That cute little bunny you bought on impulse for Easter? You might be having second thoughts.
A rabbit is a 10-year commitment. It is not a good pet for kids.
“We don’t like this time of year. We actually have a campaign. It’s called Make Mine Chocolate,” said Maria L. Perez, founder and president of the Las Vegas House Rabbit Society. “We encourage people to buy a chocolate rabbit for their child and not a live one, because they’re not a good pet for a child. Many of them are not spayed or neutered, so they have behavioral issues such as biting and aggression.”
Last year, in the two weeks following Easter, 13 rabbits entered The Animal Foundation. Of those, one was an owner surrender, one was a return, and the remainder were brought in as strays.
The House Rabbit Society is a nonprofit, all-volunteer rabbit rescue group. It does not accept surrendered rabbits but provides information to rabbit owners and foster volunteers. It has resources to help owners correctly care for their new bunny. Its website, lv-hrs.org, includes information on bunny care, proper diet and housing, and it also has volunteers who can answer questions for those who are facing behavioral problems with their rabbit.
“You can’t let them run loose in your house because they chew, and they’ll get electrocuted,” Perez said.
She said spaying or neutering not only minimizes the aggressive behavior but is necessary for the optimal health of the rabbit.
“They will develop cancers,” Perez said. “So, four months into having this bunny, that is now going to be an adolescent for two years, they start chewing and peeing and spraying and acting out. And so the owner will go price a spay or neuter and learn it’s $250 to $350 that they have to come up with.”
Area animal services see an increase in animals surrendered after the holiday.
“Easter and springtime are a great time to add a new family member, but parents should be prepared to do the majority of caretaking and socialization and support their kids in learning compassionate care for animals over that pet’s entire lifetime,” said KC Theisen, director of pet care issues for The Humane Society of the United States. “Many pet rabbits in shelters and rescues were likely Easter gifts once themselves, given up after the novelty inevitably wears off and the reality of long-term pet care sets in. Chickens and ducks also end up in shelters and sanctuaries weeks after Easter.”
There are other issues to consider. Rabbits cannot tolerate heat. They need the freedom to roam but at the same time have to be kept separate from dangers such as other pets. It’s a fallacy that small breeds of rabbits need less room to roam. They actually have more energy. Caging a bunny can lead to hip dysplasia and foot and back problems.
Rabbits who have been overbred can have problems with their vision and teeth. And, as cute as they look, they should not be picked up and cuddled.
“When you pick up a rabbit, it thinks it’s about to be eaten (by a predator),” Perez said. “They hate it.”
She said there are some fun parts to owning a rabbit. They are crepuscular and so will not keep you up all night. They’re also social — sometimes a little too social. Two rabbits can produce 350 offspring in one year. Their gestation is every 21 days.
Johna Mennone found her bunny, Binky, after the animal was abandoned as part of the “post-Easter dump” — when owners realize having a rabbit can be a handful. Binky lived about five years in her care. Mennone, a graphic artist, has the luxury of working from home. What was the thing that struck her most about having a rabbit?
“The amount of care they need,” Mennone said. “They like companionship. They thrive when you spend time with them.”
She said another thing that became clear was how fragile their health could be.
“To keep them healthy, you have to keep your eyes on them all the time to catch the warning signs, which can be very subtle,” she said. “Things happen quickly and progress rapidly, and there’s just a small window of time to catch it.”
Perez encourages people who decide to adopt a rabbit to go to The Animal Foundation, 655 N. Mojave Road, or the Nevada SPCA, 4800 W. Dewey Drive.
“Giving a rescue bunny a second chance is a good idea,” she said. “But first … call us, so we can talk about habitat and see if a bunny is the right fit for you.”
To contact the Las Vegas House Rabbit Society, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email email@example.com or call 702-387-2949.
Interpreting Common Bunny Behavior
Thumping: Thumping can mean a variety of things, depending on the context in which it occurs. It can signal danger, indicate nervousness or be a statement of, “I don’t like what you’re doing.” If it occurs when you are intruding into the rabbit’s home, it may be all three.
Bulging eyes: Rabbits’ eyes bulge because of fear or pain. It indicates fear if their eyes bulge when you enter their space.
Ears laid flat against the shoulders: When rabbits lay their ears back, they are frightened or preparing to do battle.
Ears held forward: When rabbits hold their ears forward, they are showing interest. If you are entering their space, such ears indicate that they are curious about you.
Quivering cheeks: Rabbits “tooth purr” when they are content and happy, by rubbing their teeth together gently. If you are walking past and happen to see this happening, about all you will notice is that their cheeks appear to be quivering.
Binkies: When rabbits leap into the air and fling their rumps around or do aerobics in the air, they are expressing the joy of being alive and having space. These dances in the air have come to be known as “binkies.”
Flopping onto the side: Rabbits have a way of lifting their feet and falling onto their sides in a single, sudden move that can make someone not familiar with rabbits think the rabbit has had a seizure or died on the spot. Actually, it’s just a way for rabbits to express that they feel safe and relaxed.
The proper way to approach a rabbit: Approach with the back of your fingers coming down between the rabbit’s eyes. If you bring your hand toward the rabbit horizontally, the rabbit (who cannot see fingers in front of his nose) may smell them as something good to eat and try to take a bite.
Courtesy Las Vegas House Rabbit Society