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Want a bunny? Follow these rules

Dana Felice would like you to know not all rabbits are as sweet as her bunny, Cocoa.

Special to tbt*

Dana Felice would like you to know not all rabbits are as sweet as her bunny, Cocoa.

Bunnies are soft, yes. They have adorable ears, sure. And the cutest button noses, without question.

But there's a reason why SPCA Tampa Bay has 30 to 40 rabbits up for adoption at any given time.

"People greatly underestimate what they're getting themselves into," says Dana Felice, leader of the Tampa Bay House Rabbit Society and owner of five rabbits. The pets are much more time-consuming and destructive than buyers realize, she says.

To educate the public, on Sunday SPCA Tampa Bay will hold its third annual Bunfest. The event will include a Rabbit Habbits class on bunny care; Rabbit Show and Tell, in which owners share stories, toy ideas and tips on rabbit health; and a Bunny Boutique, with items for both the animals and their owners. Guests may adopt a rabbit or bring their own spayed or neutered bunny to the event to find a companion for it.

But before you go stocking up on carrots, read these rabbit myths. If the truth doesn't scare you off, then check out Bunfest this weekend. The event is not for small children, but then again, neither are bunnies, as you're about to find out.

Rabbit rumor: They're great with kids.

Bunny bottom line: "By far the biggest issue we have is people who get them as pets for their kids thinking that they're easy-care pets or they're a good starter pet. That is absolutely not the case. Ninety percent of calls I get are from parents with kids who got tired of their rabbit," Felice says. Truth is, most rabbits don't like to be picked up. If people do insist on getting a rabbit for their kid, get one that weighs more than 10 pounds, so the child won't want to pick it up. Try a flemish giant, which tips the scales at more than 15 pounds.

Rabbit rumor: They live in small spaces.

Bunny bottom line: Rabbits can be caged while you're at work, but they need about four hours of running-around time every day. They can also be destructive, chewing wires, chair legs and anything else they can sink their teeth into. Use baby gates to block off parts of the house you don't want destroyed, and cover wooden baseboards with 2x4s. The ideal rabbit adopter is a homeowner or has a very understanding landlord.

Rabbit rumor: They're basically miniature cats.

Bunny bottom line: Rabbits can be litter-box trained, but socially, they're more aloof than cats. "They are the hunted, and so they are naturally shy and cautious," Felice says. Anatomically, bunnies are prone to gastrointestinal problems, a potentially fatal condition that most vets aren't specialized to treat. Symptoms include not eating, grinding the teeth in pain and hunching in a corner. If your bunny exhibits this behavior, rush him to a rabbit specialist.

Rabbit rumor: They're a great second pet.

Bunny bottom line: Rabbits get along with most cats, as well as nonhunting, nonsporting and nonterrier dog breeds. They're also fine around guinea pigs; just don't house them together. But don't expect rabbits and ferrets to become BFFs. "A lot of people don't realize that ferrets and rabbits are natural enemies," Felice says. On the flip side, rabbits do great in male-female pairs, provided each is spayed or neutered.

Rabbit rumor: If I get sick of it, I'll set it free.

Bunny bottom line: It's against the law to abandon an animal or commit an act that results in its cruel death. Making a domesticated rabbit fend for itself in the wild sounds cruel to us. If you're in over your head, surrender your pet to an animal shelter.


Sunday at 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., SPCA Tampa Bay will host an info session for current and prospective rabbit owners. 9099 130th Ave. N, Largo, (727) 586-3591;

Want a bunny? Follow these rules 04/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 17, 2008 3:10pm]
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