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Bunnies and Easter!
First of all, Rabbits have nothing to do with the Christian traditions of Easter. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre. Eostre was a great northern goddess of fertility, her symbol was a rabbit or hare, due to their breeding symbolizing fertility. If you want to give a cute baby bunny for Easter, please make it a stuffed animal, not a real one.
Rabbits are the third most popular pet in America, after cats and dogs, according to the Humane Society of the United States—and the third most abandoned. Most people have an idea how long cats and dogs live; the kind of care they need; and their behaviors. But rabbits?
I was asked 2 1/2, years ago to temporarily look after a little tiny rabbit found running around a parking lot. As a cat owner, knowing nothing about caring for rabbits, I agreed. (By the way I still have him see photos below). This was my first exposure to pet rabbits. After researching him on Google, he looked like a Netherland Dwarf Rabbit. He is now four times the size he was when I first got him, definitely not a dwarf. I learned very quickly rabbits and cats are not cared for in the same way. Yes, both are cute and cuddly and furry but that’s the only similarity. Rabbits are sometimes classed as an exotic pet and need special care and handling. With the help of Google and rabbit groups on Facebook I learned a lot very fast about my new furry friend.
Although rabbits can make delightful companions, they’re not easy-care pets. Vets and insurance companies consider them exotic pets, so medical care can be more expensive than for a cat or dog.
Rabbits need a lot of exercise and shouldn’t simply be pent up in a cage. One of the things I was surprised to find was that rabbits don’t like to be picked up, generally. Being a prey animal, they like their feet firmly on the ground and will struggle and fight to be free, it’s their nature. The need for bunny proofing things is necessary around the house as some enjoy chewing electrical wires as well as baseboards etc.
It’s unclear how many rabbits are abandoned in the U.S.—Most individual shelters track how many dogs and cats are found, adopted, or euthanized, but they typically lump rabbits in with birds, reptiles, and small mammals in the “other” category.
It is well known that shortly after Easter, the abandoned bunny population increases tremendously. People abandon many rabbits outdoors, likely unaware that this is a death sentence.
Petco and Petsmart, stopped selling rabbits several years ago because of concerns about abandonment. However, some pet stores still sell them. It’s not just pet stores that promote rabbit purchases. Farm stores, 4-H clubs, backyard breeders, and Facebook and Craigslist users across the country advertise baby bunnies. These sellers can be even more problematic than pet stores because their rabbits often have a misplaced “Rescue Rabbit” about them.
People have the misconception that they are surrendering a bunny they previously saved.
For those who understand how to care for Rabbits, they make fantastic pets. If you don’t understand rabbits and have no experience or knowledge before you purchase that “Easter Bunny“, think long and hard, before you make that commitment. Live animals should never be purchased on a whim. They require extensive research and preparation, no matter the animal.
5 Misconceptions About Pet Rabbits
1) Rabbits are a great pet for my child!
WRONG- Rabbits are commonly mistaken for “starter-pets” – an easy-to-care-for pet to get a child. This could not be more wrong. Most rabbits do not like being held, and their bite can be powerful! Pets should be the responsibility of the parent, not the child.
2) Rabbits are easy to care for and only live a couple of years!
WRONG – Prey animals hide their pain so as to not appear weak and an “easy-target” to predators. They may need veterinarian care, and finding a veterinarian experienced with rabbits, is not always easy, also medical fees can end up being very expensive. Rabbits are also a large-term commitment! Well cared for domestic rabbits can live up to 10-13 years! Are you ready for that level of commitment? Think about where you will be in 5-10 years… will you still have the time, space, and energy to care for your rabbit?
3) I can get one rabbit and keep it in a cage!
WRONG – Rabbits are extremely social animals, they typically do better in pairs or group, however some do enjoy being the solo spoiled rabbit! (Like my guy). Whether they want a friend or not is totally dependent on the rabbit.
A cage is never enough. Rabbits need space to roam and run and display their natural behaviors. Using a cage in combination with an x-pen, or building a bunny condo, or simply rabbit-proofing a room and letting your bunny roam free is the best way to keep them happy.
4) Rabbits are cheap!
Pet rabbits can be expensive! Although they are relatively cheap to feed, eating primarily hay and veggies, veterinary bills can add up quickly!
Be sure you are ready to spend some cash on your little fur baby before committing. If you are not willing to pay for your pet, don’t get one! All animals deserve compassion and to receive health care when needed.
5) I can set my rabbit free to live with other rabbits in the wild if I don’t want it anymore!
WRONG! Wild rabbits and domestic rabbits are different species that even have different brain structures. Dumped domestic rabbits do not survive long in the wild. After hundreds of years of domestication, they are not equipped for survival in the wild. Releasing a pet rabbit is a death sentence and it’s actually illegal in Canada and most of the United States. If the pet needs rehoming, find them a responsible and caring home or contact the local rabbit rescue or animal shelter for help. Never dump domestic rabbits in the wild.
Some photos of my rescued rabbit Binky.