Spring is here, and for many, Easter is coming. This holiday has many traditions for church-goers and families, but there's one tradition we can do without: the use of bunnies as a mascot for this holiday.
Sure, rabbits may be a pagan symbol of fertility, which is fitting for the start of Spring. The Easter Bunny, Easter's Santa-equivalent or even the Cadbury bunny with his fake bok-bok-bok, would be OK -- except people get this grand idea of giving real bunnies to their children or loved ones as presents, without knowing much about these creatures. When the novelty of a cute bunny on Easter morning wears of and the reality of long-term care sets in, these pets are surrendered to shelters, given away on Craigslist or released into nature where a tamed house rabbit is incapable of fending for itself like its wild-born brethren.
Although rabbits are the third most common companion mammal, they are often misunderstood. As a lagomorph caregiver for the past 10 years, let me fill you in on some facts about these furry little dudes.
Rabbits are herbivores, prey animals, with a different demeanor from their dog and cat counterparts. That's not to say bunnies aren't aggressive. Rabbit warrens aren't exactly dens of cuddles. Wild rabbits are territorial and will viciously fight each other. It's not uncommon in nature to see rabbits with missing eyes or ripped-off noses.
But your average house rabbit isn't like that. They are incredibly vulnerable -- lacking the sort of roaming confidence of carnivorous dogs and cats. Bunnies have evolved to hide their weaknesses, even if they are sick. Owners have to keep a close eye on any subtle changes in their bun's behavior, which could be a sign of illness.
Bunnies have the best poker faces, but they are also incredibly expressive.
They dance in circles when they are happy.
They stomp their feet at signs of danger, warning their warren-mates of predators.
They will rub their chins over every surface of your home that they can reach, claiming it as their own. Even you.
They chew incessantly and will destroy your books, baseboards and furniture.
They fancy electrical cords and some have electrocuted themselves this way.
They are silent -- unless they are in mortal pain.
Then, they scream.
And, no, they do not lay eggs. Chocolate, or otherwise.
Are you prepared for a march hare to make your home into their own personal Mad Tea Party? Are you ready to make sure your bunny friend always has hay and ample leafy greens to keep from getting gastrointestinal stasis? Did you know that they are companion animals that will get sad and lonely when you don't play with them? Are you ready to love this new addition to your home for the next ten years, or more?
If this is something that sounds good to you, the House Rabbit Society is a great resource for information about how to care for the new four-legged and cotton-tailed member of your household. If not, then the only bunny that ends up in your Easter basket should be made of chocolate.
Let's make a new holiday tradition: unless there is thorough research, a discussion and an agreement about care and ownership, let's not use pets as presents.
Chocolate animals are more than sufficient.