Easter is just around the corner, and many parents are thinking about those special holiday gifts.
If your are considering a pet, think twice, experts say.
Animal experts strongly urge parents not to buy their children living "Easter" bunnies unless they are willing to make a 10-year commitment to properly care for the animals.
Each year, thousands of baby rabbits, chicks and ducks are purchased as Easter gifts only to be abandoned to left at shelters in the days, weeks and months that follow Easter.
In fact, most of the rabbits purchased as Easter pets will never see their first birthday.
Many will die from neglect, while others will be abandoned in local parks or left at animal shelters.
It is irresponsible for pet stores to push rabbits and other so-called Easter animals during the holiday season.
Unless parents are willing to take full responsibility for the new animal, they should buy their children stuffed animals.
Most children want a companion they can hold, carry and cuddle. Baby rabbits are ground-loving creatures who are energetic, playful and voracious nibblers.
Additionally, rabbits are easily frightened by loud noises.
It is unreasonable to expect a small child to make a 10-year commitment to taking care of a rabbit.
All too often, the child loses interest and the rabbit ends up neglected or abandoned.
Since domestic rabbits are not the product of natural selection, they cannot take care of themselves if abandoned in the wild. They will not survive.
In most states, it is a misdemeanor to abandon an animal.
Rabbits are easy to litter box train and incredibly social animals.
They should live indoors and become members of the family.
Additionally, rabbits, like dogs and cats, need physical exercise and mental stimulation and should not spend all of their time locked in a cage.
Further, rabbits are not 'low maintenance' pets and require at least the same amount of work as a cat or a dog.
Animal experts offer a few points to consider before purchasing a rabbit:
- Housing: Rabbits need a roomy indoor cage that is approximately four times the size of the adult rabbit. The cage should have a resting board covering the wire bottom, as the wires can cause sores on the rabbit's feet, and there should be room for a litter box, toys, food and water bowls.
- Playtime: Rabbits need plenty of exercise and should be allowed at least 30 hours of running time per week.
- Outdoors: Rabbits should never be left outdoors unsupervised. They can quickly go into shock and die when approached by predators such as dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes and owls. They can also dig under fences to escape.
- Litter box: Should be in one corner of the rabbit's cage and running space should contain at least one additional box. Use organic dust-free liter. Do not use clay litter, clumping litter, softwood (pine or cedar) litter, or scented litter. These can all be potentially harmful to the rabbit.
- Diet: Rabbits need fresh pellets, water, hay and one to two cups of fresh vegetables each day. Most veterinarians suggest limiting the pellets and feeding two cups of fresh vegetables per five-pound rabbit each day. Rabbits should have fresh oat or timothy hay available 24 hours per day.
- Grooming: Rabbits shed their coat four times per year. Use a flea comb and brush away the excess fur.
In addition, officials say a person who chooses a baby rabbit as a pet must:
- Have lots of time, a house that can stand to be chewed and a stable residence.
- Expect an unneutered/unspayed baby will spray urine on the walls. Know that neutering/spaying (at four to six months) will stop the problem.
- Expect accidents when baby forgets the location of the litter box.
- Allow the energetic young rabbits at least 30 hours per week of free time outside their cage.
- Know that the cute baby will soon be an adult rabbit and may have a different personality.
If you still think you would enjoy sharing your home with a rabbit, contact the local animal shelter. No matter where you live, you are probably within 10 miles of a rabbit who desperately needs a safe indoor home.