As sure as the sun rises every Easter morning, many moms and dads give in to “Easter bunny” temptation and buy a rabbit for their kids, vastly underestimating the amount of care that bunnies require. Weeks later, when “bunny fever” has subsided, many will consign now-unwanted bunnies to outdoor hutches, dump them at animal shelters, or simply set them free outdoors, where they will starve or be killed by predators. Most will end up dead or abandoned before their first birthday.
Kids Begging for an “Easter Bunny”?
Ask yourself this:
- Are you ready to possibly shell out more than $100 to get bunny neutered or spayed? Bunnies become sexually mature between 4 and 6 months of age. Left intact, they often chew, spray, bite, smell, and make more bunnies.
- Are you looking forward to more potty-training and bunnyproofing? Bunnies suffer horribly in cages and must be litterbox trained so that they can live happily in your home, but if your home isn’t rabbitproof, they will sharpen their teeth on electrical wires, house plants, or your new IKEA chaise or oak table.
- Is your child planning on taking bunny to college? Bunnies can live to be 10 years old, so you’re looking at a commitment that will last for many Easters to come.
- Rabbits must be brushed regularly because they shed like crazy and are susceptible to hairballs; if they get one, they can’t cough it up like cats do. They have to be taken to the vet and treated (possibly even operated on) or they’ll die.
- Do you like playing beauty shop? Clipping nails is no walk in the park, especially when Thumper tries to thump you in the stomach with his powerful back legs!
If you answered, “No way!” to any of these questions, please pass up those cute animals in store windows this Easter and choose stuffed animals instead. Remember, bunnies are not a child’s toy; they are at least a 10-year commitment.
Fascinating Rabbit Facts
Famous for their reproductive abilities, rabbits can have multiple litters of up to nine young, known as “kittens,” each year. Bunnies are born helpless in a shallow hole lined with grass and mamma’s fur, but they grow rapidly and are very social animals who live together as a family.
Although rabbits build nests, the parents do not stick around much during the day after their kids are born since they might attract predators. The youngsters hunker down at the bottom of the nest, hiding until mom shows up for mealtimes.
A rabbit’s teeth never stop growing! Like beavers, they are kept worn down by gnawing on food and wood. But they aren’t rodents! They are called lagomorphs.
Normally, adult rabbits occupy about 2 acres or even more if food is in short supply.
Why Bunnies Aren’t Suitable for Young Children
Rabbits are extremely sensitive, and the enthusiasm of even a gentle toddler is too stressful for bunnies. Rabbits are ground-dwelling animals who become frightened when held and restrained. The result? Children lose interest and the bunny is left alone in a cage or abandoned.
Spay and Neuter: Rabbits will live healthier and longer lives when altered and won’t contribute to the overpopulation problem. As your companions, they will be calmer, easier to litter train, and able to enjoy the company of other animal friends because they won’t exhibit such aggressive behavior. Surgery can be safe for rabbits, but it is important to choose a knowledgeable and experienced rabbit veterinarian.
Rabbitproof: Since your bunny is happiest being a part of the family, you can provide a safe place for him or her by redirecting electrical wires and moving plants and other furnishings out of the way. Because of their instinct for digging, it is best to provide a large box or basket filled with shredded paper. Your bunny will enjoy lots of toys to play with, such as untreated wood, straw, wire cat balls, keys, paper towel rolls, and hard plastic baby toys.
Caregiving: Rabbits love attention! Groom them at least once a week to control shedding and for quality bonding time. Contrary to the belief that rabbits like to be left alone, bunnies need daily monitoring and space for running, jumping, and using those hind legs. Confining them to a wire hutch without interaction, exercise, or comfort is cruel. A diet of grass, hay, fresh vegetables, and a limited amount of pellets will keep your bunny in shape.
Adopting: Clearly, rabbits aren’t for everyone. Are you a gentle adult living in a quiet household? If you think that you’re someone who would enjoy sharing life with a bunny, please visit your local shelter or rabbit rescue group. Please NEVER buy bunnies from a pet store. These animals often come from rabbit mills, where they are overbred. Dealers and “pet” stores usually request 4-week-old bunnies because they require less space and are “cuter,” but bunnies of this age are ill-prepared to be weaned from their parents. An animal who is purchased at a pet or discount store will be replaced by another one from these rabbit mills, leaving one less home for a bunny already in an animal shelter awaiting adoption.