Easter is just around the corner and kids everywhere are getting ready for Easter egg hunts and presents from the Easter bunny.
Small animal rescues are bracing for the influx of bunnies, since far too many people still think that a real live bunny is a good Easter present.
Unfortunately, like many other animals that are given as gifts, a large number of these easter bunnies end up at shelters, or worse, dumped in a park.
For some reason, rabbits are a disposable animal in our society. Their plight does not get the same attention as that of homeless cats or dogs, and yet bunnies are abandoned just as often.
Oddly enough, people think that it is OK to take their bunny and ‘set it free’ in a park once they are no longer interested in taking care of it.
Setting a bunny free is no different than taking your dog or cat, driving it out in the middle of nowhere, and dumping it. Bunnies don’t survive any better in the wild than any other animal.
In fact, rabbits are easy prey as they have few natural defences.
Abandoned pet rabbits also do a lot of harm to the habitat where they have been released. And because rabbits breed so well, it is not uncommon for them to be culled when their numbers get too great.
Anyway you slice it, your ‘free’ bunny is bound to have a short and harsh life.
The bunnies who do end up staying in a home don’t always fare much better. People have a lot of misconceptions about what a rabbit requires to live a happy and healthy life. Their diet is surprisingly complex, and if not fed properly they can easily develop medical issues that may lead to death.
It is not sufficient to simply stick them in a cage and forget about them for five to six years.
Rabbits are social creatures. They need interaction as well as regular exercise. The standard bunny cages give them little room for anything more than a stretch.
Outside habitats for bunnies need to have outdoor areas for hopping, as well as indoor areas for protection from the elements. It is not sufficient to put your bunny outside in a wire bottom cage. Their feet do not have the proper padding and this sort of set up is painful for them.
You also need to consider who will be spending time with your bunny, and how much time they will be given. As I said before, they are social creatures, so a life alone in a cage, inside or out, is simply unacceptable.
Bunnies can be trained to use a litter box and will sit on the couch and cuddle with you like a cat or dog. If this is not the vision you have of your pet bunny, then accept the fact that you will need a companion for your bunny, Because they tend to be territorial. Introducing a new rabbit into your home takes some time. Read up on the rules of introduction, or consider getting siblings to begin with (please spay and neuter them, of course).
Bunnies are cute. Bunnies are soft. Bunnies are cuddly. But bunnies are also feeling, complex creatures, they require proper care. They need a proper diet, proper exercise, a proper habitat, and they have complex social structures that you need to learn about. They will not survive in the wild, and they are not meant to live alone in a tiny bunny cage with just enough room to turn around.
Unless you are willing to invest the time, money, and energy into caring for your bunny properly, then you are better off buying a stuffed bunny. Or perhaps a chocolate one.
– by Magdalena Romanow, a volunteer at Katie’s Place animal shelter.