Kelly's Bunnies - Courtesy of Kelly
Kelly's Bunnies - Courtesy of Kelly

People today have many different pets, all coming with the pluses and minuses that come with owning a pet. The most common pets you think of are cats and dogs, or at least that’s what I think of. Whenever I’m substitute teaching the topic comes up: “Oh do you have a pet?” Then everyone goes around and guesses if it is a dog or a cat. Either option is the wrong answer. I have two pets and they’re both considered exotic–at least according to veterinary status. The people who know me or have seen me in everyday life are probably saying in their heads right now, “no, you’re the rabbit person!” This is true. I am the rabbit person. 

I love my rabbits dearly. I care so much for them, and I spent lots of time thinking it over before getting one. Any pet is a big commitment, especially when you’re fresh out of high school and have your first dwelling to yourself; it’s a big deal. It can be a little lonely at first and you’re trying to prove yourself as a good adult who can take care of yourself and others. 

Some people start small, like a fish. I had two fish starting out. They were both betta fish and I had a divided tank so they were sharing the same water but there was no way for them to try to fight each other. I got both of these fish at the same time. One’s name was Fabian. He was this beautiful betta with blues, purples, and reds, and even some green. This was one of the most colorful bettas I’ve ever seen. Now my other betta, his name was Trout. He had a condition with his swim bladder. This meant he had trouble controlling his buoyancy, so he often floated toward the top of the tank or sunk toward the bottom. He was a brownish-gray color and was half-off at Petco. I am a sucker for a good deal and this poor baby couldn’t swim right and he had to live in a cup that was far too small. The store employees said he was probably going to die soon so I figured I might as well give this little lad the best life I could. Trout lived for about 8 months before he went belly-up, and not in the normal way. But boy was that fish happy. His color even changed slightly to be more brown than gray, which probably meant that he was really not feeling great in that cup on the store shelf. Fabian, on the other hand, lived for what felt like forever. I had this fish for a solid two years and I don’t remember him dying. I just remember there no longer being a fish in the tank. I kid you not, I never saw this fish belly-up or scraggling at the bottom of the tank; I just remember going to feed him and he just didn’t show up. I remember thinking, “oh he’ll pop up,” and he just didn’t, so I let the tank hang out for awhile. I fed it for a few weeks, picked up all the furniture and he was nowhere to be seen. Now, I felt really bad about this, so I just let that tank hang out for a long time until the water had evaporated, which I know sounds horrible. But I don’t know, I was 19 and felt really bad that I couldn’t find this fish, so I just let the tank hang out just in case.

All fish endeavors aside, what I really wanted was a rabbit. The fish were kind of a starting point to prove that I could keep something alive for a good amount of time. What sparked it is that I went to the Topsham Fair and saw these very cute adorable baby bunnies.  And of course, at the fair they let you hold them and pet them and they were for sale and I couldn’t get it out of my head, “oh my gosh I want this rabbit,” and the initial mentality is “ooh I’m an adult with adult money I can make this decision,” but I really had to stop and think about the fact that it’s not just me, it’s this small creature’s life also at stake. So I went in and did my research. I watched many YouTube videos, particularly from Lennon the Bunny, who is a YouTuber that goes over all of the things you should expect when having a pet rabbit. What I found out is that rabbits are not easy to care for. Yes, they are cute and cuddly and look like they’d be the perfect pet if you want it bad enough. The main thing though is that these are not for children. The amount of care and effort and money and energy that you have to put into these animals in order for them to survive adds up. Before I was going to make a commitment like that I needed to know that my space and I would be prepared for it.

Finding a vet was one of the main concerns because rabbits are considered exotic pets. This means that normal veterinarians are not trained in how to take care of rabbits’ little bodies; a lot of them are just trained on cats and dogs. If my furry little friend were to get hurt or sick I couldn’t just take them to any normal vet, so I had to figure this out. I made many phone calls and found out that there are not very many. The smartest phone call I made was to an animal shelter. Because they had rabbits for adoption, they knew who could be a vet for rabbits in the area. It worked out that there was one in Portland.

I had to bunny-proof my house, much like baby-proofing except rabbits’ teeth will chew through furniture, carpets, cords, shoes, and really anything any other animal would or could destroy. I got a tie for my curtains, and an enclosed shoe rack so they could not be easily accessed, and I started saving some cardboard. I thought that I did a really great job: my house was spotless, and I figured everything was out of reach. I would later learn things were not in fact out of reach of a rabbit and after many new charging cords and a rug I learned what the routine of destruction would be.

Then it was time and I went and picked out the biggest rabbit I could find from the local animal shelter. Her name was Pickles, and she was an eleven pound rabbit. She is part Havana and part Silver Fox. This means she is all black with flecks of silver starting halfway down her back, and she has the cutest little white and black toes. This rabbit was meant to be mine and it was instant love. The people at the animal shelter said she was distant and had been adopted four times before, but returned for being mean. The last home had multiple rabbits and they would fight one another, even drawing blood, and it was not a good place for her. When I brought her home she ran around, lounging in sun spots and coming up and just plopping down next to me. She was even binkying and I felt so special. Binkying is something a rabbit does when they are so full of joy they jump up, wiggle, and contort their bodies in the most miraculous way. 

She has grown over the years to trust me so much and I’m grateful. She is completely litterbox trained and well-behaved. I have taught her tricks such as spin, and jump up, and she comes when she is called. I have become so used to her that when she is not feeling well I know. She got sick out of nowhere. I don’t know what it was, but the vet gave her fluids and a bag of critical care to force-feed her. Eventually, after a long 12 hours, she was starting to feel better and do better. This happened once more and it was scary. If I had not brought her to the vet she could have died. Rabbits are a very fragile animals and can get sick very quickly. Some may die within 24 hours of not going to the bathroom or drinking because their little bodies can’t handle it. 

It’s been on my mind how fragile rabbits are because of Easter. I like all the rabbit-themed items for sale and enjoy the excitement of seeing my nieces open Easter baskets. There is a lot of joy around this holiday for me, but I know for some people there is not. This is a holiday when people tend to give pets. Primarily, I think of baby chicks and rabbits. Giving someone a rabbit as a gift for a holiday without preparation is not okay. It’s never okay to surprise someone with a pet and rabbits aren’t mainstream pets that your neighbor would know how to care for. They need special food, a special vet, and need to be handled gently. A pet is a big responsibility for anyone, and kids need guidance and an adult who can take over care when they cannot. Rabbits should not be put in cages either. These pets are fully capable of being litterbox trained and cared for without being confined in something that is meant for a small hamster. Rabbits can live long, healthy lives; mine should live to be about fifteen years old.

All of this aside, if you or someone you know is getting a pet, I hope that they have done proper research on the breed and what the pet may need. Not everyone is ready for or capable of caring for a pet they may want. You also have to think of the animals well being. Will it be okay if you’re gone all day in class or at work? If they got sick are you going to have enough money to pay for the bills? Most vets do not take payment plans. A pet won’t fix problems in your life, but it can help you get through them. I know mine did that for me.


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