If you have a rabbit or found a rabbit you cannot keep, the best option is to house the rabbit yourself or with a friend and try to find a safe indoor home for the rabbit. Your local animal shelter should be your last resort, as there’s a chance the bunny might be euthanized or die due to Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV). Some animal shelters may be unable to take in rabbits.
[su_quote]House Rabbit Society isn’t able to take in rabbits from the public — we take in rabbits at risk of euthanasia at animal shelters. Never release a rabbit outside.[/su_quote]
Pet rabbits aren’t able to survive outdoors and are easy targets for predators. They’re also at risk of getting RHDV which spreads easily to rabbits outside, other diseases, being hit by cars, and starving to death.
Download a pdf our handout, which appears below: Finding a New Home for a Rabbit
As part of foster programs, House Rabbit Society volunteers bring abandoned rabbits into their own homes until permanent homes can be found. The overwhelming number of unwanted rabbits means that we are only able to take in rabbits scheduled to be destroyed at animal shelters and even then we can only save so many.
If you’re looking to part with a pet rabbit, your best hope is to house the rabbit yourself (or board her with an appropriate service) and advertise until you find the right home. Advertising is as simple as placing ads in local newspapers, on local bulletin boards and online in groups like Facebook or in rabbit websites like Bunspace. It is possible to find a good home for your unwanted rabbit, but it takes time, commitment and strategy.
There are two steps to finding homes for rabbits. First you need to prepare the rabbit for adoption and then you need to aggressively seek an ideal home by advertising and screening interested parties to ensure they’re suitable.
Prepare the Rabbit For Adoption
There are several things you can do to make a rabbit easier to adopt.
Spay/neuter makes a rabbit calmer, easier to litter box train, improves the chance of being adopted as an indoor companion, and of having the home be a permanent one. It prevents future accidental litters and uterine cancer for female rabbits.
If it is not possible for you to spay/neuter the rabbit before the rabbit goes to a new home, ask the adopters to commit to spaying/neutering as part of the adoption — you can even schedule the spay/neuter appointment with them at the time of adoption.
Spaying or neutering usually makes a rabbit less distractible and easier to litter train, and thus improves the chance of being adopted and retained as an indoor companion. Getting a rabbit fixed also ensures that no more unwanted rabbits will be produced after the rabbit leaves your home.
Vaccination against RHDV
With the May 2020 emergence of RHDV in California, rabbits should be vaccinated as soon as possible and annually against RHDV by a rabbit-savvy veterinarian. Many, but not all, Bay Area rabbit veterinarians have the RHDV vaccine in stock.
Litter Box Training
A spayed/neutered rabbit is usually very easy to litter box train by putting a litter box in the corner of the cage that the rabbit uses as a bathroom, with timothy hay or orchard grass in the litter box. Once bunny is using the box, try letting him out to exercise in a safe, bunny-proofed room with one or more litter boxes. To “bunny-proof,” move or block access to house plants/telephone/electrical cords, so the rabbit won’t chew them. Check out these rabbit-proofing tips for more information. In a matter of days a neutered rabbit can be advertised as “house-trained.”
Attention and Socialization
The more attention you give your bunny, the more they will show off for prospective adopters. Petting the rabbit (most prefer the top of the head) will teach them 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.
An Indoor Home is Always Best
At House Rabbit Society, we look for indoor homes for our rabbits. Being indoors means the rabbit will be close to their caregivers meaning that they’ll be safer from potential threats and will be more supervised. This increases the chances that they will enjoy lives that are both safe and social. If the rabbit has a cage, we make sure they are allowed some supervised freedom daily. Well mannered rabbits becomes uncaged roommate depending 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 enjoy. We spend a lot of time helping new bunny parents understand what a proper diet looks like for a rabbit and dedicate even more time to helping them find a good veterinarian.
Getting the Word Out About Your Adoptable Rabbit
Now that the rabbit is spayed/neutered and house trained, you can move on to getting the word out about the available bunny.
Where to Post
- Post about the rabbit on your local Nextdoor
- Post about the rabbit on home-home.org
- Post about the rabbit on RescueMe!
- Talk with friends, family, and coworkers to see if they want, or know someone who wants, a rabbit
- Ask your friends, family, and coworkers to help you promote the rabbit on social media
If your’e located in the SF Bay Area, try posting to the Facebook group The Original BAY AREA Rehome & Adopt PETS (Calif). Not local to HRS HQ? See if there are similar rehoming Facebook groups near you.
What to Say
When placing ads, state your rabbit’s strong points: “neutered,” “house-trained,” “affectionate,” friendly.” Asking a $10-$20 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. Honesty is important because it will improve the chances that the new home will truly be a forever home.
What to Look for in an Adopter
To screen people who answer your ad, imagine what kind of home you want for your rabbit, make some notes for when you speak with your bunny’s prospective caregiver and then stick to your ideal. At House Rabbit Society, we look for indoor homes for rabbits where they will become part of the family. When a rabbit lives in a hutch outside or in a garage, they are at risk of death from predators, heat, cold, and disease.
When a rabbit lives inside the home, they live longer, healthier lives and become part of the family. We recommend an enclosure that is 4’x2′ (larger is always better!), with a solid bottom not a wire grate, or puppy exercise pen, with supervised exercise time daily inside the home. Some people even give their rabbit free-roam of a room once they’re spayed/neutered and using a litter box! Rabbits do not need to have access to outdoor playtime to be happy and fulfilled. Indoor bunny-proofing is important to protect your rabbit and your belongings.
An adult (not a child) should be the rabbit’s primary caregiver, as rabbits live 8-12 years, and childrens’ interest in a rabbit often quickly fades due to competing afterschool activities, and older children will leave for college while the rabbit remains with the family. We don’t recommend rabbits live at schools or preschools, where they often become unwanted due to childrens’ allergies or if the rabbit becomes nippy with kids, and schools don’t have a budget for veterinary care if the rabbit gets sick.
Important lines of questioning would include asking 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, explain why.
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. Some people will be pushy – don’t let that distract you from your goal of finding a home that fits your ideals.
An animal shelter should be your last resort. Not all shelters are able to take in rabbits. For a stray rabbit, contact the animal control agency (public shelter) for the city/county where the rabbit was found to inquire if the shelter is able to assist.
Please never abandon an animal either outside or at a vet office, animal shelter, or House Rabbit Society. Rabbits don’t live long outside as they get hit by cars and eaten by predators, and they die when it gets too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. It is a crime in California to abandon an animal.
These are just a few of the important elements for a rabbit’s long healthy happy life. Good luck placing your rabbit!
This article was originally posted April 29,2011 and was updated on March 23, 2022 by Paige K Parsons
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