If you think purchasing live animals for any holiday is a good idea, please make an informed decision. Live animals for Easter are cute when they fit in your child’s Easter basket, but the truth is that once they outgrow that basket, they often outgrow your child’s interest. Bunnies make great pets for pet parents who have done their research, but they are not “starter pets” by any means. Bunnies require a larger amount of space than you would think, they eat non-stop and have unique health requirements. Unless you are willing to make a 10-year commitment to properly care for an animal, please do not add one to your child’s Easter basket.
Bunnies should be housed indoors. They love to chew on just about anything, so any exercise area/housing needs to be “bunny proofed”. They will chew cords, carpet, and even drywall. For proper socialization, a bunny should have human contact for at least 30 minutes a day at a minimum. Most bunnies prefer to have both feet on the ground, and if you try to pick them up, they might try to escape by jumping out of your arms and possibly scratching you up in the process. They are a prey species and are easily scared therefore they can bolt quickly to get away when they don’t feel comfortable hurting both you and them. They don’t mean to hurt you or your child but are in a hurry to get away. Their bones are very lightweight (normal for a prey species) and if you try to catch them while they are jumping away from you, you might accidentally injure them in the process. Because they are a prey species, they prefer a calm and quiet household to live in.
Rabbits can easily get sick if not fed proper food. They need timothy hay available to them always as well as monitored amounts of fresh veggies and pellets. The hay helps them keep their continuously growing teeth at an appropriate size and shape. Pellets and veggies help them to get nutrients that are lacking from the fibrous hay. To provide them with enrichment, you might consider feeding their pellets and vegetables in Dixie cups or toilet paper tubes. This will provide them with a game of sorts to entertain themselves. Bunnies are smart and enjoy the mental challenge/stimulation. Rabbit stools need to be monitored closely for quality and quantity. It is normal for bunnies to eat their own stool and in fact, it is a necessity to absorb all the nutrients that they need. Most children will find this gross and might not keep a close enough eye on monitoring this process. A change in fecal output might be one of the first indicators of a health issue.
Rabbits require as much veterinary care as dogs and cats. On an annual basis, bunnies should undergo an examination by a veterinarian, have their stool sample evaluated for intestinal parasites (some can be shared with humans), and be vaccinated for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease. We also strongly recommend spaying and neutering bunnies by 6-8 months of age to increase their longevity. The average lifespan of a well-taken care of bunny can range from 10-12 years which is comparable to that of a large breed dog. Are you able to invest in a long-term relationship, providing appropriate food, care, health monitoring, and shelter?
Bunnies that are purchased as gifts for people who are not prepared to fully care for them are often dropped off at animal shelters, kept in unsuited outside cages, or even turned loose into the wild. Setting a domesticated rabbit loose in the wilderness means it won’t have a chance against the weather conditions, injuries, diseases, parasite infestations, or predators. Before buying a bunny for your child’s Easter basket, you should have an informative family meeting asking if everyone is serious about making a 10-year commitment with time, money, energy, and opening your hearts to this exotic companion animal species. If you think you would enjoy sharing your home with a rabbit, please contact your local animal shelter/humane society/rabbit rescue group for information about adopting a rabbit. If you are not sure you can make this kind of commitment, please consider buying your child a chocolate bunny this Easter instead.