Soon Easter will be upon us, and many parents are tempted to buy one of those cute baby Easter bunnies that appear in all the pet stores. Unless the child is older than 12 years and is very responsible, a toy stuffed bunny will make a much better gift.
Rabbits are fragile creatures. They have a lighter bone structure than do dogs or cats, and easily break the spine if dropped. Baby bunnies are cute and cuddly and tolerate handling, but babyhood doesn't last long.
In two short months, puberty turns that baby rabbit into Bugs Bunny. Often, the bunny no longer tolerates being held. Powerful hind legs can scratch and sharp teeth can bite. Unneutered males spray and mark their territory, just like dogs. Unspayed females are territorial and may attack little hands that enter the cage. Thumper must be spayed or neutered to eliminate these undesirable behaviors.
Every summer, humane shelters receive a large influx of former Easter rabbits as they reach adolescence.
Rabbits live for 10 to 12 years. Will your child still care for the rabbit after the novelty wears off? Or will Thumper spend this summer abandoned in a backyard hutch? Like dogs, rabbits are social animals and need daily interactions with their human owners.
Last year, hundreds of rabbits were surrendered at animal shelters across this state. And unlike wild rabbits, pet rabbits released into the wild cannot fend for themselves. Thumper won't survive for more than a day or two on his own.
Older rabbits in shelters have little chance of being adopted because most people mistakenly want a baby rabbit. This is unfortunate, because older rabbits make the best pets. They are more tolerant of children and have reached their affectionate adult personality.
Rabbits make great pets, provided you accept them on their own terms. They need a safe and loving environment in your home — not in an outdoor hutch. Save a life and don't buy an Easter bunny. If you must have a rabbit, rescue an altered rabbit from your local animal shelter or from the House Rabbit Society. A listing of available rabbits near you is found at www.petfinder.org or via the House Rabbit Society chapter website at www.rabbit.org.