These rabbits stick around all year
The Easter bunny may bring candy and sweets. But to some, real-life rabbits are much more rewarding, in spite of the work.
“Rabbits are a lot of fun,” said Trey Kahl-Long. “They’re cute, they’re fun to play with.”
Kahl-Long shows various breeds of rabbits in 4-H.
“You can get them out and hold them. Sometimes you can have them inside and let them run around, or get little toys for them,” he said.
Kahl-Long said they are easy to take care of, but they do require daily attention.
“Mainly you make sure they’re fed and watered. You trim their nails every so often, and they have a quick, so you have to avoid that. If you cut too far it will bleed, and it hurts them really bad.
“You have to keep their cages clean, or they get hutch stained. It’s a yellowy color on their fur.”
Karrigan Mentzer agreed. She has around 20 mini-rex rabbits she shows at fairs and two lionheads.
But, her mother, Stacy Mentzer, said, “They require quite a bit of time, I would say more than a cat or a dog. Otherwise they bite or scratch.”
Rabbits need to be handled often, perhaps every day, to keep them used to people, said 4-H Rabbit Superintendent Rick Carter.
“If you play with them for a while and then just avoid them, sometimes they can get mean,” Kahl-Long said, “and try to bite you and attack you.
“We have had one like that, when I first started. I didn’t pay the most attention to them, and we had one that did get pretty mean. After that we learned we have to play with them every so often.”
A wild rabbit and a tame rabbit are basically the same, said Carter, the tame ones have just been domesticated.
“You can’t buy a tame rabbit and turn it loose,” he said. “I don’t think it would survive in the wild.”
Kahl-Long thinks rabbits are actually easier to care for than a dog or a cat.
“They’re not constantly barking at you or making a mess everywhere,” he said. “I think it’s a good starter pet for younger kids.”
“Some rabbits have more of a personality than cats or dogs do,” said Karrigan Mentzer.
“I have a rabbit named Max, and for a while he liked to be petted right between his eyes, and we petted him so much that he got a bald spot. He would shake his cage until we went over and pet him.”
“Every one is different,” said Kahl-Long. “I know some of ours, they love digging their food out of their containers. … Others seem pretty calm and tame, they just sit around and don’t do much. Others are constantly jumping all over the place.”
Carter said there are around 60 kids in the rabbit project. Some have rabbits that spend a lot of time free in the house, and have been trained to use a litter box. He knew one student who would often take the rabbit out in the backyard to play with a soccer ball.
Mentzer found her two lionhead rabbits at a flea market.
“I thought these were the coolest looking ones,” she said.
These rabbits have longer fur than many other breeds, especially around their head like a lion’s mane.
“These ones, when they shed, there’s fur everywhere. You have to make sure you brush them a lot.”
It’s often best to go to a breeder or a rabbit show to buy purebreds, said Carter. These usually do better in shows, and can range from $40 to $80.
Commercial rabbits at a flea market, without breed papers, cost about $10 to $20.