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By Robyn Wesley
Here’s an easy way to save almost $8,000 this Easter: Surprise your child with a plush toy bunny instead of a living, breathing Peter Cottontail.
A real rabbit may not seem like a big investment initially, but Thumper’s tab soon adds up when you throw in food, nail trimmers, brushes, veterinarian visits, spaying or neutering and other necessities. Caring for a rabbit is an 8- to 12-year commitment that typically costs more than $7,600.
A plush rabbit, on the other hand, won’t set you back more than a few bucks and can be donated or tossed into a closet after “bunny fever” has subsided.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve cared for several rescued rabbits over the years, and they make loving companions for someone who is committed to giving them the time and attention that they need. They just don’t belong in an Easter basket.
Pet stores love to display adorable bunnies this time of year—most of whom likely came from filthy, severely crowded mass-breeding facilities. These stores rarely inform buyers that rabbits are high-maintenance animals who require specialized care.
For example, although rabbits can be shy, they are not solitary animals. They love to be stroked and spoken to gently, and they want to be part of the family. One of my rabbits, Henry, loved to be the center of attention and would sit in the middle of the living room while I watched TV. When I petted my rabbit Cozy, he’d respond by giving me tons of kisses. Freya, my other rabbit, would gently nibble on my inner arm.
Cozy and Freya fell in love and became inseparable. No matter where they went, they would always sit with their bodies pressed together. Henry and my cat Winnie used to chase each other around the house and playfully wrestle. When my cat Josie groomed Henry, he would grind his teeth with pleasure.
Locking a rabbit in a cage makes for a lonely and depressed bunny. In order to let them have some freedom, rabbits need to be litterbox-trained, and your house needs to be rabbit-proofed. Bunnies chew on anything and everything in order to keep their teeth trimmed. Electrical cords, books, furniture, molding, carpets and shoes will need to be covered or moved out of the rabbit’s reach if you don’t want them to be gnawed.
Regular brushing is a must since rabbits shed profusely and hairballs can be fatal (they can’t cough them up like cats can). They also need a high-fiber diet including grass, timothy or oat hay, and fresh veggies. Dry pellets alone aren’t sufficient. Spaying or neutering is vital to prevent rabbits from spraying urine—and from making more bunnies.
Another fact that pet shops don’t point out is that bunnies aren’t good companions for children. Rabbits don’t like to be picked up and will kick, scratch and bite to defend themselves. Their bodies are so fragile that an overly enthusiastic “hug” can break their bones.
When reality sets in and people who bought bunnies on impulse discover that they are more work than they expected, scores of these sensitive animals are tossed out like stale jellybeans. Many rabbits are euthanized in shelters because there aren’t enough people lining up to give them a lifetime of love and care. Other rabbits are banished to solitary confinement in a hutch or are simply turned loose outdoors, where they don’t stand a chance against the elements and predators.
If you’re certain that you’re prepared to care for a real rabbit for the next 12 or so Easters to come, please rescue one of the many affectionate and deserving rabbits waiting in animal shelters and rabbit rescue groups across the country. If not, opt for a bunny that’s stuffed with fluff instead. Not only will it save you a bundle of bucks, it could also save a real bunny from a lifetime of suffering.
By Lindsay Pollard-Post
Peeking out from under the tree with a bright red ribbon around his neck, he was their favorite present on Christmas morning. The kids threw the ball for him until he flopped down in happy exhaustion, tongue lolling and tail whipping wildly. They paraded him around the neighborhood every day and snuggled under the covers with him at night. But as the weeks passed, it wasn’t long before he went from adored to ignored. His family was too busy playing video games or dashing off to their next appointment to bother with him.
One day, the man clipped a leash to his collar. A car ride! He paced in the backseat in excitement. But when they reached their destination, he tucked his tail between his legs in fear. The man led him into a building full of barking dogs. “He’s getting too big. We just don’t have time for him,” the man said, handing the leash over to a kind-looking woman. He tried to follow the man out the door, but it closed in his face. The man left without even saying goodbye.
This is the sad story of countless dogs and cats who are given as “gifts” for Christmas, only to be tossed out like stale fruitcake after their novelty wears off. Every year following the holidays, shelters across the country scramble to accommodate the surge of abandoned animals. Yet animals who end up in shelters are the “lucky” ones: They will be cared for and have a chance at being adopted by a different family, one that will love them for life—not just for the holidays.
Less fortunate dogs and cats are banished to backyards and chained up like old bicycles, with nothing to do but shiver and watch the snow pile up. Others are driven “out to the country” and dumped, where they starve, get hit by cars or freeze to death. So much for happy holidays.
This is why, even if you’re certain that your loved one wants and is prepared to care for an animal companion, it’s crucial to resist the temptation to give him or her a living, breathing “present.” Adding a cat or dog to the family means making a 15-year-plus commitment to love and care for the animal, for better or for worse. It also means finding an animal who is a good match for one’s activity level, experience, abilities and personality. These aren’t decisions you can make for someone else.
If you’re thinking of getting an animal as a “gift” to yourself, hold off until after the holiday hoopla is over. Animals require vast amounts of time, attention, patience and money—all of which are in short supply during this season. With parties, events and shopping filling up most families’ schedules around the holidays, new animals’ needs are often neglected, and the animals suffer. Left for hours with nothing to do and no one to play with them or take them outside to relieve themselves, animals are likely to chew on furniture, scratch up curtains and carpets and have “accidents” in the house—and then be unfairly punished for it.
Putting a puppy or kitten under the tree isn’t a “gift” for anyone. If you’re certain that your loved one is prepared to give an animal an excellent home, consider wrapping up a dog bowl or a leash and offering to accompany him or her to an animal shelter after the holidays to choose a loving animal companion for life, not just for Christmas.
Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation.
By Bobbie Mullins
Every year around this time, pet shops’ display windows start filling up with cute “Easter” bunnies. Who can resist those wriggly noses and fluffy cotton tails? My advice: You’re better off with the bunnies found in toy stores or candy stores—not pet stores.
The trouble is, a few months from now, many of those adorable Easter bunnies will have worn out their welcome, and what will become of them then?
I found out the answer when a neighbor discovered two domesticated rabbits hopping around in her yard one morning. We rigged a trap to nab the skittish bunnies, and I “temporarily” took them in. We later learned that the rabbits, now named Eddie and Lewie, had escaped from dilapidated hutches and that their owner didn’t particularly care if they never came back.
With Eddie and Lewie now permanent members of my family, I know that despite their meek appearance, bunnies are high-maintenance animals. They need to be groomed regularly and fed a high-fiber diet to prevent potentially fatal hairballs (rabbits can’t vomit like cats do). They are prone to a variety of health conditions, including upper respiratory and ear infections, tooth infections and misalignment, bladder stones and cancer of the thymus.
Rabbits are safest and happiest living indoors—those who are forced to live in cages outside can suffer and die from heat exhaustion in the summer and exposure in the winter. They are also at the mercy of prowling predators—even if a raccoon or dog isn’t able to get into the cage, rabbits can literally die of fright by being trapped with no means of escape. Continue reading This Easter, stick to chocolate bunnies!
By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member
For so many people in Worcester County, a weakened economy may mean people out of work or working fewer hours. Purchasing extravagant birthday gifts for your children or buying them lots of “stuff” may take a back seat to the needed necessities of everyday living.
However, with every dark cloud there is a silver lining. Let’s reassess our giving. We need to overcome our feeling that the amount of money we spend on kids correlates with our love for them and the quality of our relationships. Instead of being materialistic, let’s be creative. Consider giving your love and time to your children! Why not give your family and friends a gift that gives back? Continue reading Give kids what they really want: love (not more stuff!)