Thursday, April 21, 2011

Your yearly reminder: Easter and Bunnies do not mix

As most of us know, Easter is this weekend. A time of Easter egg hunts, ham, little chocolate smeared little white dresses, awkward family dinners with your devoutly Christian in-laws, and a growing stockpile of those Jellybeans that no one likes. But there is a darker side of this celebration, one that is rarely mentioned in the mix of all the merry-making and doesn't manifest itself until quite a few months after that joyous day. I am referring to the tradition of the thousands of bunnies that will be purchased for this day and then forgotten soon after.

Sure, they are quite the gift on an Easter morning. The squeals of the kids while surrounding a tiny little fluffball of fur with only two large ears and two beady eyes sticking out makes it a memorable day. And baby bunnies can't help but make great photo ops with your young ones while wearing their Easter best. But what happens after Easter? When the novelty wears off, and the kids are more interested in the latest game for their Wii than with their Easter present? What happens when the care becomes a hassle, or when the fluffy coat of youth fades and that tiny ball of fluff and cuteness is suddenly a five pound gnawing machine that refuses to sleep through the night, and feels that you have no right to sleep either? Will your bunny then meet the fate that so many other Easter bunnies have met before? Will he end up sitting in rabbit hutch in the garage, or in a shelter or rescue home, unloved, bored and forgotten by his former family? Will you set him "free", not realizing that a domesticated rabbit doesn't stand a chance against the elements?

Many people purchase rabbits without realizing the responsibility that comes with them. Being that rabbits are usually seen as hutch animals, we tend to feel their responsibility is equal to that of purchasing pets from the rodent family. However, while many rodents can be perfectly happy never leaving the confines of their cages or interacting with people and other pets, a rabbit never will be. Rabbits are intelligent and inquisitive animals that require physical activity to stretch their legs as often as possible. To keep them in a hutch for the majority of the day, let alone their life is close to animal abuse. Not only is a dull and joyless existence, it can create health problems for the rabbits as well. A rabbit hutch should be utilized much in the same manner as a dog kennel would be, the more time spent outside of it and interacting with a larger environment, the better it is for bunny.

Rabbits are not the type of animal where you can just fill up a food dish every couple of days and forget about it. The digestive system of rabbits is very delicate, and a healthy diet is necessary. This means fresh fruit and veggies along with the normal rabbit pellets and what is probably the most important staple of the bunny diet – hay. Hay needs to be provided at all times for rabbits to munch on throughout the day, otherwise their digestive systems will break down. This means hay in the cage, hay in the litter box, hay scattered about the play area, lots and lots of hay. Seriously, you've never seen so much hay.

Having second thoughts yet? Sounding like a bit more work then you expected? Well, that's only part of it. So before you daydream about how cute little Sally or Billy will be while holding that baby bunny on Easter morning, consider what you are actually getting into. From my own experience, I can tell you that:

Your house will never be clean again. Yes, you can train rabbits to use a litter box, but rabbits also use droppings to mark territory, and you will be greeted to a stray pile of rabbit pellets on a daily basis. Hay will be everywhere, because rabbits have a knack for interior design and love to throw hay around almost as much as they enjoy nibbling on it.

An unprepared owner can kiss their baseboards, windowsills, and another woodwork they have in thier home goodbye. It only takes a second to rip a nice chunk of wood out from the wall in an area that has not been "bunny-proofed". Not to say that this is a good reason to never let your bunny out of it's cage, it's really not the fault of the rabbit if you designate it's home to be right next to Grandma's old china hutch.

Your friends will not borrow you books. Staring at a bookcase contained with books with corners gnawed off, missing pages and covers, and shredded paper tucked in the corners sends up a red flag for any book lover, and if you think for a second they are going to put their first edition Great Gatsby in jeopardy, think again.

Carpet? Not anymore! Not only do rabbits love to dig up carpet, they eat it as well, which has a nasty habit of making them very ill, to the point where it can kill them. And while you're at it, take care to cover all those electrical cords with tubing, otherwise you'll have nothing to watch in your living room but an electrocuted bunny. And I doubt he's going to do much.

Now, don't get me wrong, although a good buddy of mine calls them "the most evil animal ever to exist on this earth", rabbits are actually awesome animals that can make great companions. I never regretted owning mine and would like to own one again someday. You'd be amazed at how quickly these guys just hop into your life and your heart. If you have the time, space, and love for a rabbit they will never stop making you laugh with their antics, from playing "I stole your underwear, catch me!" in front of guests, to dancing like no one is watching by jumping five feet up in the air and flailing every available limb, to lovingly grooming you while you read the newspaper (after deciding that the editorials are much better eaten than read). Every rabbit is different, some love to play constantly, some love to cuddle and get pets, some love to attack my dad's feet, and some like to make sweet, sweet love to the cat. They all have their own unique quirks. If you are up to the task, you will not be disappointed, and will probably be surprised by the bond you can have with these often-underestimated animals.

But it is important to stress around Easter time that rabbits are not an easy pet, a hassle free pet, a cage bound pet, nor are they a great first pet that can be discarded in a few years. Think less "hamster" and more "puppy". Many people underestimate the lifespan of a rabbit, in reality; you are looking at a 10 year commitment. Rabbits also need more social interaction with their humans than most cage-bound rodents, they need love, attention, and lots of playtime with their human friends to keep them happy and healthy.

So if this scare tactic has worked, and you are now wondering if this might not be the right time for a bunny in your life, then make the compromise that works out the best for your family – bring home a chocolate bunny instead. These bunnies require much less work, no ten year commitment, and are still adorable next to your tot on Easter morning.

More: House Rabbit Society

1 comment:

Celeste said...

Great post. I agree, many people don't realize how much work rabbits are. As much as I liked Rascal I don't think I'll get a bunny again.