Pets can give new meaning to the life of a lonely or elderly person and they can help teach children how to be responsible. However, pets are also time-consuming, may require training and sometimes need medical care that is often expensive. Pets also need regular visits to the veterinarian, periodic bathing, brushing and grooming, and lots of love and attention. Before you gift a Bunny rabbit to a loved one or friend this Easter, please make sure the person wants to own this bundle of adorable fur.

Bunny Facts

• Rabbits can live as long as small dogs, from seven to ten years.
• Young children and bunnies are not a good match.
• Pet rabbits aren’t low-maintenance pets, and they have specific dietary and veterinary needs and must be handled with great care
• Pet rabbits must be live indoors
• Rabbits are the third most popular pet in America, after cats and dogs
• Rabbits are the third most abandoned
• With proper care, rabbits live 10 to 12 years

According to Anne Martin, executive director of the House Rabbit Society, the largest rabbit rescue organization in the U.S. “Many people think they’re short-lived, low maintenance, cage-bound animals, rabbits are seen as “starter pets,” akin to hamsters or goldfish, perfect for kids. This misconception may help drive a glut of baby bunny sales ahead of Easter—and a subsequent rise in rabbit abandonments.”

Here’s the Reality

Although rabbits can make delightful companions, they’re not easy-care pets.
• Vets and insurance companies consider them exotic pets, so medical care can be more expensive than for a cat or dog.
• Rabbits need exercise, and shouldn’t simply be pent up in a cage. This means they need to learn to use a litterbox (yes, rabbits can be potty-trained).
• They generally don’t like to be picked up by humans; they prefer to be in control, their feet on the ground.

“It takes a patient person to become friends with these silent and subtle animals,” says Margo DeMello, president of the House Rabbit Society. Rabbits’ complexity means they often face a grim fate when purchased on a whim. Seemingly cute and cuddly, once baby bunnies mature, at between three and six months old, they can become aggressive and even destructive. Proper exercise, litterbox training, and spaying or neutering curbs the problem for most rabbits. But many new owners assume that the undesirable behaviors are the sign of a problem rabbit and get rid of it. Others may do a little research and balk at the time and money it takes to change bunny behavior. McGee says she’s often met with shock and frustration from parents: “What do you mean I have to spend $200 to fix a $30 rabbit?”

To the Rescue

Rescuers in local rabbit shelters from California’s Bay Area to rural Georgia to suburban Connecticut all tell National Geographic that although abandonments spike in the weeks and months after Easter, they’re a big problem year-round.

Public parks and empty lots around the nation have become dumping grounds overrun with hundreds of unfixed, unwanted rabbits. People abandon many rabbits outdoors, likely unaware that this is a death sentence. Domestic rabbits lack the survival instincts of their wild cousins, Martin says, and are unable to fight infection, build safe shelters, or adapt to heat and cold.

It’s a challenge to discourage people from buying rabbits as Easter gifts without discouraging responsible would-be owners from having them at all, Martin says because for those who understand how to care for them, they make fantastic pets.

Resources

Still thinking of gifting a Rabbit this Easter. Here are some resources.

House Rabbit Society

New Mexico House Rabbit Society

Rabbit Health and Care Resources

[1] National Geographic