Easter brings on a number of images, many of which involve cuddly bunnies doing strange things (from clucking to rummaging in baskets for eggs to hide). Actually, the rummaging isn't too far off -- bunnies do love to make a mess -- but very few bunnies produce eggs in any form (word to the wise)!
Commercials and advertisements give the impression that bunnies are cute, cuddly, docile, and sweet -- sort of an oversized hamster. Every Easter, hundreds of bunnies are purchased as Easter "gifts," usually for small children. Unfortunately, people are rarely prepared for the commitment a rabbit entails. Hundreds of bunnies die or are abandoned every year in the weeks following Easter.
Rabbits can be wonderful pets. They display a surprising amount of individuality and intelligence. A smart bunny will respond to its name, learn how to open cupboard doors, and entertain you by hopping madly around the room. Litter training is remarkably easy, if time consuming. Bunnies have varied and adorable personalities, and they are a pleasure to watch. Some bunnies are very cuddly -- they will sit in your lap and keep you company whenever you settle down. Others are fiercely independent, and will follow you around head butting you to make sure you realize they are in charge.
In many ways a rabbit is like a cat. It is soft, fluffy, and cute. It uses a litter box. For its own safety, it usually has to be spayed or neutered. It can roam around your house provided you've bunny-proofed (although it certainly shouldn't run around outside!). Bunnies even can (and do) emit their own aggressive noise, a cross between a hiss, a growl, and a grunt.
No one would buy a cat for a child without considering the issue and discussing it thoroughly. Please extend bunnies the same consideration! If you decide you are willing to commit to your bunny for the entirety of its life, you will have a cute, dedicated companion. Improper care, however, can quickly lead to a rabbit's illness and even death.
So this year, before you set out to buy that new pet, keep the following questions in mind:
1. Do you have the time and energy to take care of it? Like dogs, rabbits are social creatures. If you leave them in their cages all day, they will become bored and destructive, and may even die. They require petting, freedom, and attention. You must watch them carefully for signs of illness, which are not always obvious.
2. Are you fully informed about the care of rabbits? Do you understand their dietary needs, living space requirements, and the care involved in their daily lives? Are you prepared for vet bills, and do you know if there are rabbit vets in your area?
3. Are you prepared to bunny-proof your house? In a bunny's eye, wires lying on the floor irresistibly resemble yummy roots. Unless you want a dead rabbit and a ruined television, you have to find some way to keep wires covered or hidden. Rabbits love to shred paper, books, cardboard, carpet, and wall trimmings, to name a few. If you don't keep them entertained, they have a tendency to entertain themselves!
4. Do you realize that a healthy rabbit lives ten to twelve years? In contrast, the average hamster lives eighteen months to two years. Adopting a rabbit is akin to adopting any other long-lived animal; you must be prepared to care for it in its old age.
5. Do you have other pets, and have you considered how your rabbit will interact with them?
The commercials get one thing right -- bunnies are cute, fun-loving, and (typically) gentle creatures. Educate your friends and families: a rabbit is not a toy! It is a living, breathing animal with feelings, personality, and the right to a good home. If you want an animal friend, a rabbit may be perfect for you. If you want a toy for a child, however, try a stuffed animal!
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