Experts: Don't fall prey to impulse when buying rabbits
Alyssa O'Toole of Dormont has four beloved, affectionate furry pets who have full run of the house.
Dogs and cats? No, bunny rabbits — both her own, plus the many special-needs rabbits she fosters through her rescue organization, Rabbit Wranglers, which is now caring for nearly five dozen bunnies in foster homes.
“I couldn't imagine not having a rabbit in my life,” O'Toole, 46, says. “They're just amazing, amazing. Intelligent and entertaining.”
At Easter time, many people acquire a pet rabbit as a holiday-theme impulse buy, and they don't understand what caring for one entails. Then, when the novelty wears off, the rabbit ends up in shelters, rescue groups and even the outdoors, where they often don't fare well.
“The rabbit looks cute and cuddly ... but it's definitely a different experience living with a rabbit than with a dog or a cat,” O'Toole says.
The North Side-based Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, which has about two dozen rabbits available for adoption, took in more than 300 surrendered rabbits in 2012, spokeswoman Gretchen Fieser says. Most of them come in the summer and fall months, when the Easter novelty has worn off.
“So many bunnies find themselves at the Humane Society or other shelters because people don't do the research and don't think things through,” Fieser says.
Rabbits seem simple but are actually high-maintenance animals, says Suaz Forsythe, co-founder and co-leader of Rabbit Wranglers along with O'Toole. For one thing, rabbits aren't a short-term commitment like a goldfish. The average lifespan is 10 years.
Not all veterinarians treat them, Forsythe says, and medicines used for cats and dogs can kill rabbits. Bunnies, rather than eat a commercially prepared and bagged diet, eat mostly hay and vegetables, which take more effort to prepare.
Dr. Betsy Kennon, a veterinarian who treats rabbits and other pets at VCA Northview Animal Hospital in Ross, says that rabbits require about the same amount of medical maintenance as a dog or cat, although they don't need vaccinations. They do need regular veterinary checkups, and should be spayed or neutered, she says.
Perhaps the biggest and most unpleasant surprise rabbit owners find is their pets' hyperactive digestive system: Rabbits pass some 260 pellets a day, Forsythe says. That's a lot of cleanup.
Many people erroneously believe that rabbits should spend their lives in cages like hamsters, which is not true. Maybe this is why some people think a rabbit doesn't bond with people, says Forsythe, who is also the resident rabbit expert and communications coordinator at Kilbuck-based Animal Friends shelter.
“They think (rabbits are) boring,” says Forsythe, of Lawrenceville. “If you lived in a cage your whole life, you'd be pretty boring, as well.”
Some people think rabbits are detached, and not affectionate and engaging like cats and dogs. But don't tell that to Megan Wagner, who has two of her own loving rabbits — Mochi and Otti — and a foster rabbit named Maxwell, whom Wagner is caring for through Rabbit Wranglers.
“I don't think that people necessarily know how affectionate they can be,” says Wagner, 28, of Dormont. “When we're sitting down watching a movie, you never know when one is going to jump up on the couch and start licking your face. ... They're really amazing.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers defensive end Tuitt shifts into high gear
- Steelers notebook: No decision on surgery for rookie CB Golson
- Rossi: Pirates foolish to bet on Burnett return
- Rain postpones Pirates-Cubs game
- Steelers’ Mitchell taking cautious approach about dealing with injuries
- Authorities identify 2 men killed in fiery crash in Pittsburgh
- Thirsty pit bull turned on Arnold neighbors
- Inside the Steelers: Wide array of receiving options shine
- Spirit ending nonstop flights from Arnold Palmer Regional to Chicago, Las Vegas
- Doctors to be given star ratings on UPMC site
- Storms knock out power to thousands of customers in Western Pa.