March 26, 2010
Baby animals are a symbol of spring and renewal. Every year,
feed and pet stores sell chicks and bunnies to parents as Easter
presents for their children. While these animals are adorable, they
are pets and must be taken care of for the rest of their lives.
"An impulse pet is always a bad purchase," warns Dr. Mark
Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M
University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences. "They may look cute in the store, but Easter is gone in a
day and then you have an animal to take care of long term."
Stickney also explains that while baby chicks are very cute,
full-grown chickens might not be the best pets, especially not for
"It's hard to interact with a chicken and roosters can be very
aggressive. They also get barbs on their feet that can cause a lot
of damage," notes Stickney.
If you have put some time and consideration into buying a pet
for your child, a rabbit can be a good "first pet" as they are
docile and are pretty easy to take care of in general.
"The good news is that you do not have to walk or train a
rabbit," states Stickney. "They will need to get some exercise so
you have to let them hop around each day."
The down side to pet rabbits is that they are pretty messy.
While it is possible to litter train some rabbits, for the most
part they go to the bathroom wherever they are. Because of this
they will need to be in a hutch of some sort most of the time.
"Make sure that if you do have a rabbit as a pet that you don't
keep it in a wire cage. It sounds gross, but at night they secrete
vitamins in their feces and they have to be able to eat these
secretions to stay healthy," says Stickney.
Although rabbits are easy to care for there are still things you
have to do to keep them healthy and comfortable. Be sure to keep
their hutch in a place with a comfortable temperature at all times
and keep their dietary and veterinary requirements in mind.
"A rabbit's diet consists primary of coastal hay and vegetables
and 1/3 of their diet should include rabbit feed," explains
Stickney. "The hay is very important because it prevents digestive
problems that rabbits get as a result of cleaning themselves like
Hay is also important for rabbit's teeth. If they don't chew on
hay constantly their teeth can overgrow.
"If your rabbit's teeth do overgrow it will have to be sedated
and its teeth will have to be filed down by a veterinarian," warns
Stickney. "It's also important to remember that rabbits will chew
on just about anything so watch out for things like power cords
because they can electrocute themselves."
Rabbits also have routine veterinary needs just like any other
pet. They will need to be spayed or neutered and can also get
"You really need to get your rabbit spayed or neutered before
sexual maturity or they can become aggressive," advises Stickney.
"Check with your veterinarian because not all of them spay and
neuter rabbits. You should also ask them for any flea preventative
or treatment as over-the-counter products for dogs and cats can be
toxic for rabbits."
While any pet can be a wonderful addition to a family, it is
never a good idea to buy a pet on a whim. If you are ready to make
the commitment and think your child is too then a rabbit can be a
fun furry companion. Just remember, they do live seven to 11 years
on average so you may have the rabbit even after your little one
leaves the nest.
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