• By: Isabel Payne

This Year, Don’t Let Another Easter Bunny Suffer

Each year just after Easter, animal shelters and rabbit rescues get flooded with unwanted and abandoned rabbits. These are just the lucky ones. Every year, despite all the warnings online, people gift live rabbits or chickens at Easter, thinking it’s a fun and whimsical gift to give to their kids or neighbours. Each year, 4 out of 5 rabbits purchased during Easter die or are abandoned before the end of the year. Rabbits that don’t make it to a shelter suffer from neglect, or are “set free”, only to die in the wild.

Most people don’t understand the degree of responsibility which comes with owning a rabbit, and children understand it even less. Rabbits make horrible pets for young children. Like a dog or a cat, they require a lot of attention and affection, but unlike a cat or dog, they need a gentler approach to their care. They are prey animals and may not handle excitement or the introduction of another animal quite as well as a dog may. They are also slow to build trust in their owners, and may not ever let you pick them up!

Before you head out and buy yourself an Easter bunny, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into.

Rabbit Myth #1: Rabbits just need a cage or a hutch.

Rabbits need their space and cannot be left in a cage all day like some other rodents. They need a minimum of 3 hours a day, if not more, to run around and explore outside of their hutch. Remember, rabbits are born to run. Rabbits can be litter trained and with the right amount of rabbit-proofing and supervision, be allowed to roam free around a secure household.

Rabbit Myth #2: Rabbits thrive on their own.

Rabbits are actually very social creatures and do better in pairs. However, it’s often quite difficult to tell the gender of a baby rabbit. Pairing two male rabbits (bucks) together can be disastrous as the two bucks may fight each other, especially if they aren’t neutered. Rabbits also require a lot of interaction with their humans

Rabbit Myth #3: Rabbits don’t need veterinary care.

Rabbits require specialized vets who have trained in lapine health. Most exotic pet vets will be able to treat your rabbit, so talking with your vet before purchasing a bunny is recommended. Rabbits should be fixed to prevent reproduction, sexual aggression and marking in males, as well as reproductive cancers in females. Fixed rabbits are much calmer than their unaltered counterparts and are much easier to train. Vet care can run you a pretty penny over the years, so it is imperative you are able to put funds towards their health and wellbeing.

Rabbit Myth #4: Rabbits only eat grass and carrots.  

Most people think that rabbits should be fed carrots, or even just pellets. In truth, rabbits prefer a varied diet, consisting mostly of high quality dust-free hay. Carrots actually make a poor snack for rabbits as they are high in sugar and calcium and should only be given rarely in small portions. Commercial pellets should also be given sparingly since they are high in protein and can lead to obesity in older rabbits. You can find a list of acceptable foods for rabbits here.

Rabbit Myth #5: Rabbits have short lives.

While this may be the case for wild rabbits, domesticated rabbits can live between 10-12 years, or even longer! Rabbits are a lifetime commitment and require help from you for the entirety of their lifespan. When bringing a rabbit into your life, make sure you, or the rabbit’s future owner is aware of the commitment they will have.

Looking for cheaper and easier Easter rabbits for your children or friends? Chocolate rabbits are an annual favourite, or go for a stuffed rabbit that lasts forever and won’t cost your hundreds every year. Both options are easy to find nation-wide, or can even be purchased online! If you’re still set on a rabbit, make sure you check out the many rabbit rescues, and try to adopt outside of Easter time.

Ontario has many rabbit rescues such as New Moon Rabbit Rescue and Rabbit Rescue Inc. who take in these Easter bunnies and adopt them to homes who are aware of the responsibility. The Ottawa Humane Society also have rabbits, as well as other small animals available for adoption.

This year, let the only forgotten Easter bunnies be of the chocolate variety.