Rabbits are adorable and most kids would love to have one. They can also be expensive buying them from either a breeder or a pet store, making them out of reach for some families. There is an alternative – you could keep a wild rabbit as a pet. Or can you?
So, can you keep a wild rabbit as a pet? You could keep a wild rabbit as a pet, however, just because you can does not mean you should. The reasons for this include the fact that it is illegal in most places to keep any type of wild animal, you cannot be sure that a mother has abandoned them, they may be carrying diseases and they could be more prone to biting.
With that being said, if you should choose to keep a wild rabbit as a pet, there is plenty that you need to know.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching and talking to authorities, experts, and professionals on the subject.
I’d like to share what I have been able to find and help provide answers to the most commonly asked questions – so be sure to read on! It’s very important to be aware of.
Can You Domesticate A Wild Rabbit?
It could be possible to domesticate a wild rabbit, but there are several factors that need careful consideration.
Most wild rabbits will never become supremely comfortable around humans. They will always be looking for their next opportunity to escape.
You need to make sure that you have a large enough cage for an animal that is used to freedom. An escape-proof outdoor run would also be great.
The age of the rabbit matters. Older wild rabbits have had plenty of time to learn their fear of humans. Younger bunnies are much easier to win over.
Also, you will have to keep a wild rabbit separated from your domesticated bunnies. Not only because there is a risk of them passing along a disease, but also because they can never breed.
You also need to consider it from a legal perspective. Most places have laws that prevent wild animals from being domesticated.
In fact, in a lot of these places you are required by law to turn any wild animal that you capture over to a licensed rehabilitator who has experience with the species.
From a moral perspective, you cannot be certain that the mother rabbit has abandoned her offspring or kit.
Perhaps the rabbit is lost briefly and would soon return to their family if left.
Is There Any Difference Between A Wild Rabbit And A Domesticated Rabbit?
Yes, there are many differences between the two, and several are incredibly significant.
Both wild and domestic rabbits look similar in appearance, but they are quite different. There are fourteen species of wild rabbits in the United States, including the best known, the cottontail.
Wild rabbits are from either the Sylvilagus or Lepus genus. Our domesticated rabbits originally come from Europe, and they are members of the Oryctolagus cuniculus genus.
Life span is one area where there are obvious differences.
When they are cared for properly, a domesticated rabbit who lives indoors will live between 8-12 years. If they live outside, domesticated rabbits live only half that.
Wild rabbits have an average life span of two years.
Sadly, in far too many circumstances they rarely make it longer than a year.
This is due to both harsh weather conditions and an abundance of predators.
Their ability to survive also sets them apart. A domestic rabbit will not be able to survive if they are let free outside.
They are unable to fend for themselves and will shortly die, either from a predator, weather conditions, or consuming poisonous plants that a wild rabbit would instinctively stay away from.
The diet of the two varies also. The basis of a wild rabbit’s diet is wildflowers, grasses, clover, and field or garden crops.
Domesticated rabbits have specific needs. They require good quality pellets, fresh vegetables, and unlimited access 24/7 to clean water and timothy hay.
Finally, there are differences in behavior. Domestic rabbits enjoy digging. They also find safety and comfort in dark places, such as cardboard boxes or dome homes.
Wild rabbits dig tunnels for themselves to sleep and raise their kits. They always have numerous entrances and exits, which helps to keep them safe from predators.
How Do You Befriend A Wild Rabbit?
The only way to successfully befriend a wild rabbit is with time, patience, and a few tricks up your sleeve.
You may need to do so for a number of reasons – perhaps they are hurt, definitely abandoned or you have in fact decided you do want to try and keep one. Perhaps you have even seen a wild rabbit in your garden, or around your property and you want to help them.
Expect that its first instinct will be to run because they fear humans. This is also their survival instinct kicking in. Just let it run away – it will eventually come back.
When you next see the rabbit, remain a fair distance away and lie down on the ground.
You appear to be less threatening when you are not so tall. Remain motionless.
Do not react at all when it finally comes closer. Keep in mind that this could take days or weeks.
Be sure that you do not smell like Fido or Fluffy. Both consider the rabbit prey, and they will never trust you if you smell like the enemy.
Start leaving a trail of rabbit preferred tasty treats, thinks carrot chunks or apple slices, beginning where the rabbit usually appears.
Have the trail lead to where you are on the ground.
Begin talking to the rabbit whenever it comes close to you. Make sure that your voice is always low, gentle, and calm. This will help to keep the rabbit calm.
If you end up scaring the rabbit, they may freeze in place in a strange catatonic state. Although you could likely pick it up, resist the urge to do it.
The rabbit is literally frozen with fear and shock, or even death is likely to follow. Just ignore it until it becomes calm again.
Rabbits dwell on the ground. They become terrified when they are lifted off the ground. Your best bet is to use a humane trap. Most co-op and pet stores sell them.
Put the trap in the path of the rabbit and bait it. When the rabbit grabs the bait, the door will close. After the rabbit has been caught, she will be scared.
Cover the trap with a blanket or towel to help calm her down. Leave her alone for at least 30 minutes before taking her inside your home and transferring them to a rabbit cage.
Word to the wise – don’t expect any gratitude from the bunny. You are going to have to spend plenty of time getting her to trust you. Just don’t give up.
While she may never be your best friend, you may at least form a slight bond.
How Long Does A Wild Rabbit Live In Captivity?
There is no actual number to answer this question. It ranges and depends on a number of factors.
What can be said is that they will certainly live longer than the average of two years in the wild.
Assuming of course that their nutritional needs are met, and they are in no danger from other household pets.
Do Wild Rabbits Have Diseases?
It is possible for wild rabbits to have diseases, and they can pass them on to other rabbits you have in the house.
The diseases carried by wild rabbits are often associated with bacteria and parasites. For this reason, it is wise to use caution when handling one.
Likely the most common disease rabbits carry is rabbit fever or tularemia. This can be transmitted to humans through the tissue or blood of an infected rabbit.
It is important to note that this can also be transmitted to humans by ticks and deer flies. Swollen lymph nodes and skin ulcers are the symptoms.
Another disease that affects only rabbits is a type of pox known as myxomatosis. There is also rabbit hemorrhagic disease or Calicivirus.
It also affects only domestic and wild rabbits. Unfortunately, it is both extremely contagious and fatal.
These are just some, but not all, of the most common diseases to be aware of, but there are more that can vary by location.
If you were to attempt to domesticate a wild rabbit, you should of course get them checked over by a vet as soon as you can.
Will A Wild Rabbit Bite You?
A wild rabbit will likely bite you. They will likely do this out of fear as they are not used to close human interaction; as prey animals, they will likely see you as a threat.
It is also important to note that a domesticated rabbit will bite for these same reasons.
This first reason applies to wild rabbits are they have become part of your household.
Out Of Fear
Is not an aggressive act. There is no intention to hurt you.
Rather, something in the vicinity could be making her scared.
For example, if you are holding Bugs and the dog starts to bark wildly, she may bite you just because she is afraid of the dog!
Aggression And Territorial Biting
These are the hardest habits to break.
Aggression biting usually stems from trust issues – unsurprising for a wild rabbit you aim to domesticate.
It will take work and time to get a rabbit to trust you. But don’t underestimate the power of treats.
Territorial biting can often be stopped by having your rabbit altered, whether it is male or female.
Also, females who are spayed are less likely to develop cancer down the road.
Assuming you were able to domesticate them, a wild rabbit may bite you for attention.
They may want to play or may even require food.
Out Of Boredom
This problem can be fixed by getting your rabbit some new toys to play with and chew on.
Can happen and it is usually hard to understand the causes.
Think of your rabbit as a toddler who needs to be calmed after a temper tantrum or crying fit.
Talk softly and pet gently.
The more a rabbit associates you with pleasure, the quicker trust will be established.
Keeping a wild rabbit as a pet can be done, however, there is a lot you would need to consider in order to successfully domesticate them and bring them safely into your home.
With local laws, diseases, biting, a shorter life expectancy, and moral factors to consider – sometimes it is just better to bite the bullet and invest in a domesticated species from a trusted pet store.
There is a reason why most rabbit owners purchase their rabbits from specific places.
Remember, all rabbits sold in a store have been bred intentionally for domestication; they have not rounded up a group of wild rabbits to sell!
It’s a lot more complicated than that.
Of course, domesticating a wild rabbit is possible, and you can look to bring one into your home successfully with some thought, consideration, care, and best practices.
You’ll also want to get them looked over by a vet as soon as you can.
Either way, keeping a wild rabbit as a pet, is generally not recommended.
Are you wondering what other wild animals you can keep as pets? Then my following guides may be of interest:
- Can You Keep A Wild Hedgehog As A Pet?
- Can You Keep A Wild Frog As A Pet?
- Can You Keep A Wild Mouse As A Pet?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.