What happens in late summer? Animal shelters across North America start overflowing with rabbits. Why? Because all those cute bunnies people bought at Easter are all grown up – and turned out to be more work than people expected. In fact, only 2% of households have a rabbit – the same amount of people who own horses. Rabbits are now the third most common animal at shelters after dogs and cats. Those are the ones that make it to the shelter. Often, a family that’s grown tired of a rabbit will just dump it in a field, thinking it’ll survive on its own in the wild, but that’s not the case.
According to Mary Cotter who runs a rabbit rescue group, rabbits can die of heart attacks from the very approach of a predator. Domestic rabbits are defenseless against predators, and will either get eaten or starve to death! However, rabbits do make good pets – as long as you can handle the responsibility. They can easily be trained to use a litter box, come when you call them and will play fetch. They are inquisitive, intelligent, sociable and affectionate, but they aren't for everyone.
They live 10 or more years, and generally aren’t good around small children, because they put an end to any interaction they don’t like by biting, scratching or running away. They also have to live indoors – outside, they can quickly die in heat, and in a small cage, they can become aggressive. In confined spaces they develop what’s called “cage rage” as they protect their small area. Rabbits also require daily feeding, grooming, exercise, social time and cleanup.
Bunnies by nature don’t like to cuddle. They’re prey animals – eaten by coyotes and other carnivores – so they survive by hiding. Since they’re used to being chased, they interpret cuddling as being captured. They can learn to like it – but it may take time. Know this – rabbits chew their entire lives; it’s not something they grow out of. So you’ll need to rabbit proof your home. If you already have a rabbit and realize it’s too much to handle, don’t resort to bunny dumping! Find a no-kill shelter by calling your local SPCA – or Googling “No kill shelter rabbits” in your area.