It’s Easter time again. Store shelves are filled with stuffed bunnies and pet store windows are filled with adorable baby rabbits. Your kids are begging you to buy one. It’s so hard to resist. After all, you think, wouldn’t this be the perfect, low maintenance pet for a young child?
Think again! Every year, many thousands of rabbits, usually purchased on a whim at Easter, are abandoned to shelters or released outdoors ( a guaranteed death sentence for a domestic rabbit ) often because of misunderstandings on the part of the parents who bought them for their kids.
Rabbits are prey animals by nature. They are physically delicate and fragile, and require specialized veterinary care. Children are naturally energetic, exuberant and loving. But “loving” to a child usually means holding, cuddling, and carrying an animal around in whatever grip their small hands can manage -- precisely the kinds of things that make rabbits feel insecure and frightened.
Rabbits handled in this way will often start to scratch or bite simply out of fear. Many rabbits are accidentally dropped by small children, resulting in broken legs and spines. Those rabbits who survive the first few months will quickly reach maturity and it’s estimated 95% of the rabbits bought as babies for the holiday will not live to see their first birthday. When they are no longer tiny and “cute”, kids often lose interest, and the rabbit, who has no voice to remind you he’s hungry or thirsty, is gradually neglected.
Parents, please help. If you’re thinking about adding a rabbit to your family, think about this: pet rabbits have a lifespan of 10-12 years, or even longer. Don’t get a rabbit on impulse, wait until after the holiday. Make an informed decision by learning about rabbit care first. Consider adopting a rabbit from a shelter or rescue, they are nearly always spayed or neutered first. For the rabbit’s health and well-being ( as well as your child’s ) make sure an adult will be the primary caregiver and will always supervise any children in the household who are interacting with the rabbit. Domestic rabbits are inquisitive, intelligent, and very social by nature. A rabbit is a wonderful and delightful companion animal as long as you remember: he’s not a child’s toy. He’s a real, live, 10 year responsibility and commitment.