Dogs and cats aren’t the only animals waiting in shelters. In fact, pet rabbits are the third most abandoned animal at shelters. They make wonderful pets, but far too often they are purchased on impulse at Easter, without the owners being truly prepared for a new pet in the family.
Animal rescue organizations across the country are bracing for their much-dreaded, annual Easter buying spree. This year, compounded by it being the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Rabbit, and of course, the popular new family movie, “Hop”, there is going to be an even larger upswing in impulse purchases.
“Sadly, rabbits are now the third most abandoned animal at shelters, and countless others are released to fend for themselves, but often become an unfortunate addition to a predator’s lunch,” said Debby Widolf of the national animal welfare organization, Best Friends Animal Society. She adds, “If you decide that a rabbit would be a welcome addition to your family, why not rescue a homeless bunny by adopting from a rabbit rescue or shelter?” asks Widolf. “But before adopting, it’s important to first learn all about these wonderful creatures and what they need to become a happy, well-adjusted family member. Most important, don’t make an impulse buy from a pet store or online.”
Best Friends Animal Society is working hard to help the cause and joined other rabbit rescue groups in 2010 for the first-ever, large-scale, trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for literally dozens of abandoned pet rabbits that had populated the campus of Long Beach City College. The program was able to spay and neuter all the campus rabbits in just 13 months time. Even better news was that 170 were adopted into homes. There are 70 that still are waiting for a home, while the other 75 were returned to live on the campus.
Widolf points out that rabbits can be wonderful companions, calling them “intelligent, interactive and curious little guys.”
But before adopting one, she asks families to consider these important points:
- Rabbits can live eight to 10 years, which makes adoption a substantial commitment. They require regular vet care, and because not all veterinarians treat rabbits or know much about them, it might be necessary to take a rabbit to an exotic animal vet. Just like human specialists, they can be more expensive and harder to find.
- Children often want a rabbit to cuddle and carry, but kids are often disappointed to learn that the last thing a bunny wants is to be picked up. Rabbits are prey animals and picking them up might signal that “something is going to carry me away and eat me. Yikes!” Rabbits have strong claws and will kick and bite if frightened. The backs of rabbits are delicate, so mishandling or dropping a rabbit can cause serious injury. A pet rabbit may not be a good idea for a child under eight or nine years old.
- Rabbits are happiest in a home when they can be part of the family, enjoy their people and be who they are—rabbits.
- Rabbits should be spayed or neutered by a rabbit-knowledgeable veterinarian to prevent serious health problems, help the bunny be a better friend, and, of course, prevent unwanted births. It is quite difficult to determine the sex of young rabbits. Male rabbits are ready to be neutered at around 10 weeks of age, while females can be spayed at the age of five months.
- Prior to bringing a rabbit home, one should bunny-proof the house. Rabbits love to chew, so cover up or hide the computer and phone cords. Happily, rabbits can be trained to use a litter box, but remember that they need regular cleaning. And, of course, rabbits also need fresh water, food and hay daily.
- Rabbits are unhappy and suffer when they are isolated from their people. They need interaction, bunny toys to play with, and plenty of daily exercise.