Before you decide to buy your family that cute Easter bunny as a pet, take a look at alternatives that might be better for rabbit welfare.
I have always wanted a rabbit. Each year as a child, I would beg and beg, but come Easter morning, the only bunnies I’d see were the chocolate ones that appeared in me and my sister’s Easter baskets. It turns out that might have been a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong: Rabbits are amazing creatures. They have almost complete 360-degree vision. When happy, they bounce up in the air in an adorable move humans call “the binky.” And bunnies can be incredibly affectionate roommates.
We adore them for their fluffiness and cuteness, feature them on cereal boxes, and dress in their likeness for Halloween. In many cultures, rabbits have spiritual significance, symbolizing fertility, luck, or creativity.
Sadly, we’ve also typecast their species as overly sexual (“Let’s do it like bunnies!”), popped them into cooking pots, and trapped them in research labs. And each spring, a truly remarkable number of rabbits are impulsively bought for Easter gifts. Unfortunately, many end up in animal shelters soon afterward because the purchasers weren’t fully aware of what it takes to have a rabbit roommate.
So, before bringing a bunny home, get educated. The more you know, the more likely you are to succeed. Or consider fostering from a rabbit rescue. This can help you determine whether you’re ready for the commitment beyond mere Easter excitement.
Considerations for Giving a Bunny a Good Life
Bunnies need a lot of space. A small cage won’t lead to a happy or healthy furry friend. When you think about it, it’s easy to see why. In the wild, rabbits cover a lot of ground. They need to explore their habitat to make sure they are safe. As “prey animals,” they often jump, stretch, and run.
So, your rabbit roommate is going to need some space! The House Rabbit Society (HRS) recommends a minimum of eight square feet for a “home base” enclosure, access to at least 24 square feet of exercise space for over five hours each day, and time for free roaming. They also suggest avoiding wire cages that can be hard on soft feet. You’ll also need a litter pan and lots of items for entertainment. “A bored rabbit is often a naughty rabbit,” advises the HRS.
Rabbits are highly social. If you are going to get a rabbit roommate, consider two. Otherwise, your new furry friend will be highly prone to sadness. According to experts, the best combination is litter mates or an unrelated neutered male and spayed female who are introduced properly. An unthoughtful combination can lead to fighting; while rabbits are notoriously cute, they can also be ferocious toward each other if improperly introduced.
Their diets are more complicated than those of cats and dogs. No throwing down kibble here! Rabbits need a lot of fresh hay to nibble. But you can’t use the stuff your spouse just cut from your yard. Nope, that can be toxic. And contrary to popular belief (courtesy of Bugs Bunny, perhaps), you can’t give them an endless supply of carrots. Your rabbits will need a range of vegetables each day.
Rabbits are early risers. Since they are crepuscular, they tend to be really active during dawn. So, if you have a hard time getting kids or a spouse up-and-at-‘em, realize early morning rabbit duty may end up being yours alone.
You may end up with an unintended wireless home. Rabbits chew. It’s necessary for them, so their teeth don’t grow too long. (In which case, you can count on some potentially pricey dentistry bills!) So take the time to understand what it takes to “rabbit-proof” your home.
Here are a few of my favorite resources for researching whether you and a rabbit might make good housemates.
Check your rabbit readiness with this informative article: Are You Ready for a Rabbit?
Take a free Rabbit Care 101 online course from the House Rabbit Society.
Talk to a rabbit-oriented veterinarian, local shelter, or rabbit rescue volunteer.
Read Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural and Cultural History of a Misunderstood Creature by Susan E. Davis and Margo DeMello.
All in? That’s good news for the many previously surrendered rabbits living in shelters and rescues. Call your local House Rabbit Society (HRS) chapter or a rabbit rescue to learn about opportunities for adoption in your area.
Ways to Help Bunnies (Without Adopting One)
If a long-term commitment seems out of reach for you, there are other ways to help rabbits thrive:
Foster a rabbit for a temporary period.
Donate money or supplies to a rabbit rescue near you.
Commit to being fur-free to help keep rabbits out of exploitive systems.
Use the Leaping Bunny app to make sure the cosmetics and skincare products you use aren’t tested on rabbits (or other creatures).
How to Live Peacefully With Wild Rabbits (and Keep Your Garden Intact)
You can also help wild rabbits by being thoughtful about what you do in your yard! For example, feed animals naturally in your yard by planting grasses like timothy, wheatgrass, meadow grass, fescue, bluegrass, or ryegrass. Include shrubs and greenery that provide nibble-a-bility during winter months. “In the winter, when plant life is scarce, wild rabbits need to be a lot more creative in order to survive,” offers Amy Pratt (aka the Bunny Lady). “The rabbits need to compete for limited resources such as bark, twigs, and evergreen and pine needles from trees and shrubbery that live through the winter.”
And if you want to keep rabbits out of your garden humanely, install fences, use reflective pinwheels, or plant strategically. “Interplanting plants that rabbits like with ones they are less fond of may encourage them to avoid the area entirely,” offers the University of Florida’s Gardening Solutions team. “Rabbits tend to avoid some vegetables like asparagus, leeks, onions, potatoes, rhubarb, squash, and tomatoes. They also avoid some herbs like basil, mint, oregano, parsley, and tarragon, as well as flowers like cleomes, geraniums, vincas, and wax begonias.”
Living Hoppily Ever After
With my chaotic travel schedule, I have yet to create a suitable environment for Thumper to move in. But I have found ways to help his relatives thrive in our yard and ensure rabbits at rescues nearby have a hoppier life.
For more Easter ideas, read Easter for Earth Lovers: Practices for Resurrecting Plant Life and Wild Beings.