Before you bring home an adorable baby bunny, duck, or chick, a good pet parent will do research into the lifetime of care these pets require. Stuffed toy animals are often the best choice of a holiday gift, but if you’re considering adopting a real-life bunny, our friend Pia has some thoughtful insights after speaking with Cindy Stutts, an educator for the House Rabbit Society, and bunny parent herself. Pia shares her invaluable advice for anyone considering getting a bunny. After you finish your research, you can find many wonderful rabbits for adoption near you on Adopt-a-Pet.com at www.adoptapet.com/other-pet-adoption#rabbit
Pia writes: According to Cindy, rabbits are fundamentally different from dogs and cats and therefore require an entirely different care-giving approach. We cannot simply apply what we know about cats and dogs to rabbits.
For one thing, rabbits are prey animals in nature. That means they are more fragile and fearful than dogs or cats, both natural predators. While they can be held and cuddled, bunnies may respond fearfully at first, perhaps with a sudden movement or harmless nip that could startle a small child and result in the bunny being dropped. For that reason, a rabbit may not be an ideal companion animal for kids under five.
Impulse Easter pet purchases result in tragic outcomes for thousands of bunnies (and chicks) each year. The majority of those acquired in this manner ultimately end up injured, neglected, multiplying or relinquished to a shelter. While it is understandable that a doting parent might be tempted by the cute little bunnies that fill pet store windows at Easter, I encourage parents to proceed with caution! It is important to use common sense when an eager salesperson downplays the long-term needs of a companion animal. When it comes to indulging a child (which is not always a bad thing), there’s a big difference between a candy treat and an animal with lifelong needs.
One of the most important and challenging lessons a parent must pass along are the benefits of making informed decisions rather than impulsive choices. But children learn exactly the opposite when well-meaning parents return home from the pet store with a fragile, un-altered bunny and little information on his/her proper care.
Thankfully, bunny whisperer Cindy Stutts offers up many ways to indulge a child’s affinity for bunnies while avoiding the pitfalls of impulsive pet-store purchases that are harmful to bunnies and families. Here are a few alternatives she suggests:
- Give a shelter gift certificate. It is never a good idea to give any animal as a surprise gift. But a gift certificate that covers an adoption fee is a great way to preserve the element of surprise while also allowing time to make an informed choice. The family can visit the shelter together and become educated on care needs while also getting assistance in choosing an animal that’s right for them.
- Foster a rabbit or bonded pair for a shelter or rescue.
- Buy a toy stuffed rabbit - some rescues sell them to help raise funds for bunnies in need.
- Check with bunny rescues to inquire about events where kids can visit and pet the bunnies.
- Sponsor a bunny awaiting a forever home.
- Sponsor a sick or injured rabbit who needs help to recover and heal.
So here’s to a Happy Easter, a Happy Passover and a peaceful spring for everyone — especially the bunnies, chicks and humans who love them!
Dr. Pia Salk