In my quest to learn more about bunnies, I had the good fortune to speak with Cindy Stutts, an educator for the House Rabbit Society, and bunny parent herself. Not only did she offer invaluable advice for anyone considering getting a bunny but she also has these lovable buns available for adoption. See the end of the blog for adoption info.
According to Cindy, rabbits are fundamentally different from dogs and cats and therefore require an entirely different care-giving approach. We cannot simply apply what we know about cats and dogs to rabbits.
For one thing, rabbits are prey animals in nature. That means they are more fragile and fearful than dogs or cats, both natural predators. While they can be held and cuddled, bunnies may respond fearfully at first, perhaps with a sudden movement or harmless nip that could startle a small child and result in the bunny being dropped. For that reason, a rabbit may not be an ideal companion animal for kids under five.
Impulse Easter pet purchases result in tragic outcomes for thousands of bunnies (and chicks) each year. The majority of those acquired in this manner ultimately end up injured, neglected, multiplying or relinquished to a shelter. While it is understandable that a doting parent might be tempted by the cute little bunnies that fill pet store windows at Easter, I encourage parents to proceed with caution! It is important to use common sense when an eager salesperson downplays the long-term needs of a companion animal. When it comes to indulging a child (which is not always a bad thing), there's a big difference between a candy treat and an animal with lifelong needs.
One of the most important and challenging lessons a parent must pass along are the benefits of making informed decisions rather than impulsive choices. But children learn exactly the opposite when well-meaning parents return home from the pet store with a fragile, un-altered bunny and little information on his/her proper care.
Thankfully, bunny whisperer Cindy Stutts offers up many ways to indulge a child’s affinity for bunnies while avoiding the pitfalls of impulsive pet-store purchases that are harmful to bunnies and families. Here are a few alternatives she suggests:
- Give a shelter gift certificate. It is never a good idea to give any animal as a surprise gift. But a gift certificate that covers an adoption fee is a great way to preserve the element of surprise while also allowing time to make an informed choice. The family can visit the shelter together and become educated on care needs while also getting assistance in choosing an animal that's right for them.
- Foster a rabbit or bonded pair for a shelter or rescue group in your area
- Buy a stuffed rabbit to help raise much needed funds for bunnies in need.
- Check with local sanctuaries and bunny rescues to inquire about Easter events where kids can visit and pet the bunnies.
- Sponsor a bunny awaiting a forever home.
- Sponsor a sick or injured rabbit who needs help to recover and heal.
For other great alternatives and information, be sure to check out Make Mine Chocolate, an initiative focused on reducing the harm that Easter purchases cause bunnies.
So here’s to a Happy Easter, a Happy Passover and a peaceful spring for everyone -- especially the bunnies, chicks and humans who love them!
Dr. Pia Salk
These bunnies are from New York City Animal Care & Control: