Easter is just around the corner which for many involves Easter eggs and chocolate. For pet stores, though, it means stocking up on live rabbits.
Easter is the most popular and tempting time of year for parents to give a rabbit to their child for a pet, not fully realizing that rabbits are a lot of work. Although cute and cuddly, organizations are warning parents to do their homework first.
Contrary to popular belief, rabbits do not make good pets for children. Pet rabbits are domesticated prey animals that are very sensitive to their environment. The natural energy of a young child is often too much for a rabbit, causing it a lot of stress. Most children prefer a pet they can hold, cuddle and play with, but rabbits rarely tolerate being carried around.
For these reasons, the new pet rabbit is often labeled as boring and left inside a cage day after day. Rabbits are curious and social animals that require several hours of daily interaction without stress or high levels of noise.
Animal protection groups including ASPCA’s want parents to understand that on average, an in-house rabbit has a lifespan of between seven to 10 years. Not only do they live a long time, they also have specific veterinary and dietary needs of fresh vegetables and pellets at least twice a day and must be handled with care.
Young children can be particularly dangerous to rabbits since rabbits have a fragile spine. One drop by a child can break their back or legs. Young children do not possess the hand-eye coordination required to handle a rabbit. If the rabbit becomes frightened, it will kick and scratch to get away. This can cause injury to a child.
They can also be very destructive like other pets, chewing on furniture, wires and baseboards. Although rabbits need a litter box, they may still occasionally have accidents, and if not spayed or neutered, may spray or leave droppings around the house to mark their territory.
Giving a pet rabbit as a gift, especially to a young child, often results in thousands of ex-Easter bunnies being abandoned to shelters or worse, set free in the woods.
The ASPCA suggests parents give their child a chocolate or stuffed bunny for Easter. If after the holidays your child is still interested in a rabbit, buy them a book on rabbit care so the whole family understands what it takes to properly look after a bunny. From there families can head to their local animal shelter to ask advice or even adopt a bonded pair of rabbits.
You can learn more about rabbit care from the ASPCA.