A few weeks ago I was at a concert where musician Tyler Hughes offered up a song about his pet rabbit, which as a rabbit owner myself, rang very true from the cute twitchy nose to the number they can do on baseboards and cellphone chargers.
The bunny laugh came at a particularly good time, because just hours before, I had to take our rabbit, Zelda, to the vet for a somewhat persistent digestive problem she has had. Each visit for this malady has cost us around $130 a pop, and trying to keep her system churning along has required care and attention.
We do it because we love Zelda, her company, cuddliness and — seriously — humor. She’s a funny bunny. And when we adopted her from the Lexington Humane Society, we made a commitment that we were going to care for her and do what we can to keep her healthy, safe and loved.
It’s been work, more work than we expected when we acquiesced to our daughter’s desire to get a bunny — a fact she, now a sophomore in college, freely acknowledges. And that’s why it makes me sad to hear stories of live bunnies given as Easter presents abandoned or neglected only weeks or months later, when the childish squeals of delight have subsided and the recipient has found a new toy.
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A live rabbit is not a toy. It is a life, and if you own one, it is up to you as to how wonderful or miserable it will be.
Certainly there are house rabbits that need homes — when we adopted Zelda, there were four or five other rabbits in the bunny room, sitting in cages, hoping for forever homes.
Save for some fish, our main experience as pet owners has been cats, and I’m here to testify, the rabbit takes more work. There is a cage to be cleaned, litter boxes to empty, food bowls to fill and monitor and — maybe most importantly — purposeful time to be spent with the critter. These are not, in most homes, animals that run around and jump in your lap, like a cat or a dog. It is sadly too easy to leave a rabbit in a cage and go on with your life, which is an awful way for the animal to live. And bunnies can get into things like carpets — we have had a carpet replaced because of our rabbit — electrical wires and other items you probably don’t think about when you’re contemplating putting a furry ball of cuddly into your child’s Easter basket. Also, you really have to work to keep the room the rabbit resides in from smelling like a barn.
And then there is health. Bunnies have delicate systems that can easily be thrown off, and not every vet knows how to deal with rabbits. We were fortunate to have a colleague recommend Pennyroyal Small and Exotic Animal Hospital, which does have vets who are bunny experts that have gotten us through some scary moments with Zelda.
All of this is not to say rabbits are bad pets. They can be the sweetest additions to your home, giving you warmth, fun and companionship for years. We in no way regret adopting our bunny, but as Easter draws close and we hear about people wanting bunnies as a big Easter surprise, I really want people to know what they are getting into when they get a rabbit. If you are not ready for a decade of loving, caring and paying for your critter, maybe a stuffed or chocolate bunny is the way to go.