At my local pet market in Bangkok, Thailand recently, I noticed a whole section of a pet shop set up for rabbit leashes. Looking more like a cat harness than a regular dog leash, these brightly colored fabric rabbit leashes are sold so that rabbit owners can take their bunnies for a walk.
That then leads me to the question, can you take a rabbit for a walk on a leash and, frankly, should you? Or, do the dangers of taking a rabbit for a walk on a leash far outweigh the positives?
Where do you live? – While it might be okay taking a rabbit for a walk on a leash if you live in the countryside, far away from traffic, pollution and crowds of people, if you live in a large city like I do, I wouldn’t recommend taking your rabbit out on a leash at all. Not even to a local park.
That is because pollution in the air can be bad for a bunny’s lungs and excessive noise, whether it’s from cars or people, could stress him out so much he has a heart attack and dies. Yes, that has been known to happen, as rabbits are extremely fragile pets that don’t do well with a lot of commotion.
Where will you walk? – If you have fields near your home where your bunny can bounce around and get some fresh air, then taking your rabbit for a walk on a leash could be a lot of fun, for him and for you.
If you are walking around sidewalks or on cement, however, this isn’t only potentially hot for your rabbit it can also hurt his feet. Many rabbits only have thin fur pads on the undersides of their paws and, once this fur comes into contact with cement or other rough surfaces, it can quickly wear down causing sore hocks. If not dealt with promptly by a vet, an infection can set in and a rabbit can die.
Is the grass around your home treated with pesticides? – One of the most worrying things about people taking their pet rabbits for a walk on a leash is they often don’t know what has been used to treat the grass he’s walking on or eating.
If you are going for a walk in the park, for instance, it’s highly likely the grass your bunny will be hopping around on has been treated with some quite strong pesticides. If your rabbit eats the grass, or even licks his paws afterwards, he could get a severe stomach ache. In the worst case scenario, he could be poisoned and die, particularly if the grass was treated with a pesticide just days before.
That is why, if you do plan on taking your rabbit for a walk on a leash, only take him on grass that you are sure has not been treated with any chemicals. Your own lawn, a neighbor’s garden, or your parent’s house for instance.
Fly strike – Rabbits that are outside are far more susceptible to a condition called fly strike. This is when a fly lays its eggs on a rabbit’s fur, maggots hatch from the eggs and then burrow themselves into the rabbit’s skin. If not treated by a vet and the maggots removed, they will literally eat the rabbit from the inside out, causing it excruciating pain and eventually death.
House rabbits in particular are more susceptible to flystrike as they are rarely outside under normal circumstances. That’s why you really should think hard about whether taking your rabbit outside on a leash just for a little fun is worth the possibility of him contracting flystrike.
How good are you at holding a leash? – A friend in the US took her rabbit to the local park and, while she was distracted by another friend that was with them, her rabbit managed to pull the leash out of her hand and take off running. Luckily, the two of them managed to trap him under a bush before he was able to get far, but the outcome could have been pretty tragic.
Pet rabbits escape every day. Whether it’s digging a hole in the back yard and disappearing under the fence, or managing to get free of a leash and hopping away, the outcome can be disastrous.
Once a rabbit escapes, he is prey to any dog, cat or wild life in the area or to birds hunting for their next meal. Not being used to fending for themselves, most pet rabbits that escape die within a day or two of disappearing. For the fun of being on a leash, do you really want that to happen to you?