Let The Games Begin!

invitation PPG

Today is the “opening day” of a brand new, fun competition and you are invited!

Event Details

Who:  You! Your friends! Your family! Your colleagues! Your coworkers! And of course, your animal companions (pets)!

What:  The International Day of Celebration for Force Free Training & Pet Care

When:  Friday, January 17, 2014 – Saturday, March 15, 2014

Where:  In your own home, in the backyard, at the beach, in the mountains, in the forest, in the wetlands, in your neighborhood, at the pool, or at the park! Anywhere you can think of! This is an International Virtual Educational Event, so they possibilities are endless!

Why:  The community of force-free pet professionals and animal guardians recognize, value, and celebrate the positive effects and power of force-free animal training and pet care! We want to share that knowledge with the world and teach others that Force-Free is the way to be!

HostThe Pet Professional Guild

All profits from this event go to the Pet Professional Guild Advocacy Fund for PPG’s advocacy goals in 2014:

The Pet Professional Guild, the Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals (The PPG or The Guild), is a nonprofit member organization headquartered in Bonifay FL, USA. The PPG represents over 1600 members around the world.  The mission of PPG World Services is “Global News & Views on Force-Free Pet Care” and will serve as an advocacy forum for force-free dog training and pet care issues. The key advocacy goal of the PPG is to facilitate an ongoing conversation with pet owners, pet care professionals and industry stakeholders aimed at moving the pet industry forward toward better informed practices, training methods, equipment use and pet care philosophies. The Guild’s message will strive to build widespread collaboration and acceptance of force-free methods and philosophies consistent with its guiding principles.

If you are wondering what all of this means, here it is very simply; Force-Free is defined as:

No shock, No pain, No choke, No fear, No physical force, No physical molding, No compulsion based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.

Animals can be trained without fear, force, or intimidation. That includes ALL pets, ALL animals, ALL species, ALL the time!  Training can and should be FUN for everyone!

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Participation in this global event is simple.  All you have to do is participate in any 30 minute Force-Free Fun Activity with your pet!  Take a walk or a jog, swim or hike, bike or skate, train and teach, but the idea is to spend 30 minutes of Force-Free Fun with your animal companion!  This can be anything and anywhere that you decide. Where do they love to go? What do they enjoy doing? What’s your favorite place to be with them?  Do it when and where it’s convenient for you!

Note: If you don’t have time to complete your chosen event all at once, you can split it up over several days.

force free fun training pet tricks

Photo Fun!

Participants are encouraged to submit photos showing what they did for their fun, chosen event. The photos will be judged on these three criteria:

  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • How much force-free fun the human and pet are having together (this one is strongly encouraged!) Fun is the key!

What’s In It For You!

Each participant will receive:

  • A special competitor medal for your companion animal!
  • A certificate to show off that you rocked the contest!
  • Entry to the fun photograph competition!
  • PRIZES!

Get a sneak peak of the awesome prize list here! And remember to check back as more goodies are added to the list!

Register today to help celebrate and educate others about this important event. Through education and celebration, we can help others learn the value and importance of force-free training and animal companion care methods.  Education and inspiration starts with you!  Won’t you join the fun, Force-Free revolution with us?

Note: The registration deadline is March 3rd. So be sure to add your name to the fun, force-free list today!

paw print
  • We welcome and encourage you to check out the pet owner resource section of The Pet Professional Guild website! You will find tons of helpful resources! You can also listen to a few of the PPG’s free podcasts on iTunes here.
  • If you are still wondering why our Pet Professional Guild has proclaimed An International Day of Celebration for Force Free Training and Pet Care, check out this video and our news release here!  
PPG Web Header
Please spread the word to everyone you know!  Download the event poster here and feel free to share it with your networks and community!

If you are interested in sponsoring the event or becoming involved on any level then please contact Niki Tudge at IFCC@PetProfessionalGuild.com


If you missed the event, don’t worry! We will have another event in February of 2015!!!

… Stay tuned and never miss another event by joining us at The Pet Professional Guild!

Will you become Force-Free All the time?
Will you become Force-Free All the time?

Emotional Eating In Animals

Image

Jack Sprat he loved no fat,
and his wife she lov’d no lean:
And yet betwixt them both,
they lick’t the platters clean.

English Proverb (1670)

The American waistline isn’t the only thing that’s a growing problem.  Companion animals are packing on the pounds as well.   Studies show that up to 60 percent of companion dogs and cats are obese or overweight.  They are actually in worse shape than we are, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of Americans are obese.  You do the math.

What’s most surprising is that calories and laziness are not the only factors causing this epidemic in animals.   If an animal in your home puts on weight, you might assume it is simply the result of an animal with a voracious appetite combined with an indulgent owner.  New evidence is showing us otherwise.

obese cat
Stress eating is quite common in humans but until recently, it was not considered a prime cause of domestic animal obesity.

According to the research review, published recently in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, companion animals can use food as a “coping mechanism” to deal with “emotional distress”.  Many pets are becoming obese because they are prone to “emotional eating”, where they eat in an attempt to dispel feelings of unhappiness and stress.

Comfort or stress eating in humans involves specific kinds of foods. These can range from sweet to salty, crunchy or soft.  However animals will usually eat whatever and whenever.  Their stress eating doesn’t involve any particular food. They just eat a lot of their normal food, explains Dr. Franklin McMillan, a vet and former clinical professor of medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine:

Research shows that animals, like humans, can eat too much, not necessarily out of hunger, but also a result of “disinhibition” – whereby overeating is in response to stimuli other than internal hunger cues, such as stress. ~ Dr. Franklin McMillan

He also cites earlier studies to show that some animals offered an abundance of food do not overeat, as well as others showing a link between stress and negative emotions and eating. McMillan identifies several triggers to an animal’s stress eating. Some of these triggers are boredom, anxiety and depression. He also addresses skeptical animal guardians who think their pets are only happy when their faces are buried in a food dish, by explaining that research on pet obesity suggests overeating can be a sign of a pet’s pleasurable emotional state, or an animal mind “in turmoil.”

some pets use food as a coping mechanism to cope with emotional distress
Some animals use food as a coping mechanism to cope with emotional distress

The review makes one other thing clear — we need to change the way we think about pet obesity. Simply taking the food dish away or running your dog around the block aren’t necessarily going to address the underlying causes of stress eating.  Not all instances of pet obesity are tangled up in a pet’s emotional distress (some pets are just gluttons, and some owners are just irresponsible) so it’s important to recognize that one cause of an animal’s obesity is that the animal is eating more than it requires, the excess is stored as fat, hence the animal becomes overweight.  By overfeeding an improper diet that contains too much fat, too many carbohydrates and too many snacks without proper exercise will lead to obesity.  However, McMillan’s article shows that, just like with human obesity, pet obesity is probably way more complex than we realize.

 

Dr McMillan, who now works for Best Friends Animal Society, says the findings are such that they should change the way obesity in cats and dogs is addressed.  Rather than simply reducing the amount of food they can eat and increasing their exercise, guardians and veterinarians need to address the animal’s underlying emotional problems.  By simply putting an “emotional eater”on a diet, they could make the situation worse; taking away the animal’s “coping mechanism” and making the animal even more unhappy – and even hungrier.

The bottom line is that there is a ton of evidence in humans and animals like rodents that stress induced eating, or emotional eating is a very real thing and contributes to obesity, so we should be looking at it in “pet” animals.  If this is a major factor in our pet animals, then the standard approach, by simply yanking away their food, is very misguided and potentially harmful.  The indicators show that obesity is rising in humans and in pets. How much is attributable to emotional factors – that is the great unknown. 

fat ginger tabby
Fat animals are not cute. Obese pets are at serious risk for health problems and being overweight is damaging to their overall well being.

The United States is not the only country to see an increase in waistlines of humans and animal companions.  Two thirds of veterinary professionals in Europe say that pet obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals throughout Europe, with 96% of those questioned identifying early death as the most serious consequence of the condition.  Britain’s obesity crisis has claimed a new victim – the nation’s horses.  A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour found that a third of recreational riders were too obese for their mounts, leaving the animals at risk of several welfare conditions.

The United States is not the only country to see an increase in waistlines of humans and animal companions.  Two thirds of veterinary professionals in Europe say that pet obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals throughout Europe, with 96% of those questioned identifying early death as the most serious consequence of the condition.  Britain’s obesity crisis has claimed a new victim – the nation’s horses.  A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour found that a third of recreational riders were too obese for their mounts, leaving the animals at risk of several welfare conditions.

To address this weighty problem, the first Animal Obesity Clinic geared especially for our animal companions has opened its door!  Created by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, The Tufts’ Veterinary Obesity Clinic will tap the strengths of the Cummings School’s nutrition service, a 15-year-old clinical, teaching and research service located at its Grafton, Mass., Foster Hospital for Small Animals — one of the nation’s busiest teaching hospitals.


 FAT FACTS

  • Triggers to an animal’s Stress Eating can be boredom, anxiety, general stress and depression.
  • Obese cats are more likely to be living in houses with only one or two cats.
  • Dogs in single dog households were more likely to be fat. Female dogs seem to be more susceptible to obesity than male ones.
  • Vets say over half the pets they see are overweight and most guardians are surprised to hear this news.
  • The obesity rate is at least 25% in cats and 45% in dogs.
  • Eight out of 10 dog, cat, and rabbit guardians believe that their animal is just the right weight, although when asked which of a series of pictures most closely resembled their pet, only 33% of dog guardians and 23% of cat guardians chose the “normal weight” picture.
  • Breeds prone to obesity: Labrador retriever, cairn terrier, cavalier king charles, Scottish terrier, cocker spaniel and in cats, the domestic shorthair. (For the record I would like to nominate the orange tabby cat to be added to this list.)

being overweight can lead to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.
Animal obesity leads to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.

Animals Are Not Meant to Be Chubby!

In the video below, Rollin’ Safari shows a series of four animated shorts created as an animation project by students from Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, a film school in Germany.  Each short puts a humorous spin on animals seen in the wild by making them extremely bloated and round.  As humorous and clever as the clips are, they are not far from the truth of what is happening with the animals that we share a home with.

You can learn more about this project at CGSociety.

obese fat pets emotional eating

 Tools You Can Use

To tackle the companion animal obesity issue The Pet Food Manufacturers Association PFMA launched an obesity prevention campaign.  The aim is to raise awareness of companion animal obesity by asking animal guardians to take action on 4 simple things:

1.  Read the feeding guidelines on the pet food packet 

2. Monitor your animal’s weight on a regular basis and adjust the amounts fed accordingly

3. Use a Pet Size-O-Meter for cats, dogs and rabbits.  (This is a user friendly version of the Body Condition Score Chart used by pet professionals).

Being a Conscious Companion means we monitor the health of our companion animals
Being a Conscious Companion means we monitor the health of our companion animals

Download the Size-O-Meters for all species in your home:

4. Track Their Health – Keep track of your companion animals health using these:

fat_bunny
Companion rabbits suffer from obesity too

It can be difficult to judge a rabbit’s body condition visually because their thick fur can hide prominent bones or disguise fat.  You will need to feel your rabbit so you can tell what is underneath the fluff.  A rabbit in healthy weight should have a smooth curve from neck to tail, and from hip to hip. You should be able to feel the spine and ribs but they should feel rounded not sharp – like they have a thin layer of padding.  It is normal, for females, to have a roll of fur under the chin. This is called a dewlap. It can look like fat but should just feel like a fold of skin when gently felt.  Learn more about how to determine and maintain healthy rabbit weight here and here.

 

Why You Should Be Proactive and Involved

We love our animals and we give them the best care possible, but unfortunately many of them are overweight. As their guardians we want to keep them happy, healthy and safe, so it’s easy to be embarrassed when one of your animals puts on the pounds like they are storing up for the next Ice Age. If one of your companion animals is putting on the pounds, remember that you are not alone. I am the first to admit that we have an obese cat. We have tried everything from prescription foods, holistic medicine, monitoring his food intake, increasing his physical activity and everything else you can imagine, but genetics and his love of food are winning the battle of the bulge. After discovering this study about emotional eating in animals I now firmly believe that this cat is a prime example of an animal who eats to comfort himself. Humans do it, so why wouldn’t animals? The question is how do we help them? What can we do to help their emotional needs, other than placing more food in front of them?
What about your animal family? Do you have a porky pooch, a hefty horse, a ravenous rabbit, a fat feline, or a big bird?
Do you think their extra pounds are due to a sedentary lifestyle and the foods they consume, or could they be an emotional eater?

 


SOURCES:

http://www.pfma.org.uk

http://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-obesity-campaign/

http://www.therabbithouse.com

http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/animals-are-becoming-obese-like-us-says-study.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9950467/Easy-rider.-Why-horses-are-feeling-the-strain-of-Britains-obesity-crisis.html

April’s Fool on Us

When my brother Jason and I were in high school we lived with quite the menagerie: three dogs and a rabbit – oh, and a mom and dad, too.  The dogs and rabbit were as different from each other as they could be, yet they all somehow managed to get along.  The loudest, biggest and last to join the pack (yes, the rabbit was part of the pack) was April. My brother and I were given permission by our mother to find a dog from the local shelter.  She gave us instructions to adopt a “small to medium dog.”  Well, we fell in love with this lanky black and white “lab mix.”  Less than six months later, April weighed nearly 60 pounds and had another 60 pounds to go.  It turned out that she was a Great Dane, Labrador, pit bull mix.  So much for a small dog.  April was born on April Fool’s day, and she certainly lived up to it.

Sadie cat and April enjoying each other's company on my mother's porch in Orlando
Sadie Cat and April enjoying each other’s company on my mother’s porch in Orlando (Sadie adopted  our family later, and taught April to love cats.)

Our menagerie was mischievous to say the least.  Starch, the one-lop-eared rabbit, was always looking for Penny, the beagle-Springer mix.  Starch enjoyed searching around the house, going from room to room looking for Penny.  While Penny was peacefully sleeping, Starch would risk life and limb by creeping up and nipping Penny on the leg.  Then she would hop away as quickly as she could – probably silently laughing as she bounded onto the porch, with Penny chasing her all the way.  April enjoyed stalking Starch and taunting her as well.  Maggie, the meekest of the bunch, was happy just being my shadow.

As the years went by, everyone settled into their daily routines.  Weekends were fairly uneventful, unless April got bored.  I remember the day “it” first happened.  My brother Jason and I were watching T.V. and we heard a panicked bark coming from my bedroom.  We knew it was April, because we could tell by the deep, loud barking, except she sounded more like a puppy.  She was whining and she sounded scared.

We rushed back to my room to discover that April had somehow managed to squeeze her 120 pound body between the wall and the backside of my waterbed.  She had crawled into the narrow space behind the bed and was now facing the wall, unable to back up or go forward.  Because the bed was a water bed, there was no way to physically move it. So we knew that we had to convince April, who was now starting to panic, to “back up!”, but it was not working.  She would try to shimmy backward then she would panic and go forward even more. Eventually she made her way to the wall, and then somehow squeezed around the sharp left turn at the “dead end” of the bed frame and was now heading down the side of the bed along the wall.  She was utterly and completely stuck, and now she was really freaking out.  We had to think of a solution quickly and act fast.  She could really injure herself.

We tried her favorite treats, but she was not taking the bait.  We tried calling her name excitedly, but it was no use.  It just made her more frantic.  We tried cheering, ringing the doorbell, getting her best pal Penny to come in, but none of it worked.  She was still panicked and still not moving!

Then it hit me!  April HATES nail polish remover!  We figured what the heck, it’s gonna be awful and she might completely freak out, but we are desperate at this point.  So I soaked a cotton ball with the powerful solution and stuck it right in front of that giant, sensitive black nose.  That dog moved backward so fast, you would have thought she was on fire!  She made it to the sharp left turn then stopped.  I shoved it into her face again and she cleared the corner and shimmied backward out of that crawl space as if her life depended on it!  April was finally safe!  We did it and she freed herself!  We were nearly in tears and so relieved that she was unharmed, except for a few traumatized nasal receptors.  My family and I were all so glad that was over, but we couldn’t help but wonder how and why that happened; it must have been one of those freak accidents.

Less than a month later we learned how wrong we all were; there were other forces at play.

The 120 pound Mischief Maker
The 120 pound Mischief Maker

Yesterday I was reminded of how mischievous animals can be, and how easily we humans can be misled by the animals we share our homes with.

The video below reminded me of our sweet (yet clever), mischievous April.  The video describes the scene as this:

“With the summer heat, Darwin sometimes likes to sleep on the cool tiles in the bathroom.  Every once in awhile, he gets trapped in there and scratches at the door to ask for help to get out.  Feeling bad for the little guy, I usually gave him a cuddle and a treat, until one day, when he got trapped a few times right after getting freed.  So I grabbed my camera and this happened…”

Amazing isn’t it?  Animals are so clever!  I laughed so hard when I saw this video, because it was all too familiar, and I thought about how long Darwin had their humans fooled until she caught him on film!

Ok, back to April’s “Help me I’m stuck!” story.  About a month later after freeing her from the doggie crawl space from hell, all was quiet and relaxed at the house, until we hear that same panicked barking coming from my bedroom again.  Lo and behold, April was somehow stuck behind the water bed again, but HOW?  And WHY?  So we tried everything again, and 10 minutes into it, we decide to break out the Eau de poison perfume again.  It worked like a charm.  April freaked with one whiff of the nail polish and she was out of there.  Free at last!  Free at last!  April Davis was free at last!

Again, my family and I discussed what could be the reason behind this behavior.  What was luring her back there?  Was there food back there?  Was it a mouse?  Was it a cool toy or ball that she dropped? What was it that made her get stuck again?  She was clearly terrified while being stuck, so whatever it was, it had to really be worth getting herself into that situation.

A few weeks later, it happened again.  We could not believe it.  So of course we went through the whole fiasco again, with the same “tools” and the same results.  Then, less than five minutes after April was rescued, we caught her crawling back in there!  We couldn’t believe what we were seeing!  She was doing this on purpose!!  Why?  I will tell you.  She loved the attention.  It was the best cure for her boredom.  We were astonished to learn that she would endanger her safety and security for attention.

We started to put the pieces together.  April would start by bringing out any of our stuffed toys from our bedrooms.  Then we would stop her.  Then she would gallop by with one of mom’s house shoes.  We would end that game.  Then she would take it up and notch and run by with one of Jason’s prized baseball hats, then one of my favorite shoes.  We would redirect her to her “chewy”, and then … she would raise the stakes of mischief and head to crawl space behind the waterbed.  We would certainly have to pay attention to her then!  She knew how to play us all like a tune.  She had us all fooled with her shenanigans.  The joke was on us and we fell for it every time.

I eventually built a huge April blockade so she couldn’t do it anymore, but she tried.  Oh, she tried. We found other ways to give her appropriate attention that didn’t involve rescues.

One of April's famous "crazy faces" when she was feeling frisky
April’s famous “crazy face” when she was feeling frisky

April was one of the greatest and most amazing dogs that I have ever known.  When she passed on a few years ago, my mother, brother and I were heartbroken.  She was an incredibly dynamic member of our family, and a gentle sibling to a cat, two dogs, and a rabbit that all loved her as much as we did.  April kept us laughing, smiling and on our toes, even up until she moved on into Spirit.

When I think of animal intelligence, clever animals, devoted dogs, and beloved family members, I think of our sweet April.  Thank you for coming into our lives, April.  You made life richer and fuller for all of us.  We love you and miss you every day.  High Paw to you, Big Girl.

beautiful family dog April Davis lab pit bull mix
April Big Girl Davis  (April 1996 – April 2010)

Do you live with mischievous animals?  Have you ever been fooled by a clever critter?  

Please share your stories with us!

Ask and It Is Given: Why Force-Free Is the Way to Go!

Rabbit Agility Has Become a Very Popular Sport!
Rabbit Agility Has Become a Very Popular Sport!

Why would you force someone to do something when you can just ask them politely?

This is what many animal trainers have been trying to teach the public (and our fellow “old school” trainers and colleagues for years). Thankfully, now we are seeing it happen in almost every species!

Rabbits are one of the many species to benefit from force-free training. Rabbits can be trained to do amazing things!  They are incredibly intelligent, clever, and engaging companion animals.  They are often underestimated.  As their guardians, it’s necessary to provide them with proper medical care, a proper diet, and daily exercise.  Some even exercise their rabbits with rabbit agility!  You can watch these Agility Rabbits in action here!

It’s also important that we teach our rabbits how to safely interact with you and the other animals in the house, and how to be trusting and well behaved. Force-free training is the answer to all of these goals.  However, as frisky and as playful as rabbits are, most do not enjoy being picked up or restrained.  Where do you think the phrase “Rabbit Kick” came from?  In order to maintain a relationship based on mutual trust, it’s important to train your bunny buddy with positive reinforcement.

Check out this video from Barbara Heidenreich at Bunny Training.  It’s a wonderful presentation of a relaxed rabbit getting her nails trimmed, willingly!  No force is needed!  These simple, effective training techniques can help you to maintain your bond, increase trust, and make simple tasks like nail trims fast, effortless, painless, and easy!

Training Tip:  The video demonstrated that by pairing one of the rabbit’s favorite things (head petting) with touching her back toenails, the guardian was able to make nail trimming a pleasant experience for everyone!

This same technique is how I conditioned our 4 cats, turtle, and dog to allow me to trim their nails. They are never restrained.  They do it willingly.  I ask, and they give!  Positive reinforcement training is all about making the process easy and enjoyable for the animal.  This helps to maintain a wonderful, trusting relationship between you and your companion animals. And it makes your job easier as their guardian!

Why force an animal to do something when you can ask?  Why break the bond and lose their trust by using force?  If a rabbit can be taught to offer her nails for trimming, you can teach your cat, dog, parrot, or pig to do the same!

Do you have any medical or behavioral success stories or training techniques that you would like to share? Please post your positive success stories in the comments below!

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” ― Albert Einstein

Spare a Rabbit. Say NO to Bunnies this Easter

Spare a Rabbit by Saying NO to Bunnies this Easter

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.

Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots
Bunnies, eggs, and Easter gifts stem from pagan roots. They are ancient symbols for fertility and new life
The origin of the Easter Bunny can be traced back to 13th-century pre-Christian Germany
The origin of the Easter Bunny can be traced back to 13th-century pre-Christian Germany

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. 

easter_eggs
Consider getting a special painted egg as a gift for Easter this year.

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.

    Our rabbit Ezra
    Our rabbit Ezra
  • 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??

The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility. Feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox.  Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.
The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility. Feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.

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.

Our rabbit getting into my mom's newly planted plants on the patio
Our rabbit getting into my mom’s newly planted plants on the patio

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.

Starch, our family rabbit lived for over a decade! She was loved dearly, but  she was a handful to say the least!
Starch, our family rabbit lived for over a decade! She was loved dearly, but she was a handful to say the least! (in her youth on the left, and in her senior years on the right).

Learn more about what is involved with companion rabbit care HERE.  

EC 16
If bunnies were advertised like this, I have a  hunch that it would cut down on the numbers of pet rabbits bought on a whim during this time of year

Spare a Rabbit. Say NO to Bunnies this Easter

Spare a Rabbit by Saying NO to Bunnies this Easter

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.

Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots
Bunnies, eggs, and Easter gifts stem from pagan roots. They are ancient symbols for fertility and new life
The origin of the Easter Bunny can be traced back to 13th-century pre-Christian Germany
The origin of the Easter Bunny can be traced back to 13th-century pre-Christian Germany

Fast forward to this century and now people 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 many 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.

easter_eggs

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.
  • Rabbits are physically delicate and fragile animals.  They must be handled with care.  This makes them inappropriate for families with young children.  Adults should be the primary caregiver.
  • 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 rabbits.
  • Rabbits can’t cry out when distressed.  Instead, they may start to scratch or bite to protect themselves from well-meaning children.
  • Many rabbits are accidentally dropped by children, resulting in broken legs and broken backs.  This is not as uncommon as you would think.
  • Rabbits are not low-maintenance pets.  -They have very specific dietary and housing needs.
  • Thousands of ex-Easter bunnies are abandoned to shelters or thrown into the wild each year when their novelty wears off.
  • They require specialized veterinary care and they must be spayed or neutered.
  • Rabbits can be messy, so you’ll need to clean their enclosure at least twice weekly.
  • They 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
The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility. Feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox.  Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.
The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility. Feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.

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 the details of what is involved with companion rabbit care HERE.  

EC 16
If bunnies were advertised like this, I have a  hunch that it would cut down on the numbers of pet rabbits bought on a whim during this time of year