Buying a rabbit

Buying a rabbit

Rabbits are supposed to move in: where do I buy them best?

Anyone who decides to use rabbits as pets usually thinks first of all about the next pet shop selling sweet little baby rabbits. However, do not be tempted by the price or the cuteness of the animals, but inquire beforehand exactly which animals and which origin comes into question, otherwise you will usually experience a nasty surprise later.

Minimum delivery age for kittens

Rabbits should never be given before the tenth week of life! Ideal is a delivery with 12-14 weeks.

Observations clearly show that rabbits drink milk from their mother much longer than 6 or 8 weeks of age. Because most of this happens only at night, most breeders do not notice it at all. Rabbit babies need breast milk to build up a healthy immune system; if they are abruptly weaned, this process is usually disturbed.

The first four months is the most formative socialization phase for rabbits. At this age they learn in the group association with the old animals and sibling’s social behavior. This requires a harmonious, stable group of old animals of different sex. Animals that are kept alone at this stage or only with another rabbit later have a poorer social behavior and are not as well tolerated.

The babies play with each other and cuddle very intensely in the first weeks, the contact with an adult can never replace the baby games. Similar to when a human child grows up without contact with peers.

In this phase, the intestinal flora and the immune system is formed. Moving to a new owner (or even a pet shop), switching food and socializing bring the rabbit into contact with new germs and stress and strain it unnecessarily, causing some animals to suffer lifelong immunodeficiency.

The babies absorb the mother’s caecum faeces to optimally build up the intestinal flora. This is only possible if they are allowed to stay with their mother until the 16th week.

With the beginning of the 12th week of life, the first rabbits are sexually mature, so they must now be separated by sex. Ideally, they are neutered early in the 11th week of life, so that they can stay in the group (with a castration from the 12th week of life or from sexual maturity, they are capable of generation up to six weeks after castration).

Rabbits from animal welfare: animal shelters, emergency stations, private nursing places

With animals from the animal welfare one does not only support a good thought and gives a needy animal a good home. What many owners do not know: Animal shelter animals are

  • all checked by a veterinarian,
  • vaccinated,
  • healthy,
  • and the males are castrated.

Animal welfare associations pursue the goal of communicating the animals well and therefore, for example, explicitly disclose chronically ill rabbits as such. Chronically ill rabbits are then given to keepers who are prepared to care for such animals intensively and to bear the costs incurred. A rabbit beginner gets accordingly only suitable animals mediated. 

In addition, attention is usually paid to the character and characteristics of the animals. How compatible is it? What about the group? Can it be stroked? Is it scary?

It is important to the staff of the shelter where the animal will live and that it feels comfortable there. Therefore, the owners are asked about their attitude and pre- or post-controls are carried out at the owner. If problems occur, consultation with the animal shelter can be held.

Animal protection associations do not pursue profit intentions but commit themselves purely to the well-being of the four-legged friends. Differently than the call of animals from the shelter, these animals are usually very grateful, healthy animals.

See also prejudices to animals from second hand.

Nevertheless, there are also black sheep in animal welfare institutions. Do you pay attention to where the animals will live later, do you get advice and information? Does the facility look well-kept and well organised? Do the employees know anything about rabbits? Trust also your gut feeling and ask in case of doubt.

Rabbits from the trade: small animal market, flea market and pet shop

Under no circumstances should small animals be acquired on a small animal market, in the building market or in an animal shop. These animals come from mass breeding, are produced to make a profit, are separated from their mother too early, are not provided with veterinary care and are sold without advice.

Animals with such an origin are often ill, disturbed, not socialized and with the purchase you support an unscrupulous business like rummage puppies from the illegal puppy trade.


  • Poor husbandry conditions (small bays where the babies could never run or hook, no freewheeling, poor care…)
  • No veterinary care – sick animals are killed or fed (50€ veterinary costs for a rabbit that only brings 20€ profit?)
  • The mothers are pure birth machines, the fathers live all their lifes in single housing
  • Mass breeding, the single animal does not count, only the profit counts
  • Several breeds and species of animals are bred to a breeder
  • The breeder is not familiar with breeding methods and hereditary diseases, there are hereditary defects in the offspring.
  • The babies are separated from their mother much too early and are therefore neither socialised nor do they develop a healthy immune system through breast milk.

Sale (pet shop, DIY store, small animal market):

  • The animals first have to move to the pet shop and then to the new keeper, so the immune system has come into contact with many new germs too early and some animals develop a chronic immunodeficiency.
  • The origin is not obvious, no information is given about the address of the breeder and if it is, one finds bad conditions there.
  • The rabbits get mostly dry fodder/pellets and hay, hardly or not at all adopt green fodder (malnutrition in development > secondary diseases).
  • No competent advice, the animals are also kept in cages with dry food. The owners, who get advice there, trust the staff, they and the animals have to fight later with the consequences of the wrong attitude and nutrition.
  • Incorrect separation of the sexes: Even if the sexes are standing next to the enclosures, males often sit with the females and vice versa.
  • Living beings become commodities
  • Animals are bought spontaneously because they are sweet and end up in catastrophic attitudes.
  • Sick animals are placed in the back room to let them die or given back to the breeder who disposes of them (50€ veterinary costs for a 30€ rabbit?), partly sick animals are also sold as healthy.
  • Often the animals are not sufficiently shielded from the salesroom, have little or no shelter, are not properly cared for and cannot retreat (especially at small animal markets).

From private:

  • The rabbits are often already pregnant (covered by the brother – inbreeding and/or hereditary defects arise in the offspring), the mothers are disturbed in their development by the early pregnancy and die partly with the birth.
  • Many animals are ill (coccidia etc. have almost all of these animals), many are weakened, some die, others manage to survive through intensive veterinary treatment. Only a few are healthy. It is a drama when the sweet baby animal suddenly dies.
  • The owners fight through the wrong advice with diseases, injuries and death (e.g. two uncastrated bucks, which suddenly seriously injure themselves or kill themselves with 8 months, a rabbit which dies from a stomach overload by wrong food, …)
  • The animals are poorly tolerated (due to the poor socialization)
  • Some animals have a poor immune system throughout their life and suffer from many diseases.
  • When problems arise, the owners are left on their own, the pet shop is not interested in the animals, does not take them back, does not advise on problems.

Unfortunately, still rabbits are delivered in large quantities individually into small cages and are even promoted as “child-suited” (pet shops, small animal markets, DIY stores…). The needs of the animals are usually not fulfilled in the slightest and after a short time the animals have become boring.

Stored in a corner of the room, fill up the dry food from time to time and replace the green drinking bottle. When the friends come to visit, the animal might be dragged around by them in panic! So the rabbits vegetate.

A life in prison without speech, without movement, without species-appropriate nutrition without the affectionate affection of a partner!
No living being deserves such a thing! Therefore enlighten and inform you about the basic needs of the animals!

Rabbit from the breeder

Who decides for a rabbit from the breeder should know that there are many black sheep among the rabbit breeders. It is difficult to find a competent, trustworthy breeder who breeds and raises the animals healthily.

The following criteria will help you:

  • The breeder will show you the complete breeding facility and not just the one litter.
  • The mother looks healthy and will be shown to you.
  • The rabbits all live in big enclosures and not in small stables/cages, the enclosures are clean, varied and big enough (the rabbits could develop healthy and get to know a lot already, so they are healthier and less afraid later).
  • The babies grow up in groups with several adult rabbits and not only with the mother (this makes them very socialised and socially acceptable).
  • The male rabbits are (early) castrated (so the breeder prevents that with the animals is reproduced).
  • The breeders do not live alone but with a castrated buck or a castrated female in a large enclosure.
  • All litter siblings and the other rabbits look healthy and well-groomed.
  • All healthy rabbits have been vaccinated.
  • The babies will give up at the earliest with 12 weeks, so that they could develop a good immune system, were socialized very well and had the mother and the litter siblings around them long enough. The breeder explains to you why the delivery before the 12th week is not species-appropriate.
  • The rabbits are fed a lot of fresh food, hay and structured feed and not pellets or commercial rabbit feed. The breeder will advise you which food is suitable for rabbits and why.
  • The breeder is familiar with breeding methods (e.g. line breeding) and has studied in detail which hereditary diseases there are in rabbits and how to exclude them (e.g. lethal factor, max factor, megacolon syndrome…).
  • The breeder breeds only one or very few breeds. Breeders of several breeds (or all breeds that are currently in) or breeders who are constantly changing breeds are not serious.
  • The breeder is interested in your attitude, would like to see photos and look at the attitude (pre- or post-control). If the keeping is not species-appropriate, he does not give up his animals.
  • The breeder doesn’t force his animals on you, but also points out problems typical for the breed and wants to know exactly whether the animal is really in good hands with you.
  • You can also visit and get to know your selected kitten before handing it in.
  • The breeder concludes a protection contract for the good of the rabbit with you.
  • The rabbits are delivered only with pedigree and the pedigree of the parents is known.
  • The breeder only raises a few litters and does not produce any masses.
  • You will be advised on the socialization.
  • The breeder is available for problems and questions at any time also after the sale for further inquiries.
  • The breeder takes the animals back at any time, if they should hand them over sometime.

Buy rabbits only from a breeder who meets these criteria and is very concerned about the welfare of the animals. Don’t let yourself in for excuses or compromises. Because a good rabbit-interested says also times no, if it does not fit.

But also a good breeder has a big disadvantage! At the moment there is a large surplus of rabbits in Germany. Too many rabbits and too few breeders with good husbandry. Therefore it is actually irresponsible, with the momentary situation, to put further animals into the world. Because: A good breeder only produces offspring if good places for the offspring are secured. Therefore: Give first a home to the animals, which are already there and do not support you so long that new animals are produced after.