Before buying that bunny for your Easter baskets, think twice

Mr. Skid, April, 2002, St. George, Utah | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

They are soft and fluffy, their noses twitch and their ears turn or flop or both, they hip they hop and they look oh so snuggly. The Easter season is replete with bunny themes and often inspires the idea that a bunny is the quintessential Easter morning surprise for children.

The thing about bunnies is, they don’t lend well to small children and a cat or a dog may be a better choice.  Bunnies prefer to have their feet on the ground, small children want to pick up squeeze and carry a soft furry pet around with them. Bunnies can be fragile, if they scramble out of a child’s arms and drop to the ground, they are easily injured and sometimes irreparably so. Although many have a sweet disposition, not all do – and bunnies that have not been handled much or have been “cage bound” a long time may bite and grunt and resist invasion of their space.

For kids with some maturity, and for adults, bunnies are great pets. They can be litter box trained fairly easily, they can be free roaming (if not all the time, they do need play time outside of a hutch or cage for good periods each day), they can bond with a human in some ways more attentively than many cats but are somewhat more independent that dogs, and they are particularly happy when “bonded” with another bunny (any gender combinations can work for pairing, but the bunnies decide if they’ll take to each other).

In Southern Utah, bunnies are not as common as pets as they are in other places, but they are popping up and snuggling into family systems with more frequency.

Bunnies do not fare well in heat, and therefore will expire during summers here if left outside without adequate shade and a temperature-reducing set up. They do not have a problem with the colder temperatures in wintertime. They are safest and best as house rabbits, kept indoors.

The problem with Easter bunnies is that they are brought into the home in the spirit of the spring season, only to surprise their new owners with some idiosyncrasies and habits that take some time, working through their needs and those of the owners, to make them house and people friendly – adapting a bunny to your home and family, and the bunny adapting to you can take a few months before good habits and systems are developed.

Some examples: To a bunny, an electric cord looks like a vine – and it is of no consequence to them if they chomp on it and kill your computer. Bunnies mark new territory; if they haven’t been fixed some spraying may occur, a sprinkling of little round brown marbles about your house is their way of claiming space.

The House Rabbit Society is one of the best resources for learning how to introduce a bunny into your home, providing careful and proven methods for care, feeding and even bonding a bunny with other pets.

The problem with bunnies bought on impulse, without a careful plan, is that when things don’t go as smoothly as expected, people often neglect them to a hutch, ignored except for offering food and water, or they think to release them into the wild. Either way, an unwanted bunny’s fate is not good.  It will either be unhappy or it will not survive. And this pattern of buy and release has given rise to many rabbit rescue organizations across the nation.

Rabbits are a prey animal, and it stands to reason that their future is short when released in the wild for that reason as well as the fact that their domestic nature doesn’t equip them for survival – the white and black, grey and brown, fluffy, velvety, sweet bunnies you find in a pet store or an animal shelter were not born to be wild.

Outdoor bunnies at people’s homes can be very happy and well secured, but they can also be vulnerable to predators. Hawks, owls, raccoons, dogs, cats, coyotes, even skunks, will gladly enjoy tousling with your rabbit – or worse. Many animals have no difficulty breaking into your bunny’s outdoor hutch and when they do, your bunny doesn’t stand a chance.

Locally, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab is both the nation’s largest no-kill shelter and the leading savior of rabbits in Southern Utah. The facility’s Bunny House is currently home to over 200 critters waiting for adoption, including many bonded pairs. This overflow of animals in need is mostly attributed to lack of spaying and neutering, or inexperienced owners ”giving up” their pets shortly after acquiring them.

“The rabbit department at (our) sanctuary is full right now,” said Barbara Williamson, media relations manager for the organization. “(We encourage people) not to adopt a rabbit on a whim as most shelters are full and releasing them into the wild is not an option. Committing to pet ownership is an important decision and shouldn’t be done without forethought. ”

Of the five municipal shelters in Washington County, only the Saint George Animal Control accepts rabbits, though they currently have none up for adoption. Hurricane-based rescue group Because Animals Matter will also take in strays and assist them in finding a home.


St. George News writer, Alexa Morgan, contributed to this article.

email: [email protected]

twitter: @JoyceKuzmanic

Copyright 2012 St. George News. 

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