Thinking of surprising your child on Easter morning with a baby bunny? I urge you to please think again before you buy one! When I was a child, which was decades ago (but that’s a story for another time), parents could purchase their children baby chicks and baby bunnies that had been dyed in lovely pastel colors. Usually, they didn’t live long … or they wound up at someone’s farm. Fortunately, that practice of dyeing critters has been abandoned, but some people still think it’s fun to buy an Easter pet. It’s not always fun for the pet!
The tiny abandoned bunny above (that was being sheltered until adoption at WildRescue, Inc./Rabbit Rescue in Denton) looks cuddly and cute … but babies grow up. Be prepared to love them when they aren’t tiny and cute anymore. A pet is a responsibility which should not be undertaken on a whim!
Holidays are never a good time to adopt a pet, because the hubbub and uproar can traumatize the tiny creatures. If you have small children, a rabbit might be cute but it might not be the best choice. Children like to cuddle with animals … and rabbits don’t cuddle. As the “new” wears off, and families decide that a rabbit isn’t for them, many people release the rabbit at a park, thinking that it will manage on its own — but domesticated rabbits cannot survive in the wild! They don’t know how to evade predators, they could get hit by a car, they could starve, or they could get diseases of all kinds. Other rabbits wind up at the animal shelter and are euthanized pretty quickly.
Lucky rabbits wind up at a place like Wild Rescue, where caring volunteers let them live out their lives:
Photographer Ed Steele(these are his photos, by the way) went with me to visit Diana Leggitt, who runs this valiant rescue operation from her home. She has hundreds of rabbits sheltered there. If you want an Easter bunny, adopt one from her! This 501c3 organization could also use some donations, because it isn’t cheap to feed this many bunnies! Feeling generous? Contact them!
Before you get a rabbit as a pet, consider if it is the right fit for your family. Here are some things to know about pet rabbits:
- Rabbits are as social as a cat or dog might be; pet rabbits like interaction with humans — in fact, they need it. They might even become good friends with the family cat or dog (but are terrified of ferrets).
- DON’T expect to pick up the bunny and cuddle it. If you have small children, a rabbit might not be the best pet. Rabbits enjoy sitting beside a human, but they aren’t big on being held. Think about this: rabbits in the wild are “prey” animals, as opposed to cats and dogs, which are predators. Prey animals react to their environment in a different way. Reaching down to pick them up can terrify them if done improperly … because it’s similar to a hawk swooping down to grab them. That doesn’t mean you can’t pick them up, but put one hand under their rib cage and one under their bottom while you slowly and gently lift them.
- A rabbit needs 2-4 hours a day of time to hop and play. It’s not like a hamster, you can’t just keep it in a cage all the time. Expect to spend some time with that rabbit.
- Rabbits chew! Wires, carpet, the antique chair leg … it’s all fair game to a bunny. When it hops free, it needs supervision OR a “bunny proof” area in which to play. They like toys, so you can give them cardboard tubes and boxes, wire ball cat toys, and plastic “teething keys” like babies use.
- Although rabbits can be trained to use a litterbox, you can still expect “accidents.” Poop happens … in fact a rabbit poops a pellet or two once every 30 seconds (it’s usually dry and hard — not messy). You can’t expect them to race to the litterbox that often. They also poop when they are startled, so for heaven’s sake don’t frighten them! FYI: those pellets look just like chocolate candies … but my children will attest that they don’t taste like them! Both learned that lesson the hard way when they were toddlers.
- Expect to clean the cat cage once a day for the health of your pet. Dirty cages can cause them to get ulceration on their feet, respiratory infections, eye infections and more.
- Don’t expect to take your rabbit for a walk on a leash. If they get frightened and leap on a leash they could break their back! They have a fragile skeletal system.
- Rabbits are NOT low maintenance. They need regular brushing … and sometimes their teeth need to be trimmed!
- Expect to spay or neuter the rabbit. Males that haven’t been neutered will spritz urine on everything and unsterilized females often get cancer of the uterus at around four years of age.
- Pet rabbits can live to be 7-10 years old. That is a long time to be responsible, if you decide a rabbit is not for you!
I suggest that you just say “no” to Easter bunnies, and maybe consider adopting (or fostering) a bunny from Wild Rescue or a shelter. If you decide you do not want the rabbit, give it a chance to live a good life. Contact an organization like Wild Rescue —DO NOT release it into the wild! If you give that pet rabbit the attention and love that a pet deserves, you will be rewarded with a wonderful companion. Just think long and hard before you bring home the Easter Bunny.