Rabbits are incredibly adorable, which is an attribute that no one can refute. However, not a lot of people are able to identify which part of the family they belong to. Due to a slight resemblance, there is a prevailing confusion amongst most people that rabbits could possibly be a part of the rodent family.
The short and quick answer to this question is that no, rabbits are not rodents. The prevailing assumption that rabbits are rodents is nothing but a misconception that most don't tend to question. So, if rabbits aren't a part of the rodent family, then which animal family are they a part of? Rabbits are known to be a part of the Leporidae family, particularly known as lagomorphs. So, what led to this misconception? Well, part of the blame can be put on history itself. Until the 20th century, lagomorphs, which also include rabbits, were classified as Rodentia, better known as rodents. However, as we get deeper and deeper into the features between rodents and lagomorphs, you will start understanding how exactly rabbits are not rodents. Here are all of the differences between rabbits and rodents.
Their Digestive Systems
Rabbits, as well as rodents, eat a lot of the same food, which includes plant matter. However, the difference in their dietary habits comes in when taking into account the fact that rabbits are herbivores. Whereas rodents, apart from plants, are able to eat other items as well, which include nuts, seeds, grains, roots, and more.
This means that the digestive system of rabbits is quite different from the digestive system of rodents. Rabbits are known to break their food down just like hooved mammals do. This is because, within their guts, is the cecum, which directly translates to the blind pouch.
The cecum is located on top of the large intestine, which has bacteria that serves the purpose of fermenting and breaking down the cellulose within plants that is difficult to eat. This is why rabbits are able to digest and easily eat plants, just as obligate herbivores do.
So, their digestive system allows them to maximize the nutrients that they absorb from their food, which is made possible due to the concept that rabbits eat their food twice. It is important to note that rabbits aren't the only animals with a cecum.
In fact, there are some rodents that also have a cecum within their gut. This is why rodents are also able to eat plant matter. However, not all rodents have a cecum, which is why rodents are able to eat other items, such as seeds and nuts.
The similarities between the teeth of rabbits and rodents are the primary reason behind the prevailing misconception that rabbits are rodents. Well, rabbit teeth are in a way different and similar to rodent teeth.
The similarity lies within the incisors, where both rabbits and rodents have incisors that grow indeterminately. They also have enamel on top and dentin at the back of their incisors. However, unlike the rodent, the front teeth, that are, the incisors of the rabbit, are white instead of being yellow or even orange.
That is not all; rabbits are also known to have two sets of incisors at the top instead of having just one set. Their second set of incisors is one-fourth of the size of their first set. This set also lies behind the first set of top incisors.
It is due to these two sets of top incisors that rabbits are able to chew through plants and vegetation without much difficulty. Unlike rabbits, rodents do not have four incisors as they have no need for them. Apart from that, their incisors are never white; instead, they have a much more orange tinge.
Their Reproductive Organs
This difference applies to male rodents and rabbits. Both male rodents and male rabbits do not possess a single scrotal sac and instead have two discrete sacs. The difference between the reproductive organs can be factored in when we take the baculum into account. While rodents have a baculum, all lagomorphs, which includes rabbits, do not possess a baculum.
Their Caring Process
It is due to these integral differences and misalignment of the characteristics of rabbits that in the 20th century, rabbits were no longer classified as rodents. It is also due to these differences that the caring process of a rabbit is different from the caring process of a rodent.
How To Take Care of a Rabbit
When it comes to taking care of a rabbit, particularly indoors, it is important for you to take a series of steps to ensure that you are providing your rabbit with the best care possible.
Step 1 - Cage or No Cage
You must first figure out whether your rabbit will be allowed to freely roam within the house or whether it will be kept within a large cage. If you plan to take the cage route, it is vital that you get a cage that is large enough so that your rabbit is able to jump around.
It should also be let outside the cage for a few hours to provide them with ample exercise. All in all, the primary method of keeping your rabbit, which includes the location where it will be held should not involve isolation.
This isolation includes isolation from your family or you. So, a good place to keep the rabbit's cage would be a communal space, such as the living room.
Step 2 - Bunny Proofing
Your rabbit should be given enough space to explore and shop around. This is why, when indoors, it is important for you to bunny proof your house, or at least, the space it will have access to when outside of its cage. This way, you will be able to protect your rabbit and your belongings from your rabbit.
To bunny-proof the space, you will need to cover the wires using flex tubes or plastic sleeves. They should also be kept at least three to four feet away from the reach of the rabbit.
You will also need to block the undersides of certain furniture items, such as your couch and the bed. Just remember, your rabbit will chew on everything it can get its teeth on.
Step 3 - Diet
As mentioned before, a rabbit, unlike rodents, is an obligate herbivore, which is why the integral component of its diet would be fresh hay. Your rabbit should have fresh hay available to them at all times. The type of hay differs according to the rabbit's age, where alfalfa should be given to a baby rabbit. However, adult rabbits can easily eat oat hay, grass hay, and even timothy hay.
Step 4 - Litter Box
The way cats possess a natural inclination to defecate within the same area, rabbits possess the same inclination as well. To set up a litter box for your rabbit, you can use a cat litter box that is medium-sized or a storage bin that is a bit shallow in depth.
This can then be placed in close vicinity to the rabbit's hay feeder or water bowl. Within the litter box, you should place newspaper pellet litter, which is recycled and safe for rabbits to use. Be sure to avoid using cat litter, which clumps or wood shavings, as these types of litter are not safe for a rabbit to use.
Step 5 - Grooming
Rabbits are considered as one of the animals that like to groom themselves frequently, so it is important to groom them regularly. A rabbit is known to have multiple shedding cycles within a single year.
So, to make sure that your rabbit stays clean and your furniture stays free from fur, it is important that you groom your rabbit by brushing it. This way, you will be able to get rid of any excess stray fur that will eventually fall off of your rabbit.
If you do not groom your rabbit regularly, your rabbit could end up ingesting its fur, which could be detrimental to its digestive system. Apart from brushing its fur, you should also regularly trim the nails of your rabbit. This will prevent your rabbit's nails from snagging on fabric.
Step 6 - Provide a Stimulating Environment
When keeping a rabbit as a pet, an important aspect to take into account is that rabbits tend to get bored quite easily. This is why they need to be kept in an environment that is stimulating, both physically and mentally.
A great to provide them with a stimulating environment is to place cardboard castles close to them. You will catch your rabbit spending hours inside the cardboard castle. It is also something that your rabbit can chew on and take refuge in.
How To Take Care of a Rodent
The caring process for rodents is much different than the caring process of a rabbit.
Unlike rabbits, rodents don't tend to shed their fur, which is why there is no need for you to groom them by brushing them daily. So, with a rodent, such as a gerbil or a rat, you don't have to worry about shedding. However, just like rabbits, rodents also tend to be incredibly clean. So, if you're feeling extra, you can, from time to time, give your rodent a bath to get the dirt off of them.
Rabbits tend to be much larger than rodents you can keep as pets, such as hamsters and gerbils, which is why the cage of a rodent does not have to be as large as the cage and gerbils. That is not all; while the cage of a rabbit does not need any filling, the cage of rodents, such as a hamster, must be filled with shavings that you will be required to clean and replace every so often.
While it is important to give your rabbit some time out of its cage so that it has time to explore and get some exercise, this is not something that you will be required to do in the case of most rodents, mainly gerbils and hamsters.
Apart from that, when it comes to rodents, it is integral for you to maintain a particular temperature inside the cage. The temperature of the interior of your rodent's cage should always stay between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
While some rodents can deal with temperatures lower than 65 and hibernate in colder temperatures, it is vital that the temperature never moves above 75 degrees. This is due to the fact that your rodent will be incredibly susceptible to heat strokes if the temperature falls anywhere between 75- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit.
As mentioned before, the digestive system of a rabbit is different than the digestive system of a rodent, which is why their diet also varies. While rabbits should only be fed with hay and pellets, you will be able to add in much more variety when giving food to your rodent.
Rodents, such as hamsters, mice, and gerbils, have nutritional needs that are incredibly similar to one another, where you can easily feel them with food pellets.
However, since rodents are not obligate herbivores, you can also feed them with different snacks and treats, such as seeds and nuts. That is not all; some rodents, such as hamsters, are also able to feed on insects on an occasional basis. While other rodents, such as rats, are able to eat meat products.
Provide Physical Stimulation
While rabbits require entertainment, the only stimulation you need to provide with rodents is something that they can chew and gnaw on. This is due to the fact that the incisors of rodents grow perpetually. So, you can provide them with chew sticks, barks, or even branches from fruit trees.
All in all, on a surface level, rabbits can most definitely seem like rodents and, up until the 20th century, were considered Rodentia. However, once you get into the nitty-gritty aspects, such as their anatomy, you will understand that rabbits are not rodents. So, the next time you encounter someone with this misconception, you can easily explain how rabbits are not rodents.