28/03/2013 14:09 GMT | Updated 28/05/2013 06:12 BST

Easter Presents Gone Wrong - Are Your Family Really Ready for a Pet Rabbit?

Blue Cross

It's no surprise that children love the idea of keeping a rabbit as a pet - they are exceptionally cute and fluffy, and particularly at this time of year, there's no escaping the rabbit toys and rabbit shaped chocolate adorning shop windows just in time for Easter.

But before you decide to take a trip to the pet shop, please stop and think for a moment whether you are ready to take on the responsibility of looking after quite a complex little creature.

Carry out some research on these fascinating animals before you commit to bringing one home and don't ever be tempted to buy on impulse, as it may result in disappointment and frustration for all concerned, particularly the rabbit.


One of our Blue Cross rabbits, Beyonce

When the novelty wears off

Unfortunately, rabbits are still thought of as an 'easy' introduction to owning a pet - a way of teaching a child how to be responsible for another living being and everything that goes with this.

Sadly, the enthusiasm for looking after a rabbit can soon diminish after the novelty wears off and the once exciting pet that isn't quite as cuddly as originally thought quickly becomes last year's favourite 'toy' - forgotten about.

The reality is that most rabbits will not make very rewarding pets if they are acquired exclusively for small children.

They don't enjoy being picked up and cuddled and they are easily frightened. Often rabbits feel that the only way to keep safe is to run away and hide from enthusiastic children who understandably want to make friends with their new pet, and some rabbits may learn to use aggression if all else fails.

A child who gets scratched or bitten by a frightened rabbit will understandably lose interest in taking part in their care.

As disappointment sets in and interest wanes, thousands of rabbits every year are abandoned, given to animal charities or simply forgotten about.

A lonely life for rabbits

Sadly, many rabbits end up living a desperately lonely existence, in a small hutch with little or no opportunity to carry out normal behaviour.

Rabbits can live up to eight years - that's an awfully long time to spend in solitary confinement.

So, when the children insist on a 'real' Easter bunny this year, make sure you want one too, and for the next six to eight years, as it's not realistic to expect them to take full responsibility for their new pet.

Consider the financial implications also - the right accommodation, neutering, vaccinations, regular check-ups from your vet and an appropriate diet to keep their delicate digestive system working properly will soon mount up.

Of course children can enjoy learning about rabbits and interacting with them, but perhaps not in the manner that they had originally hoped, so it's important that a child's expectations are well managed to avoid later disappointment.

Rabbits, being prey animals, like to keep all four feet firmly on the ground and prefer to hop onto a lap to get a tasty treat rather than being picked up and carried around.

So, should you get a rabbit?

The message here is that rabbits can make fantastic pets if properly understood and not just bought on a whim.

They can be extremely interactive, entertaining and fun if given the correct housing, environment, space, the right diet and most importantly companionship of their own kind.

It's better for everyone concerned that the whole family are ready for such a commitment, and are willing and able to provide the correct care that these special pets need and deserve.

Start your research here by visiting the Blue Cross website where you can also see the unwanted rabbits staying with Blue Cross until we find them loving homes