Why It's Not A Good Idea To Give A Rabbit As An Easter Gift To A Child
Rabbits are very different from dogs and cats and do not make good pets for children. Many rabbits, chicks and ducklings bought as ‘impulse gifts’ end up unwanted or mistreated. Some are “set free” after the novelty wears off and end up dying of starvation or are killed by predators. These domesticated animals are not equipped to live in the wild. Thousands end up in shelters every year where most are euthanized. In Alabama, selling or giving away baby rabbits is illegal. The bunny law (Code of Alabama, Title 3, Section 3-1-15) also prohibits the sale of chicks and ducklings.
Rabbits are not “low-maintenance” pets and require a long commitment. The average lifespan of a rabbit is 5-10+ years. Sadly, many die an early death because of poor nutrition, lack of exercise and mishandling. They must be picked up in a specific way that supports their fragile bones and spine and this can be difficult for children and even adults. Many rabbits die from spinal injuries due to being dropped and mishandled. In general, rabbits don’t like to be picked up and carried. They are prey animals, unlike a dog or cat, and cannot be expected to behave like one. They can also inflict painful bites and scratches.
It is very important to spay or neuter a rabbit because they can reproduce at just 3 months of age and can get pregnant the day they give birth! Spaying/neutering can prevent cancer of reproductive organs and also get rid of 90% of behavioral problems. Other behavioral problems like excessive chewing and digging can be due to boredom, loneliness and depression.
Rabbits should be kept indoors as members of the family (as they are very social creatures!) in as large an enclosure as possible. They should be given plenty of daily run time outside their cage. Homes must be ‘bunny-proofed’ so that they are safe from household hazards. Rabbits are notorious for chewing and can get into trouble by chewing on electrical cords and poisonous plants. Outdoor housing is not recommended because of weather extremes and outdoor predators. Even if they are protected by wire caging, a rabbit can literally be ‘scared to death’ by a predator. Cages should have solid flooring. Wire mesh is hard on rabbits’ feet and can cause painful sores.
Proper nutrition and veterinary care is a must. Rabbits need unlimited access to good quality hay and fresh greens. Avoid pellets that have colorful bits and seeds mixed in. The Buckeye House Rabbit Society’s website at www.ohare.org is a great resource for guidelines to rabbit care.
Most bunnies given as Easter gifts by well-meaning parents or grandparents die within a few weeks of the holiday. Bringing a new pet into your home requires a commitment. If you are not able or willing to take care of this pet for its lifetime, please think twice about bringing it home! Instead, put goodies in the shape of bunnies and chicks in the Easter baskets or give your child a cute, fluffy stuffed animal that he or she can cuddle!
In addition to being an animal-lover and rabbit advocate, Kyra is a musician and has been a resident of Lakewood for twelve years. She is the flute professor at Hiram College and performs with several orchestras in the region, as well as the Lakewood Hometown Band! She loves gardening and working in the back yard. Kyra is proud to call Lakewood her home!