ST. GEORGE – Reading the famous story of Peter Rabbit to children as a bedtime story may put bunnies in their dreams and fill them with desires to have a real hippity-hop of their own. Spring decor is replete with bunnies and chicks and both are a tempting choice to surprise children at Easter time.
Indulging a child with a harmless and small bunny will surely light up the child’s face. But after the bunny has been awed and pawed over for a few days, after he eats their homework and chews up their favorite toys, chomps an electric cord or two thinking it’s a tasty vine, scrambles in their arms and scratches them with his very strong hind legs, bunnies are often neglected as the fuzzy fascination wears off.
Bunnies are not the best choice of pet for small children. Bunnies like to keep their feet on the ground whereas children want to hold them and squeeze them like they do the stuffed and velveteen rabbits that they’ve snuggled with in their cribs and mauled in their play pens.
Bunnies don’t like being picked up much, even by those they come to trust. Children move quickly and tend to hover over them and crowd them which gives bunnies fright and flight as their nature sees anything looming over them or hurrying towards them as a predator meaning them harm.
Many a rabbit is brought home with the best of intentions, only to be found hutch-bound and neglected – or worse – a few weeks later. Like any choice of pet, the best are made after careful consideration as to the animal’s suitability for a household and commitment of the pet owner.
Heather Moore manages the Bunny House and Rescue Village at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab. She offered these basic considerations for prospective rabbit owners:
“The first year minimum cost for rabbit care is $1,055.00. Each additional year will be a minimum cost of $730. Again this is the minimum cost for care. You shouldn’t expect to pay less than this and you should definitely be prepared to pay more. Unforeseen veterinary care and animal care such as pet-sitting is not included in these costs. Anyone thinking about bringing a rabbit into their home should consider these costs and make sure they can sufficiently care for the animal.
“Rabbits should have a safe area where they can escape to. This can be an open cage with a solid bottom or an x-pen set up with the rabbits food and water source. A litter box is usually kept in this area too in order to litter train the rabbit to use the hay or litter box in a specific area. Rabbits are fairly easily litter box trainable.
“Another thing people don’t realize is that rabbits need exercise for several hours every day outside of a cage area. This pet is designed for running & jumping!”
Making a child happy is one thing, but after keeping a defenseless and sometimes destructive small animal in the house or relegating it to a hutch of some sort outside, the day comes for many a bunny buyer that this animal is more trouble than its worth and they think to just set it free in a nearby desert or park.
Letting it go into the wild is not a good thing for a domestic bunny. They are not designed to survive out there – not to mention they are a prey animal and will often end up another creature’s dinner.
So don’t waste the money in the first place. After letting the bunny go into the wild you’ve just fed a fox or a coyote a $40 meal. And now you’re left with a little $50 rabbit hutch and a bag of dry pellets (which, incidentally, is not the best choice of food for a bunny in the first place).
Whatever you do, don’t let the rabbit go out into the wild. If they’re not immediately hunted by another animal, the rabbit will die of starvation and/or bad health after experimenting with new wild plants that they’ve never had in their diet before. Domestic rabbits simply do not survive in the wild.
If you’re still determined to bring a bunny home for Easter, think again – consider a chocolate one or a fuzzy stuffed one.
“I would also like to mention the ‘Chocolate Easter Bunny’ campaign,” Moore said, “which encourages people to buy candy bunnies that last 10 minutes versus the real bunnies that have a life span of 10 yrs (or more).”
Live bunnies can make wonderful additions to your family household especially with older children or adults, but they take a fair amount of work and attention to get it mutually right. Given that, they can be trained and integrated into your home in a successful lasting way. For more on bunnies and effective bunny care in your home, visit the House Rabbit Society’s website.
If you’re serious about getting an Easter bunny, a good choice is to adopt one or better yet, two – bunnies bond and find much comfort in being paired. Check with your local shelters – Best Friends’ Bunny House cares for many bunnies in need of forever homes, and Moore and her staff are good consultants to help you decide if your family and home are a good choice for the addition of a couple furry long or floppy eared nose-twitching additions.
St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this article.
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