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When we think of Easter, we think of ornate baskets filled with colored eggs, chocolate, marshmallow chicks and, of course, jelly beans. Some people also think of real bunnies and how much fun it would be to get one or perhaps give one as the perfect novelty gift for a child or adult who has everything. Think again. Rabbits do make wonderful pets IF you are prepared for the responsibilities this new bundle of joy will bring.

Possibly the biggest mistake associated with this holiday is giving a bunny to a child. While bunnies are cute and look cuddly, they are fragile and don’t necessarily like to be held. They can be skitterish and children often think of them as they do their stuffed animals, holding and squeezing them tightly, and causing injury. 

Among the facts that the House Rabbit Society (HRS), an international nonprofit organization that rescues rabbits and educates the public on rabbit care and behavior, wants potential rabbit owners to know are that:

  • Rabbits are not "low-maintenance" pets, and are a poor choice as a pet for children.
  • They have a lifespan of 10 years and require as much work as a dog or cat.
  • Your home must be bunny-proofed, or Thumper will chew cords and furniture.
  • Rabbits must be neutered or they will mark your house with feces and urine.
  • They should live indoors, as members of the family.

Rabbits are unique animals that require specific types of food, shelter, and care. It’s important to note that not every veterinarian is a specialist on rabbits, so finding a vet knowledgeable about them in your area will also be necessary. Rabbits need hay, grasses, fresh vegetables, occasional fruit, lots of fresh water, high grade pellets, fresh air, brushing, nail trimming, activity, exercise, and toys – just to name some of their requirements.

Unfortunately, after the festivities of the Easter holiday have paled, many Easter rabbits (as well as ducks and chicks) end up homeless, neglected, abused, or worse because their good-intentioned adopters were unprepared for the responsibility. In fact, rabbits are the third most abandoned animal at shelters, after dogs and cats.

As sad as it sounds, the luckier of those relinquished wind up in shelters. Many are dropped off in parks, fields, or woods by people who think these animals can fend for themselves. They are not wild animals. They don’t have the same survival skills as a rabbit born in the wild and therefore often become the prey of truly wild animals in search of dinner.

Just how many rabbits end up abandoned, injured, or worse after Easter is hard to say. The HRS estimates the number of abandoned rabbits each year to be in the thousands.

“Statistics on rabbits are very hard to find,” says Terri Cook of the “Make Mine Chocolate” (MMC) campaign, an ambitious drive begun by the Columbus, Ohio chapter of House Rabbit Society to educate the public on the realities of living with a rabbit, and to discourage giving live rabbits as Easter gifts. “Since very few shelters keep stats on rabbits (if they take them in at all), it's really hard to come up with any kind of reliable number.”

Based on the sheer numbers of bunnies that are purchased for Easter and those that wind up in shelters and humane societies, it is safe to say that many – if not most - rabbits purchased for the Easter holiday won’t make it to a year old! If you really want a rabbit as a pet, please do your research into their care and requirements, assessing your family’s lifestyle and that of a potential new family member and whether it’s a good fit. And, if you are certain you want to add a bunny to your home, please wait until after the Easter holiday when there will be lots of displaced ones in need of new home.

For more information, please visit the House Rabbit Society website, http://www.rabbit.org/, or the Make Mine Chocolate website, http://www.makeminechocolate.org/.

Watch this Video on Caring for a Rabbit from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).



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