Rabbits are not Toys
As spring approaches and we shake off the winter blues, pet store windows are filling with beautiful, happy pastel signs advertising adorable baby bunnies as the ideal gift for the Easter holiday. Of course the kids are begging for one and they promise to take of it—it is hard to resist. You might even begin to rationalize such a purchase—after all bunnies are low maintenance and are the perfect pet for a young child right? WRONG!!! Every year, shortly after the Easter holiday, thousands of bunnies and rabbits are abandoned to shelters, or worse, released outside because parents misunderstood the responsibility required for caring for a rabbit. Most of these innocent animals don’t make it out of the shelter alive. They are often euthanized due to overcrowding and a shortage of adopters willing to give them a permanent home. Broadway Barks researched the topic to bring attention to the issues regarding children and rabbits, and to clear up the myths and realities of caring for pet rabbits. We hope you will consider a chocolate or toy bunny, unless you are serious about committing to a pet rabbit for the long term.
Rabbits and Children
Rabbits are physically delicate animals that require daily care and maintenance. They also have no voice, so unlike a dog or a cat, they cannot tell you when they are hungry, thirsty, ill, or when their cage needs to be cleaned. You have to really pay attention to them everyday and be very sensitive to their needs. They also require specialized veterinary care and a special diet. Additionally, domestic rabbits are very inquisitive and social animals that can live for 7-10 years or more. Rabbits are not a good impulse buy.
Children, of course, are energetic and inquisitive, and have a lot of love to give. Unfortunately, the way many young children show this love is by cuddling, squeezing, holding, and carrying a rabbit around in a way that frightens rabbits. A frightened rabbit often scratches or bites as a defense mechanism. Not only does this represent a danger to the child, it is also dangerous for the rabbit, which if dropped can suffer from a broken leg or back. Rabbits also mature fairly quickly, so that cute little bunny will be a mature adult rabbit within a few months. Once animals are no longer cute babies, and the reality of responsibility sets in, many children often lose interest and the animal becomes neglected. So, when planning the perfect Easter basket consider a chocolate rabbit or a stuffed toy. There is also a wonderful children’s book available on Amazon called The Forgotten Rabbit. It is a beautifully illustrated story that educates about caring for rabbits properly, but is also enjoyable for children and adults alike and would be a perfect Easter gift.
Myths and Realities of Rabbit Care
Myth: Rabbits are low maintenance and have short life spans requiring only a short-term commitment.
Reality: Rabbits are not low maintenance. You don’t have to walk them like a dog, but their cages need daily cleaning, and they must be fed and watered daily. Rabbits need regular veterinary care, which costs money. Rabbits can live 7-10 years and require a long-term commitment.
Myth: Rabbits are happy to live outside in a “hutch.”
Reality: Rabbits are social animals and want to be with you or their rabbit companions. Rabbits relegated to an outside hutch are usually forgotten or neglected, and live a sad, solitary life. Rabbits living outdoors are also at risk of illness and disease due to weather conditions, fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitos. The happiest, safest place for a rabbit is inside the house as part of the family.
Myth: Rabbits love being picked up and cuddled, and they never scratch or bite.
Reality: Although some rabbits tolerate handling quite well, many do not like to be picked up and carried. And when they feel insecure or frightened they may scratch or nip to protect themselves. Unspayed/unneutered rabbits also may display territorial behavior such as “boxing” or biting when their territory is “invaded.”
Myth: Rabbits only eat rabbit food and carrots.
Reality: The most important part of a rabbit’s diet is grass hay, which should be provided daily and always available to the rabbit. Rabbits also need fresh salads made from dark-green leafy vegetables. Rabbit pellets should be given only in very limited quantities.
Myth: Rabbits do not require much living space and can be left alone for a day or two.
Reality: Rabbits have powerful hind legs designed for running and jumping. They need enough living space to allow them freedom of movement even when they are confined. Rabbits also need daily monitoring. Health issues that are relatively minor for some species can become life threatening very quickly for rabbits, and may require immediate veterinary attention.
OK, But I Still Want a Rabbit for Easter
If you understand the commitment involved in caring for a rabbit and you still want to get one as an Easter gift, consider giving a toy rabbit with a card saying that you are going to go to the shelter and choose a pet rabbit together. If you wait until after the Easter holiday, you will be saving a life and will enjoy the process of choosing the perfect pet for your family. Even if you don’t want to wait until after Easter, rabbits are always available for adoption at your local shelter or rescue group. Make sure everyone in the household understands what the rabbit needs and always make sure an adult supervises children when they interact with the rabbit. A rabbit can be a wonderful companion animal as long as you remember: he is not a toy. He is a real live animal, and can be a 10-year commitment or more!
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By Charlene Sloan
Enjoy Broadway Barks every day of the year! Our Broadway Barks 2014 Calendar is available for purchase online!
Filled with photos of some of the celebrities who have participated in Broadway Barks (Michael Cerveris, Peter Gallagher, Sean Hayes, Anjelica Huston, Jeremy Jordan, Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane, Lea Michele, Mary Tyler Moore, Bebe Neuwirth, Bernadette Peters, David Hyde Pierce, Andrew Rannells, and Jo Anne Worley), along with lucky dogs and cats who found new homes at Broadway Barks, this limited-edition calendar is a keepsake that will make you smile every time you look at it. It’s a great gift idea, too, so you’ll probably want to purchase additional copies for family members and friends.
All proceeds from calendar sales will be used by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to help save the lives of NYC’s homeless pets.