There are giant rabbit sculptures in Las Vegas. Art displays of rabbits have been a hit in Cleveland. This is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, and cities are celebrating with rabbit-related events and activities, as are Chinese neighborhoods around the country. With Easter approaching on April 24, rabbit advocates are bracing for a perfect storm of impulsive rabbit purchases.
As a result, shelters and rabbit rescue organizations could be overwhelmed with homeless rabbits.
“Rabbits are not as low maintenance as some people think, and they’re not a pet for every family,” said Jacelyn Heng, president of the Singapore House Rabbit Society. In an interview conducted via Skype, Heng added, “People have so many misconceptions about rabbits.”
The most noteworthy mistaken belief is that bunnies are wonderful pets for young children.
“Children like to carry things around, and rabbits detest being carried around,” said Mary Cotter, vice president of the International House Rabbit Society. In fact, rabbits are probably downright acrophobic.
“Young children, being the primates they are, like to hold, squeeze and hug, and that makes perfect sense,” said Cotter, based in New York City. “But for rabbits, the things which hold and squeeze them may want to kill them.”
Cotter added, “Children are also unpredictable, and rabbits are most comfortable in predictable surroundings.”
Rabbits are the most common small animal pet in Singapore and America. Many people do enjoy keeping pet rabbits.
“I think they’re a great pet for people who like to watch nature shows,” said Cotter. “They’re not as interactive as dogs or cats. Tough rabbits appreciate our affection; it’s on their terms.”
Heng says most owners spay or neuter their rabbits. Intact pet rabbits often are given up because they become unpredictable and occasionally aggressive. Also, the risk of reproductive cancers is significantly less when rabbits are spayed.
Rabbits and folklore seem to go hand in hand. According to many websites, people born in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit are sensitive but sometimes on their guard (an accurate description of the demeanor of many rabbits). Of course, a rabbit’s foot is considered a good luck charm. And for centuries rabbits have been associated with Easter.
“I’ve heard so many stories,” said Cotter. “It seems no one really knows how it all began.” Easter could have been associated with roosters, cows or giraffes; no one knows how rabbits were chosen. Edible Easter bunnies were a German dessert pastry, dating back to the 1800s. Later came Easter egg hunts, stuffed Easter bunnies and eventually, the Giant Easter Bunny strolling the mall, munching on a 3-foot carrot.
Of course, rabbits do like carrots. However, because of their relatively high sugar content, carrots should only be an occasional snack. What rabbits require daily is a grass hay, such as Timothy hay, Brome hay, or meadow grass. Various lettuces and manufactured rabbit diets should be used to supplement the hay.
Rabbits are popular in Singapore and major metro areas in the United States because they make ideal apartment and condominium pets. They don’t need to be walked, nor do they require lots of space. Neighbors rarely complain about their barking. They’re clean pets and easily litter box-trained.
When a rabbit is acting “a little off,” a vet visit is in order. While they’re subtle about illness, just as dogs and cats need regular veterinary care, so do rabbits.
“They are a commitment, which people don’t think about when they first get them because they’re so cute as bunnies,” Heng said.
Cotter and Heng agree on one impulse rabbit purchase: a chocolate bunny.
Learn more about pet rabbits at www.rabbit.org.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Pleas include your name, city and state.