go to What's New | homepage
Easter is Not for Bunnies -- and Bunnies are Not for Kids
by Bill Pryse, North Georgia
Reprinted with permission
Easter bunny for the kids sound like a good idea? Only if you find cruelty and suffering enjoyable. Placing a bunny into the care of a small child usually means a death sentence for the rabbit -- either slow death from neglect after the child loses interest and the rabbit is relegated to a short life in an undersized cage, or gruesome death from becoming easy prey after being tossed outdoors to fend on his own. Or perhaps he will experience a slightly more humane form of execution after his time is up at the nearest pound. The sad truth is that most rabbits presented to children as Easter gifts live only brief, miserable existences before being claimed by neglect, abandonment or euthanasia.
Despite what the pet store clerk or roadside rabbit vendor may say about rabbits not getting sick, not needing shots, and being low maintenance pets, consider the following facts before presenting that adorable ball of fur to little Susie:
Unlike their cartoon counterparts, domestic rabbits are not cuddly and submissive. Although most enjoy being petted and groomed while their feet are on the floor, rabbits intuitively are ground dwellers who become frightened when picked up, held or restrained. Rabbits are also very sensitive creatures. So sensitive in fact, that they can be literally scared to death -- frightened to death by loud noises such as the squeals produced by the natural exuberance of toddlers, or by the barking of dogs. And rabbits have very fragile bones. Many children have unwittingly caused fatal injuries while coddling their new pets. A bunny screaming in agony from a broken back is a heart-wrenching wakeup to the reality that rabbits are not low-maintenance pets suitable for small children.
Bunnies who survive the brief initial enthusiasm of being new family pets eventually grow up. And like most animals, adult rabbits are not nearly as cutesy as babies. And when the new wears off and when the cute matures away, the Easter bunny typically becomes doomed to either neglect or abandonment. When the family no longer has time for him, the unfortunate creature may be consigned to a year or so in an outdoor cage or hutch before succumbing to boredom, climate and malnutrition. Or he may simply be "set free" in the backyard or released in the woods where a domestic rabbit has no chance of survival. More "compassionate" owners might go to the trouble of dropping off an unwanted former pet at the humane society where he will be better off for six months before being "put to sleep."
So, do rabbits not make good pets? On the contrary, domestic rabbits make excellent companions given the right conditions: suitable indoor environment, proper nutrition and health care, and a responsible adult as primary caregiver. Domestic rabbits must live indoors fulltime with plenty of free roaming space. But, rabbits are instinctively inquisitive, and houses must be "bunny-proofed" to keep them out of trouble. Rabbits are vegetarians, but they cannot subsist on carrots and lettuce. A variety of leafy greens, hay, and pellets of specific formula are staples that are absolutely necessary for balanced nutrition.
And rabbits do sometimes get sick -- all animals are susceptible to disease. Diarrhea, for example, can be fatal to a rabbit in just a few days. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous pet store owners and roadside vendors perpetuate the most dreaded of rabbit diseases in exchange for a fast buck, either knowingly or unknowingly. Though not transmissible to humans, pasteurella is the bunny equivalent of AIDS, and is a bunny's (and bunny companion's) worst nightmare. Rabbits are also vulnerable to a variety of less serious maladies including common parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites. Prevention and treatment of injury and disease also requires a veterinarian, but not just any vet. Most vets are general practitioners who are oriented toward dogs, cats and farm livestock, but are not trained in the physiology of rabbits or other "exotic" pets. Common veterinary medications and procedures that are suitable for most other domestic animals may unknowingly be applied to Thumper with adverse or even fatal results. Bunny's health care should be entrusted only to a vet specialist who has completed training and is certified in the treatment of rabbits and exotic animals.
For serious prospective bunny companions who may be willing to put forth the necessary time and effort to properly care for a house rabbit, adoption from a shelter is a much better alternative than purchase from a pet shop or roadside vendor. The House Rabbit Society and other non-profit rabbit-rescue groups have many adorable bunnies available for adoption. The shelter providers have already taken care of many details in advance, and the bunnies have all been spayed or neutered and given thorough checkups by qualified rabbit vets.
What is really required of a rabbit owner? Well, the animal's adoption fee, a bag of pellets and a cage are only the tip of the iceberg. Prospective bunny companions should be prepared to fork over at least a couple hundred dollars in initial purchases and services to make bunny's life comfortable and pleasant. Moreover, rabbits are not "low maintenance" pets. Considerable time and effort must be expended in support of your newfound fuzzy friend. And what do you get in return? You receive the unconditional love of a very personable, independent and entertaining companion.
In summary, and in reality, bringing home a bunny is a commitment for his ten-year normal lifespan. So, if honoring that prerequisite ten-year commitment is the least bit doubtful, then please do the biggest possible favor for bunnies and bunny lovers everywhere -- buy little Susie a toy bunny instead.
Easter is Not for Bunnies -- and Bunnies are Not for Kids
go to beginning | What's New | homepage
This page is maintained by David Sharpe (oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~sharpe)
Please send comments to
All rights reserved