I am publishing a little shorter blog post today. I have another post that will be released on Friday that has a Good Friday/Easter message. However, I also wanted to keep to my regular Tuesday writing. So, I decided to release a message about something that I feel strongly about – the problems with getting a rabbit (especially for children) for Easter.
For many, the Easter holidays have become a time to celebrate a large meal, an egg hunt, chocolate candies, and ducks, chicks, and bunnies. I have a problem with what this godly holiday has morphed into, but focusing on that isn’t my intent with this posting. My aim is to give you reasons to NOT buy a live animal (in particular a rabbit) for a child at this time.
For seven years I was a rabbit owner and a member of the Michigan Rabbit Rescue organization. During this time I was able to foster many rabbits in my home and it gave me the chance to witness various rabbit personalities. I also learned a lot of information that I was totally unaware of previously. As you read through the cautions below, you may know of exceptions to these statements. There are always exceptions to general truths – take for example someone you know who lived into their nineties, even though they were an avid smoker. Just know that these bunny facts are shown true with many, many rabbits.
- Rabbits hate being picked up. The first thing a child wants to do when they see a rabbit is to pick them up and cuddle them. After all, they are cute, furry, and begging for a hug! Almost all rabbits have a fear of being airborne. It is likely a natural reaction because in the wild they are picked up by hawks and whisked off to become dinner. When a child picks up a bunny, the rabbit may naturally resort to scrambling to try to get released. During the process, the child may be scratched or bitten (yes, these cute little things have sharp teeth!). Most youngsters don’t have a good grip on their pet and Thumper’s surprise attack may cause them to drop him. Many rabbit falls have resulted in them breaking legs or worse.
- Your child or grandchild may be allergic to their rabbit. Probably any animal can induce an allergic reaction in a human. Be prepared that your bunny will shed its fur and there will be hair all over your house. Despite what you may be told at the pet store, a bunny should have fresh hay as part of their diet. This too can trigger allergies in the family.
- A domesticated rabbit needs to be kept indoors. Rabbit hutches in the backyard are where most people visualize keeping their furry pets. If your idea is to raise rabbits for meat consumption, this is probably sufficient, but if you want your pet to have a long, healthy life, it needs to be kept indoors. Rabbits are social animals and crave human interactions. An outdoor rabbit is subject to extremes of heat and cold. Predators abound outside and raccoons or snakes are adept at breaking into cages. A rabbit out of sight is also frequently out of mind and is more likely to suffer neglect. Parasitic infections are much more likely for outdoor rabbits and many rabbits die yearly from Fly-strike, a devastating condition where flies lay eggs, which turn into maggots, and burrow into a rabbit’s body.
- A rabbit needs regular veterinary care. Because rabbits are considered exotic pets, their medical care may cost more and you may have to drive a long way to find a veterinarian that is experienced in their care. Some breeds are more likely to have ear infections, teeth misalignment needing regular trimmings, or digestive issues. Bunnies generally make no noise. The one sound you never want to hear a rabbit make is a scream. It generally means they are very close to death and you may not be able to get help in time. You can’t delay treatment, even if your bunny simply refuses to eat a meal. You should never leave a rabbit alone, even for a weekend away.
- Rabbits are destructive. Since rabbits should be kept inside your house (see point 3), you can be almost certain that your sweet little pet will find something to destroy. Their favorite items seem to be cords. They can ruin your favorite lamp and in the process, get electrocuted. Our rabbit decided to make a hole in our living room couch. She was very obsessive in her hole digging and no matter what we tried (screaming, water squirting, bitter herbs), she continued to enlarge it at every opportunity. They need to be watched carefully and ideally, all items that they could hurt or could hurt them should be removed from their area.
Rabbits can be a wonderful member of any family. If your child is begging for one, consider volunteering at a shelter or rescue center. Get a few good books (I recommend the House Rabbit Handbook) to learn all you can about their care. If your child’s interest continues as they get older, consider fostering a rabbit for a rescue group. After years or months of fostering, you may consider adopting a special rabbit. I would caution about buying a bunny from a pet store. So many times these rabbits are ill right from the start. You likely will be given the wrong advice – as the store employees will direct you to tiny cages and colorful pellets that they sell, instead of larger cages, hay, and fresh vegetables.
If your young child begs for a bunny, get them a stuffed animal alternative. Any pet is a huge responsibility. Your caution may be saving your child from finding out the hard way that a rabbit may be not as cuddly as they thought. You also may be saving the life of an innocent animal. You both could end up having a happier Easter!