The Lure of the Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny has been around for a very long time. As early as 1682, there was a reference to the German tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter Eggs for the children. Sometimes a live rabbit would be brought to the church, representing the Easter Bunny. The rabbit can be found in medieval church art as well, as it has been connected with the Virgin Mary, the Holy Trinity, and the fertility of springtime. Christians of the Eastern Orthodox Church would dye eggs red for Easter, recognizing the blood of Christ but also the renewal of spring. Some used the color green to honour new foliage, and the Ukrainian art of decorating eggs for Easter dates to ancient, pre-Christian times. Who but the Easter Bunny would carry these eggs to the children?
Thus in modern America, the Easter Bunny visits children with baskets of chocolate or candy eggs. And sometimes a real bunny is given to a child at Easter. What could be sweeter than your own soft, cuddly little bunny rabbit to cuddle and play with?
Before you bring home a rabbit for your child, here are some thoughts to consider:
- Bunnies don’t like to be held. They may think you are a predator who wants to hurt them. They might struggle, bite, or run away. They cannot be passive. Their instincts as prey animals tell them to escape.
- They can be shy and jumpy and can take a while learning to trust you. A child may soon be put off or, on the positive side, may have the opportunity to learn patience.
- Bunnies are delicate and can easily be hurt if stepped on or handled improperly.
- A rabbit can live ten years or more and requires as much care as a dog or cat, including the need for spay/neuter surgery.
- They can be trained to a litter box, but you must keep it clean, as well as their cage.
- Rabbits need exercise, and when they enjoy running around the house, they can leave a trail of dry pellets behind.
- Rabbits love to chew on electrical power cords. Just think about that one!
- The main portion of a rabbit’s diet must be hay, with a small amount of greens. In fact, you should only provide carrots in tiny portions as an occasional treat. Bugs Bunny is not a healthy role model for your rabbit!
When the bunny—now a full grown rabbit—is more trouble to care for than expected, that well intended Easter gift may be dropped off at the local animal shelter. In fact, each year by six weeks after Easter, shelters have an abundance of rabbits who need new loving homes. A worse choice of irresponsible rabbit owners is to dump the creature outside on its own. In such a case, the rabbit ends up as a meal for a predator because a domesticated rabbit cannot fend for itself in the wild.
For some great suggestions from organizations that specialize in the care and adoption of rabbits, visit these websites: www.saveabunny.org and www.rabbit.org . These wonderful non-profits take in abandoned rabbits, providing veterinary care, spay/neuter surgery, and finding new homes. You can make donations easily online.
If the idea of having a pet rabbit still appeals to the children of your house, suggest they visit the local animal shelter where they can become acquainted with the rabbits. Watch to see how rabbits are cared for, get to know what owning a little creature like that is really like. Another excellent option would be to contact a rabbit rescue group near you to learn about fostering a rabbit. No one can deny rabbits are soft and adorable, but as one boy who volunteers at a shelter caring for the rabbits said “They don’t play with you like a dog would, and they won’t come when they’re called, unless they feel like it. They have their own way of doing things, and there’s stuff going on in their heads that you can’t know unless you really watch and pay attention.”
Right now our local Palo Alto Animal Services has some beautiful rabbits available for adoption. This Easter, when you visit the pet store and are tempted by the soft, furry, cuddly little bunny rabbits, be sure in your own mind that you are ready to take responsibility for proper care and feeding.
Jeremy Lindston Robinson, our Vice President