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With Easter holidays around the corner, many families may consider getting a pet rabbit for extra company. Though the thought of it seems appealing, unfortunately, the period after Easter is when the highest number of rabbits are surrendered to rescues. Despite our improved knowledge on the specific needs of rabbits, they are still often mistaken as easy first-time family pets as up to 80% of rabbits surrendered were purchased for children.
With a life span of 6-12 years, rabbits require high maintenance and are costlier than most people think. Rabbits constantly need accessible fresh hay and a portion of leafy greens every day. They have a restrictive diet and can become ill if they eat harmful foods such as iceberg lettuce or cabbage. Rabbits are also prone to health issues such as dental and digestive issues. When a pet rabbit stops eating for more than 12 hours, it is life-threatening and requires a trip to the emergency vet. Vaccinations and health checks are also recommended every 6 months. The general estimated cost including food and vet trips for a healthy rabbit is $820 each year and can be an additional several thousand dollars for emergency vet trips and major surgeries.
Although these adorable and fluffy rabbits are irresistible, the interaction between pet rabbits and children are limited in comparison to pets such as cats or dogs. Rabbits are prey animals and do not like to be chased around. Some do not enjoy being held or cuddled. When rabbits feel threatened, they may become aggressive and may bite or scratch as an instinct to protect themselves. Because of this, pet rabbits are more suitable for older children as they are more likely to be able to respect a rabbit’s space and understand the limited interaction between them.
That being said, rabbits can still bring a lot of joy and fun when they are well taken care of. They can be litter-trained and respond when their name is called. They are also very clean animals that rarely require baths. When a rabbit feels safe and happy, they jump up in the air and twist their bodies which is called a ‘binky’. Rabbits can be wonderful pets with a knowledgeable and responsible owner.
When considering getting a pet rabbit, adopting from a rescue would be ideal compared to purchasing from a breeder. Not only a surrendered rabbit gets a second chance to be loved, but also the cost is often lowered as rescued rabbits are desexed and vaccinated. If interested, The Rabbit Runaway Orphanage (19 Stanley Street, Olinda 3788) is a rabbit rescue where many rabbits are looking for a second home. The rescue centre is also looking for volunteers and accepts donations for those who wish to contribute in alternative ways.
Being an early childhood teacher, I believe in the importance of educating our new generation from a young age on care and responsibilities towards animals. My passion in education has inspired me to write and illustrate my first picture book titled ‘The Rabbit Who Ate Too Many Carrots’. It is an engaging story about a mischievous rabbit, Eddie, who steals carrots from the garden and was taught an invaluable lesson on what it means to have a healthy rabbit diet. The book brings up important conversations about responsible pet ownership and healthy eating. It is suitable for children aged between 3 to 8 years old.
As the Easter bunny begins its way into the spotlight, this holiday is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about what it means to be a responsible pet owner.
‘The Rabbit Who Ate Too Many Carrots’ is available for purchase in Here & There Makers at 139 Boronia Road, Boronia 3155 or via my online website at www.betterlifeforbunnies.com.
When it comes to getting a pet, don’t forget to think from their perspective and how to best provide them with a well-loved home!