Many cherished Easter traditions, from the Easter bunny to decorating and hunting for eggs, have been around for centuries. Let’s begin with the infamous Easter Bunny. The exact origin of this mythical mammal is unclear. There’s no story in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature. Nor is there a passage about young children painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with delicious Easter goodies. And real rabbits certainly don’t lay eggs. However rabbits, because they are prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. Easter eggs are linked back to centuries of traditions. The egg, also an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection.
Fast forward to this century. So many parents buy rabbits for their children for Easter, many of whom do not even know the history behind these long eared lagomorphs. Our culture is filled with images of children and rabbits, so most parents see rabbits as low-maintenance starter pets for kids.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before you fill your Easter basket with a live bunny, find out what is involved with caring for this complicated animal companion.
Did you know?
- Rabbits can live ten or more years. That cute bunny you’re thinking of buying for your child on Easter could still be around long after your child has grown into a teen. Should the novelty wear off, you’ll have an adult rabbit in the house who needs your care and attention every day for the next decade or longer.
- They require as much involved, long-term care, and management as a dog or cat; and often more.
- Rabbits are physically delicate and fragile animals. They must be handled with care. This makes them inappropriate for families with very young children. Adults should be the primary caregiver in families with young children.
- We all know that children are energetic and loving, but “loving” to a small child means holding, cuddling, or carrying an animal around. These are precisely the things that frighten and can injure rabbits.
- Rabbits have been known to scratch and bite to protect themselves from well-meaning children, and to defend territory.
- Rabbits are accidentally dropped by children, resulting in broken legs and broken backs. (This is not as uncommon as you would think). I know from personal childhood experience.
- Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets. -They have very specific dietary and housing needs.
- The days of leaving a rabbit in a hutch outside are long gone; that’s now considered borderline neglect.
- Thousands of ex-Easter bunniesare abandoned to shelters and zoos, or thrown into the wild each year when their novelty wears off.
- Rabbits require specialized veterinary care, which means you will need to find a veterinarian who speciliazes in rabbits.
- Rabbits must be spayed or neutered – something else you’ll have to consider (the cost, the stress of the procedure, and your close involvement in the rabbit’s recovery)..
- Rabbits can be messy, so you’ll need to clean their enclosure at least three times weekly.
- Rabbits require regular brushings to remove excess hair and keep their coat in good condition.
- Companion rabbits should live indoors with their human family. Although an outdoor hutch has been the traditional housing for a rabbit, today that is not the case. A backyard hutch forces these social animals to live in unnatural isolation. Rabbits can die of heart attacks from the very approach of a predator. They are prone to overheating as well.
- They may be small, but rabbits require a lot of room for housing and exercise.
- Rabbits need exercise for several hours EVERY day. They are designed for running & jumping!
- Annual cost of one rabbit per year is $730
Is your family ready to commit to all of this??
Our family has always had rabbits. Ever since I can remember my mother and father raised rabbits, and I loved them dearly, but they were the caregivers. When I was old enough to have my first rabbit my parents made sure we had the space, finances, and the dedication to a rabbit. They made sure I was mature enough to take on 100% responsibility. And let me tell you, rabbits are amazing companion animals, but they are a LOT of work. They are wicked smart, very clever, very sensitive to heat and humidity, and sometimes very awnry! They get into everything; plants, wires, shoes, etc. They are prey animals, so sometimes it’s very dangerous to have them in a home with cats and/or dogs.
You really need to consider the risks before you go out and buy that cute bunny.
If your family member has their mind set on getting a rabbit, and you have discussed all of the facts listed above, get a book on rabbit care. Do your research and homework first. Then you can make an informed and well educated decision. If children know what is involved and how high maintenance rabbits or bunnies really are, but are still begging you for a rabbit after the holiday has passed, hop over to the House Rabbit Society for information on bunny rescue groups to find out how to adopt the rabbit (or even better, a bonded pair) of their furry dreams.
Learn more about what is involved with companion rabbit care HERE.