It’s Easter time, and what would make a more perfect gift than an adorable floppy eared bunny? Baby rabbits and soft baby chicks are soooo adorable, that they are hard to resist.  After all, you think, wouldn’t this be a perfect, low-maintenance “starter pet” for a small child? THINK AGAIN!  These animals are not well suited for children, and it’s a sad fact that most of the ones that are purchased as impulse pets will not live to see their first birthday, because as soon as they grow out of the cute baby stage, they are given away, banished to lonely lives in outdoor hutches, or just released outside, a sure death sentence.

Most children want a companion that they can hold, carry and cuddle, and rabbits are not cuddly.  They are ground-loving, prey creatures that actually are  physically fragile, and require specialized veterinary care. Children are naturally exuberant, and loving, but “loving” to a small child usually means holding, hugging, and carrying an animal around in whatever fashion their small hands can manage…exactly the kinds of things that make most rabbits feel insecure and frightened.  Handled in this way, they will often get fidgety and start to scratch or bite simply out of fear. The rabbits that do survive the first few months , quickly reach maturity, and when they are no longer tiny and “cute,” the kids usually lose interest, and the rabbit, who has no voice to remind you he’s hungry or thirsty, or needs his cage cleaned, is gradually neglected.  If you are impulsively thinking of adding a rabbit to your family, it is important to understand that rabbits have a lifespan of 7-l0 years, and they are high maintenance creatures. BEFORE acquiring a rabbit, here are a few points to consider:

  • Housing:  A rabbit’s cage should be at least six times the size of an adult rabbit…It should not have a wire bottom, as the wire can injure the rabbit’s feet. There should be room for a litter box, toys, food and water bowls. It should be kept indoors… NEVER left outdoors.
  • Playtime: They are inquisitive, intelligent, and very social by nature, requiring plenty of exercise and interaction with the humans.  An energetic young rabbit needs at least 30 hours a week of time outside her pen or cage on a regular basis.
  • Grooming: Rabbits shed their coats 3-4 times a year, which necessitates regular brushing.
  • Diet: They need fresh water, fresh grass hay, at least 2 cup of fresh vegetables, and a very small serving of plain rabbit pellets EVERY day.
  • Health:  Like cats and dogs, rabbits should be neutered or spayed. The risk of uterine cancer in intact female rabbits is alarmingly high, and unneutered males are likely to spray.

Mary Cotter, president of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab in New York City stresses that “Rabbits should NEVER be bought on impulse. Adults must be willing to take full responsibility, committed to being actively involved on a daily basis for the possible l0-year lifespan of a rabbit, or they should not consider a live bunny.  A rabbit is not a toy, so if you are not ready to promise him ten years of your life, you’re not ready to give him as a pet. A better choice would be a chocolate rabbit or a stuffed rabbit that will be almost as cute, and a lot less work.”

A perfect Easter gift for any child would be the beautifully illustrated book, The Forgotten Rabbit by Rabbit Society educator, Nancy Furstinger. Wearing its heart on its sleeve, this story has a mission, but it is a worthy one, telling the story of a rabbit who was purchased as an impulse pet and later forgotten and neglected until she was rescued by someone who gave her a forever home and showed her the meaning of love. The story is touching and draws attention to the plight of unwanted pets purchased without adequate planning and preparation. Appropriate for any child over five, the book offers honest, charming insights into the proper care of a rabbit as a companion animal. It is suspenseful, moving, and in the end, joyful. The active language will delight children while helping them build vocabulary skills. The book can be purchased from a local book store, or online from