(LIFE WITH PETS) Easter is here and pet stores are filled with rabbits just waiting to hop into your Easter basket. So you and your children – especially your children –may be hoping for a bunny. But like the rush to buy a dalmatian after ’101 Dalmatians’ was a big hit, it can be a different story when the rabbits (or chicks) come home to roost. Unfortunately, ninety percent of rabbits brought into American homes for the spring holiday end up euthanized.
Want to be part of the solution instead of creating a problem? Adopt a rabbit instead of buying. And before you do anything, read what the experts at 3 Bunnies Rabbit Rescue say you should consider before bringing home that bunny. – Global Animal
1. Do you have the room?
“People need to realize a rabbit does need room, does need exercise, does need socialization,” says Mona Reopel, co-founder of 3 Bunnies. If you can, opt for an X-pen rather than a cage to allow the rabbit substantial space.
2. Are you able and willing to rabbit-proof your home?
Rabbits can be litter trained and allowed to roam around the house like a cat or dog, but it’s their natural instinct to chew. Reopel warns that computer cords, TV cables and even table legs are easy pickings for your rabbit.
3. Do you have allergies?
Rabbits need hay 24 hours a day, and that means its constant presence in your home. Though most pet owners think of dander as the No. 1 allergen — and dander allergies can be triggered by a rabbit — Reopel reports the larger concern for most families is asthma and seasonal-type allergies that might be spiked by hay.
4. Do you spend a lot of time away from home?
In addition to fresh hay, rabbits need fresh water, and they cannot be left alone for long stretches like cats, Reopel warns. You have to plan for someone to stop in to check on them daily because kennels are not common for rabbits. Likewise, rabbits are extremely social animals, she says. They need someone to play with, need toys (cardboard boxes and paper towel rolls work well) and attention.
5. Are you ready for your bunny to grow up?
“People need to understand that that baby is just like a human kid,” Reopel warns. “Rabbits go through the terrible twos, the grumpy adolescent stage…” Bunnies at a pet store are often young — many taken from their mothers at just 4 weeks old — and therefore cuddle right up to you when you pick them up. They’re also scared, Reopel says, overwhelmed by the sounds, smells and lights of a store. Bringing them home, you might find a completely different personality erupts within days or weeks. The smaller breeds are likely to be more aggressive, Reopel reports, comparing their behavior to that of small dogs. If you have children, opt for a larger rabbit breed — the “gentle giants” of the rabbit world — or a mixed breed. Picking a bunny up at a rescue will allow you to spend time with it before adoption, and the experts there can match one with an appropriate temperament to your family.
6. Do you have the money for rabbit care?
A bunny in the pet store may cost you next to nothing, but their food demands need to be factored into your budget. For a single rabbit, Reopel estimates you will buy one 10-pound bag of good-quality pellets every two to three weeks, at a cost of about $10 a bag. You’ll need a new hay bale every three to four weeks at as much as $15 per bale. And if you want to supplement with greens, factor in the cost of a head of romaine on occasion — plus vet costs.
7. Does your vet specialize in exotic breeds?
They may be domesticated animals, but home bunnies need special care from a vet with experience in rabbits, Reopel warns. And they’ll need it by 4 months of age, when you should spay or neuter your bunny. The national average for spay/neuter is anywhere from $300 to $600, and rabbits will require an annual visit from there on out. The good news? Rabbits don’t require yearly shots, so your visits should cost only around $50.
8. How will your other pets react?
“Most rabbits get along fine with dogs and cats,” Reopel says. But the introduction can be tricky, and Reopel cautions people to think about whether they have the time it will take to slowly introduce their bunnies to their families. If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors hunting, it may look at your new pet as prey. Likewise, a number of dog breeds are not conducive to cohabitation with rabbits. Sight hounds, huskies and greyhounds may not mix well with rabbit companions.
9. Are you ready for the commitment?
Rabbits can live 10 or even 15 years, Reopel says, and most kids lose interest after two weeks. “At which point Mom and Dad are going to be caring for this pet,” she says.