Easter is a time of special significance for Christians, but it's also a time when shelter workers and rescues must bear the burden of having to deal with the annual influx of abandoned and relinquished pet rabbits, usually the result of impulse acquisitions. Predictably though, the new owners often realize they're in for more in the way of animal care than they bargained for. Though rabbits can be wonderful company and lots of fun, they are demanding, and you've got to make sure you have the time and energy and resources to attend to their special needs.
Rabbit aficionado Adam Goldfarb, the director of HSUS’s Pets at Risk program, explains why bunnies don’t belong in your Easter basket, though they can be great companions if you decide you’re ready to adopt:
I know from experience that rabbits can be wonderful pets—they’re smart, silly, and far more complex than most people realize. And with proper care, they can live to be more than 10 years old.
But the tragedy is that many people still think that rabbits are good “starter pets” for children, or a cute Easter gift, when in fact they often don’t do well with small children and require special food and care. Just like any pet, bringing a rabbit into your family is a serious, long-term commitment.
Domestic rabbits are an entirely different species from wild rabbits and can weigh from as little as 2 pounds to well over 20 pounds. Their ears might be up, down, or in-between, and their coats can be spotted, striped, or patterned in a variety of colors.
Just like dogs and cats, every rabbit is an individual with his or her own personality. Some are wild acrobats who enjoy running, jumping, and playing; others are more sedate and are content to relax in their favorite spot. Though most rabbits don’t enjoy being picked up and handled, they do tend to enjoy having their head rubbed gently.
Goldfarb's rabbit Topper
Many rabbits today live as indoor pets. Though they have a large cage or pen as their base of operations, they also enjoy having a lot of time to run free through the home. Rabbit-proofing your home is a must, but once that’s done, rabbits love to explore new spaces. Some may even hop up on the couch to join you while you read a book or watch TV.
In addition to space to hop around, rabbits need chew toys and a healthy diet with plenty of timothy hay and dark, leafy green vegetables.
Before you run out to get your very own cuddle bunny, it’s important to understand the rabbit psyche. Rabbits are social creatures, so consider adopting a bonded pair or trio. Also, they are prey animals and have a different worldview than their canine and feline friends. They can be easily stressed by loud noises or car rides, and stress can have a major impact on their health.
If you’re thinking about adding a rabbit to your family, do research ahead of time. You can learn a lot about rabbit care through books and websites. Also, contact your local animal shelter and rabbit rescues to meet some rabbits and talk with experts.
If you’re seriously considering a fuzzy, long-eared friend, contact your local shelter or rescue about adopting. There are thousands of homeless rabbits waiting for good homes at animal shelters and rabbit rescue groups.