San Diego, California - Thousands of baby bunnies purchased as Easter gifts never make it to their first birthday. Many end up taken to animal shelters or abandoned outside where they will surely be prey for a predator. That’s because people doing the purchasing often don’t do the research to learn how to properly care for the little creatures.
“If you are already considering buying a rabbit for an Easter pet, we recommend that you first get the facts on their care, diet and other needs, just like you should do for any animal you bring into your family,” said Department of Animal Services Director Dawn Danielson.
The Department of Animal Services partners with San Diego House Rabbit Society, a domestic rabbit rescue group that spays and neuters rabbits for the County.
“Rabbits are for a lifetime not just for Easter,” said the society’s Judith Pierce. “Rabbits live 10 years or more, as long as a dog, and they are as much work as a dog too.”
Five things to consider before buying a bunny:
1. The bunnies are not going to live in the Easter basket. Often the people selling the baby bunnies mislead people into thinking the rabbits will stay little. On average rabbits grow to be 6 pounds which means they will need proper indoor housing that they can grow into -- not a little starter cage.
Outdoor hutches are not recommended because of predators such as coyotes, foxes, and feral cats. Additionally, fleas, flies and mosquitoes carry deadly diseases for rabbits and they are better protected indoors.
“Outdoor rabbits won’t live a long life span,” Pierce said.
2. A proper diet for a rabbit is essential. Their main food is hay and fresh greens, with just a small amount of pellets. Rabbit owners really need to be careful that they don’t feed a rabbit only pellets because that is almost the equivalent of us eating junky fast food junk.
“Digestion is key with rabbits. They have to have the right food or they literally can die,” said Pierce.
3. Spay and neuter your rabbit. Male rabbits can be neutered at 12 weeks and a female by 16-20 weeks. An unaltered rabbit is driven by hormones and can be an aggressive little monster. They may spray and will chew and dig more if unaltered. New owners will discover that their little bunny has a new sweet disposition and friendly personality after getting spayed or neutered.
Plus , if you don’t get them spayed or neutered and you have two, be aware that pet stores don’t always know how to accurately tell males and females apart. That could result in up to 40 baby bunnies in a six months time if you end up with a male and female!
4. It’s important to check to see if they will get along with children as well as other household pets. Rabbits are not recommended for children younger than 8 years old because they can easily be hurt by rough play. A bunny dropped from a standing height might suffer a broken back.
Generally, rabbits get along fine with cats and some gentle dog breeds.
Pierce recommends choosing a rabbit based on personality, not its looks. A mellower rabbit might be a better fit for a quieter home. A sturdier rabbit would fit better in a more playful home. Animal shelter volunteers or rescue group staff can usually tell a prospective owner about the rabbit’s personality to help them decide.
Once you have done all the research, a rabbit can be a wonderful pet.
“The county has an awesome adoption program. They do an awesome job of caring for (rabbits) and finding them homes,” said Pierce.