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Bunnies & Rabbits

With proper handling and lots of love a bunny can be a remarkable companion

Since the beginning of our collective human history, rabbits have been noted as a resource for food, clothing, (sadly, as) research subjects, and most surprisingly - pets. Since, roughly, the beginning of the 19th century, when it is thought that people began to embrace the idea of companion animals, rabbits have become an off-and-on favored pet. There is somewhat a lack of surprise that it was during one of the most romantic eras of our history - the Victorian Era - that rabbits were truly appreciated as household pets. While one may think that the finicky nature and (seemingly) dull personality of a bunny is the worst possible combination for a beloved pet, many are surprised to find that these creatures can provide as much love, entertainment, and comfort, as most any traditional pet. While bunnies take a while more to warm up to their humans, once The loss of a companion rabbit is as profound as that of any petthey are comfortable with those handling them, their true natures shine. Rabbits are actually somewhat outgoing, as they love to explore their natural surroundings, and are a little less reserved than, say cats, when it comes to what they are willing to do to satisfy this need. This is one of the main reasons that those who do own rabbits must 'bunny-proof' their home, as these adventurous beings can get themselves into a bit of a pickle due to their inquisitive natures. (For example, they will chew and eat harmful materials, such as paper or plastic plants, to no end, and will squeeze into even the most tiny of spaces to find out what lies within.) While the extra step is often necessary to make the home an ideal environment for a bunny to explore, their silly antics and loving personalities are sure to win to hearts of most any they meet.

Today, rabbits are a strong part of more than 24.3 million households - and families - across the United States, and untold millions more across the globe according to statistics published annually by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. While that is far less than the number of dogs and cats that serve faithfully as beloved companion animals in 74 million and 88 million American households, it is still up considerably from previous years (18.2 million American homes had pet rabbits in 2006 and 16.4 million had rabbits in 2003), so it is clear that rabbits are winning the hearts of people everywhere at very rapid rate. (At least one commenter has predicted that rabbits will outnumber cats and dogs as pets by the year 2020, in fact.) So, especially since rabbits generally require just a little more attention from pet owners than do dogs and cats, this love affair with America's newest popular brand of furry friend, will produce - and certainly already has produced - plenty of sentimental emotions among those who have adopted a rabbit as a member of their family. The remainder of this article will focus on this emotional experience of being a rabbit owner and, particularly, on what a rabbit owner can expect when his or her special friend passes on.

Probably the most important thing to keep in mind about the emotions involved with owning a rabbit is that it's perfectly natural – and healthy – to think of a rabbit as being just another member of a family. Companion rabbits are no different from cats and dogs in that respect, but, because rabbits are not normally thought of as pets, some people may feel an unfortunate stigma attached to their emotions of love for their pet rabbit. Such a stigma is best ignored, experts in mental health advise - especially when considering that those who grieve the loss of their pet dog or cat are also ostrascized for their display of emotions. In reality, there is no shame in developing affectionate feelings for a cute, fluffy rabbit whose antics are likely to bring your life hours of joy and laughter. If these feelings mature to the point that you and others in your household begin to think of your pet rabbit as a special member of your family, well, so much the better, experts say. Friends are friends, no matter what the shape or size.

The ways that a rabbit can be memorialized are endlessThis leads us directly the next important thing about owning a rabbit: it's very common, natural and healthy, to feel a dramatic sense of loss when a beloved rabbit has passed on. This phenomenon presents a problem for owners of any species of pet, but it can be especially troublesome for an owner of a rabbit. Rabbits – especially since they are often available on the menus of many fine restaurants – are sometimes not thought of as seriously as other animals such as cats and dogs, and, therefore, many people in our society may be tempted to belittle the love a rabbit owner feels for his or her faithful companion. But, while this is an unfortunate aspect of modern society, it should not give reason for a grieving rabbit lover to question his or her emotions. At times like this, one should remember that mainstream media is often the culprit for those who belittle a grieving pet parent. Because the collective mindset is that one should not mourn for the death of an animal, it does not change the fact that the grief we feel is our body's natural reaction to a life-changing event. One should acknowledge the feelings that accompany the grief from pet loss, as this is necessary to move past the loss and get back to a healthy-living style.

Anyone who has lost a beloved rabbit should know that it is perfectly reasonable and normal to take some time to consider the many memorial options that are available for their beloved friend's memory. Pet cremation urns, headstones, cremation jewelry, caskets and other pet memorial products designed specifically for rabbits are readily available for quick and easy purchase today. Many of these items are designed to serve as discreet memorials that fit seamlessly into just about any indoor or outdoor display so that no one, except those the rabbit's owner holds in confidence, will ever have to know that the beautiful piece of art is, in fact, a touching tribute to a special friend. The pendant to the right, for example, will hold a small amount of fur, cremation ashes, or a similar memento, and will be a beautiful, yet highly discreet, tribute to the lost friend. Moreover, such a remembrance will be very comforting both during, and well after, the mourning period, as it can be kept close for comfort at all times.

Rabbits, like any pet, can be a truly special part of any family's life, and it's important to remember that love such as that is truly a wondrous thing.

More and more, bunnies are becoming a common companion animal, as American society continues to slowly seek more and more diverse pets than the typical cat or dog. While rabbits have long since been bred in captivity, it is only within the last decade that we have been bringing these furry and interesting companions into our homes. The American Pet Products Manufacturer's Association (APPMA), from 1992 to 2000 there are roughly 5.3 million companion rabbits in about 2.2 million American households. As this trend increases, experts on pets are becoming more and more insistent that people who are new to the world of bunnies understand a few key points before diving in. Access to the internet has made many individuals aware of the responsibilities of owning a pet rabbit, as well as more insight into their, often, perplexing natures. One of the greatest disadvantages is the idea that rabbits reproduce quickly, meaning they are easily replaceable. The fact is that bunnies can live for at least a decade, if not longer, and, just as any other pet, require a great amount of attention, care, and above all patience, in order for them to properly adapt to their new homes. Moreover, many pet stores offer bunnies at excruciatingly low prices, which pushes several into buying these creatures on pure impulse, without taking into account the fact that they require a lot of supplies and training in order to live comfortably. Because of these misconceptions, bunnies are often purchased, and subsequently dumped after they don't meet their owners expectations. It is certainly a tragedy that every year thousands of bunnies purchased as pets around the Easter holiday end up in animal shelters a by the end of the summer because the new owners simply did not know what they were getting into. This is especially true when the bunny is purchased as a 'starter pet' for small children, who lack the fine motor skills and patience necessary to properly raise a rabbit. In reality, rabbits make better pets for adults who have time to spend with them, and are not ideal for small children who, even with the best intentions, are more prone to want to carry and coddle the animal. This actually results in the bunny biting or scratching to defend themselves, which in turn causes many to relinquish the bunny to shelters with the idea that the animal is violent. It’s unclear exactly how many of these bunnies end up being euthanized because of these factors, but needless to say, the number is certainly significant. With that said, here are a few pointers and tips for anyone considering a rabbit as a companion animal:

A pet bunny is a large responsibility but will reap even more rewardsThe first thing that numerous experts stress strongly in books, articles and websites is to remember that a bunny is a bunny, not a cat or dog. That simply means that bunny owners should remember that, when they begin having “problems” with their companion, the issue is mostly likely with the owner’s own expectation of what a bunny will be like. Changing these expectations to match reality will usually keep this tragedy at bay, and will also give the rabbit a fair chance as a true companion. Bunnies are smart, but they are not necessarily cunning and extroverted like the famous cartoon character Bugs Bunny. In fact, the personality of most rabbits is more accurately portrayed as the complete opposite of Bugs. Paranoid is, often, a better way to describe a typical bunny’s personality, especially when they are introduced into a new environment. Simply put, it seems that the tendency to be suspicious of just about everything is hardwired into the nature of rabbits. That, understandably, comes from the species having spent millions of years on the low end of the animal kingdom’s food chain. This is very important to keep in mind when trying to compare rabbits to cats or dogs, who have always been predators in the food chain, rather than prey. When we look at it that way, it is no wonder that the personalities of most rabbits are a far cry from that of their other domesticated companions. Bunnies are natural prey for just about every other type of animal on Earth - even humans - 'and don’t think they don’t know it!', experts warn. Almost every bunny will be slow to warm up to even the friendliest of owners, but that’s not necessarily a defect in the bunny. It’s just years of bad karma in his genes. He may never entirely get over the fear that you intend to boil him up with some cabbage eventually. Even still, having patience and understanding in handling and training a rabbit can go a far way in gaining their trust. This is partly why, if one is seriously interested in owning a rabbit, it is better to obtain one from an animal shelter or foster home, as these settings are a lot more personal - and often less hectic - than that of pet stores. Many owners allow their rabbit to naturally become accustomed to their presence by, during the first interactions with the pet, laying flat on the ground with a treat, and letting the bunny run around as they please. This allows the rabbit to explore their surroundings, as well as get used to the idea of such a large creature, such as ourselves, to be near them. Most bunnies will take a few of these interactions before they become comfortable enough to get close to the owner. (This is also one of the reasons that adults are a lot better off as bunny parents, rather than children, who will have a tendency to chase the bunny, in order to pet it, which will, inadvertently, cause the rabbit to be more fearful of his owners and surroundings.) While this can seem frustrating, allowing them to slowly gain confidence in us is the basis of a long lasting and trusting friendship.

Bunnies are like cats in that they like to explore and prefer to be left alone to just roam a house - often running wildly and randomly at various points in a day. But, unlike cats, bunnies often have a difficult time knowing when to quit. Left unchecked, they will eat carpet bare, chew threw wires until they are electrocuted, and even eat plastic - and therefore poisonous - houseplants down to the stem. A responsible rabbit parent will 'bunny proof' their home, making sure there is nothing left out (other than the bunny's toys and chew treats) that can cause harm to the pet. It is very important to understand that leaving a bunny in their cage for hours on end is definitely not the solution. That just reinforces the fears that the bunny already has about his home - and the people in it. Cages are optional for bunnies, and most experts say, the less they are used, the better. Especially when one first adopts a rabbit, it is ideal to leave them out (in a safe area) and let them explore their surroundings. It is also important to note that bunnies, unlike cats, do not like to be lifted or held. They prefer to cuddle at ground level, where they are still about to control their actions (i.e.: running off if they become startled). Many accidents occur because owners try to hold their bunny while standing, and the rabbit, in turn, struggles to break free. This can result in the bunny falling, and broken bones are abound for these small, delicate creatures. It is suggested that if one must lift their bunny, for example to crate them for transportation, to place one hand below the rib cage, and the other around the bunny's bottom (as in the example photo to the left). Once lifted, it is important to allow all four paws to rest on our chest, so they feel more secure. If they struggle greatly, let them down and try again after a few minutes.

Bunnies can make loveable pets, and, like cats and dogs, they will provide hours of fun, comfort and many pleasant memories for your family. They are also much easier to potty train than dogs and, unlike cats, they can usually be trained to do simple tricks on command. So, bunnies do have their advantages as pets, which is one of the main reasons why they have become more and more popular as pets. Moreover, they make such great companions that there is now a whole line in the memorial industry for bunny remembrances, which can help create wonderful tributes that are as unforgettable as one of these treasured friends. In fact, for most dedicated bunny parents, the most difficult task may be creating a fitting memorial tribute for a rabbit. For anyone interested in owning a bunny, we strongly recommend to do your research before adopting one, which will provide a clear idea of the responsibilities and rewards of owning a companion rabbit. Bunnies owners need simply be aware that bunnies are a special kind of animal and need, therefore, a special kind of home.

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