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5 Reasons to Not give Peter Cottontail a home around Easter

Author: Dr. Lacy Gilmer DVM

By Dr. Lacy Gilmer, DVM
Associate Veterinarian, Calvert Veterinary Center

Oh! here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin' down the bunny trail
Hippity hoppity, Eater’s on it’s way…

This song and the images surrounding Easter of all the colorful eggs and cute bunnies, often  prompt many parents to go for that Parent of the Year award and surprise their kids with the ultimate Easter basket gift: their very own Easter Bunny!

I get it! Bunnies are adorable, your kids will scream with delight in their new friend, and the Instagram photos of them playing in your backyard are sure to get tons of likes.  But before you run out and start looking for your new rabbit, read below so that your new friend does not end up a sad, but preventable, statistic.

In the weeks following Easter, shelters in the United States swell with unwanted rabbits and chicks. Your well intentioned gift has now turned in to a nuisance. Your kids have lost interest, you don’t have time to care for them, and your most liked photo on Instragram is now an afterthought in the daily hustle and bustle of life.

Dropping them off at a shelter contributes to the strain on space and resources that shelters are already under. When shelters cannot adopt out all those rabbits into loving homes or place with rescues, they are euthanized. Don’t be a part of the problem!
Here are 5 reasons to NOT gift a rabbit as a pet this Easter

1. Rabbits are not “practice” pets
Rabbits are often more labor intensive than dogs or cats and are not appropriate “gateway” pets, regardless of their size. They require specialized diets of fresh Timothy Hay and pellets, frequent cleaning of their cages, daily fresh water, and social interaction.  The average cost of these pets is $40-100 per month in food and supplies, on par with dogs and cats.

2. Rabbits are NOT toys
They are animals and are actually fairly fragile. One too-tight hug and a child can easily break a leg or back resulting in expensive veterinary care. They are also living creatures that need open space to roam and play, therefore, keeping a rabbit locked up in cage that’s sitting on a shelf in your child’s room is inhumane.

3. Rabbits require daily attention and frequent veterinary care
Rabbits and other small mammals like guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and rats are NOT low-maintenance. They require the same amount if not more care as other pets. This includes providing food, fresh water, clean bedding, daily exercise and playtime, grooming, and routine veterinary check-ups. They can develop mites, contract fleas, develop severe dental disease, and have viral and bacterial infections specific to their species, so it’s also important to find a veterinarian who is comfortable and knowledgeable handling this unique species.

4. Rabbits chew on things
If you thought baby proofing your house was hard, wait until you have a bunny! These guys will chew ANYTHING- from wood furniture and books to shoes and toys, rabbits will chew on most anything. They will even chew on electrical cords which is dangerous and life-threatening. Rabbits can also climb stairs, so baby gates might be needed to confine them to safe areas

5. Rabbits live a long time!
Rabbits don’t stay baby bunnies forever, like any other animal, they grow up fast and may develop special needs or start needing other types of medical care. A spayed or neutered domesticated rabbit has a lifespan of eight to 12 years which means you must be completely committed to being their guardian for at least that many years.

All pets require more time, money, and energy than any toy. Before making a decade long decision this Easter, or any time of year, please consider what an investment it is.  Your veterinarian can help you figure out what animal is best suited to your lifestyle- we are happy to talk to you about your future furry friend and help you decide when you are ready for a new pet.   If you are prepared for the special care and feeding requirements for a rabbit or other small mammal, then don’t forget to check with the SPCA or Animal Control as they often have lots of fuzzy critters to choose from.

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