Well, it’s that time of year again – Easter Time – when large numbers of people seem to loose their minds and decide that putting sole responsibility for a living, breathing animal into the hands of a 5 year old child is a good thing. (Here’s a hint people: it’s not.)
As an Easter Bunny myself – one that was abandoned just a few weeks after Easter – I sort of have a responsibility to educate people about why Easter ≠ Bunny. It’s the least I can do to make sure that there are fewer bunnies out there that have to go through what I went through – being abandoned in the streets of a city while still a tiny baby. So, yeah, think about that first before you go out and pick up a “cute little baby bunny” from the pet store for your kids this Easter.
Above: I was abandoned when I was this little.
So let’s get down to business, shall we? The biggest mistake people make around Easter time is forgetting this golden rule:
A bunny is a rabbit, and a rabbit is a BIG responsibility.
You’d be amazed how many people forget this. Baby bunnies, like all other animals, grow up and get bigger. It’s a fact of life. And unless you think life itself is disposable, you have to take responsibility not just for the small, cute, baby bunny you brought home, but also the big, older rabbit you’ll end up with in a few months. If you’re not willing to do this, then don’t get a rabbit. (Maybe you should get a chocolate bunny instead?)
There are a few other things you should know before you even think about picking up a rabbit:
- We need more space than the cages you can buy at the pet store. Almost 100% of the cages you find at your local pet store are meant as “starter” cages for 1 bunny when it’s little. That same cage won’t do once the rabbit grows up – we need more space. If you don’t have enough space, then maybe you should think twice about getting a rabbit.
- A rabbit cannot live on pellets and carrots alone. Yeah, I know, carrots are what rabbits eat in cartoons all the time, and pellets are easy to feed, but let’s be serious – you don’t see wild rabbits munching on carrots and going “what’s up, doc,” do you? Also, pellets are basically rabbit prison food – it’s what was fed to rabbits when they were being kept as food, not as pets. We need good food, just like any other pet. An unlimited supply of timothy hay (not alfalfa, at least not once we’re grown up), as much as we can eat, is a good start, as are fresh veggies like parsley, romaine lettuce (or any lettuce with dark green leaves), and many other dark green veggies. Carrots, on the other hand, have too many calories and should not form the bulk of our diet.
- We need things to chew on. In the same way that people give their cats a scratching post, a rabbit needs something similar – but for chewing, not scratching. Our teeth grow constantly; if we don’t chew on things they will grow so big that we can’t open our mouth to eat anymore. Oh, and if you don’t give us things to chew on, we’ll probably end up chewing on anything we can get our teeth on – like your carpet, baseboards, furniture, etc. So give us cardboard boxes or bits of (untreated) wood to chew on. Heck, your used paper towel or toilet paper rolls will do the trick in a pinch – and we’ll recycle them for you. Bonus!
- We are not the same as hamsters or gerbils or other “cage” animals. People often lump us in the same category as hamsters or gerbils or even guinea pigs – animals that are typically kept in cages full-time. But this is a mistake. Just look at us – we’re a heck of a lot bigger than a hamster or gerbil! So don’t base your housing/feeding/care expectations off of what you might have in mind for a smaller animal – we’re different, and that means you need to take care of us differently. Instead, you might want to think of a rabbit as more or less a vegetarian cat. You wouldn’t keep a cat in a 3 foot x 2 foot cage all day, now would you? No, you’d let it roam around your house. Well, if you are going to get a rabbit, you should expect to let the rabbit roam your house (or at least be out free roaming for a period each day) in the same way.
- We are prey animals, so be gentle with us. While the “like a vegetarian cat” analogy works pretty well, it’s also important to keep in mind that we are prey animals – unlike a cat, which is a predator. This has huge ramifications on how we see the world. A cat may get scared of things, but it’s generally not constantly on the lookout for things that might be trying to eat it – quite the contrary! But a rabbit is always on the lookout for things that might be trying to eat it – because, like it or not, something almost always is trying to eat us. Because of this, we can be a bit skittish – so keep this in mind when you loom over us! Also, since we do startle rather easily, you should probably keep smaller children away from us if possible – or at least supervise them very closely. A small child making lots of noise or sudden movements can be downright terrifying to a rabbit!
- We need exercise, too. If you keep us in a cage, let us out from time to time (ideally, at least once every day) so we can stretch our (huge) legs. People have no problem walking their pet dogs, but for some reason they don’t think to let their pet rabbits out. Don’t fall into this trap – let us run around once in a while!
Those are just some of the things I could think of off the top of my ears.
Now, if after all of that, you still think you want to get a rabbit, well, let me give you a few more pieces of advice: try adopting a rabbit instead of buying one from a pet store. You might not get a “small & cute” baby bunny, but the bunny you do get will probably already be litter trained and may even already bee spayed/neutered, saving you a BIG expense down the road. Plus, you’re probably saving a bunnies life when you adopt from a shelter. And I think that’s a good enough reason by itself, don’t you?
And finally, here’s some pictures of what you can expect to see if you let a rabbit into your life:
And, of course:
So, please, think twice about buying a bunny for Easter. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
p.s. for more on why you shouldn’t get a bunny for Easter, please see Make Mine Chocolate (makeminechocolate.org).