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International Rabbit Day: Can Cats and Rabbits Live Together?

There are behavioral and health concerns when these species cohabitate; here's how to do it.

Melvin Pena  |  Sep 26th 2014


In Lewis Carroll’s fabulist masterpiece, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Alice says to the Duchess, “I didn’t know that cats could grin.” The Duchess responds, “They all can … and most of ’em do.” They are speaking of the Cheshire Cat, of course, and it is this very cat who points Alice toward the March Hare’s house. It’s all very well for fictional cats to provide directions to the homes of crazy tea-drinking rabbits, but what of their real-life counterparts?

Do cats grin when rabbits are around because they believe themselves to be in the presence of easy prey? Why are we talking about cats and rabbits in the first place? That last question is the easiest to answer. During the last weekend in September — in 2014, it’s Saturday the 27 — we celebrate International Rabbit Day. Here at Catster, we love cats, but know that all domesticated creatures deserve respect and recognition. We went in search of evidence that cats and rabbits can live together in harmony.

Rabbits are people, too!

The unfortunate thing about rabbits in domestic settings is that people tend to adopt them during the Easter season. Many new rabbit owners lose interest, leading these fluffy and loveable pals to lives in shelters, or, worse yet, released into the wild. Rabbits are inherently social animals. They require just as many toys, and just as much nurturing as any cat.

Like mice, rats, and certain simian species, rabbits are also commonly utilized and discarded in the normal course of scientific and medical research. This is to say nothing of their continued use in the testing and design of cosmetics. One goal of the organizations that promote International Rabbit Day is to increase awareness and make certain that the plight of rabbits is not forgotten.

Different creatures, different needs

Rabbits and cats who share a home have distinct needs, and if you’re considering a multi-species home for the first time, there are certain precautions you’ll want to take. When you are present and taking cool rabbit-and-cat photos to post on the Internet, you can monitor the interactions between cats and rabbits, and take pleasure in them. Leaving home for work or school? Cats and kittens tend to get free reign of the house, which can place rabbits in uncomfortable situations.

Consideration 1. Living in a multispecies household where cats and rabbits interact on a regular basis, it’s of primary importance that every cat and every rabbit is vaccinated against rabies. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning that the virus that causes rabies can move between species.

Consideration 2. Certain other infectious diseases, like the fungus ringworm, and the intestinal disorder Cryptosporidiosis, which can be ingested along with a stray rabbit pellet, are not unheard of in multispecies homes. To prevent these zoonotic diseases from affecting your cats and rabbits, keep your cat’s and rabbit’s litter, bedding, food, and water dishes assiduously clean.

Consideration 3. Along with keeping their litter and refuse separate, it’s also important, if you keep cats and rabbits, that the rabbit has a safe and secure place to rest and sleep when you are away from home. Cute photos are wonderful proof of social interaction, but we all know how much trouble cats get into. If cats will chew on electrical cords, rest assured your rabbit’s ears may provide an interesting diversion for the cat as well.

My experience with cats and rabbits

I am one of those people who have almost always lived in a bipetual home with both cats and dogs. When I was a child, I also had the chance to live with a rabbit for a short time. I must’ve been in third grade or so; our classroom had a pet rabbit, which I was allowed to bring home for the winter holidays. The rabbit’s name was Oreo, and Oreo got along just fine with our cat, Herman.

Herman was named for one of my childhood idols, to wit, Pee-wee Herman. Oreo’s name derived, as you might imagine, from the rabbit’s coloration. I grew up in Georgia, so if you’re wondering why Herman and Oreo are cavorting freely outdoors in wintertime, that’s the reason. I apologize for the graininess of the image — this was the 1980s, after all — long before the advent of ready access to digital photography.

Share your experiences with rabbits and cats!

Literary fantasies such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland allow us to envision a world where every creature has a place. Reality is another matter, though, clearly, this photo essay illustrates that not only can cats and rabbits coexist, but many do so quite happily. Proper precautions should be taken to secure the rabbit in its hutch while you are away from home, and every creature in the home should be properly vaccinated to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

Are you interested in adopting a rescue rabbit? Do your research first. The House Rabbit Society has a number of resources for potential rabbit owners, including a list of rabbit rescue organizations and venues where your donations can help rabbits in need. Let’s hear from our readers; do you have cats and rabbits living under one roof? Share your memories, photos, and any tips you have for maintaining peace in the home! Happy International Rabbit Day!

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