Today is the Chinese new year. This year it is the year of the rabbit! Rabbits, in Chinese culture, are said to bring about good luck. They represent the moon, and are a symbol of longevity, beauty, and wealth. Those are all great things. Unfortunately, holidays featuring rabbits have become notoriously bad luck for the rabbits themselves.
Some restaurants this year are using the rabbit new year as an excuse to add rabbit meat to their menus. That's certainly bad luck for the playful, intelligent creatures who also happen to be the third most popular pet in the United States.
But pet rabbits don't always have it easy either. Many people still view them as disposable pets. They have a stereotype as being cheap and easy to care for. In reality, rabbits require about as much care as most dogs or cats would. They should receive regular vet care from a rabbit savvy vet, which aren't always easy to find and are often times even more expensive then your typical dog or cat vet. Rabbits, to make good pets, ideally should be spayed or neutered when they hit sexual maturity to help curb negative behaviors and also for health reasons. Also, rabbits have very sensitive digestive systems that require careful monitoring and speedy vet care when/if problems arise. Many rabbits are abandoned because of the belief that they are cuddly pets. While they certainly are cute, most rabbits do not enjoy being picked up, held, or cuddled with.
In the United States, the worst time for pet rabbits is around Easter. As a common symbol of the holiday, rabbits are often purchased or given as gifts in celebration. But in the weeks and months after Easter, many of these rabbits are abandoned. The lucky ones will find their way to rabbit rescues and shelters. The less fortunate ones often times find themselves at high kill shelters, with staff who may not know much about them. Some of them won't even be as lucky as that. Instead of finding a new home or being euthanize at the hands of a caring individual, they will be released outside where they will be forced to deal with, and most likely die from, things like predators, lack of food, traffic, and temperature extremes.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the pet rabbit population is already on the raise thanks to their roll in this years Chinese new year.
"Second Chance Animal Aid Shanghai says it has started getting calls to pick up abandoned rabbits. With the misconception rife that these animals are easy pets, the organization says it expects more such requests.
"Many don't know how hard it is to raise these animals," says Mary Peng, a founder of International Center for Veterinary Services, in Beijing."
Pets should never be purchased because of a fad, or on a whim. These living, breathing animals deserve good homes where their human caregivers understand their needs and how to successfully fulfill them. Owners of rabbits should research and understand their pets behaviors, not punish them for behaviors that are natural to the species (such as chewing), and give their pets safe ways to express their natural behaviors without causing harm to property or themselves.
If you are interested in getting a pet rabbit, please make sure to fully research them first. When you are ready for your new furry friend, please consider adoption!
Happy year of the rabbit!