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RUNNING BUN MAGAZINE - All things "bunnified," news from the rabbit multiverse, deep down in the Earth, where it's still warm.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

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The Easter Bunny:
Silly Parents, Rabbits Aren't for Kids!

Every year as Easter approaches, parents and children alike get the idea that they'd like to bring the Easter bunny into their lives. Unfortunately, they often do this with little or no research, forethought, or even the idea that a life is at stake. Often the misconception is that rabbits have a short lifespan similar to hamsters or guinea pigs. Parents think they have a short-term project on their hands and that the kids will have a cute, cuddly, plush toy. Worse, some parents truly do consider this life disposable and that anything to increase their child's experience is well-deserved. The cost to the living being in question is an after thought.

In truth, rabbits do not make good pets for children. Although prey animals, rabbits will defend themselves and often kick, bite, and even scream while being endlessly mishandled by a child. In futile efforts to escape the unwanted embraces of rambunctious children, the rabbit will most likely also sustain an injury and often a fatal one at that -- such as a broken back or neck. The child also risks the potential for a very painful rabbit bite from those great big Bugs Bunny incisors.

A slightly more fortunate Easter bunny recruit may live a little longer only for the child, who is most certainly the caretaker of this little life, to lose interest in the animal and eventually start skipping feedings or allow the water bottle to remain empty or both. At long last, the bunny perishes from neglect. As a rabbit rescuer, I once took in a bunny from an animal shelter who was surrendered at age 8 years during which time he was cared for only by a very young child. He was so ravaged from this fate, it took him nearly a year and half to recover his health. He has since been adopted and is now being lovingly cared for by responsible adults.

Pinky was relinquished to the animal shelter at age 7 months. The relinquishing owner cited the reason for give up to be that he was afraid of his 5 dogs. Pinky was lucky and was rehomed with a lovely couple who are approaching retirement.
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A common complaint to be heard from children who become disenchanted with their rabbit companion is that they are just plain boring. Terrified rabbits will sit in a hunched up position when they live in fear every day of their lives and do not do much of anything else. It's easy to understand why children craving interactivity would find this boring and also easy to understand why this is a successful survival strategy for a little prey animal. Eventually the rabbit's fear will impair his immune system and bring about an early demise. This happens very quickly for those unlucky buns who are imprisoned in the traditional backyard rabbit hutch. Exposed to the elements and predators, it is only a matter of time before they either die of a fear-induced heart attack - brought on by the sight or approach of a predator - or they succumb to the heat or the cold. The least lucky Easter bunny of all is the one whose uninformed family 'sets free' to be predated upon by a long list of natural enemies including skunks, raccoons, stray dogs, stray cats, coyotes, eagles, hawks, or owls. Getting run over by a car is also a possibility for the stray rabbit. The domesticated rabbit possesses none of the instinctual survival skills his wild ancestors did and also does not possess the same physical characteristics required for a life in the wild.

According to Kim Saunders, vice president of Shelter Outreach for Petfinder.com, "People know that dogs and cats end up homeless." Petfinder.com is the searchable database of homeless pets of all kinds. "We initiated Adopt-a-Rescued-Rabbit Month (February) to draw attention to the fact that rabbits are the third most likely animal to find themselves needing a new home. On any given day on Petfinder.com, there are over 5,000 rabbits available for adoption." 1 Some of these rabbits will be rehomed thanks to the efforts of shelter staff and volunteers but a great many of them will be euthanized through various methods because there simply are not enough homes for them.

Kathleen Wilsbach, president of the national rabbit rescue and education group, House Rabbit Society, informs us, "For the right people, rabbits are wonderful indoor companions. They get along with many other companion animals including gentle cats and dogs, are intelligent, affectionate and inquisitive, and can readily learn to use a litter box."

"However," she warns, "they can also be destructive. The ideal 'rabbit person,' in addition to being calm, patient and eager to get to know a rabbit on his own terms, must be willing to rabbit-proof an appropriate exercise area in the home to prevent damage from chewing."

Jules was relinquished to the animal shelter at age 2.5 years because his teenage caretaker left for college. He was released to a rescue group and adopted. A high-energy breed, he is an adorable mini-lop requiring lots of attention.
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Rabbits do indeed make wonderful companions for older, more mature children whom are part of a responsible, caring family and include the rabbit as part of this family group. And while often as long-lived as a cat or dog, rabbits also require specialized veterinary care as they are considered by veterinarians to be among the 'exotic' pets such as parrots and reptiles. This is more costly than run-of-the-mill canine and feline veterinary medicine and also more challenging in a variety of ways for the rabbit caretaker. In a family where the rabbit's well-being and longevity are a consideration, a house rabbit will provide much good quality companionship and will endlessly charm his or her guardians with a happily twitching nose, bright eyes and bushy tail.

1 Petfinder.com Report of the Week, January 26th, 2008 
2 February is Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month, http://www.rabbit.org/adopt-a-rabbit-month/adopt.html 

All content and images © Running Bun Magazine. Use without permission prohibited.