Should you get a bunny for Easter?

So there’s obviously a lot of topical debate at the moment about whether anyone should get a rabbit at all over Easter. I wrote a cautionary tale about impulse buying a rabbit and believing that a child has the maturity to care for one over a long period of time. I’ve also written about getting a rabbit and of things you need to know about bunnies before you get one. I’ve also written a long catalogue of posts on rabbit care which you can find here. My main reason for writing this article is because some people might get a rabbit at Easter and be the best bunny parents ever.  They are not the majority. There is a huge increase in rabbit sales at Easter and pet shops generally don’t give a damn who buys their animals (except my local Pets at Home store, whose staff are actually amazing and I’ve seen them refuse sales a few times due to ethics), so it’s down to you as a responsible human being to be sure you’re not just getting caught up in the moment, and that you’re going to love your bunny and meet their needs forever.  If you’re even reading this, statistics show you’re probably a responsible bunny parent because you’re doing your research.

BUNNY is for LIFE not just for EASTER

Here are some things you need to really think about before you get a live rabbit, and the preparations you need to make:

1. They look so cute, but have you held one?
Have you any past experiences and have you ever actually met and handled a rabbit? Any reputable pet shop will let you handle a bunny and take your time over choosing the right one.  Would you be better getting a cuddly toy or a bunny calendar?

2. My child wants one, but can she look after it?
For some reason, parents often believe that their child is different, and that their child will have the sustained interest in a living being to be able to care for it. They can’t. That’s why we don’t let kids babysit each other, and why people get all concerned about underage pregnancy. All living things have the same set of needs to be met, and children are still learning how to meet their own needs independently, let alone another animal. Any pets brought into the house MUST be brought under the understanding that they are a FAMILY pet, and therefore that it is EVERYBODY’s responsibility to look after them. If you know your 6 year old forgot to feed Nibbles, or that Nibbles isn’t getting enough outdoor playtime, it’s your job as your 6 year old’s parent to pick up the slack.

Think about it from a management point of view. If you’re a supervisor and one of your employees doesn’t do the job right, you don’t leave the job undone, you either get someone else to pick up the slack or you do it yourself, making sure that the employee knows this wasn’t cool. If they consistently fail to do the job, you give their job to someone else on a permanent basis either in-house or elsewhere. For example, if your 6 year old isn’t doing the job, give it to someone else in the house, or do it yourself. You can’t let the job suffer because the employee isn’t doing it right. As a parent, you are a manager of your own house.

3. Before you get a rabbit, plan for about a week. Choose what sort of hutch they’ll have, and make sure it’s arrived before you bring Nibbles home. Bunnyproof your house, even if they’re outdoor bunnies, you need to nominate one room of the house to be a care room for if they have to recover from any vet care. Nominate a cupboard to store hay, dry food, water bottles, bowls, sawdust and newspaper and spare litter trays and toys. Buy all that stuff and check it fits, then choose another place for all the overflow that doesn’t fit! Make sure you know what food to get and why. Rabbits need lots of hay to eat, and a bit of nuggets every day.

4. Make an outdoor play space for your bunny so they can get their daily amount of natural daylight and fresh grass. If you don’t have anywhere, you’ll need a rabbit leash and to commit to taking Nibbles to the park each day (and you will need to protect him from dogs). Otherwise, a rabbit pen is a good choice for the garden, but cover the top so Nibbles doesn’t get eaten by Felix down-the-street when he comes over the fence on his daily walk.

5. Do you have enough money for a vet bill? What will you do if, a week after you bring Nibbles home, he breaks his leg or back? What if the neighbour’s cat attacks him and he needs $400 of reconstructive surgery? Will you be able to afford vet care? Consider a pet insurance plan (although read the fine print, I haven’t seen one that actually covers all of my rabbits due to age, and what they do cover is stuff I can pay myself without blinking, so I just pay all vet bills upfront for my 5 bunnies). Consider putting £10 (or $10) aside each week as an emergency fund for your rabbits. Don’t rely on charitable organizations like the PDSA, they’re not there to be taken advantage of, they’re there for genuine emergencies for low income animals, not for you to irresponsibly take on a pet you can’t afford to care for.  You will need vaccinations every year and each rabbit will need neutering.

6. Invest in a pet vacuum.
You might also need Cage and Hutch Flea Spray cleaning products, grooming brushes, and a dustpan and brush. I recommend getting some carpet cleaner if you’re going to have houserabbits for when you’re litter training. You’ll also need an open litter tray (or three) and to find out about litter training.

7. Now you’re ready for a rabbit. Go and get one or possibly two (but beware- when hormones kick in at 4-6 months, they may not be as snuggly, even after they’re neutered, so I recommend getting one then introducing them until they find a good companion, to avoid ending up with loads of single lonely angry bunnies) get them from an adoption centre by first preference, and remember that this is the start of a beautiful friendship, that can span two decades if you look after them well and are lucky.

8. If you do need to give up your rabbit for whatever reason, here’s your options, and what not to do. Don’t abuse a rabbit when you could have found them a new forever home instead.

And remember, folks, a rabbit is for life – their life – not just for Easter. Happy rabbiting.*

*Rabbiting: the act of looking for a rabbit.  Let’s re-define what happens to them afterwards through our own actions!

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Taken from his mother too soon: How this baby bunny lives will AMAZE you.

When we first got Banacek, he was a tiny baby bunny, no more than six weeks old.  He had been taken from his mother at a very young age and had been kept in an enclosure so he was lonely and scared, and freedom to roam was totally new to him.  It was love at first sight, but he was very timid (and so were we) and it took a few days for him to realise that he was allowed out of his hutch when the door was open – that he wasn’t escaping.

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At first he wouldn’t go far from the safety of his hutch.

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Soon he was venturing further and feeling more relaxed:

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He refused to drink from his bottle, so I tried to get him to drink like this. Eventually, we just gave him a water bowl.  He also liked to eat his food on the floor with us at mealtimes:

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We worked hard to litter train him.  He was definitely trying to get his head around the concept, but he didn’t quite know the basics:

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Then, during a misadventure, he got behind the downstairs toilet and it was REALLY manky with unknown substances (we’d only had this house 2 weeks when we brought Banacek home) so, despite the fact that we never wanted to have to do this, we had to give him his first bath.  I was adamant that he wasn’t licking himself clean when he was covered in God knows what, because I was scared he might be covered in something poisonous.  He was miffed for about 3 hours then once he was dry he totally got over it and got on with his life.

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Soon, he was really settling in and starting to be part of the herd, guarding our living room from intruders:

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Soon he was totally happy sleeping everywhere in our house:

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He decided to take his red cabbage into the stone square shelf he liked to hang out at.

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He helped us open the mail and even got rid of junk mail for us by nibbling it:baby banacek09

We kept him well stocked with “proper” toys as well as unwanted cardboard and what not. This was his favourite, a toy carrot patch with carrots made of wood wrapped with hemp:baby banacek18

At Christmas, he was eight months old, but he hadn’t finished growing:

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We wrapped some muesli in paper and wrote little “gift tags” out of more wrapping paper.  It took him a while to realise they had food in them:

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Now he is a full size, 3 year old rabbit with a beautiful 10 year old Netherland Dwarf girlfriend who we adopted 18 months ago.  Awww… they grow up so fast:

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We became his family, and now he gets confused when we go on holiday and our petsitters expect him to do bunny things, like sleep closed into his hutch at night, but he humours them even if he thinks it’s weird.  When we go to bed, he sleeps in front of our bedroom door, in the doorway of his own room where his hutch is, and when we get up in the morning, he comes downstairs with us.  He is truly one of the family now.

Share if you love baby bunnies.

See also The Flopsiest Bunny Sleeps