Easter bunny, anyone? Awwww…nothing sweeter than baby bunnies. Well, baby anything, right? And soon, our “Cottontail Mountain” home will be surrounded with rabbits courting and chasing and pitching woo–with lots of offspring soon to appear.
Karma-Kat loves watching “bunny TV” out the back patio windows. I think he’d love to have one come inside to *ahem* cuddle and play. NOT! Just like other animal companions, it takes more than admiration to make bunny love positive for everyone.
Easter is not the time for a spur of the moment furry gift. Chicks and ducklings and baby bunnies by the score are purchased each year, some dyed in ridiculous colors, almost as gag gifts despite the fact they are living creatures with very specific care needs. A rabbit is more than an Easter bunny joke. For more about Easter safety issues for pets, read this post.
Easter Bunny, More Than A Toy
The House Rabbit Society has lots of great information about caring for a bunny. They do make wonderful pets–but you have to want them for more than a couple of weeks, or until the “cute” wears off.
Did you know that bunnies mark territory? Chew all kinds of stuff? (even more than dogs!). And unless you “fix” your bunny friend, aggression can become a problem. Read on!
Bunnies are intelligent, social animals who need affection and get along well with cats and well-behaved dogs. They can be litter box trained (emphasis on the trained)–it doesn’t happen with the wave of a wand. Rabbits tend to eat and poop at the same time–the original multitasking pet–so standard clay cat litters won’t work and can be dangerous to bunnies. You’ll find tips on rabbit care and training at the House Rabbit Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping educate the public.
EASTER BUNNY MARKING
Similarly to cats and dogs, intact rabbits use bodily functions to mark territory. You’ll need to spay or neuter your bunny friend to curtail the hormones that prompt marking behavior. This also decreases destructive chewing and territorial aggression. An attack rabbit is no laughing matter! House rabbits should be “fixed” between the ages of 3-1/2 to six months, depending on sexual maturity, by an experienced rabbit veterinarian.
EASTER BUNNY: A GNAWING HABIT
Once de-sexed and litter box trained, bunnies can freely roam your home and interact with the whole family. But first, rabbit proof the house. It’s natural for rabbits to chew on just about anything: furniture, rugs, drapes, and even deadly electrical cords.
Use the same tips for preventing canine teething to safeguard rabbits and provide safe chewable alternatives and toys to keep the bunny happy and distracted. Rabbit experts recommend cut, dried branches from apple, willow or aspen, or pine firewood; cotton towels; baskets or cardboard boxes filled with hay; and compressed alfalfa cubes. Juvenile delinquent bunnies under a year of age are more mischievous, and require more safe confinement and bunny proofing than older rabbits.
PROPER EASTER BUNNY CARE
Your pet bunny requires the same good veterinary care you provide for your cats and dogs, and rabbits are prone to specific health issues you’ll need to address. For instance, bunnies are naturally clean and groom themselves constantly–but that makes them prone to fur balls like Kitty. But rabbits can’t vomit. If the excess fur can’t be passed into the litter box, a blockage can kill the pet.
Therefore, you’ll need to regularly groom your rabbit, provide at least 30 hours exercise a week to keep bunny moving on both the outside and inside, and provide fresh vegetables to help keep her regular. Special bunny hairball laxatives can help during molting season.
WHY NOT ADOPT A RESCUE EASTER BUNNY?
The days and weeks following Easter finds many adoptable bunnies in shelters. If you really want a furry friend, you could also save a life by rescuing one of these sweet babies.
This year prepare ahead of time for your new Easter bunny surprise. You know your situation best. Bunnies can be rewarding pets but they do require time, training, and appropriate care. In the months following Easter, local humane societies and rabbit rescues are flooded with rabbits, former Easter gifts whose owners no longer want them. The unlucky ones are dumped outside where they usually become victims of predators, cars, illness, and injury.
Easter is a joyous time of rebirth and hope. Enjoy the egg hunts, the Easter candy, dinners with family and friends, safe plants (BEWARE of Easter lilies!)–and if you’re ready, welcome a living creature into your home and heart. If not ready for the breathing/chewing/pooping version, celebrate the wonderful world of bunnies with a stuffed toy, or a chocolate rabbit. They won’t mind being tossed aside.
Do you share your home with a bunny? My brother’s family has a pet rabbit that gets along well with the cats and dog–it can be done! Please share your bunny-licious experiences.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!