With Easter approaching, it’s a good time to remember that, unless you’re willing to put in the time and effort required to care for a pet bunny, going with the chocolate variety is best.
“We like to issue the reminder every year around this time,” says BC SPCA Vancouver branch manager Jodi Dunlop. “People go into pet stores, they see an adorable baby bunny and they decide to take it home. They may not consider the fact that rabbits can live between 10 and 13 years and need special food, care and space to run, hop and stretch. If they’re not in it for the long haul, it’s definitely a bad idea.”
Dunlop knows. Eastertime, annually, see an influx of pet rabbits given up to the SPCA and other shelters – or, worse, abandoned in parks or wooded areas.
“The animals turned in to SPCA shelters are the fortunate ones,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager, community relations. “Many others are simply released in the wild to fend for themselves, and these domesticated rabbits often fall prey to predators such as coyotes, are susceptible to disease or end up starving to death.”
If you’re serious about the commitment required to take on a pet bunny – now or at any other time of year – Dunlop has several suggestions to make it as positive an event as possible. First, consider visiting your local SPCA branch, where materials are available on how to care for your rabbit properly and staff will happily answer any questions you may have.
She also asks that people consider adoption over purchasing a rabbit from a pet store (but adds that certain retailers, including some Bosley’s locations, support local rescues by featuring adoptable bunnies in store). The SPCA has several special animals awaiting forever homes, including Daphne and Petunia – bonded sisters abandoned back in January.
“They’re social, smart and love people, including kids,” Dunlop says. “We like to play games with them, like hiding their food so they have to search for it. Some of our staff members made a ‘clothesline’ of fruits and veggies for them, so they have to stand on their hind legs to get a snack.”
These 10-month-old girls, who, due to their slightly larger size, may be a mix of American and Flemish breeds, are clean and use a litter box. They’re hoping for a home with a good-size play area to stretch their legs.
“Whenever someone comes in looking for a rabbit – or any pet – we make sure they are well-informed and educated,” Dunlop says. “It will be no different with these lovely ladies, and we’re crossing our fingers they’ll be adopted by the right person soon.”
Another local organization, the Small Animal Rescue Society of BC (SARS BC), also encourages Easter enthusiasts to make wise decisions at this time of year, including understanding what it means to take on a rabbit and, of course, to consider adopting rather than shopping for a pet.
“One problem we hear in the four or five months following Easter is people who went about owning a rabbit with the wrong expectations,” says SARS’ Lisa Hutcheon. “They see these cute fluffy bunnies being cuddled by kids in commercials and they may not understand that rabbits are actually prey animals – they make great pets, but they require a certain type of care, different to a cat or a dog.”
The temperament of a rabbit, she says, can depend on its breed and size. Larger bunnies are often calmer – more laid-back and “dog-like” – than their smaller, higher-strung counterparts. Unfortunately, many adopters come in wanting to take a small rabbit home, leaving many of the larger ones languishing in shelters.
“We have a family of 17 rabbits, all white or black, that have been with us for about two years for, perhaps, that reason,” Hutcheon says. “They’re big bunnies, and we don’t often hear, ‘We want a large white rabbit with pink eyes.’ They’re also not one of the fancy breeds, like a Lop, Rex or Dwarf, which may be another strike against them. But they’re really sweet rabbits, they’ve been great in foster care in terms of getting along with the people, older children and other pets, both dogs and cats, that they live with, and none of them are big chewers. They love to lounge – you’ll often find them sprawled out at someone’s feet – and they’re smart. They definitely know the crinkle of treat bag!”
These bunnies, she adds, would make great apartment pets as they “don’t bark, use their litter boxes and sleep most of the day,” as long as the right accommodations and space are present. Because these particular rabbits have been living as a family group, SARS wishes to see them adopted out as pairs.
“The best part of the adoption process is, after you fill out the application, and the screening process and home check are complete, you can keep your rabbits for two weeks to ensure it is a perfect match,” Hutcheon says. “At Easter, and all year-round, the priority is finding the right forever home for our bunnies, with the emphasis on ‘right’ and ‘forever’.”
Update! A Westender reader saw the story about little Charlie and Cynthia and adopted both girls! Happy forever, ladies!