Years ago, I was a volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center. I arrived one winter day for my shift and found a black and white Dutch rabbit in a cage. It seemed odd to have a domestic rabbit at a wildlife center and I asked about it. Seems there were two rabbits running loose in a local cemetery and this one was live-trapped and brought here for lack of any other idea of what to do with it. The other was still out there in the snow and cold.
My mistake was saying the breed and mentioning I always wanted one like it. Guess who went home with me that day? The other wily rabbit was never caught and most likely met a tragic end in that cemetery.
Why am I sharing this? To say this: “Jade,” as my bunny went on to be called, was a neutered buck. He was once someone’s pet. He apparently had been born in late winter that year, and was in the prime of his cute stage right around Easter. Yep, my wild rescue was really a bunny for Easter that ended up a throw-away. And, most likely, so was the other one who couldn’t be trapped.
Each year, shelters are overrun with half-grown rabbits in the months following Easter. The novelty of having the rabbit wears off for the youngsters and the reality of the daily needs of rabbits replaces it. People get bunnies, and chicks and ducklings, on a whim because they are cute and adorable, and it’s Easter and “Why not?” Too few think the responsibility through beyond the “Aww. Why not?” step.
Here’s the first “Why not?” That cute, fluffy bunny should live about 10-12 years. Sadly, countless Easter bunnies will not live to see their first birthday. Rescue stories abound, including one poor rabbit who was left permanently blind in both eyes because her owners were unprepared and unknowledgeable in how to care for her. Another had both its ears lopped off because a child was allowed to play with both bunny and scissors at the same time.
Rabbits are fantastic pets, but they are not spontaneous pets. They are cuddly, sweet, playful, curious, and mischievous. Much like the family cat or dog, they also require pre-planning and accommodations to help them reach their 10-12 year life expectancy.
Because of their playful and inquisitive natures, and the fact they tend to nibble everything in their reach, they need a safe bunny home and a supervised area to romp and explore. Most commercial rabbit hutches and cages are not adequate for permanent housing. Rabbits should preferably live indoors, with their family. Many bun-parents keep their rabbits in play-pens, on foam mats, and modified wood-and-wire hutches, or any combination of these homes. It is also important to note many rabbits live peacefully with the existing animal-life inside. However, if there are personality clashes, owners must be prepared to work around them. Rabbits are prey animals, and easily scared or hurt.
Rabbits’ curious minds require regular play and cuddle time with their humans. They need room to safely explore without access to cords, woodwork, or toxic plants.
Diets are simple, consisting mostly of fresh timothy hay, a modest amount of plain pellets, daily helpings of leafy greens and small quantities of fruits and vegetables. However, the hay is the most important part of their diet, and yes, it can be messy inside the house. So can their litterbox wood shavings. Their respiratory tracks are sensitive to dust, so be careful what you use in their box, both due to dust and because they will eat some.
Vet care consists of the highly-recommended spay/neuter and periodic nail trims and dental check. Bunny teeth grow for their lifetime, and if they don’t have adequate items to gnaw on, their teeth could run into trouble. They also need regular grooming, especially when shedding.
If you’re thinking of adding a bunny for Easter to the household, do so with a healthy measure of investigation and planning first. Start with www.rabbit.org. Rabbits are a long-term commitment, not a passing fad. With care and love, they will be treasured members of the family, valued for their playful, loving natures. Hopefully, they will never be released into the wild when their novelty wears off or dumped at the local shelter to become another sad statistic.
Ryan Jo Summers is an animal advocate and a local author. To learn more about her fiction writings, check out her website ryanjosummers.com, her blog summersrye.wordpress.com or her Facebook page facebook.com//RyanJoSummersAuthor