Pet Connection: If you want pet bunny, wait a few more weeks

04/03/2012 12:00 AM

04/02/2012 2:46 PM

When Easter draws near, you can be sure of an increase in sales of chocolate and rabbits. And while it won't hurt you much to buy chocolate on a whim, I'd rather you pass on buying a bunny on impulse.

But if you're ready for a surprisingly special pet, wait a few weeks, check the shelters and pick a pair. They do well in multiples – after they're altered, of course – and you'll find wonderful rabbits ready for re-homing in the weeks after Easter.

Never thought of a rabbit as an indoor pet for adults? You're missing out! Once liberated from the confinement of a backyard "hutch" and provided with a safe and secure indoor environment, bunnies really shine as pets. They're playful and adorably willful, trainable and even amenable to using a litter box.

Care is surprisingly easy, and very affordable.

Here's how to keep your rabbit healthy:

Housing: Your rabbit will need a home base of a small pen or large cage with food, water and a litter box. Rabbits do well with a plain cat box filled with a shallow layer of recycled paper pellets, covered with a layer of fresh grass hay.

You don't scoop a rabbit box – you change it completely, every day. (The ingredients you toss are great for your compost pile.)

Nutrition: Fresh water needs to be available at all times. For food, skip the store-bought pellet route and feed your rabbit a variety of fresh, leafy veggies and an unlimited supply of fresh grass hay.

If you do go with pellets, your rabbit should still get as much fresh grass hay as it wants.

Treat your rabbit, too: Bunnies love little bits of fruits, roots and leafy greens. (If you have storage space, hay is cheaper by the bale and lasts many weeks in a cool, dry location.)

Health care: Check with your local rabbit rescue group for the names of veterinarians who are known to be good with rabbits. Get your rabbit spayed or neutered. In addition to keeping your rabbit from reproducing, you'll have a better pet.

Unaltered rabbits can have behavior problems such as aggression and urine-spraying. Your rabbit will need a wellness check, just as a cat or dog would, and a good rabbit vet will help you catch little health problems before they become big ones.

Exercise and play: Make sure your rabbit is allowed time outside the cage or pen every day. If you can't manage letting your rabbit roam at will indoors, block off a single rabbit-proofed room. A secure, supervised area outside is fine as well, but don't leave your rabbit unattended.

Rabbits can be scared literally to death by cats, dogs and even jays and crows. Because some rabbits can be chewers, you'll want to make sure that any rabbit-friendly area has electrical cords tucked away, and deny access to the legs of nice furniture and the corners of good carpets.

Rabbits love toys: Cat toys, dog toys, hard-plastic baby toys and even the cardboard tubes from inside toilet paper and paper towel rolls are fun for rabbits. Cardboard boxes stuffed with hay and treats are also fun for bunnies.

I had a trio of pet rabbits for a few years – Turbo, Annie and Velocity. I still miss them, and will be looking to adopt a pair later this spring. I encourage you to join me, and make this spring a good one for former Easter bunnies.

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