Monday, April 02, 2012

The facts about Flopsy

According to Tracy Smith, the adoption specialist at the Roanoke Valley SPCA, a rabbit is not typically a good choice for a young child because typically bunnies do not like a lot of noise and they do not like to be held.

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According to Tracy Smith, the adoption specialist at the Roanoke Valley SPCA, a rabbit is not typically a good choice for a young child because typically bunnies do not like a lot of noise and they do not like to be held.

Nona Nelson, The Happy Wag

Read Nona's blog, The Happy Wag:


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Some of my fondest memories of growing up in Indianapolis in the 1960s were trips with my mother to her favorite five-and-dime. Not only did it have a lunch counter — gourmet fare to my unsophisticated palate — but it also had a pets section, which I always got to visit if I behaved (it was about a 50/50 chance).

Most of the year the aquariums and cages at the back of the store housed fish, hamsters and parakeets. But each spring, about the same time the Easter bonnets and patent leather shoes would appear in the kids clothing section, so did the baby bunnies and the pastel-tinted chicks in the pet shop. (Yes, in the pre-PETA days, stores had little white chicks dyed Easter egg colors.)

Mom always pointed out that the cute little fuzzies grew up to be rabbits and chickens, and we did not live on a farm. I am sure that didn't stop some city parents from impulsively buying an Easter bunny for their kids, but my mother was never the impulsive type. I always left the store with a belly full of greasy food and my new Easter hat, but sadly sans bunny.

I now give her lots of credit for not giving me more than I could handle.

Rabbits can be affectionate pets, according to the House Rabbit Society. But bringing one home should not be an impulse, because there is a lot to know about the care of rabbits. And, as usual, my mom was right — those adorable, wee baby bunnies do grow up.

Caring for your rabbit

If you are thinking about adding a bunny to your family, here are some tips from the House Rabbit Society's website, /webminpage/www.rabbit.org:

Before you bring home a bunny, think about where you will keep it. As the name implies, the House Rabbit Society recommends that bunnies be indoor pets. But rabbits are social animals and need to interact with other creatures, especially their human families.

Just like cats and dogs, rabbits will behave better and be healthier if they are spayed or neutered. Not only are they easier to litter train once they've been fixed, they will also be less territorial and less likely to spray.

Rabbits should be neutered between 3 and 6 months old by a vet who specializes in bunny care. (Most of the baby bunnies at pet stores are 6 to 8 weeks old.)

While it's best to start your bunny off in a cage, eventually the rabbit can have free run of your house, as long as you are patient with litter training and are careful to bunny-proof your home.

Rabbits, especially young ones, naturally like to chew, so you need to give him or her plenty of safe chewables and toys and keep all cords out of bunny's reach — for the sake of the rabbit and your expensive electronics.

While rabbits are social, much like cats they can be picky about whom they pal around with. Most will get along with house cats and well-mannered, low-prey-drive pooches. A second rabbit can be a fine companion, but the bunnies should be introduced slowly and be sure they are both fixed or that you have two of the same gender. There's truth behind the cliche about breeding like rabbits.

Rabbits need to see the vet periodically just like other pets, and they are prone to getting intestinal blockages from constantly grooming themselves, so you have to be vigilant about brushing your bunny.

While Bugs Bunny lived on a steady diet of carrots, your non-cartoon pet will need a daily supply of hay and fresh veggies.

Don't shop, adopt

According to Tracy Smith, the adoption specialist at the Roanoke Valley SPCA, a rabbit is not typically a good choice for a young child because typically bunnies do not like a lot of noise and they do not like to be held.

I can attest that as a young child begging in my high-pitched voice for a bunny, toting it around and petting it was all I wanted to do— and my mother wisely didn't believe me when I said I would be sure to feed and care for it.

"Parents must be responsible," Smith said. "A rabbit is a 5- to 10-year commitment."

Speaking of the SPCA, there are three sweet, adult rabbits currently in residence there. If your child has his or her heart set on a bunny and you are willing to make the commitment, you might want to consider adopting. (Hint: The adoption fee is about half the price of buying a bunny at a pet store, and you have a valuable teaching moment about rescuing pets.)

Not born to be wild

One final thought about bunnies: My mother-in-law apparently was the impulsive type in the '60s and let her son (my future husband) have a bunny named Harvey as a pet.

One day the bunny, which was more work than I am sure my mother-in-law bargained for, just "went to live on the farm." She swears that is NOT code for my father-in-law dropping the rabbit off in some woods near their Muncie, Ind., home.

Do not mistake a pet shop bunny, which is completely domesticated, for its wild rabbit cousins that can survive in the forest.

Harvey was on the bottom of the food chain. Even if he did "go to the farm," I hope it wasn't because he bought the farm.

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