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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter- Things You Need To Know About Rabbits as Pets


A whole ton of people give children rabbits as "gifts" for Easter, in fact this time of year is when most rabbits are purchased from pet stores. Unfortunately, most of those rabbits wind up being released into the outdoors or dropped off at animal shelters after their owners realize that rabbits are not oversized hamsters. Thusly, there are always awesome rabbits available to be adopted by those who know how to take care of these sensitive creatures. But what if you or someone else has already purchased or been gifted with a rabbit? (It should be noted that I disagree with live animals as gifts, but it does indeed happen.) 

These are a few things you should know about that fuzzy springtime poster child whether you've been given one or planning to adopt  : 

#1 : Rabbits live a long time. House bunnies live 8-12 years or more, roughly the same lifespan as a dog. This means that if you give one to your 10 year old, you will likely be caring for an elderly rabbit while your kid is in college. Just like a canine, study up on rabbit behaviour and lifecycle changes. And if you wouldn't adopt a dog, a rabbit is not likely for you. 

#2 : Rabbits must be spayed or neutered . Like most other animals, rabbits can become aggressive or depressed when they mature and don't have a mate. They can also become destructive and will mark their territory. Also, there's a reason why rabbits are associated with fertility-  an unaltered female can produce in excess of 50 wee ones per year. Not all vets are trained in sterilization of rabbits, so choose wisely. If the rabbit is unaltered, expect to spend at least $100 on the procedure. (Caveat : they cannot be sterilized until 4 months of age. Keep other bunnies away to prevent fighting or extra bunnies)

#3 : Rabbits cannot be confined to a cage. Yes, I know, people do it all of the time, but it is cruel. These are agile creatures who need to run and play. They are highly social and will become depressed if confined. Luckily, they are also easily litter-trained (do not use clay cat litter) and get along well with cats and older dogs. Bunnies are magically attracted to electrical wires, so if those are in the wall or under a rug, it will be healthier for the critter as well as your sanity. (My mum had a Danish Lop named Fudd for about 10 years who seemed immune to the electrical shocks she would continuously expose herself to. I'm pretty sure the rabbit was an aberration.) Rabbits love toys and will chase a newspaper ball for hours.

#4 : Rabbits are NOT good pets for small children. Rabbits are traditionally prey for larger creatures and tend to freeze or panic when startled. Children tend to become too excited around these sensitive animals and will easily terrify a rabbit. Rabbits can see above their heads so it is best to get down to their level. Rabbits also have fragile spines and can be easily hurt if they are picked up the wrong way. Mellow people are better when it comes to these fuzzies.

#5 : Rabbits are still pretty awesome. Once you get to know a rabbit, he or she will be a loyal friend for life. When they become adjusted to the fact that you aren't going to harm them, they will come to you. They generally love attention on their terms and will hop on the sofa to chill with you. They are also far better at playing "fetch" type games than the snobby housecat and will often answer to your call or meet you at the door. They are extremely clean and will even groom your other pets. An added bonus is the fact that they can be your personal composter, chowing on leafy carrot and radish tops, romaine cores, turnip peels and all sorts of other stuff you were going to throw away. 

  Like any other animal companion, rabbits should never be purchased on impulse and require a lot of planning beforehand. If you want to invite one of these cool creatures into your home, find out everything you can about them and talk to other people with rabbits as pets. Go for adoption over a pet mill and always spay or neuter your pets and never declaw. 

Happy Easter!

...and yes, in my mind the adorable photo was absolutely necessary .

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