If you’re not ready for a pet commitment, stick to adopting chocolate bunnies this Easter | Entertainment/Life

As we prepare for Easter, many families may be considering welcoming a bunny into the family, much like people enjoy getting a new puppy for Christmas. Bunnies, however, require a lot of work.

If you’ve done your homework and are prepared for the long-term commitment that comes with having a bunny for a pet, great! They will bring joy to the family for many years to come.

However, most people do not think this new addition through, and once the novelty wears off, the cute little bunny can quickly become more of a burden than a blessing if reality doesn’t match what you thought owning a bunny would be like.

Each year, after Easter, rabbits are surrendered in droves to shelters or even just set free outdoors to fend for themselves — where they will not survive.

This is because, contrary to popular belief, they are not low-maintenance pets. They just need as much care and attention — if not more — as cats and dogs do. Also, rabbits are not ideal pets for small children, as they are fragile and can bite.

Domesticated rabbits are not the same as the wild bunnies we see in nature. A pet rabbit will not survive in the wild if it is turned loose in a park, the woods, etc. They also cannot just be left in a cage in the backyard. They are sensitive to temperature and cannot handle cold or heat.

Here are some things to consider before bringing home a bun bun this Easter:

  • Long-term commitment: A rabbit’s life span is 10-12 years.
  • Vet care is required from a veterinarian trained to treat rabbits. They are prone to several health issues and will need regular checkups.
  • Continual grooming means bunnies can get hairballs, like cats do. Unlike cats, however, rabbits cannot vomit, and swallowing an excessive amount of hair can be fatal.
  • Regular brushing is needed to keep the swallowed hair to a minimum.
  • A flea preventive approved for rabbits is needed.
  • Spaying/neutering and vaccinations are recommended.
  • A special diet and specific housing are required.
  • Caution, exercise and room to roam and play are needed. Rabbits cannot be left in a cage and just fed and watered.
  • They have distinct personalities. Some are cuddly and like to be held, but others are not.
  • Plan for an adjustment period if cats and dogs are in the home. Existing pets can be frightening for a rabbit and cause stress. Also, consider if the existing four-legged family members will be bunny-friendly.
  • Bunnies must live indoors to be safe from the elements, diseases and predators.
  • Litter box training is possible.
  • Rabbits have high social demands and often do best in pairs.
  • A lot of “stuff” is required: pellets, fresh water, hay, fresh veggies, grooming products, proper housing, toys, litter and supplies, carrier, etc. The list goes on.
  • During hurricane season, be prepared to evacuate with your bunny and all its luggage.
  • Do your homework. A good resource for learning more about rabbits and what their care involves is rabbit.org.

If you’re ready for a bunny and understand the responsibilities and commitment that come with owning one, they can make wonderful and entertaining pets!

I currently have the best of both worlds, as we have a wild bunny that visits every evening, so I get to admire him from afar without the responsibility of taking care of him.

Ready to find a bunny of your own? The local parish shelter is a good place to start your search. There are also several rabbit rescues. If you can wait a bit, many “Easter” bunnies will be looking for homes come May.

TRaci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO), a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For topic suggestions, email animalrescuecolumn@gmail.com or for more info on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.

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