By Sarah Whitman
Senior Staff Writer
It’s that time of year again, when stuffed bunny rabbits line the shelves at major stores and children cheerfully ask their parents, “Can I have a real bunny for Easter this year?”
“For Easter there’s always an unbelievable increase in rabbit sales,” said Mike Levy, manager of Pet City in Land O’ Lakes. “People need to know bunnies aren’t a seasonal gift to get and then ignore in a week. A bunny is a living animal that needs to be taken care of for the rest of its life.”
Levy said there are many factors to consider before purchasing a pet rabbit. Rabbits may be smaller than most cats and dogs, but they still require care and exercise. They like to run, hop and play. They require a medium to large-size living area, food, bedding, treats and most importantly love.
“Rabbits shouldn’t be kept in a cage all day,” Levy said. “They need to be taken out periodically. If you are gone all day or travel a lot, a rabbit isn’t the right pet for you.”
Meagan Rathman of Land O’ Lakes has a one-year-old male bunny named Indiana.
“A rabbit is a long-term commitment,” she said. “Getting one requires thought and preparation. You shouldn’t just jump into it.”
Pet City sells rabbits of all kinds, Netherland dwarfs, lion heads, mini lops, mini rex’s and full lops. Dwarfs and lion heads usually weigh about 4 pounds, and mini rex’s about 5. Full lops can grow to be 17 to 20 pounds.
It is important they be fed well to ensure proper growth. Levy said rabbits like carrots but carrots alone are not a sufficient diet.
“Too much carrots or lettuce isn’t good for them,” he said. “It’s important that they eat their pellet food. Too much of one vegetable can make them sick. It’s better to give carrots as a treat.”
Rabbits also require a flavored wood chew.
“Rabbit teeth grow constantly and if they don’t have something to chew on, they can overgrow,” Levy said. “If left unfixed they can grow into the roof of their mouth.”
Levy said healthy rabbits can live 20 years.
They are generally peaceful and loving. Most get along well with other animals. Still, not all animals get along well with rabbits.
“It depends on your pet,” Levy said. “I use to have a bull mastiff that would play nicely with my rabbits but some dogs still have the desire to hunt. A rabbit shouldn’t be left alone with another animal.”
Levy said bunnies are good starter pets. He recommends them to families with children of all ages.
“I have children and they’ve always had rabbits,” Levy said. “Rabbits love to sit on your lap. They are loving pets.”
Anthony Robinson of Wesley Chapel owns and breeds rabbits.
“I think rabbits make great pets because they are very docile animals and it’s amazing how much personality each one has,” Robinson said. “I have rabbits that come up and nudge your leg for petting. I have rabbits that will roll a ball back to you. They are a whole lot smarter than people give them credit for.”
Robinson is leery of the how many rabbits are purchased during Easter.
“Parents have to realize when they get a rabbit for their child, it is the parent that is ultimately responsible for its care,” he said. “Many rabbits end up in shelters because people don’t want to take care of them. Rabbits need loving homes.”
Rathman said her rabbit Indiana loves to cuddle.
“He’s very low key and enjoys just hanging around,” she said. “Kids love to play with him and pet him. He likes everybody.”
Levy said the most important thing to remember when purchasing a rabbit for Easter is that an Easter bunny needs love and care all year long. They are not toys that can be thrown away.
“If people are willing to take care of a rabbit and make it a member of the household, they really are great pets,” Levy said.
For information on purchasing a rabbit, call Pet City at (813) 242-7600 or contact Robinson’s Wabbits at .
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