By: Mickey Zeldes
It was no coincidence that we held Bunfest a week before Easter! We were trying to educate people about the realities of caring for a rabbit to, hopefully, stop the impulse to buy a baby bunny (or chick for that matter) as an Easter present for their children. Easter comes every year but only lasts a day; whereas a live rabbit could live 10-12 years! That’s a hefty commitment and one to take seriously.
It’s rare nowadays, at least around here, to see stores with colored chicks and bunnies for sale for the Easter holiday. Hard to believe it wasn’t that long ago that it was commonplace. And most of those animals died in a few weeks from mishandling or neglect since the buyers weren’t really knowledgeable about raising these baby animals and the care they needed. Those that didn’t die were often turned into shelters as the novelty wore off and the reality of having to clean up poop and pee lost its glamour.
I can honestly say that we haven’t had a rabbit surrendered with the holiday given as the reason for a really long time. Mind you, we hear every other excuse imaginable! It grew too big, it doesn’t like being carried (or handled by the children), it bites, it digs, it chews, it sheds, it’s messy, we don’t have time, the children lost interest, we’re moving, the landlord found out – you get the picture! All point to people who didn’t learn what they were getting into BEFORE they brought home the animal.
If I could make only one suggestion to new prospective pet owners before they plunged in, it would be to do some research and serious soul-searching before getting a new pet. Rabbits do dig and chew – that is their nature. And we, as caring parents need to give them an appropriate outlet for this behavior. Rabbits that are not fixed tend to be hormonal and temperamental, which means they are not the best cuddle pets! They are also fragile and if mishandled will bite and kick (possibly breaking their own backs in the process) to let you know they don’t like it. If they are not gently handled daily, they will never get comfortable with human contact. That is something best done by responsible teens or adults – young children, of course, just want to pet the animal and aren’t taking the bunnies point of view into consideration (giants swooping down on a prey animal is very frightening!).
Which goes back to the basic premise of being realistic about who will care for the animal. Any parent who comes to the shelter and says that they are getting a pet for their child to care for gets a (polite) earful about how it’s a family pet – meaning they have to be equally committed to keeping and caring for the animal. We know, even if the parents don’t, that a child’s interest might not last the whole lifetime of the pet and we don’t want them back in a year or two. When we do get animals surrendered for this reason we like to point out the lesson the child just learned; what to do when something gets older and is inconvenient – do you want that child making decisions for you when you are older and infirmed?
So in case you are still considering getting a bunny or chick this weekend for the holiday, please reconsider and buy a chocolate rabbit instead. And who can explain to me the story behind an Easter rabbit that lays eggs?
Renovation Celebration – Sat, April 15, 1-5:30. Ribbon cutting for new kitten room at 1:30. Refreshments, open house and adoption special Sat and Sun – all adult animals are half price! Please come by and see our new cage less cat areas and new dog visiting room.
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri-Sat 1-5:30; Sun 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.