January might now be over, but the time for investing in something positive is far from having been and gone.
For the thirteenth year running, February is ‘Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month,’ a time when animal rescues across the country pour their efforts into encouraging us, the avid animal-lover, into adopting rather than purchasing our domestic rabbits.
Few of us may realise that the annual figure for abandoned rabbits is over 67,000 in the UK alone! This accounts for rabbits that are set loose, boxed and abandoned, and handed over to animal welfare shelters.
Whilst a number of these animals perish before they are taken in, the fortunate few end up at rescues where they are cared for until being re-homed (luck permitting). Behind cats and dogs, rabbits are the most common animal found at shelters.
Although animals are abandoned in this way throughout the year, rescues are especially inundated in the months following Easter when misguided individuals purchase bunnies on a whim for their young children, which quickly tire of the novelty. Once the rabbit has grown and the responsibilities of caring for it have been recognised, it is abandoned to a shelter, or worse, set loose without a backwards glance.
Those that do make it to a shelter usually arrive scared, bewildered and in a state of poor health or with injury. Some rabbits are too badly damaged to be re-homed, and these become permanent residents of the shelter. In some cases, euthanasia is the only option for the rabbit in question.
They may be considered a ‘low maintenance’ pet, but rabbits need gentle care and attention, plenty of companionship and human interaction, as well as regular exercise and vet-checks to lead a happy and healthy life.
If you feel you can provide all this, maybe it is worth heading down to your local rescue to find a cuddly companion today! If a rabbit is what you’re after, adopting from a rescue rather than purchasing from a pet shop or breeder has many benefits, aside from the obvious good deed.
First of all, the variety of rabbits on offer at shelters far exceeds that elsewhere. Rabbits of all ages, breeds and personalities can be acquired from a shelter, where they will match you with a suitable animal that is going to be compatible with your home set-up, including children and other house pets.
The staff at rescues are also extremely knowledgeable and will have taken the time to get to know all their rabbits so they can offer the best advice, as well as providing you with all the information you need to make an informed decision about your adoption.
More importantly, they will have socialised your rabbit, and, because rescue rabbits are usually fostered out before they are permanently adopted, your rabbit will be well acquainted with the sights and sounds of everyday home living. If you were to purchase from a pet shop, chances are your rabbit will have been separated from its mother too soon and segregated in a small holding pen where it has had little to no human interaction.
Another benefit of adopting a rescue rabbit is that most will have been paired up for companionship, so if you were looking to adopt a pair or trio, you could do so without the rigmarole of acclimatising new animals to one another. If you already have a rabbit at home that you wish to introduce to your newly adopted friend, most shelters will allow you to bring it along for a play date or a friendly introduction so you can gauge how they will interact.
If you purchase a rabbit from a breeder or a pet shop, not only will you have to pay the immediate fee to take it away with you, but you will also have to fork out for veterinary costs including vaccinations and getting your pet spayed or neutered. Adopting from a rescue eliminates these charges as most rescues will have all their rabbits vaccinated and vet-checked before they are re-homed.
This is a huge benefit of rabbit adoption as not only will the care costs be far reduced but you will be aware of any health problems or hereditary conditions upfront, meaning no scary surprises!
In the worst case scenario, if you can no longer keep your adopted rabbit, the majority of rescues will gladly accept the animal back into their care with no hard feelings. It is an unfortunate situation for all if a rescue rabbit finds its ‘forever home’ only to be returned to the shelter, but this is preferable to it being let loose or abandoned.
Rabbits are curious and loveable creatures and make a delightful companion pet for old and young alike. If you are able to open your home (and your heart!) to these fluffy bundles in need of some TLC, please do! Your local animal rescue will be able to match you with the perfect companion rabbit to live out its days at your side.
Written by: Hannah Dyball