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Pet Connection Q&A: A rabbit is an ideal pet for condo living

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4D

Our condo association allows small dogs, cats and birds, but no rabbits, guinea pigs or "exotic" pets. I'm renting a place, and I would like to buy. Right now, I have my pet rabbit "in secret," but I'm not going to buy a place if I can't have the pet of my choice and stay compliant. How can I get this rule changed?

Your condo association is probably still thinking of rabbits as "livestock," not as pets. In fact, I can think of few animals better suited for condo or apartment living than a neutered house rabbit. They're about the quietest pet I could think of owning, for one thing, and they're unlikely to cause any conflict with neighbors.

They're small. Even the biggest rabbits aren't much larger than a cat, and dwarf rabbits are considerably smaller. They're also neat. A daily brushing will catch loose hair, and a vacuum will pick up scattered hay, food pellets or the occasional stray feces that don't make it into the litter box.

Yes, a litter box: Many rabbits can be reliably trained to use a box filled with a little cat litter with fresh grass hay on top, changed daily.

The one downside I can think of is that rabbits will engage in destructive chewing if left to choose their own recreation. Even this problem is easily solved by "rabbit-proofing" the living area – blocking off attractive chewing areas, putting power cords into protective covers – and offering safe chewing alternatives.

I'd make the case to the association to expand its pet rules to include rabbits. If it won't, you should have no problem finding another complex that will welcome a responsible homeowner with such a quiet pet.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Economy takes bite out of pet ownership

• The economy appears to have finally dropped the rate of pet ownership, which has been on a seemingly recession-proof upward climb for years. According to figures released by the American Veterinary Medical Association and based on a survey of 50,000 households, 56 percent of all U.S. households reported owning a pet at the end of 2011, down 2.4 percent from the trade group's last survey in 2006. The U.S. population of dogs was around 70 million (a drop of 2 million), while cat ownership took a steeper decline, down 7.6 million to 74.1 million. Birds were down 20.6 percent over five years, while exotics (ferrets, rabbits, reptiles and rodents) fell 16.5 percent over the same period.

• Dogs and cats are primary carriers of allergens (their dander, urine and saliva trigger allergy responses) as well as secondary carriers. Their coats are like a dust mop filled with whatever pollen is in the air or on the ground. Weekly baths with a hypoallergenic shampoo have been shown to help.

• Cats tend to be chronically dehydrated and they are finicky about their drinking water, so keeping a clean, fresh supply on hand all the time is important to their good health. A continuous-flow drinking fountain is a great way to fulfill your cat's desire to drink running water without having a dripping faucet all the time. These fountains, which are available at pet-supply stores or through pet-supply websites and catalogs, make a steady supply of running water available to your cat, recycling and filtering it so it stays fresh.

– Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

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