Joey, an 8-month-old rabbit, is adorable when posed in an Easter basket. Bunnies like Joey are lifelong companion animals -- so if you want a bunny to enjoy only at Easter time, consider one made of chocolate or plush fabric.

Delicate rabbits are not
low-maintenance pets

By Hawaiian Humane Society

With Easter just around the corner, the common misconception that bunnies and chicks make cute, wonderful Easter pets for children resurfaces.

These lovable and cuddly animals can make wonderful pets but may not be the ideal choice for children. Before purchasing a bunny to fill a child's Easter basket, make sure you and your child understand the responsibility of caring for a bunny, that you truly want the kind of interaction and companionship a rabbit can provide, and are committed to giving the bunny lifelong care.

During this time of year, some parents rush off to pet stores to buy a rabbit thinking this will be a good opportunity to teach their child responsibility. They believe that caring for a rabbit is a steppingstone toward the larger responsibility of owning a dog or cat. This is deceiving because rabbits need just as much love and attention as other animals do -- they should not be considered "low-maintenance" pets.

Another thing parents should consider before buying a rabbit for their child is compatibility. Parents and children want a pet that they can hug and play with, but rabbits are delicate creatures and cannot withstand the horseplay or unskilled handling that a young child will naturally supply. Rabbits have fragile bones that may be easily broken by a child who does not have a gentle touch or who accidentally hugs it too tightly. Seeming more "aloof" than a playful puppy or kitten, bunnies also may be more susceptible to neglect and abandonment by children.

Before adopting a bunny, parents should identify what kind of care a happy, healthy bunny needs. Rabbits can live for about 10 years when kept indoors as family pets. They should be given fresh food and water daily, be kept in a clean environment and have plenty of exercise and attention. Although they are prey animals with an instinct to run when frightened, rabbits can enjoy being held and are able to recognize their owners. Understanding that bunnies behave differently from dogs and cats is important for both parent and child.

EVERY SPRING, parents buy rabbits for their children because of their connection with the Easter holiday. Every summer, there is an increase in the number of rabbits that end up homeless because the novelty has worn off. Before buying a rabbit, make sure everyone in the household understands the extent of caring for a bunny. This will keep them from being surprised or upset if the child becomes disinterested in the pet and the care and maintenance duties fall upon the parents.

Owning a pet should be a family decision and should not be motivated by a special occasion, holiday or impulse. Pet ownership is a serious decision, and the pet, no matter what kind of animal it is, should be considered one of the family and be treated this way. If more people were aware of this, who knows how much the number of animals given up to shelters after the Easter rush would decrease?

For more information on rabbit care, visit the House Rabbit Society at or the Animal Care and Behavior link at the Hawaiian Humane Society, Adoptable bunnies are located in the Rabbit Hutch in the Society's lanai and can be viewed at Pets of the Week,

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. They are at 2700 Waialae Ave. Call 946-2187.

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