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7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Keep A Wild Rabbit As A Pet

Can You Keep A Wild Rabbit As A Pet

Rabbits belong to a large family of mammals.

They consist of over 29 species across the globe.

But have you ever wondered…

Can your bunny’s cousins live in harmony with you?

Read on to learn:

  • What to do when you find a wild baby rabbit.
  • How to tell if a rabbit is wild or domesticated. 
  • 7 shocking reasons why you shouldn’t keep a wild rabbit as a pet.
  • And so much more…

Can you keep a wild rabbit as a pet?

Wild rabbits aren’t ideal pets. They might not survive life in captivity. Moreover, some countries follow laws on the possession of wild animals. So, be careful when raising one. 

7 reasons why you shouldn’t keep a wild rabbit as a pet

#1: Animal welfare laws

Most states in America impose laws on wild animal possession.

Their primary purpose is for the general welfare of all wild and exotic animals.

Such as protection from the following:

  • Sale or trade.
  • Illegal slaughter or hunting.
  • Research and experiments.
  • Captivity as house pets or entertainment.

However, local authorities may allow you to raise wild rabbits with a state license. 

Or consider special cases, such as finding them when they’re:

  • Young.
  • Injured.
  • In the middle of a life-threatening scenario.

However, you need to turn them over to your local authorities as soon as possible.

This is to ensure immediate medical attention.

Furthermore, animal welfare laws vary from state to state. 

If found in possession of a wild rabbit, you may face sanctions.

Such as payment of fines and imprisonment.

So, it’s best to check with your local authorities first before raising wild ones.

#2: Carries infectious diseases

Wild rabbits are carriers of a lot of diseases.

And some can infect both humans and animals, too.

In 2020, cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) were recorded in many parts of the US including:

  • Texas.
  • Arizona.
  • Nevada.
  • California.
  • New Mexico.

RHD is a contagious disease in rabbits caused by several virus strains like RHDV2.

Common symptoms include bleeding in several parts of the body.

Such as the lungs, nasal cavity, and uterine lining. 

This can pass on through direct exposure to their blood, urine, or droppings.

Moreover, it can contaminate food and water.

And even clings to your clothing or shoes.

Furthermore, the cause of the outbreak was an infected jackrabbit found in California.

Wild rabbits with RHD are often found dead on the spot.

Meanwhile, the IACUC also records a list of other illnesses that wild rabbits may carry.

  • Bacterial infection.
  • Ringworms or fungal infection.
  • Protozoal infection (i.e. amoeba).

Warning: These illnesses can infect you and your domesticated bunnies, too.

#3: Difficult to tame

If you find litter-training your bunny a little challenging…

Imagine how difficult could it be for a wild one.

According to a study, wild rabbits rarely become tame.

Especially as a furry friend.

Even wild baby rabbits grow into fearful adults despite human interventions.

Moreover, scientists proved Charles Darwin’s claim, too.

As he wrote in his book The Origin of Species

“No animal is more difficult to tame than the young of the wild rabbit.”

Indeed, it’s yet another convincing discovery about your fluffball’s cousins.

#4: They see you as a predator

Wild Rabbits See Humans As Predators

Or in other words, they have trust issues.

Wild rabbits are prey animals.

Even your indoor bunnies.

However, wild rabbits fear humans more that they tend to sit in one place.

Sometimes, they run fast or hide, too.

Trivia: Wild rabbits run in a zigzag pattern to confuse their predators.

When they see animals or something bigger than their size…

Their first instinct is to come up with an escape plan.

#5: Strong flight responses

When wild rabbits feel threatened…

They might bite you with no second thoughts at all.

It’s because they have sharper flight responses.

Or reactions when they perceive danger.

Moreover, wild rabbits freak out when touched.

Or held in your arms.

They have strong hind legs that are enough to push you away.

Trivia: In general, rabbits can break their back when they exert too much force on their hind legs.

However, be cautious when handling wild rabbits.

They have rabies in their saliva and can infect you with a bite or scratch.

Your home bunnies are vulnerable to this infection, too.

#6: They’re (very) shy

Wild rabbits aren’t only fearful of humans.

They’re shy, too.

As ground-dwelling animals, wild rabbits are used to living in the shadows. 

It’s their safe zone.

But wild rabbits tend to refuse human contact at all.

Especially if they’re confined in a new surrounding.

Interestingly, domesticated rabbits tend to show this trait, too.

And sometimes, you might think that they’re scared of you.

Interesting read: 13 Things Rabbits Do When They Are Scared (Behavior)

#7: Aggression towards other bunnies

You might wonder:

“Can wild and domesticated rabbits live together?”

Wild and domesticated rabbits both show signs of aggression.

Especially in cases like:

  • Fighting over food.
  • Showing dominance.
  • Defending their territory.
  • Protecting themselves from predators.
  • Competing against each other during mating season.

These behaviors are commonly observed in housed rabbits according to a study.

Meanwhile, rabbits in the wild also tend to establish their hierarchy.

They usually live in groups consisting of 2-3 bucks (male rabbits).

And 4-5 does (female rabbits).

Moreover, wild rabbits prefer to live in huge numbers for safety reasons.

However, some of them can also live alone in rare cases.

As a fur parent…

It can be a little tricky when finding your bunny some new companions.

But it’s always best to pair them with another domesticated fluffball.

What to do when you find a wild baby rabbit

When you come across a wild baby rabbit and worry about their safety…

Take note of these things first:

#1: Assess their nest

If the baby rabbit’s underground nest is still intact…

Chances are, the mother rabbit might be out in the field for food.

They normally return to their nest at least 1-2 times a day.

Especially in the morning and at night.

In most cases, wild baby rabbits can survive without human touch.

So, you can safely leave them alone.

However, kits (baby rabbits) might be in danger when they’re above ground.

Especially when their nest appears to be invaded by predators.

Or when you see injuries in them.

In this case, you may put the baby rabbits somewhere safer.

Note: You might confuse rabbits with hares. 

Hares belong to a different rabbit species called lepus

They live above ground, including their offspring.

They also have longer ears and are less social than rabbits.

So, be careful when picking one up.

Relevant read: 15 Easy Ways To Help Wild Rabbits In Winter

#2: Provide temporary shelter 

You may provide wild baby rabbits some shelter when the need arises.

Since these rabbits dwell underground…

You may need to set up a more enclosed space for them.

A big cardboard box will do.

Also, be sure to dim their space a little bit.

And place them in a quiet and warm spot.

#3: Call your local animal welfare services

The best action is to always seek help from your local authorities.

Especially animal welfare or rescue services.

It’s safer and easier for professionals to assess if the baby rabbits are injured or not.

Watch this video about what to do when you see a wild baby rabbit:

How to tell if a rabbit is wild or domesticated

Generally, rabbits look similar in physical appearance.

But there are actually a lot of things that set them apart.

So, here’s a list of differences between wild and indoor rabbits.

#1: Origin

You may be unable to tell the physical difference based on origins.

But it’s still important to know about your rabbit’s roots.

Firstly, rabbits belong to the leporidae family.

And wild rabbits come from the sylvilagus or cottontail and brush rabbit species.

They are mostly found in the northern and southern parts of America.

Meanwhile, domesticated rabbits are descendants of the European species called oryctolagus cuniculus.

Domestication of rabbits is believed to have started by the Romans over 1000 years ago.

Moreover, there are 49 recognized rabbit breeds in the world.

Some popular rabbit breeds include:

  • Dutch.
  • Mini Rex.
  • Holland Lop.
  • Dwarf Papillon.
  • The Netherland Dwarf.

#2: Habitat

Domesticated rabbits live together with their fur parents.

Or in a cage or hutch.

While wild rabbits live underground without human intervention.

Particularly in the forest or hilly terrains.

#3: Size

Rabbits vary in size depending on their breed.

Wild rabbits usually grow up to 11.8-15.7 in (30-40 cm) in height.

And weigh around 2.2-4.4 lbs (1-2 kg) as they reach maturity.

Meanwhile, domesticated rabbits have different breed sizes.

Small breeds that weigh below 2 lbs (0.9 kg) include:

  • Dwarf Hotot.
  • Britannia Petite.
  • Netherland Dwarf.

Moreover, these large domesticated rabbit breeds can weigh 15-20 lbs (6.8-9 kg):

  • Flemish Giant. 
  • Continental Giant. 
  • Blanc de Bouscat.

#4: Diet

Wild rabbits graze for food everywhere.

Their menu is wide enough for them to sustain their daily nutrition.

And they mostly feed on fresh grass or hay.

However, they can also nibble on other wild treats such as:

  • Fruits.
  • Tree bark.
  • Vegetables.
  • Wildflowers.
  • Tall leaf blades.

Meanwhile, domesticated rabbits have a similar diet to wild ones.

Such as hay, vegetables, and fruits.

However, they also enjoy commercial foods like pellets and treats.

#5: Genetics

One big difference between a wild and domesticated rabbit is their tameness.

And this has something to do with their genes according to a study.

Genes play a vital role during brain development.

Claiming further that their upbringing has no significant effect at all.

Moreover, researchers have found interesting facts about wild and domesticated rabbits.

Particularly the differences between a domesticated rabbit’s brain structure such as:

  • Reduced amygdala or the fear-sensing region. 
  • Enlarged medial frontal cortex or the region that processes fear reduction.
  • Lesser white matter or tissue connecting other brain parts for communication.

This explains why it’s difficult to tame wild rabbits.

#6: Lifespan 

Domesticated rabbits live longer than wild ones.

The former can live for at least 8-12 years.

Especially those in suitable living conditions.

However, the opposite is true with improper diet and management.

Meanwhile, wild rabbits have an average lifespan of 1-9 years.

This is due to the following conditions:

  • Predators.
  • Loss of habitat.
  • Plant poisoning.
  • Road accidents.
  • Weather conditions.

#7: Survival

You can say that they’re complete opposites.

Especially if they switch their lives.

Wild rabbits can’t survive when caged.

Or kept indoors.

While domesticated rabbits can’t withstand extreme weather conditions.

Especially in summer.

Let alone be exposed to predators.

#8: Reproduction

Rabbits have the same reproductive traits from mating until rearing.

Or taking care of their young.

However, domesticated rabbits can alter their fertility or ability to reproduce.

This is an option for fur parents to reduce unwanted litter.

Or baby rabbits.

It’s a process called neutering for male rabbits.

And spaying for female ones.

This is done by removing their reproductive organs.

Moreover, domesticated rabbits can be spayed or neutered when they’re 4-6 months old.

Relevant search: Can Unneutered Male And Female Rabbits Live Together?

#9: Behavior

Rabbits have similar behavioral patterns.

But one common trait that sets them apart is their digging habits.

Wild rabbits like cottontails don’t dig burrows or their underground dwelling. 

But they occupy burrows that are dug by other rabbits.

Especially the wild female ones.

Does dig holes for their offspring.

They often cover it with their fur and some leaves or crops.

Meanwhile, domesticated rabbits (male or female) love to dig.

They can dig as deep as 118 in (3 m).

And can reach up to 1,771 in (45 m) in length, too.

Plus, their underground home can be as wide as 49 acres (20 hectares) of land.

This is called a warren or a series of interconnecting burrows.