They're cute, they're cuddly - and they're not
the best choice for a pet for young children. Baby rabbits are almost irresistible at Eastertime, but those who know how to care for them say buying one can be a big mistake, unless the family members know what they're getting into.
Sandi Ackerman founded and runs Rabbit Meadows
. The nonprofit shelter and boarding facility for rabbits in Redmond is home to many "residents" that had been abandoned. Ackerman loves rabbits, but warns they are a lot of work.
"They need to be supervised like a 2- to 3-year-old child. They have to get exercise, and you can't just let 'em out to run around the house. Of course, you have to run after a baby and pick up bunny poop, 'cause they're not altered. That's part of marking their territory - they scatter droppings everywhere, saying, 'This is my territory.'"
Ackerman adds that while rabbits are sociable, they don't generally like to be picked up or carried around. They also will chew through cords and dig up carpets. They have very specific dietary needs, and if someone in the family is allergic to food they eat, like hay, that's a problem, she says.
Within a few months, an adorable baby rabbit hits puberty. That's when its real personality emerges, Ackerman explains, and it can become aggressive, especially if not spayed or neutered promptly.
"Once they sexually mature, they start spraying. They're worse than an unaltered dog or cat in season - but rabbits are in season 24/7. The small breeds of rabbits, the dwarfs, are like the small breeds of dogs: They're hyperactive, territorial and aggressive. So, they're the worst pet for a child."
This time of year, Rabbit Meadows
fields lots of calls from curious parents about bunny adoptions. She tells them it's a 10-year commitment and should not be taken lightly.
"Definitely do research. We really like it when people come to us first and they say, sort of hesitantly, 'Well, we're not here to get a rabbit today.' We say, 'Oh, fantastic!' We want people to come talk to us first, and get all the information about rabbits."
In short, a caring for a pet rabbit is a family project, one only for families with older children and adults who are willing to take the lead and do the homework. One place to start is on the shelter's website, www.RabbitMeadows.org