5 reasons not to buy an Easter bunny

Got little kids or a Terrier breed? Might want to stick to Peeps.A rabbit is an appealing pet choice at any time of year, and for good reason. Quiet, compact, litter-box-trainable and utterly adorable (floppy ears! twitchy noses!), bunnies might seem like a great pet for apartment-dwellers whose leases prohibit dogs or cats, or for kids who love the "Peter Rabbit" books.

And rabbits can make good pets for families – but not all families. Many prospective rabbit owners may give in to the wheedling for a bunny without understanding the species or knowing what caring for a rabbit entails. Five reasons a Little Bunny Foo-Foo may not be a good fit for your household:

Rabbits nibble.
The popular image of a rabbit munching peaceably on a carrot is, alas, not the reality. Sure, they'll eat carrots…but they'll also gnaw on anything else, including carpeting, baseboards, towels, and most dangerous of all, electrical cords. Rabbits must chew (and dig) constantly; it's necessary in order to wear down their teeth and claws, which grow throughout their lives.

Providing proper alternatives in your bunny's environment can lessen her desire to destroy your décor – plentiful hay to chew on, a mat to dig in, cardboard to nibble and nest in, and toys to play with. You can also bunny-proof your home to keep Bunnicula away from dangerous cords and outlets.

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But if your rabbit spends plentiful time outside her cage, the occasional table leg or credit-card bill could get snacked on. If you can't tolerate periodic damage of this type – not to mention the odd poo pellet – or can't spare the time to train or watch your bun when she's out and about, you may be better off with a different pet.

Rabbits need routine.
The House Rabbit Society's FAQ about rabbits and children is very clear on this point, even bolding it for emphasis: "As the adult, you need to get used to this idea: The rabbit will be your pet." This is good advice for any species a parent acquires, after believing myriad heartfelt promises from the younguns that "we'll walk it and brush it every day!"; the kids always mean well, but the parents usually end up shouldering the bulk of the pet care.

But it's particularly important to remember when it comes to our long-eared friends; the HRS's article goes on to note that rabbits are "very sensitive to changes" in their routines, be it feeding, cleaning, or exercise, and they may react to shifts in the schedule by getting sick and/or acting out. If your kids are too young – or your family's just too busy – to stick to a schedule for the March Hare's care, you should probably postpone acquiring a bunny.

Rabbits are introverts.
Rabbit personalities, like those of cats and dogs (and humans), vary from animal to animal. Dana Krempels, lecturer at the University of Miami’s Department of Biology and a board member of the House Rabbit Society, told Jacksonville.com that "Rabbits can be a wonderful companion. They're sensitive, clean and have a sense of humor. When they're happy, they dance and it can be fun to watch. They can be extremely rewarding, loving creatures."

But, she added, "Rabbits are not like a dog or cat," she says. "They can be aloof. And they don't obey you like a dog. You need to learn a whole new language and deal with them on their level."

Some rabbits may lick or nip gently to show affection, but according to Josh Humphries, director of the American Rabbit Breeders Association’s District 6 in Florida, the average rabbit isn't as easy to read or overtly affectionate as a dog, or even a cat. "If you put a rabbit in your lap, it will sit there and be content, but that’s about as much affection as it will show," Humphries said. Not everyone minds a more reticent pet, and your family may be content with a soft, pretty animal who keeps its own counsel – but the lack of feedback might be disappointing for kids. Consider something that purrs or shakes hands instead.

Rabbits are fragile.
Rabbits may look fairly hardy, but they're rather delicate – especially their spines, which should never flex backwards. There's a correct technique to lifting them, reviewed on the Colorado House Rabbit Society's website, and needless to say, it doesn't involve picking them up by the ears or scruffs.

Smaller children may not have "gentle" mastered quite yet; rambunctious little ones can accidentally hurt bunnies, or even scare them to a dangerous degree. Rabbits do sometimes die of fright if startled or cornered by raccoons, overhead birds of prey, or aggressive fellow pets. An outgoing and rambunctious two-year-old with the best intentions could make a bunny's life miserable.

Rabbits are prey.
It's eminently possible to train cats and/or dogs and rabbits to co-exist – but the key word is "train." Dogs already living in your household should be rock-solid on sit/stay commands; dogs and cats should be adults, which will make them less likely to treat the rabbit like a toy.

But some cats and dogs will see the bunny as a future meal. Retrievers and terriers in particular are bred to chase down furry creatures, and make poor roommates for rabbits (as we mentioned, rabbits easily go into shock; what your Golden thinks of as a game could scare Foo-Foo to death). Does your dog regularly take off after birds and squirrels? He could do the same to your bunny; the same goes for indoor-outdoor cats who tend to bring home rodent treats and leave them on your back stoop. Those animals are more likely to attack the rabbit, so be honest with yourself about whether you can blend the animal families. Regardless, prepare to spend a lot of time slowly acclimating the pets to one another while you supervise.

Still dying for a super-soft, long-eared friend of your own? We don't blame you; they are very soft and fluffy little buddies. But lots of rabbits are brought to shelters in the weeks after Easter, when families change their minds about a pet who eat the crossword before they've filled it in – so instead of buying a rabbit at Easter, wait a month or so and adopt one who needs a new forever home, or foster a homeless Bugs for a few weeks to see if it's a good fit with your household.

Any great (or terrible) live Easter bunny stories to share? Got any tips for integrating a rabbit with the other pets in a menagerie? Drop some science on us in the comments, or let us know on Twitter, @YahooShinePets!

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