We are a family who has House Rabbits.
I'll give you a moment to compose yourself as you laugh and wipe away tears.
Yes. House Rabbits. Free Roam, litter trained, spayed and neutered House Rabbits. Kind of like Cats, with longer ears and the whole vegetarian vibe going for them.
I never planned on being a House Rabbit parent. No sir. I was fine with La Chatte, a neighborhood cat who adopted us upon our moving into HER home. I mean, it wasn't as if we were going anywhere, and she seemed nice enough. I was however, a little shocked. People just move away and LEAVE their pets? Really!?
I later came to find that in Montreal, it is a huge problem - especially on the July 1 - Moving Day. Shelters around the city begin to be flooded with animals of all sorts whose owners decided that , Meh - just not worth the trouble to move the animal.
Now, there is a pet store in our local Mall, which shall remain nameless. Every time we are in the mall, Emily Begs to go and see the animals. Lizards, Birds, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Rats, Ferrets...all the way up through $1200 purebred dogs. And I hate it. I hate the whole thing. I watch children beg and plead for the cute animals...and sometimes they go home with them.
But what happens after that? Let me tell you what happens after that Twelve dollar baby bunny is no longer "cute" or "convenient" or "fun".
Jackson is our male gray chinchilla rabbit, with lovely long silky ears. He was most likely adopted as a baby bunny around Easter last year. He was, no doubt, very sweet and cute and fuzzy. He was also, most likely, well behaved and easy to manage.
When they found Jackson ( and another male rabbit) they figured that the two boys had been in the now empty, locked apartment for 2 weeks. They were both undernourished, but managed to stay alive. Maybe the previous owner had left the rest of the bag of pellets out for them. In fact, that is the only way I can figure they were able to not starve to death. Jackson was taken to the SPCA where he was examined, and when he was healthy enough, put up for adoption. His path and ours intersected as we were looking for a guy to bond with our female rabbit.
We were interviewed, and gave our Exotics Vet name and number as a reference. We got a call, came back and met Jackson and agreed to foster him for a couple of months, to see if he and Coco bonded as well as free up a space in the shelter for another rabbit in Jackson's situation. His neuter was scheduled for the coming Friday and we planned to pick him up after the procedure.
Of course, Jackson's experience with humans had not been stellar up to this point. It took him some time to relax and heal. It took longer for him to get used to eating a proper rabbit diet of mostly greens instead of pellets designed for Meat Rabbits. He did, however, fall in love with Coco ( who had been rescued after living in a dark basement in a small cage for 2 years). By October, we had gone back to the SPCA and made the fostering into an official adoption. He had a forever family.
Loki, our current Feline Family member is also an SPCA abandon. Never Neutered. Never immunized. When we adopted him he was already infected with Feline Rhino, a viral infection which stays with the cat for life if infected. His already damaged nose ( kicked in the face? His front teeth were also broken) is now forever really messed up. He can't smell most things due to the after effects of the virus.
What do all these stories have in common? Abandoned Animals. Discarded when the novelty wore off. Animals who became teenagers after being cute puppies or bunnies or kitties and their humans just couldn't be bothered.
For we in the House Rabbit family, Easter is a terrifying time. I know that people will buy bunnies from pet stores, only to turn them "loose" by summer when their hormones kick in and they become rebellious, sexually frustrated teen Buns - like a smaller, furry motorcycle gang with the ability to rapidly reproduce.
What happens to those rabbits? Well, what would happen to you if we stripped you naked and set you in the middle of the Amazon? A majority become dinner for larger prey. A few ( very,very few) make it until the cold, or people or cars kill them. Some go on Craigslist where some people may "adopt " them, not knowing anything about the intensive care and feeding that rabbits require, only to be given away again, or set "free". Some become food for peoples pet snakes.
So, do me a favor. Research. Consider. Think. If you choose to bring ANY pet home, are you willing and able to provide care, medical attention, nutrition, and social interaction/exercise that this Pet deserves?
Just because a pet is small, doesn't mean it doesn't need to be seen by a Vet who is knowledgeable about their species. In the case of Coco and Jackson, they see an Exotics vet for yearly checkups and the occasional in between visit for possible ear infections/teeth/sore hocks issues. When Coco was so ill with Bloat this winter, it was 500 bucks for a 4 day illness. When Jackson was seen a month ago for Stasis - a condition which can worsen and kill a rabbit - it was 170 dollars for a visit AND all of the medication, special food and fluids. Not to mention I had the supreme honor of having to force feed a rabbit with a syringe.
Yes, they were both spayed and neutered, and it wasn't cheap. Yes, they eat a very small amount of pellets, but the majority of their diet is fresh greens - about 8 cups a day for the two of them. And the Hay I buy in bulk from a local farm. They eat a 4 pound bag a week. Oh - and you can't just "leave them alone" when you go on vacation - Rabbits need to be boarded or otherwise cared for in your absence. More $$.
Rabbits need a minimum of 3 uncaged hours per day - more if they can, and in the case of Coco and Jackson, free roam, 24/7. Less leads to muscle issues , as well as gut immobility. They are grazers and built to be moving. Being confined in a tiny cage does not serve their body well.
Which leads me to rabbit proofing - thick plastic cables to encase the cords, small gates to keep them from the bigger things and hundreds of dollars of replaced cables when we forget.
In the words of my vet, who examined Jackson after we had adopted him and after hearing the story of how he had been found in the locked apartment:
"There is a special place in hell for assholes like that."
I sure hope so.
Don't be one of those people.
Want to research more on the care of House Rabbits?
House Rabbit Society is an excellent place to start.