By Teresa Traverse
Rabbits are typically seen as low maintenance animals, but that’s simply not the case. Just because they’re smaller than your average cat or dog doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be any easier to care for. Whether due to man-made illness or natural causes, animals can become ill and quality care costs money.
“With any pet, you should never expect that there’s not going to be health care cost. It doesn’t matter what you buy, health care is going to be a part of pet ownership. You should always plan on having a budget available in case something happens,” said Jay Johnson, DVM and owner of Arizona Exotic Animal Practice. “As a general rule of thumb, it’s probably good to plan on a couple hundred dollars just in case an emergency happens.”
Although caring for a rabbit can be rewarding, you must be aware of the costs associated of caring for one. Learn more about the costs of bringing a rabbit into your family, below.
How Much Does a Rabbit Cost?
As with any pet, you’ll have to consider the ongoing costs in addition to the start-up costs your pet will need when you first bring him or her home. Here are a few rabbit basics to consider:
- A cage (with a plastic bottom, as some rabbits can get their legs stuck inside wire-bottomed cages)
- Paper-based bedding
- Fresh produce
- Rabbit pellets
- Food bowls
- Hay (Johnson recommends timothy hay because it’s better for the rabbit’s teeth.)
Besides the obvious supplies, you’ll also want to think about other unexpected costs like medical care and boarding. Many boarding shelters will not accept rabbits. Rabbits also shouldn’t be left outside year-round since they overheat easily. If you leave the home during the summer, you need to keep your house in the mid-70s to 80s to ensure your rabbit doesn’t overheat.
You can purchase rabbits from pet stores, breeders, shelters or rescue groups. Johnson recommends adopting your rabbit from a state or city rescue group, as rabbit overpopulation is a serious issue.
Average Medical Care Costs for Rabbits
Medical costs for rabbits are hard to estimate and will vary widely depending on where you’re located in the country and the veterinarians that are available to you. It’s best to call a few veterinarians in town to get estimates on what procedure you’re planning on getting to ensure you’re getting a fair price.
You’ll also want to bring your rabbit in for a check up within a few days after you adopt your pet. A veterinarian can examine your pet and inform you of any illnesses the rabbit may have as well as how to properly care for your pet. An annual exam is recommended for rabbits under the age of five, and a twice-yearly exam is recommended for rabbits five and older. Finding a veterinarian who’s trained to work on rabbits is key, Johnson said.
“Get somebody who really knows how to do anesthesia and surgery [on rabbits] right. Your bunny is far more likely to have a successful outcome if you go with somebody who’s more specialized with them,” says Johnson. “Trying to skimp on that is like trying to buy a discount parachute.”
It’s also very important that you spay or neuter your rabbits due to overpopulation issues. Spaying a female rabbit is key as 70 to 80 percent of un-spayed female rabbits develop uterine cancers, said Laurie Hess, DVM, owner of the Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics in Bedford Hills, New York. If you don’t spay your female rabbit, you’ll also want to look out for bloody urine, says Hess, as that can be an indicator of uterine cancer.
You can spay a female rabbit as early as four months and costs for this process vary widely, with some being as little as $75 or as much as several hundred dollars. According to the Rabbit House Society, the average cost to spay or neuter your rabbit is $250. Remember they should have an examination first to make sure they are healthy and they may need pain medicine and antibiotics afterwards. Contact your local rabbit rescue organization and seeing the list of spay/neuter providers the group uses.
Many rabbits also have teeth issues. Just like humans, sometimes their teeth come in straight and other times they don’t. Part of the problem is that rabbit teeth continually grow so they can develop points that irritate the gums and tongue. If your rabbit’s teeth aren’t wearing properly, they’ll need to be filed by a professional periodically, according to Johnson. He estimates that rabbit owners can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for this type of treatment.
Additionally rabbits can incur wounds if other animals attack them or if they fall when leaping and can develop gastrointestinal issues due to poor diet. To prevent this, feed your rabbit a diet that’s rich in high-quality pellets (Johnson recommends Oxbow), Timothy hay and fruits and vegetables and keep your rabbit protected from any other pets in the home or from jumping from furniture or items that are too high.