No rabbits for Easter, please!
The BC SPCA is asking people to refrain from giving rabbits - or chicks and ducks - as Easter gifts. While pet guardianship is rewarding, getting a pet as a gift for someone else, whether at Easter or any other time of year, may not be a good idea.
For starters, rabbits can easily be neglected soon after the Easter season once the novelty of the new pet wears off, and the reality of the time and expense requirements of keeping rabbits sets in.
High commitment of care
Over a rabbit's lifespan of up to 12 years, you can expect care costs of between $3,000 and $4,000 -- which includes an initial $200 in one-time costs for a habitat, spaying/neutering, litter box, care book, dishes, brush, water bottle, etc., and yearly costs of approximately $300 for food, annual veterinary visits, and white wood shavings. Also, rabbits, while cute and cuddly, demand a commitment of care the same or greater than for a cat or dog.
"While often purchased for children, parents overlook the fact that they are the ones that must be regarded as the primary care givers, not the children," says Craig Naherniak, the society's General Manager of Humane Education. Proper care includes regular daily exercise out of the animal's habitat, daily grooming, a varied diet that includes fruits and vegetables and chew items to keep the rabbit's constantly growing teeth worn down. Learn more about rabbit care.
Not necessarily the best pets for children
"It may be a surprise to some that rabbits are not necessarily the best pets for children," comments Naherniak.
While rabbits enjoy receiving attention and affection from people, most do not like being held or cuddled because it initiates a feeling of being caught by a predator. Held rabbits often try to escape and can suffer serious injured if they fall or, in the struggle, the child may be injured by the rabbit's powerful hind legs.
Unwanted rabbits contribute to pet overpopulation
BC SPCA shelters always have an abundant supply of rabbits both after Easter, when many are turned over to shelters, and throughout the year.
Another stark reality is that many unwanted rabbits are abandoned to the wild to fend for themselves. These domesticated rabbits often lack the instincts to survive on their own and fall prey to predators such as coyotes, are susceptible to disease, or end up starving because there is no adequate food source. Alternatively, if there are no predators the rabbits may flourish and upset the balance of nature by multiplying into a serious overpopulation problem.
"If you don't think through the purchase of an Easter rabbit you may regret your decision," says Naherniak.
"The commitment of care must extend throughout the animal's lifetime. If you are the least bit hesitant about the decade-long commitment of a rabbit in your family the option is simple -- give children stuffed animals or chocolate as Easter gifts."