display affection, anger, jealousy, delight, annoyance, fear, submissiveness, grief, dominance, guile, contentment, mischievousness, curiosity, sadness, and joy. Even when neutered and spayed, pairs will affectionately snuggle and groom each other, and engage in sexual activity. They commonly enjoy playing with toys, especially those that can be chewed, tossed, pushed, or hidden under.

Rabbits communicate in many ways. Rabbit "language" includes tooth-clicking, tail-wagging, dancing, charging, bowing, nudging, ear signals, licking, honking, and growling. They quickly learn what the word "No!" means. Many learn to respond to their names. Others, like cats, know their names but choose not to respond. Some can be taught to respond to other voice commands, such as "Give me a kiss" or "Go to your cage!"

A few weeks of "oohs" and "aahs" - but at what cost? Breeding a classroom rabbit so that children can experience the birth and development of the young is a common practice. However, rabbit births are rarely witnessed because they occur quickly, and usually at night.

More importantly, classroom breeding too often results in bunnies who suffer and die from improper care. Some highly stressed rabbit mothers or fathers will cannibalize the young. Witnessing such an event can be traumatic to young children. If the bunnies survive to maturity, they often become marginalized pets in backyard hutches. Others are killed outright, abandoned outdoors, or taken to a municipal shelter, where they stand a good chance of euthanasia, even if they are healthy and friendly.

We believe that interest in animal life and humane behavior toward animals can be better reinforced by quality interaction with a healthy, happy rabbit or other pet.

Rabbits can be litter trained. Swatting, or rubbing a rabbit’s nose in the "accident," only frightens and confuses her. Some rabbits seem to take to the litter box naturally, while others require your patience and time to learn. SDHRS can provide tips on encouraging the litter box habit.

Spaying and neutering do more than prevent baby bunnies. Spaying and neutering by a veterinarian experienced in rabbit care improves health, personality, litter box habits, and the ability to get along with other rabbits. Usually, feces and urine odors are greatly reduced by the reduction in hormone production, and the instinct to spray urine is eliminated. Overall, adult rabbits tend to be more easily trainable, calmer, less prone to chewing and digging, and more people-oriented than young rabbits.

Rabbits are often seen as a low-maintenance pet or teaching tool. Sadly, many people’s perception of what rabbits are like is based on erroneous assumptions and experience with neglected classroom or backyard pets. It’s common to see rabbits sitting all day (and night) in small classroom cages. True, unlike many species, rabbits can endure such a life quietly for a surprisingly long time. But rabbits need exercise and stimulation to maintain health, good spirits, and normal behavior. A constantly caged rabbit becomes withdrawn and aggressive, resulting in symptoms such as lethargy, unresponsiveness, obesity, or neurotic behaviors.

Within a few years, most rabbits confined in such a setting become ill and die. That’s not a normal life span. With proper care, domestic rabbits can live 8-12 years or longer.

If no one makes a significant investment of time, attention, and care of a classroom rabbit, the result is a withdrawn animal who does not have much to give back to the students. Regardless of what teachers or parents believe about the care of a classroom animal, what do such practices show students about the value of living beings?

Shelters are overflowing because of the common perception of animals as objects to be passed around, cared for only when it’s convenient for people to do so, then abandoned when they become too much of a bother.

On the other hand, a classroom rabbit can help children learn to be responsible pet owners. Your students can learn valuable lessons from interacting with a rabbit (or neutered pair) who run free among them:

Animals have individual personalities and preferences.

Animal languages are different from one another.

Each animal species requires different behaviors on the part of humans who want to befriend them. What a dog may regard as a playful overture may be regarded very differently by a rabbit.

Responsible pet ownership means meeting the animal’s needs, even when it’s inconvenient. Cleaning, training, and "bunny-proofing" are time consuming, but they are part of the commitment a pet owner should make.

Questions to ask yourself before getting a classroom rabbit

Are you committed to caring for a rabbit as your pet for 8-12 years?

Are you fully committed to giving the rabbit consistent, on-schedule, care? Because of the way rabbit digestion works, food, hay, and water must be available at all times. Cages and litter boxes should be cleaned daily of soiled matter and must be thoroughly scrubbed weekly.

How will you ensure that the rabbit receives proper care when you are not around? Rabbits need consistent care, including on weekends and during vacations. Sending a classroom rabbit home with a student or a succession of students can result in severe stress to the animal. Improper care is likely, even in the most well-intentioned families. Being left at school has its risks. Many teachers have returned to school on Monday only to find a dead animal in the cage that housed an apparently healthy one on Friday.

Are you willing to monitor your rabbit closely for illness? Rabbits need the care of someone who can quickly recognize small changes in behavior, eating, and droppings. These are the first symptoms of illness, which can progress quickly in these small creatures.

If your rabbit is sick, can you afford to have him treated? It can be difficult to find veterinarians who are knowledgeable about treating rabbits. If you make a vet visit and medication or other care is prescribed, are you prepared to give it?

Do you have space for a 2-foot by 3-foot cage, both at school and at home? Who will foot the bill for a humanely sized cage?

What would happen if the air conditioning or heat at your school is turned off outside of school hours, or if pesticides are sprayed? Rabbits, because of their thick coats, begin to show distress at temperatures above 85° F. Rabbits are so sensitive to pesticides that even common flea preparations are likely to cause serious illness.

Are your students mature enough to understand the lessons you want them to learn from the rabbit and are they capable of treating the rabbit appropriately? Children under 7 are usually not mature enough to safely interact with a rabbit except under close, constant, supervision.

Do you have the time to teach students proper behavior and to monitor their interaction with the rabbit? Adults must be committed to teaching and enforcing rules that protect both the child and the rabbit from physical and emotional trauma.

What will you do if a child is injured by the rabbit or vice versa? Young children love to pick up and cuddle animals. However, most rabbits feel safe only with four feet on the floor or other stable surface. Spinal injuries and dislocated or broken legs are common when rabbits struggle or fall when small children try to hold them. Children can also be badly scratched or painfully bitten by a frightened rabbit as she tries to escape.

Are you willing to "bunny-proof" your classroom so you can allow the rabbit the out-of-cage time necessary for his well-being? Rabbits like to chew and dig, but their destructiveness can be managed by managing their environment, training, and other methods. Rabbits should get at least three hours of exercise daily.

Is your classroom comfortable for a naturally timid animal? Stresses present in classrooms include noise, over-handling, improper foods and diet variations, disruption of routine, temperature changes, and loneliness.

Does your principal approve of uncaged pets? If not, are you willing to take the rabbit home?

Will you be prepared to take the rabbit home and keep her there if a student is allergic to her?

We hope this pamphlet will help your classroom pet to fulfill their potential as a pet and as a way to reach your students.

This pamphlet was originally prepared by Carolyn Mixon and Gina Scherffius of the House Rabbit Resource Network.

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