With the spring holidays upon us, many a bunny, a baby chick and even a young child are at the mercy of us adult humans to model how best to respect and care for another living being. Below is an updated post from springtime's past- filled with tips on how to have a compassion-filled spring. Enjoy!
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.
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 store 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 is the benefit of making an informed decisions rather than an impulsive one. 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.
If adding a bunny or two- or even a chick or chicken- to your family is something you have thought out and decided upon, than adopting one from a shelter or rescue group is undoubtedly the way to go! Not only will you be far more likely to get the information and support you need to make for a happy bunny and child introduction- but in most cases, a rescue group will assist if the adoption does not work out as hoped. And since most groups require all companion animals to be altered and have shots before leaving the shelter, you are assuring that more homeless critters are not born into an already overpopulated system. So by saving a life, you will also be saving many more!
Thankfully, bunny whisperer Cindy Stutts offers up many alternative 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:
- 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 and take your child through the steps required in properly caring for a real bunny.
- 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. Consider 'adopting' this yummy chocolate bunny as a great way to support rabbits in shelters!
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