An Easter bunny can cost thousands
Misunderstanding about the care that rabbits require means that many pets are turned over to shelters or released into the wild.
This post comes from Karla Bowsher at partner site Money Talks News.
At least Santa does some good while commercializing a religious holiday: Thousands of jolly old men find temporary employment at the mall each winter. But the Easter Bunny? Thanks to him, thousands of pet bunnies become homeless each spring.
The cute holiday icon leads parents to believe that a pet rabbit would make a cute Easter gift for the kids. But a rabbit requires a lot of time and money. When I say "money," I'm talking in the thousands. When I say "time," I mean a decade or so.
I know this because I'm the proud owner of two rabbits -- one of them an Easter gift turned unwanted pet that someone let loose in my neighborhood a month after the holiday.
"Every year, many thousands of rabbits are abandoned to shelters or released outdoors (a sure death sentence for a domestic rabbit), often because of misunderstandings on the part of the parents who bought them for their kids," says the House Rabbit Society (.pdf file), a national nonprofit rescue and education group. (Post continues below.)
What a pet rabbit really costs
Rabbits aren't like hamsters. You can't leave them in a cage all day, feed them nothing but cheap pellets, clean their cage once a week, never take them to the vet and be secure in the knowledge they'll be dead in two or three years. Here are the rabbit facts:
- Pet rabbits are a long-term commitment. The House Rabbit Society says pet rabbits live eight to 12 years. One of my bunnies is 8 years old and still perfectly healthy. His wife lived to be 12. And my vet (who specializes in rabbits) tells me she's seen plenty of bunnies live to 15.
- Rabbits are a lot of time and work. They need to run around outside of their cages. The House Rabbit Society recommends 30 hours of exercise a week. But first you'll have to rabbit-proof your home so they don't chew through electrical cords or gnaw on wood furniture. My younger (and feistier) bunny has destroyed everything from lamps to pricey electronics after sneaking out of her enclosure and into rooms that weren't rabbit-proofed.
- Rabbits must be spayed or neutered. This isn't just to prevent them from reproducing like, well, rabbits. It prevents health complications (like cancer) and behavioral problems (like spraying urine on the wall). They can be litter-trained, but either way, the litter box or the cage requires daily cleaning.
- Most rabbit breeds also shed several times a year. All my bunnies have always gradually shed their entire coat. During the shedding period, which lasts several weeks, they require daily brushing to keep it under control. But even then, fur seems to get everywhere, especially on my clothes. I go through a lot of lint rollers.
- Rabbits aren't cheap eaters. They need a constant supply of fresh water and fresh hay. Yes, hay. (Long story short, it's vital for their digestive health.) I buy hay in 50-pound bales because it's cheapest. But that much hay still costs $50 to $65, multiplied by several orders a year. Rabbits also need a couple of cups of fresh vegetables daily and rabbit pellets at least weekly.
The House Rabbit Society’s San Diego chapter estimates that a pet rabbit costs $7,662 (.pdf file) over the course of its life. As a rabbit owner of 15 years, I think that's a tad high. But even if the total were half that much, it's still a big chunk of change.
What to do if you still want a pet rabbit
Rabbits are not cuddly lap pets. They're easily spooked prey animals that often don't like being picked up, let alone held. This is especially true of younger rabbits. And if your children mishandle them, they'll develop a habit of nipping humans who try to touch them, which means your children will quickly lose interest in their new pet.
I think the House Rabbit Society's website is the single best place to educate yourself about whether a rabbit is right for you, what it takes to be a rabbit owner and how to adopt a rabbit instead of buying one from the pet store.
I adopted my older bunny from the Humane Society's South Florida Wildlife Center, which takes in everything but cats and dogs. When I took my bunny home, he was one of 90-something rabbits available for adoption. And it's those rows and rows of homeless bunnies that I see in my mind's eye every time I think of the Easter Bunny.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:
Being a breeder, a 4H member, or owning a particular species for a long period of time does not necessarily make you (or anybody) an expert. If someone views rabbits more as livestock, as I imagine many 4H members do, then yes, the HRS would seem like a "radical" group to them. I am a certified vet tech and volunteer at a rabbit shelter, and I and many others I know view rabbits as companions, and feel that they should be treated as such. Many of the rabbits at the shelter enjoy and seek out human companionship, and some also bond to other rabbits. Others are more solitary and don't particularly enjoy human interaction. Some of the shy ones gradually come to enjoy human contact, and some don't. They are individuals. No rabbit I've ever seen has overheated and died from too much attention, though. Touting your own opinion as fact and implying that everyone who doesn't agree with you is ignorant does not make it so.
IMHO, it should be the law...go through training classes or something...it's for the animal's sake as well as yours!!
Where is a 50lb bale of timothy hay (alfalfa being more expensive and not the best for mature rabbits), costing you $50 or more a year?!?! If you go to a feed mill, a bale of hay shouldn't cost you more than $10 for a full bale, which is plenty to last two little bunnies for a few months on continous feeding. And I can do a single bale of timothy or orchard grass hay for less then $5 a bale direct from a local farmer.
Vet bills and neutering/spaying aside, rabbits are relatively inexpensive to keep and I totally disagree with this article. I'm not advocating that everyone go out and buy one as a pet, and feel there are people out their who have no business owning any animal because they just don't want the responsibility of caring for it. This writer may have had a more expensive experience caring for their rabbits because they didn't bother to shop around at all, or had no idea of the cost of bunny products outside of Petsmart's or Petco's over-inflated prices. I have a very happy, healthy New Zealand White, and I can't say that in the course of his whole life that I'd ever need to spend even $3000, unless something major were to happen requiring a vet.
And please tell me how the House Rabbit Society is a 'radical' group? I suppose providing proper information on how to care for rabbits and treat them like any other pet family member is treated is 'radical' to you as it seems you think they are better off in a hutch. They are not.
Have you ever even seen how joyous a free rabbit is when it gets to run around the house and 'binky'? I'm guessing not if you keep your rabbit isolated. Rabbits are not solitary creatures at all. They are intelligent and social. Just because most don't like to be held and cuddled does not mean they are not social. My own bunny, like many, also doesn't like to be held, but he loves when I lay on the floor with him with my face up to his. He will stay there with me for long periods of time and either grind his teeth in satisfaction or just fall asleep. He shoves his head under my hand when he wants me to pet him...which is always. He is litter trained and his cage door is always left open. He goes in when he pleases, but he spends most of his time while I am home laying against the couch while I watch tv. And in my house rabbit experiences, if given toys to play with/chew on bunnies will leave your wooden furniture (mostly) alone. And buying plastic covering for your wires is very inexpensive from a hardware store.
Also, if anyone actually reads this, please don't buy a bunny from a breeder. You're only contributing to the overpopulation problem. Adopt from a shelter or rescue. There are so many bunnies in need. I've gotten both of my rabbits from shelters. The shelter even neutered and microchipped my bun. And most rescues will also alter a rabbit before adopting them out. It cuts down on health issues and behavioral problems.
Wow. $50.00 -$60.00 a bale for hay? Fascinating. Is it plated in gold? I spend $3.50 a bale for 80 lb bales buying timothy from the farmer directly, or $13.00 buying from the feed store. If I were you, I would find another hay supplier.
I liked the article, so thank you for reminding people to think twice about getting a rabbit for Easter. Regardless of everyone's opinions about cost of food, etc - the point is they need lots of food, lots of love, and lots of time. I just lost my rabbit to cancer, and am looking forward to adopting one or two more, but they eat a ton of fruits and veggies, like a lot of attention, and can be destructive if you don't rabbit-proof your home. :) Thanks for the article, Karla, and please ignore the idiots who don't know better.
Rabbits are food. I have nothing against people keeping them for pets, but a rabbit doesn't cost thousands of dollars. Otherwise no one would be able to breed them for food. A farmer can't spend more than $50 on a single rabbit to feed it. There is simply not enough meat to justify spending more than that.
Granted, rabbit is expensive meat - but you should never pay more than $25 lb. for rabbit meat (retail).
It is one of my favorite foods.
They grow rapidly, and if you don't want your rabbit, plenty of people will eat it. Don't tell the kids if they haven't hunted or fished, and seen where food really comes from. They are cute, but so are deer. We eat those too.
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