Once a year, rabbits get the spotlight. That attention can be a mixed bag — both good and bad. First though is to weed through the confusing information and images that Easter brings. I pity the child who gets a bunny and is disappointed that he doesn’t lay chocolate eggs! Where did that myth come from? And no adult rabbit is going to sit still in a basket for long — give a bunny a basket and he has a fun chew toy!
Images of rabbits have always been connected to Easter. I think it has more to do with Spring and rebirth (we all know how prolific rabbits are at reproducing!) than with religion. How rabbits came to be depicted with eggs is beyond me since they have live births like other mammals and certainly don’t lay eggs!
At the Animal Shelter, we don’t get too many people coming in looking for rabbits for Easter anymore, but just in case you were thinking about, it I’d like to share with you some care tips so you can make a more informed decision. Even with our small animals, we are ultimately looking for lifetime homes and want to make sure adopters are prepared to make that commitment.
The first important point to consider is that although rabbits are often lumped in to together with rodents (they aren’t actually, they belong to the order of lagamorpha) they can live 8-12 years. This is a much bigger commitment than the 2-3 years for a rat or mouse. Spaying and neutering not only lengthens their lifespan — most intact females show the signs of uterus cancer by the time they are only 4-5 years old — it makes them calmer and better pets. Males stop spraying their stinky urine once neutered which is quite nice; the hard part is waiting until they are four months old, which is the earliest they can have the operation.
Rabbits, like cats, can be litterbox trained so they make great house pets. In fact, rabbits really blossom indoors when given the opportunity to fully express their personalities. They play, are curious creatures that love to explore, need exercise and will run in circles and jump in the air (called binkies) and enjoy being petted and brushed. You would never know that from a rabbit that sits in an empty hutch in the backyard.
Rabbits need more than a dish of pellets to eat, and carrots are not the only (or best) treat for them. A small piece of carrot each day is fine but the bulk of their diet should be hay and fresh greens. They need the roughage of the hay to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
Rabbits can get sick but there are no vaccines available so just a check-up every year or two to make sure the teeth are in good shape and he’s in overall good health is all the vet care required. Sadly, when you realize your rabbit is sick it’s usually quite critical. As a prey animal they are quite good at hiding early signs of illness, so it’s good to be acquainted with a knowledgeable rabbit vet before you are in that situation.
If you’d like to learn more about these wonderful animals stop by the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter the second Saturday of each month for our “Meet the Bunny” event. We set up our adoptable rabbits outside in exercise pens for easy meet and greets and have our special bunny volunteers on hand to answer questions and help match make.
Bring your own rabbit in for a free nail trim and shop for fresh hay, treats and toys at our Bunny Boutique. Our next Meet the Bunny is Saturday, April 14, 1-5:30 p.m. And if you’re not sure you’re up for all this lifetime care stuff may I suggest a chocolate bunny for Easter!
Upcoming event: Pet Firsst Aid & CPR, Sunday, April 29, 10-11:30 a.m., $25. Learn the basics of what to do in an emergency to help your dog or cat. Space is limited — payment is needed to reserve a place. Call 707-584-1582 for more information.