By Larissa Gula
With Easter just around the corner, shoppers are starting to stock up on Easter necessities in preparation for the annual arrival of the Easter bunny. Among all of the Easter-day hype, there is also an undercurrent of baby bunny fever, often encouraged by pet stores or backyard breeders. While we always encourage adopting rabbits at an area shelter year round, sadly many people buy into the perpetuated idea that buying or adopting a rabbit for their family will be the perfect holiday gift. As a result, animal shelters see an increase in the number of rabbit surrenders in the months after Easter weekend. Unfortunately, many other rabbits are simply let loose into the outdoors by their owners, which gives them little chance of survival (especially fluffy white bunnies).
Impulse adopters and buyers often don’t realize these general facts about pet rabbits:
- Despite appearances to the contrary, rabbits are not low-maintenance pets; they are very social animals that can live up to ten years and require attention and stimulation, vet care, a litter box, hay, toys, special food and other basics; put simply, they require preparation and commitment like any other animal one might bring into their home.
- Vet care for rabbits, unlike care for cats and dogs, is not always easy to find nearby, as not every vet can treat rabbits.
- Rabbits are ground loving creatures; young children in particular may want to pick them up and cuddle with them, when in reality this action is frightening and unnatural..
- Families who adopt a young rabbit may soon find that as it grows, it will begin to spray, chew, bite, and claw at furniture, especially if it was never spayed or neutered. Exercise pens are the best way to keep bunnies in the appropriate space but still being able to roam.
- Like kittens, cute little bunnies don’t come litter trained, and can be messier with more active digestive systems.
- Families will need to “bunny proof” their house to make sure electric wires and furniture aren’t chewed.
As a result of people not understanding these basic facts about rabbit care, the Western PA Humane Society alone took in more than 500 bunnies during the year of 2012. Bunnies tend to take longer to adopt out than cats and dogs, with the average stay of 94 days at the shelter. This past year, WPHS adopted out a bonded pair that had been here for 2 whole years!
To avoid the unfortunate result of an impulsive pet purchase, it’s important for anyone interest in adopting or purchasing a rabbit to educate themselves about these creatures and what to expect – and if you know someone who is thinking about doing so, now is the time to speak up and tell them why they should not adopt or buy a rabbit just because they are cute for the spring. Instead, encourage them to do more research about bunnies, and to visit their local shelters often to learn about the personalities of the bunnies available.