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Rabbits May Be Wonderful, But Not As Easter Presents

Columnist Sandra Klepach cautions people against impulsively buying pet rabbits for the holiday without realizing the care they require

Whenever I start to justify what I did in college, a particular picture comes to mind.

It's a picture of a couple rabbits relaxing under my bed in Kent. They look cute and slightly afraid for their lives, too, as rabbits tend to do. And they've ripped the fabric beneath the bed, exposing the bed springs, and left the short green carpet coated with a thick layer of fur.

This carpet was a roll I put down to protect the original carpet from rabbit chewing, digging and litterbox mishaps. I ended up needing to replace the original carpet anyhow.

My fiance also likes to tell the story about the time a cable guy suggested I had squirrels. My rabbits had chewed through the HBO cord in the closet, of course.

“Wasn't there a room in that apartment especially dedicated to rabbits?” a friend asked just today.

“Yeah, we slept on the living room floor because the rabbits kicked us out of the bedroom,” Jamie replied.

He and I laugh about it now, two rabbits controlling a decade of my life. So do my parents, thankfully, since they inherited the bulk of the expense. But now I'm also willing to admit that adopting rabbits immediately after high school, simply because I thought they were cute and perused a how-to book, was the most expensive mistake of my life.

And like a superhero, I emerge each Easter to deter others from making my mistake – adopting without a proper understanding of the responsibility.

Consider this:

  • The fluffy handfuls at the pet stores that you're seeing right now behind “Great for Easter!” signs won't stay small. They'll also shed all that fluff on the abrasive surfaces they'll create by chewing. Rabbits especially love wood furniture, and splintery wood in particular collects fur well.

  • If you're looking for companionship, don't look at the rabbit. Their affections are subtle, attitudes offputting, and they're more independent than cats. That, and they simply don't do much; some of my favorite memories of my rabbit Sky involve her lifting and dropping a jingle ball several times in a row before she lost interest.

  • So rabbits don't do much – that means they're low maintenance and easy for kids to take care of, right? Wrong. Not only is properly cleaning a rabbit's nestbox, litterbox or room an adult chore, but a child may not be able to lift a rabbit once it's done growing. Then there's nutrition, which is no child's play. A tricky balance of fresh greens and timothy hay are unlikely to be covered by allowance cash.

  • Keeping a rabbit in a cage the size of the ones in the pet store won't provide it the exercise and stimulation it deserves. A healthy bun needs a spacious cage or suitable outdoor hutch and a rabbit-proofed room or enclosure to run safe of predators. Also, if your family can't give a bun enough daily attention or activity, it's only fair to adopt a companion rabbit, doubling the already expensive vet bills of “exotics.” The first bill: a spay or neuter to control population and prevent spraying in males and cancer in females.

Understanding all this, you may be a perfect rabbit owner. My rabbits were amazing and beautiful creatures, and I miss my time with them very much.

But if you're adopting, please adopt a shelter rabbit from Lake Humane Society or Adopt-a-Pet.com – and wait till Easter has passed to ensure it's the right decision for you, your family and future pets.

Cadbury bunnies are the only acceptable rabbit-eared gifts. Anything else, at best, will unfortunately be a labor of love.

Sandra Ward May 06, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Case and point: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303395904575158581521399358.html#project%3DSLIDESHOW08%26s%3DSB10001424052702304871704575160091681741962%26articleTabs%3Darticle They lay the blame for the school's rabbit problem firmly at the paws of the Easter Bunny. For years, they say, families have been buying bunnies around Easter, only to abandon them when the pet becomes too much work. "Everybody wants to buy their kid the Easter Bunny," said Caroline Charland of Bunny Bunch, a nonprofit animal rescue group assisting the college with its bunny-control plan. "A few months later the child is not interested and the family dumps them."

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