As Easter approaches, many families fall in love with a cute chick, a tiny duckling or a baby rabbit, and want to buy one for themselves, or surprise a loved one with an adorable animal as a present. These baby animals are cute, but they also require responsible care, a special diet, and have a lifespan much longer than the spring season. After the novelty of an “Easter pet” wears off, unfortunately many of these animals are discarded, abandoned, or returned to the pet store. Before you succumb to the urge to buy an adorable baby animal for Easter, read the following information and stay informed about what you might actually be getting yourself into:
What people don’t realize is that rabbits have a life span similar to many dogs, often living to be around 8-10 years old. Just because they are smaller doesn’t mean that they are going to have a short life expectancy; the average age is 5 years old and the oldest living rabbit died at age 14! Having a rabbit is a commitment, just like any other live creature that is kept as a pet. In fact, many would probably consider rabbits more “high maintenance” than cats or dogs, due to their cage setup and cleaning, and all of the specialized food, hay, toys, chewables, and other things that could become expensive. If you don’t want the rabbit cage to stink up the house, you’ll have to clean it at least a couple times a week – rabbit urine is extremely potent compared to dog urine.
Lots of people choose to treat their rabbit as if they were a dog or a cat, and let it freely roam around the house. In order to do this, you will need a chew proof place to live in your house, which means all cords safely hidden away and any tasty wood, such as table legs, protected. They can and will chew anything and everything, so don’t think that they won’t! Rabbits need hay to stay healthy, which means you need a source of good hay and a space to store some. Rabbits can be litter trained, but they’re messy! Even if you choose to house your rabbit in a cage, hutch, or other such enclosure – ensure that all cords, furniture, and other chewable things are covered or put away that you don’t want ruined!
Rabbits need special pellets, some fresh fruit and vegetables daily, proper chew toys and sticks, mineral chew stones, as well as grooming. Rabbits (even baby bunnies) have very strong back legs, and they can kick and scratch you or even injure themselves with an unsupported kick while being held. They also tend to be somewhat skittish and antsy, so these tendencies don’t make them the best pets for small children.
A pet rabbit can be charming and fun if you do your homework and make a real commitment to care. Just be sure you’re ready to take on the responsibility, if not, stick with a chocolate bunny this Easter! If you decide that you are up to the challenge, reach out to your local rabbit rescue, humane society, and/or animal shelter to find a rabbit in need of a home. Do NOT buy a rabbit from a pet store or off of a random person on the internet (Craigslist or any other classifieds site), because 9 times out of 10, the rabbits from these places are either from puppy mills or backyard breeders which are both horrible places to support!
Chicks and ducklings can also live for 8 to 10 years and require special care. In addition, some municipalities ban chickens and ducks as livestock; so if you don’t already live on a farm, you will want to make sure that these animals are even allowed on your property. They are also very messy pets, with chickens and ducks pooping wherever they please, and leaving feathers behind everywhere they go. Don’t get me wrong, they are absolutely adorable, loving creatures, but they are quite a stinky mess as well! If that doesn’t deter you, then kudos to you!
The American Poultry Association provides information on the various poultry breeds and their care. Chickens and ducks have specific (and different) nutritional requirements, which are satisfied by special feed, supplements, and other products. Even if you have a fence, it is still recommended you have a separate enclosure for your chicks and/or ducklings to keep out potential predators like bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions. Actually, you may think there are no such creatures in your area, but a neighbor’s dog or cat could possibly inflict some damage on your little critters! You never know, animals are unpredictable.
Before bringing any new pet into your home, it’s important to consider the responsibilities that accompany the animal, which many people unfortunately fail to do – especially on major holidays. A good rule of thumb to follow is to never surprise someone with an animal, because you have no idea if they are actually have the resources, time, and ability needed to take care of it. Even if your friend has said numerous times they “want” a certain animal or “wish they had” a certain pet, you don’t know how serious they actually are with their statements. So basically this Easter holiday, stick to inanimate objects, toys, and candy as presents. If you are so inclined to welcome an animal into your home, adopt don’t shop!