Many people's first instinct is to visit the local pet store to find that perfect pet. Beware... Buying from a pet store can be a very risky business. Most pet stores don't give out enough care information with animals. Often their employees are terribly uneducated about the individual animals, and their needs. When you buy from a pet store you take your chances. Once you leave the store you are on your own. There is no "service after the sale". Most are unwilling or unable to answer specific health questions or concerns should they arise. Some store staff often fail to describe the care needed by rabbits and are only too keen to boost their commission by making a quick sale.
If you are willing to take the time and locate a breeder, or rabbit re-homing centre, in your local area you will be much better off: A breeder knows their animals, and can help steer you toward a particular animal that may be best suited to your situation.
- A breeder will take time to explain more than the basics.
- Most breeders are more than happy to educate the new owners.
- A breeder will be able to give you history on your bunny and his/her family line. You will also be able to look at the parents, possibly previous generations and littermates.
- If you have questions or concerns, a reputable breeder will always be there to help reassure you, even years after the sale
Too many pet shops keep rabbits in unsuitable conditions - small cages which do not permit exercise or normal grooming, no daily grooming of longer-haired breeds, inadequate feed and sometimes no hay (vital for all rabbits), central heating and no attention on Sundays or other days when the store is closed.
Some even house their rabbits with animals of other species or even birds perched overhead - so the poor bunny beneath is dive-bombed by their droppings.
DIY stores and large pet stores can be a most stressful environment for a bunny - heavily-laden trolleys rumble by, young children try to climb into their pens, some throw their sweet wrappers etc into pens and often there is music blasting through speakers and many are over-heated.
Sadly, many pet shop bunnies have been commercially bred for profit rather than lovingly reared by a devoted owner who has the time to spend lavishing them with fuss and affection. Further, many of these 'mass-bred' bunnies destined for the pet trade will have been reared specifically in sheds devoted purely for breeding and the bunnies have never seen daylight, been handled or fussed. No wonder they are timid and many will scurry away from human contact in terror. Those that don't are more likely to be surplus stock from a reputable breeder or mass-bred bunnies on their best behaviour to escape their unsuitable living environment!
Extensive experience in breeding and handling pet rabbits can ensure many of the above are identified prior to adopting your new furry friend. However, for the average person choosing a new pet bunny, a thorough examination of the rabbit's eyes, nose, teeth, ears, coat, droppings, palpation of the the abdomen and listening to the abdomen and lungs with a stethoscope is not a practical (or popular!) option in a crowded pet shop - especially when staff are getting impatient and a crowd gathers to watch the examination!