Research the Rabbit

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Lionhead rabbits like ren and Iroh require regular grooming. Photo by Scott Miller.

While baby rabbits may be a tempting gift at Easter time, make sure you do your research before making a commitment to a new family pet.

Around 80 percent of rabbits purchased for Easter are later abandoned – a problem that Christina Womack, vice president of the Heartland Rabbit Rescue in Blanchard, deals with on a daily basis. The no-kill sanctuary opened in 1997 and filled up quickly. It is at its capacity of around 85 rabbits.

“Yes, they’re cute when they’re babies,” Womack says. “All animals are adorable when they’re babies, but once a rabbit hits four months old, the hormones kick in, and the rabbits start showing behavior people find undesirable. And then they abandon them.”

Rabbits generally do not make good pets for children, she says, because they do not like to be picked up.

Many people do not realize the commitment a rabbit requires and choose to set them free.

“That is a big problem,” Womack says. “It’s also illegal. House rabbits do not have the same instincts for survival that wild rabbits do. If they’re not hit by cars or killed by predators, usually they’ll starve to death in short order.”

While rabbits, which are the third-most popular mammalian pet, can be great additions to your family, Womack says the decision-making process used for adopting a cat or dog should also apply for a pet rabbit. These furry friends can live up to 10 years and need the same yearly veterinary checkups, regular grooming and other care a cat or dog requires. They also need to be spayed or neutered.

Rabbits are social creatures and require interaction. They should also be treated as indoor pets; a rabbit kept in a hutch outdoors may only live one or two years, Womack says. They are easily litter trained, but owners need to take steps to make their homes safe. Rabbits can get bored easily and chew on electrical cords and baseboards. Although they require supervision, an indoor rabbit can be given free run in a rabbit-proofed home.

Despite the work, Womack says rabbits are rewarding pets – her own rabbit will greet her at the door.

“They’re curious, intelligent, social creatures,” she says.

So before you adopt a rabbit this Easter, make sure you’re ready for the commitment. Otherwise, stuffed or chocolate rabbits make great gifts and require much less effort – or make a gift to sponsor a rabbit at heartlandrabbitrescue.org.

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