Think before hopping to it to buy a bunny
As cute as they look, bunny rabbits often lose the love of their child and parent owners once the Easter season passes.
The year-long problem of rabbits being abandoned exacerbates after Easter every year as children get tired of their floppy-eared, beady-eyed, cuddly new pets, according to animal welfare groups.
“We get phone calls from animal shelters starting two weeks after Easter, and it goes into summer,” said Sara Scott, shelter manager with the House Rabbit Society of Richmond. “We rescue rabbits from animal shelters when they get overcrowded and have to euthanize rabbits. But the numbers are so overwhelming, we are only able to rescue so much.”
Some owners simply take their pet rabbits to the countryside and set them free, said Emily Snelling, director of AnimalSave, a local animal welfare organization.
“During Easter, there are lots of pictures of bunnies everywhere,” Snelling said. “They are traditional symbols of the festival, so people like to get a bunny for their child or grandchild for that time of the year. Often they don’t know what they are getting into.”
People face two major problems when they keep bunny rabbits as pets, Snelling said.
“It’s hard to determine the gender of a rabbit,” Snelling said. “Very often people will take two rabbits home, thinking they’re the same gender when, in fact, they’re not. So owners end up with more bunnies than they can handle.
“The second problem is that’s it’s more difficult to take care of a bunny in your house than you think. They need a very specialized diet and a significant amount of exercise. They’re also very territorial, and a male bunny often urinates (to mark his territory) and can be aggressive about his territory. Also, though they are cute and cuddly, they don’t like being held. So people are often disappointed (about) not being able to cuddle a rabbit.”
According to Lauren Drutz, an AnimalSave volunteer from Grass Valley who has rescued two bunny rabbits in the past, getting a bunny rabbit for Easter is a holiday fad.
“They come into people’s lives without the thought of the care they need,” Drutz said. “They require attention and maintenance and exercise and love – just like all other pets.
“They are not just a holiday thing, not a Christmas tree you can dump in your trash.”
Nevada City resident Karen O’Brien has nine rescued rabbits, and she’s built a hutch for them that she calls “Taj Ma-hutch.” All of her bunnies were unwanted by their first owners.
“One of the big misconceptions is that you can take a bunny and put it in a cage because people don’t understand they need exercise like any other animal,” said O’Brien. “They also need to exercise in a place that’s safe because they are prey to so many other animals.”
She added, “Also, they are not good pets for a small child. They can scratch and bite. They are so afraid, they don’t like being held.”
For people who are intent on keeping a bunny as a pet, Snelling suggested they do so by adopting a homeless one.
Would-be bunny rabbit owners need to do some research first, Scott said.
“They are a 10-year commitment and are often high-maintenance pets,” she said. “Their vet costs (are) more than that for dogs and cats. Their daily care can also be more extensive.”
Sharon Lowrey, a volunteer with the House Rabbit Society in Sacramento, agreed.
“Before a person adopts a rabbit, they need to read about rabbits,” Lowrey said. “They’re not just soft, little and cute; they are animals with distinct personalities and a life of their own.”
To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4229.
Tips for rabbit owners
• Rabbit pellets – the green pellets sold as bunny food – should provide only a fraction of a rabbit’s nutrition. Bunnies need unprocessed food. Rabbit pellets are too rich and can cause chronic diarrhea or obesity if bunnies eat them too much.
• Bunnies are vulnerable to high temperatures. Heat stroke leading to death is common on warm days when the temperature is 80 degrees or higher. Misting systems and frozen water bottles may help save rabbits from heat-related death.
• Having a rabbit spayed or neutered could lessen or eliminate some of their habits, such as spraying and aggressiveness, and can contribute to a longer and healthier life. Spayed or neutered bunnies can live 8 to 12 years.
• A female rabbit is sexually mature in three to six months.
• A female rabbit averages eight babies (up to a dozen) per litter.
• Gestation period is 31 days.
• A female rabbit can get pregnant within 24 hours of giving birth to a litter.
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