When listing the merits of bunny ownership, it seems many sources focus on "detriments". Understandably, they want people who may buy/adopt/rescue a bunny to be aware of what is involved. I agree wholeheartedly with this, but it sometimes comes out as a "negative sell". Really, if you want to learn about or train any pet, each species has its pros and cons.
So here is an attempt to list a lot of those pros and cons for bunnies, but hopefully with an overall positive POV...
As always, any mistakes are my children's fault (... no, they're mine) and if the GHRS volunteers spot any boo-boos or omissions, please let me know so I can make corrections or additions (and thank you for the input already received). Part of the GHRS input is reflected in the Addendum at the bottom; if you are thinking about getting a rabbit as a pet, please be sure to read that, too.
Update - Months and months after this was posted ...
I found these wonderful pages you might also want to check out:
Rabbits: Why not?
Let's get out the cautionary points first:
1. A well-cared for bunny can live 10 years or more.
So what? So can your dog or cat.
My dog lived about 15 years and our cats, both over 10 years.
2. There are bunny specific ailments.
Same for cats and dogs. Whatever pet you have, educate yourself about proper care and diet.
Like cats and dogs, you should adopt a rescue. Mutts are smarter.
Bunnies have incredible and amazing digestive systems. They are similar to horses and our bunnies' favorite treat is actually a probiotic horse biscuit (which we break into much smaller pieces). So you need to watch their behavior and make sure their digestive systems are in working order, which is fairly easy. Are they eating, drinking and pooping? Odds are you're in good shape. Not? Then call your vet right away.
There's an IMPORTANT point - Make sure your vet is an "exotics" vet, one who has some experience with bunnies. An exotics vet is one that has a practice that serves more than cats and dogs. Everything else includes bunnies (and birds, snakes, ferrets, Guinea pigs, hamsters...).
So, if you don't get a bunny but a dog or cat, be sure to watch out for a host of hereditary ailments; the specific genetic issues vary by breed. Monitor for dental/gum disease. There may be skin allergies and diseases or other allergies, like to pollen or food. Watch out for ear infections, treat for heartworms, etc., etc.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from rescuing a pet, but just to point out that you have to know about the animals you are adopting so that you can give them proper care and help them enjoy long, happy lives. I think that sometimes, people make too big a deal out of bunny-specific issues. (That's the purpose of this whole page, in case I wasn't clear about it.)
3. Bunnies are not easy-to-maintain "starter pets" and may not be child-friendly.
(Perhaps more to the point, the child may not be bunny-friendly.)
Again, the same can be said for dogs and cats. I just don't see why a bunny is perceived so differently.
You need to learn about the proper diet, environment, grooming, and so on for your pet, whatever you get.
Whether a bunny (or cat or dog) is good with a child depends on the bunny (or cat or dog) and the child.
Here's an important point: Bunnies' back legs are powerful and, in a sense, more powerful than the rest of their skeletal system, especially their spine. I guess as prey, their lightweight flexibility helps them escape predators; in this process, they are on the ground. If you add an uneducated human (or child) to the mix, it can be dangerous for the bunny -- Bunnies have to be handled giving consideration to their back and gentle make-up. You do not want to "squish" your bunny with affection, drop him from any height or leave her unattended at an unnatural height (i.e., anything not on the ground, like a table top or counter top from which they may attempt to jump back to their beloved ground; this can have very poor, and sometimes fatal, results). Be best if the bunny is the adults' pet and any play time with little kids be supervised (but the same goes for your kid and your pet Rottweiler, Great Dane, Doberman, German Shepard, Pit Bull...).
4. Spay/neuter your bunnies. It provides for a calmer attitude and easier litter box training.
Oh, yeah, and fewer bunnies.
Fix your cats and dogs, too. There are enough pets to go around.
We need more caring homes to adopt them.
IMPORTANT point about fixing your bunnies: You will likely double the life expectancy of female rabbits, 80+% of whom will dies of cancer of the reproductive organs by age 5 or 6. Another reason to adopt (from a House Rabbit Society chapter) is that they have fixed their bunnies and the adoption fee can be 15-20% or less of what it would cost you to have it done.
As noted above in #2, make sure you select an exotics vet for the bunny's care.
5. Bunnies have a "special diet".
All pets do! You have to learn about whatever animals you have (detected a theme here yet?). Give them proper foods in the proper quantities or you will have an overweight, unhealthy pet. Note that it is best to feed your bunnies twice a day; it helps keep their aforementioned digestive systems working.
For bunnies, their diets are about 85% hay. Another 10% are bunny pellets (FYI, our vet and GHRS recommended Oxbow Bunny Basic/T for adult bunnies - how much depends on the bun's age and size). The balance includes assorted greens; there's a long list from which to choose. We try to give them three different kinds of greens per day, so they get different nutrients and vitamins. They love cilantro and parsley, and we usually mix that in with some lettuce, like Romaine (or Bibb, or red leaf, or green leaf ... plenty of choices - but not iceberg).
Unlike the smart-alecky but lovable cartoon bunny, their diet is not all carrots - that's like you eating nothing but donuts ... fun maybe, but very unhealthy. A very small portion of carrot can be one of their treats, like little bits of fruits such as apple, blueberry, banana, et cetera. Here's a bunny food pyramid.
Oh, and the buns just reminded me, treats. So read: What is a treat?
All of these should be in prescribed limited quantities EXCEPT clean, fresh hay and water, to which they should have unlimited access 7/24.
And now the good stuff:
1. Bunnies have personalities, just like any pet you might have. While a species of pet will have certain traits common to most, each animal will have his or her own personality.
to be pet,
to be picked up,
And other bunnies, maybe not so much for some of these things.
You get the idea.
Learning your pet's personality is part of the adventure. And it's fun.
2. Bunnies are funny. Amusing. I don't know how to explain it. Just watching them is entertaining. A happy bunny is a joy to behold. Wait until you first witness your bunny's binky. You will smile or laugh - guaranteed. Binkies mean your bunny is loving life, so it feels good to you, too. It's their way of telling you you're doing a great job.
3. Bunnies do not require any annual vaccinations. Just like cats and dogs, they should have regular annual check-ups with a rabbit-savvy vet and may need to visit a vet if they get sick.
4. Rabbits are crepuscular; they are primarily active during twilight (dawn and dusk). This can be a great coordination of the clock for the working (or school attending) bunny owner.
5. Bunnies like to be clean, kinda' like cats in this regard. They clean themselves (even better with a bonded pair). Just like dogs or cats, they need to be groomed every so often (some breeds more than others).
6. Want to train your pet? Bunnies are trainable, much more like a dog in this regard than a cat.
7. Bunnies do not have to go for walks to do their business (you can litter box train them). So, you won't see bunny owners out in the rain and cold with a bunny on a leash.
8. Your neighbors will never call to complain about the loud noises your bunnies are making and could you please keep your bunnies quiet.
So (apologies to John Lennon): Give buns a chance.
P.S. Adopt a bonded pair - bunnies are social animals and that way, you don't have to find your bun a pal later on.
P.P.S. And just in case this message did not come through clearly enough: Whatever pet you get, please get educated about it first!
AddendumThe volunteers at GHRS have provided great feedback about this page and it has been modified to reflect their input, which is also why I am adding this part. I understand the "negative sell". As thebunnylady puts it, in a preface to her classes when she teaches Bunny 101:
If I can talk you out of getting a bunny – I have done my job here.
My interpretation of this statement is: If you were thinking about getting a rabbit as a pet and you did not know what you were getting into, then even if you decide not to get a bunny, that's a good thing - for you and for the rabbit.
The volunteers have seen innumerable horrors done to rabbits ... fed an improper diet that can lead to painful gastric distress and death ... children who have improperly handled the animal, resulting in great harm or killing it ... kids or families that lose interest in the rabbit, relegating it to a tiny cage in the corner of a fume-filled garage that is freezing cold in winter and boiling hot in summer, with no social interaction or exercise ... abandoning an unwanted domesticated bunny by just letting it go into the wild, where it has no skills for coping ....
Rabbits are the third most frequently abandoned animals, right behinds cats and dogs ... especially right after Easter.
Bunnies are so darn cute. That's one of the things that makes them fun to own, but unfortunately, attractive to little kids and families who have no idea what they are getting into. When our daughter first smuggled Bunya into our basement, we had no clue. The pet store where she got him from -- extremely clueless and with little or no interest in learning about rabbits; the buns were simply a cute, disposable commodity for sale that they could then use to sell you supplies ... cages that were too small and food and treats that the vet and HRS recommend against. But one of our first actions was to make an appointment with a bun-savvy vet who explained the basics to us and provided several handouts on diet and care. We started learning from there, the internet and, thankfully, found GHRS (and Lucy & Ethel).
So we (and Bunya) were lucky.
If you are thinking about getting a bunny for a pet, be informed.
If you do decide to adopt, I think bunnies make great pets.