May 11, 2023

Rabbits — The New Cats

They roam your house, use a litter box, are best kept indoors, should be spayed/neutered, and their homeless population has been exploding.

Sound familiar? Well, I’m not talking about cats, but rabbits.

Around September 2021, we declared our rabbit population a burgeoning crisis. Rabbits were coming to us in entire litters, easily cruising into the double digits. It was a bunny-palooza.

And the number of rabbits at the OHS hasn’t slowed down since. If you’ve been closely watching our adoption pages, you’ve likely seen the ebb and flow of adoptable animals. Depending on the time of year, there might be a considerable number of cats or dogs looking for forever homes. Other times there may be very few — right now, all of our adoptable cats fit into a single page of the website.

Our cat room that now houses rabbits.

Our rabbit population, on the other hand, has been consistently high. Currently there are three pages of adoptable small animals and there are only three animals who are not rabbits.

The cause? It’s hard to say for certain, but we’ve got some ideas. In the great dog rush of 2020 it’s possible that people who weren’t able to find a dog might have shifted their focus to rabbits. Rabbits make great pets, but like any pet, you should know what you’re getting into before bringing one into your home. New rabbit parents may have been aware that rabbits do best in pairs, but might not have realized the need or had the resources to have the bunnies sterilized or to seek out regular, essential veterinary care.

Ottawa has made strides in its efforts to curb cat overpopulation, but even with cats there are still more improvements to be made. Rabbits are starting at square one and are missing key protections and resources such as a greater number of veterinary clinics that are equipped to care for rabbits and by-laws to prevent the sale of rabbits in pet stores unless sourced from an ethical provider like the OHS.

Much like cats, rabbits will need the support of the community to help solve their current overpopulation issues. We’re looking for more families interested in adopting a rabbit (or two) in need and who can provide a loving home for the bunny’s entire life. We’re also looking for more people to join our foster team and give temporary homes to Ottawa’s homeless bunnies.

If you don’t have space in your home for a bunny, temporary or permanent, you can still help by encouraging others to adopt from the OHS or get involved in our foster program. You can also advocate for bunnies and let your city councillor know that rabbits need similar protections to cats and dogs.

Let’s hop to it, Ottawa.

Stephen Smith

Manager: Communications